Night eating syndrome and emotional states in students

By Arwa Khan

University students are exposed to many factors related to Night Eating Syndrome (NES), an eating disorder that may be associated with obesity and other emotional states among students.

Eating disorders can and do occur in teenagers, even in young children. But it’s during the college years that young people, especially women, are most at risk for developing them.

The challenges of college life, adding pressure to underlying mental health issues, create a “perfect storm” for these disorders, the most common of which are anorexia and bulimia.

The storm occurs when the realities of college life—increased workload, less structure, and more focus on peers—collide with anxieties, learning issues, or poor self-esteem.

A fresher in IIUM who was able to manage stress and stay afloat during high school with a lot of hard work and support from his parents, now finds himself drowning in the confusing, complicated world of college life.

“College life can be a time of a lot of excitement and stimulation and also a lot of stress. It asks young people who are not yet adults to act in a very adult way,” said Hussein Menshawi, an engineering student.

Eating disorders develop when the need to feel control over a stressful environment is channelled through food restriction, over-exercise, and an unhealthy focus on body weight.

It’s not just the increased workload and the disruption of an accustomed schedule. It’s also a whole new set of peers who are unpredictable, starting with a new roommate (and that roommate’s love of death metal, or late-night visits from her significant other).

And managing your food intake in college, famous for midnight pizza and shawarma runs and all-you-can eat dining halls, is a whole new ballgame. Unscheduled, unhealthy eating can cause problems for anyone, but for students struggling with eating issues it can wreak havoc on self-control and self-esteem.

In Malaysia, dinner time is normally done by 6 or 7 p.m. But when students are normally under emotional or physical distress, they are forced to have eating disorders by having these so called “midnight munchies”.

Most importantly, night eating syndrome is not just your midnight munchies; night eating syndrome is a serious burden on those who live with it, and we must be the ones to incite that change in those who feel alone.

Night eating syndrome criteria include skipping breakfast, night eating, and sleep difficulties. It is associated with mood disturbances, particularly depression, and may contribute to later obesity development. ***

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