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I’m worried about my son, who eats too much food

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman with a single son in his 30s who works for a company. I’m worried about his health as he is a big eater. When he is at home, he surfs the Internet or listens to music, and on days off and weekends, he eats seven or eight meals a day. I even suspect his stomach has a hole that quickly drains the food he consumes. He is overweight, but doesn’t drink alcohol very much.

I’m concerned he may ultimately suffer from diabetes if he continues on this course. However, he isn’t interested in his own health. Some time ago, at a health check-up at his workplace, above normal traces of protein appeared in his urine, but he didn’t go to a hospital for a follow-up examination. I’m concerned he wouldn’t go to a hospital even if sugar levels in his urine were found to be above normal.

When I try to warn him that some people with serious diabetes end up having their legs amputated or becoming blind, he roars, “Shut up.”

Is there a good way to stop him from eating too much?

Y, Tokyo

Dear Ms. Y:

Well, he eats so much that you suspect his stomach may have a hole that drains the food he consumes. What a witty expression! But this is not the time to admire your sense of humor. Your son suffers from a binge-eating disorder.

The disorder increases the risk of contracting diabetes, which is something you have already expressed concern about, and if he’s obese, he may develop various other diseases. It’s certain he should change his current diet to become more normal, but it’s not easy.

To tell you the truth, he is more aware than anybody that he should quit his current eating habits. But after eating too much, he thinks, “Ah, I did it again,” and is disappointed with himself and even loses self-confidence. So when he is warned by his mother, he has no option other than to lash out at her.

To cope with this situation, I can only suggest one simple thing. It’s very typical, and I leave myself open to criticism for being a helpless columnist trying to advise you on your problem. But, I dare to write this.

One thing you should do is resolutely declare his condition a disease and have him see a psychiatrist or undergo similar medical treatment.

And aside from his eating habit, think about how he can get rid of his empty, lonely feelings. These two things might seem contradictory, but the problem faced by binge eaters can be described like this. It will probably take some time to solve, but it’s the only way out.

Soichiro Nomura, psychiatrist

(from Aug. 2, 2015, issue)Speech

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