Most of us are aware that many people struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia, but there is another end of the spectrum. Binge eating. Attending a party or a celebration and stuffing yourself until your belt is creaking is not uncommon, although consuming the same quantity regularly without the excuse of a special occasion is risky. It can cause severe issues to your wellbeing and will put you at risk of developing a disorder if it is happening regularly.
You experience high levels of dopamine
Eating is great, we all know this. Devouring a slice of cake (or sometimes several) or munching through a bag of potato chips is easily done, much more so than eating healthy snacks like fruit or salad. The reason we prefer those fatty or sugary foods is due to a chemical release of dopamine. This happens every time we eat, but it is much higher in those foods than others. Dopamine is basically what makes you feel good during eating, so something that has you feeling great will naturally have you coming back for more, and more, and more.
It becomes a psychological addiction
We’re sticking with the dopamine, for the time being. It might seem as though high dopamine levels are a good thing, who doesn’t want to feel on top of the world? But there is a pitfall that may be difficult to escape if we go too far. Our brains become used to the release of this chemical, so eventually, it will take more and more of the sugary stuff to achieve the same level of satisfaction. To put it in simple terms, initially you only need one cookie to achieve the rush, over time that becomes two cookies and before you know it you’re lining up a stack of ten to get the same feeling that only one used to provide. This can spiral into an uncontrollable cycle, where you experience the high of eating followed by a crash which sends you in a never-ending loop to seek more food to feel good again.
You experience immediate physical symptoms
Remember that time in Friends when Joey puts on Phoebe’s maternity pants to finish his Thanksgiving turkey as his own pants were too restricting? If your binge is taking you to that place, then your body will struggle to cope with the sheer volume of food and could send you into that post-eating slump we all know too well, the food coma. This happens because your body will get straight to work trying to digest a high-calorie intake, which can cause hormones to fluctuate and your energy levels will take a nosedive.
You get depressed
It is okay to binge occasionally, sometimes we just need the satisfaction that it brings, like a little hug for our stomachs. However, the American Psychiatric Association recognizes binge eating disorder as a mental health issue. Those suffering from the condition often have depression and anxiety to contend with at the same time. Eating lots, especially unhealthy food, carries the risk of weight gain which can cause people to have a negative body image.
Can you binge eat?
Of course! There are risks involved that should be considered before undertaking a significant eating session, but as long as you aren’t doing so on a regular basis then one more serving at dinner, or an extra scoop of ice cream will not hurt. Just be ready for the slump in energy levels and keep the baggy pants nearby.
Overall, binge eating once in a blue moon isn’t going to cause much damage, but it is easy to spiral into a vicious cycle where binge eating becomes the norm. It is then that negative changes to your body could happen, both physical and mental, which is when binge eating becomes dangerous. So make sure you don’t let it become a habit, and just ask yourself if you really need that extra slice of pizza!