Binge Eating Is Not a Victimless Crime
By Joan Kent, PhD
Binge eating is legal, of course, and fairly common. It also appears to be victimless. Who cares if you eat 3 quarts of mashed potatoes, or inhale a few pints of ice cream?
But it has consequences – serious health problems, appetite and weight problems, mood issues, out-of-control behaviors. What if we view the victim concept more broadly?
Not many people binge on broccoli or kale. When someone binges, it's usually on junk foods that are high in sugar, fat, or both.
The most common binge foods include ice cream, cookies, chocolate, milkshakes, chips, pasta, and bread with butter and jam.
Most of these foods promote high insulin. High insulin will result in a short-term increase in serotonin. That's one reason we choose these foods for bingeing. (More on serotonin below.)
Over time, high insulin can cause health problems: insulin resistance; type-2 diabetes; high blood pressure; high LDL (bad) cholesterol; low HDL (good) cholesterol; high triglycerides; heart disease; cancers; inflammation, and pain. It inhibits white blood cell function and leads to incomplete healing and chronic inflammation.
Because of food selection, food quantities, and binge frequency, the long-term health effects of binge eating matter. The conditions may impact your attendance and productivity at work, and even add costs for companies that provide medical insurance for employees.
Appetite and Weight
Sugar triggers endorphins (beta-endorphin). Endorphins increase appetite by inhibiting the satiety function of the VMH (ventromedial hypothalamus).
Obesity is a likely result of this effect of sugar on the brain. The obesity epidemic was brought to us courtesy of the sneaky, underhanded dealings of the sugar industry that started in the 1970s (or before) and continued for decades.
Sugar also stimulates dopamine release. Dopamine, a brain feel-good chemical, can prompt cravings for more sugar – later that day, the next day, or for several days following.
Dopamine and endorphins change food preferences so we want more foods high in sugar, fat, or both. That further contributes to obesity.
Obesity of course has health consequences, many listed above. Add sleep apnea, asthma, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, stroke, gout, depression and other issues to the list.
These health problems may also affect work productivity (and increase medical costs), so again bingeing is not without consequences.
Moods and Behaviors
Bingeing on sugary foods can wreak havoc on mood. Moods may go up and down – and include irritability when glucose drops after the initial, temporary boost.
It doesn't benefit personal or business relationships to
have erratic moods or to be irritable and impatient.
My clients have snapped at coworkers, their kids, a spouse or a waiter. They say, "I promise myself I won't do it, but then I do."
For that matter, some clients promise themselves they'll stay away from certain foods, only to end up eating them.
Anytime our behavior is a mystery to us, it always starts with brain chemicals. And the binge foods that people tend to choose are big brain chem changers.
Researchers suggest that the biological need for serotonin underlies binge eating. Serotonin has been called, somewhat mistakenly, a happiness chemical.
Serotonin actually leads to more of a lethargic state. And I believe that's what binge eaters may be looking for, rather than happiness.
Serotonin "opens the space" between thought and action, making us less reactive to stress. You might think of it as a serotonin coma: after a tough day at work, the kids are crying, the phone's ringing, the dog's barking ... but you feel almost distant from it.
Back in 1983, E.M. Stricker wrote, "Animals eat not for nutrition per se, but for optimal arousal." That arousal comes from the brain chemicals certain foods promote.
People do the same thing.
Binge Eating Is Not a Victimless Crime
Because moods and behaviors are influenced by the most common binge foods, we could say binge eating makes families, friends and coworkers the victims.
Health, appetite, food preferences, and weight also appear to affect only the binge eater. But they can affect other people through the health problems they cause and the costs to businesses in lost productivity and medical expenses.
Most importantly, the binge eater is the primary victim. Along with everything described above, there's the "inner" effect. Binge eaters often experience shame and guilt that plummet their self-esteem. Bingeing is typically done alone, and bingers worry about being caught.
The neurochemical piece is something I contribute to help binge eaters stop being victims of their own eating behaviors and start feeling great.
Some binge eaters can't stop bingeing because of cravings. I help them stop cravings, which in turn stops the bingeing, so they can lose weight and reverse their health problems. For a free copy of "Stop Bingeing Now: 3 Simple Steps to Stop a Binge Once It Starts," just visit http://www.LastResortNutrition.com . Discover how wonderful it feels to stop bingeing and how to do it for good.