Binge Eating – Part I

Modern society is riddled with problems ironically caused by the rapid advancement in many different fields, like technology, for instance. The increased incidence of eating disorders is one such example.

Although many are aware of the high portion of overweight and obese people in the Western world, what is equally worrying are the ‘invisible’ eating conditions which are not as obvious as the 250 pound 10 year old chowing down a bucket of fried chicken.

Bulimia, Body Dysmorphia and Binge Eating are cases of this. Paradoxically, it is incredibly common for these disorders to arise in the pursuit of a better body. Many aspiring physique athletes – such as bodybuilders – suffer from Body Dysmorphia.

Essentially this is where, despite significant muscular gains, the individual continues to believe they are small and inadequate. As a result, the person goes to extreme lengths to achieve an unrealistic and perhaps unattainable level of muscularity, potentially leading to performance enhancing drugs.

Binge eating is another beast in itself. It is not uncommon for people to have issues with this disorder either during or immediately following a diet.

Key trademarks of ‘Bingeing’ include:
• Strong urges and cravings for food – predominantly high in sugars and fats
• Consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time often leading to gastrointestinal discomfort
• A high level of guilt and regret following the binge
• Feelings of anxiety following the binge due to the fear it will ruin their physique
• And finally, a period of time following the binge where the person consumes extremely low calories in an attempt to compensate for their overeating

I’m sure many people can relate to the above symptoms and believe me, there are many people afflicted with varying degrees of this condition, so don’t feel as though you’re alone. Before I discuss some strategies which you, or a close family member or friend, can adopt to help overcome binge eating, I feel a brief explanation of the potential causes is necessary, as an improved understanding will help with acceptance, as well as adherence to management techniques…

  • Bingeing is often used to numb negative emotions. Whether it be anxiety or depression for example, bingeing attempts to fill a void, though in reality creates a vicious cycle.

  • Another reason is due to the biochemical rush it achieves, similar to the effect of certain drugs. Dopamine and serotonin, both of which are ‘feel good’ hormones, are unleashed during a binge. As a result, the binger gains this reward of feeling great post-feast, increasing the likelihood of bingeing in the future.
  • Also, a micronutrient imbalance or deficiency may be the root cause of the problem. Ever wonder why you always crave that bag of salt and vinegar chips? Perhaps a lack of sodium in your diet is the causal factor. Sodium chloride, or salt, is often pigeon-holed as a ‘bad’ mineral due to its affiliation with heart disease, to the extent where it is basically eliminated from diets (though that’s another topic entirely!).

I hope this sheds some light on some of the ‘closet’ eating disorders. Stay tuned for part II which includes strategies to address binge eating.

“One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels”

-Gustave Flaubert


By Andrew Cammarano




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