Are you a night eating zombie?

image: Zombie brains such as her are unreachable by reason.
Photo: Jeremy Keith/Wikimedia/CC BY 2.0.

Day and night
Many of my clients live in fear of the thing that goes bump in the night. That thing is the appetite, which comes to life like a vampire that hasn’t fed for a millennium. This ravenous appetite claws at your brain with insatiable cravings.

Impossible to ignore or reason with, the nighttime hunger increases your waistline and robs your self-esteem. Night after night the demon eating begins, no matter how many times you swear it won’t happen again.

In the morning the hunger is mysteriously gone, but the guilt remains. Confident that you can stick to your diet today, you might even start by skipping breakfast. The bitter taste of black coffee seems like penance for your lack of control. During the day you you visualize yourself eating a sensible dinner and then busying yourself with some useful task like cleaning out the hall closet. In the warm bright sunshine, success seems more than possible; it feels like destiny. Other people do it—why not you? You feel so good you wish you could step on a scale—perhaps you have lost a pound already.

As the dinner hour approaches, doubt begins to creep in with stirrings of the first hunger. For each of us the demon is different. For some, the eating begins on the way home, or as soon as they turn the key in the lock. Some make it all the way to bed before the hunger pounces, swift and unrelenting. You know there will be no rest until it is satisfied.

Perhaps, like many, you venture out into the night seeking a fast food drive-thru or a mini-mart. And you will have company, because you are not the only zombie roaming the night. It’s the zombie apocalypse, and you are infected.

Zombie brain: How it works
Dr. Steven C. Schlozman is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and a big fan of horror flicks and zombies. He has even written a fake medical journal article on the zombie plague, where he refers to it as Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome (ANSD). Translated, that means “a stumbling brain disorder where no matter how much you eat you can’t be satisfied.” Sound familiar?

The front lobe is where your reasoning ability and rationality reside. Zombie brain, means that the frontal lobe or cortex is no longer in control.

Executive function is hijacked by primitive brain regions. Impulse control vanishes. The body becomes merely the vehicle to seek, sense and consume food. You have turned into a “land-shark” that will gladly trade in its soul for a snickers bar. Zombies have no use for souls.

Focus on health and wellness
The zombie-like trance that overwhelms your resistance doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. Because there is no enemy, you cannot fight back. The zombie apocalypse is more like a viral plague, and that is the way to treat it.

Infectious diseases are usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Bacteria are one celled organisms that are basically independent. They exist everywhere, inside and outside of our bodies. Bacteria in our bodies are often useful, but can be harmful or even fatal. Antibiotics are drugs designed to kill bacteria cells, which are fundamentally different from human cells.

In contrast, a virus is a particle that needs a human cell where it can live and replicate. A virus invades the host cell and takes over its machinery so that it can make more virus particles. Antibiotics are not useful for stopping viruses because a virus is an internal invader, not an external enemy.

Viruses must be dealt with by your own immune system. If your immune system isn’t strong enough to resist viral infection outright, then you have little choice but to support the body and immune system while nature takes its course.

Similarly, the zombie plague of night eating and leptin resistance must be treated as an internal threat. Focus on general health and wellness, including proper eating habits and adequate daily movement. That does not mean a simplistic concept of diet and exercise.

Be patient and stick with healthy habits. It takes a long time to change patterns and end the zombie plague of night eating. If you try and take a short cut you are likely to relapse and be forced to start over.

If you do the majority of eating alone and under cover of darkness you are not alone. Unlike true zombies, you are neither contagious or incurable. The darkness you see is the bottom of the hole which you have dug with diets and processed food. Turn around. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Go to the light. Learn to eat.

More information
See my forthcoming book Evolutionary Eating.

Advice on healthy movement.

DrTheresa.com, Theresa Nesbitt and her publications provide general information on health and wellness. This general information is not a substitute for health advice and medical care from physicians who know you. Please talk to them before making significant changes in your lifestyle. Complete Terms of Use and Disclaimers