I have to admit that this really hits home, having been one since early childhood. In this context the word werewolf relates to night time eating.
William Polonsky terms this phrase in his book “Diabetes Burnout” and I think it’s both amusing and very accurate. A lot of people suffer from this and when you’re diabetic it’s even more troublesome because it can lead to weight gain and also higher numbers and a higher A1C.
Even as a child I remember spending hours in front of a cold soggy bowl of cereal with my mother insisting I had to eat breakfast and me insisting that I couldn’t! School saved me because then there was a time limit on the standoff.
Most of my life I never ate until 1 or 2 in the afternoon because I just wasn’t hungry. When I was diagnosed as diabetic much to my dismay I found that not eating as soon as possible after awakening could make the numbers higher! I still only eat enough to keep my liver happy early in the day.
The “werewolf syndrome” involves eating little and mostly very well during the daytime hours. The meals are often tiny though and (because of guilt from the previous night) unsatisfying and boring.
Often in the evening hours control is lost and the werewolf is unleashed! Many lose complete control and binge on high-carb foods in great quantities. Even after they are no longer hungry they feel powerless to stop the binges.
This then leads to guilt and frustration. They feel powerless to stop this cycle and suffer self-esteem issue because of this. The first step in taming the werewolf is recognizing the “triggers”:
- Stomach Hunger
- Eyeball Hunger
- Evening boredom
- Unconscious Eating
- Difficult Emotions
Eating small restricted meals during the day (often out of guilt) can lead to a loss of self-control at night when the urge to eat takes over. Worse yet, by that time you’re usually ravenous and overeating can be a result.
Eating unsatisfying/boring food during the day, even though you’re no longer hungry, can lead to eyeball hunger. Even though your stomach may not be hungry your eyes, mouth and brain might still feel famished!
This often happens when people religiously follow diets or food plans that aren’t really to their tastes and desires. They try to convince themselves that they “Eat to live, not live to eat”. Your brain revolts and you seek escape from the deprivation and often binge. Food isn’t just for the body, it fulfills the desire for the satisfactions that both your mind and body crave. That’s why it’s so important to find food choices that are within your diabetic plan but that you also enjoy. You need to find and choose what’s right for you!
Sitting down in front of the television every night watching perhaps what you’re not even interested in can lead to night time eating, even though we really find that it doesn’t help the boredom. Perhaps we’re lonely and seek the company of others but no one is available. Of course eating is not the answer, but finding other activities that interest us will keep the werewolf tamed.
Do you sit down with a bag of cookies only planning to have one or two and when you next look the bag is gone? It doesn’t matter what you’re involved in doing, eating unconsciously can often be a bad habit and often you’re not even really hungry. Taking steps to become “aware” of your actions is the first step. Also if you plan a snack only take out the amount you plan on and leave the rest in another area.
It’s often said that problems seem worse at night. That’s usually because there are fewer distractions and our mind tends to concentrate on them more. This is also a time when “comfort food” usually high in carbs is a craving. One of the reasons for this is that high-carb/sugar foods gives a temporary boost to what I call “feel good” hormones in the body. You’ve heard of a “sugar high”. But this doesn’t last and often leads to craving for more high-carb/sugar items and the bad emotions still always remain. Also the thought that “I already blew it, so I might as well eat more” often steps in. All of this leads to more guilt and sadness and the cycle continues over and over again.
Facing the real cause of these emotions can be terrifying and also takes time and perhaps help from professional sources. But recognizing the food is in no way a solution is the first step in taming the werewolf.
Here are what Polonsky calls the “Seven Silver Bullets” for taming the werewolf:
- Adjust your home environment to assist your effort (don’t buy cookies!)
- Plan a more stimulating evening.
- Unchain your overly restrictive daytime eating.
- Schedule an evening snack.
- Seek alternative methods of dealing with difficult emotions.
- Reach out to friends and family.
- Increase you eating awareness.
© EMO 7/12
Knowledge is Power