If you are an avid reader of newspaper headlines, you soon come away with the impression that we’re a nation of bingers—people “binge” on everything from Netflix to exercise.
By far the biggest problem for our society, however, is binge eating. Today it is so widespread that practically everyone has indulged in it at some points in their lives. What’s more, because eating is a normal part of life, it is easy to convince yourself that binge eating is too. And that’s a problem.
For years, researchers have been investigating the reasons why some people binge eat. While some of it is what you might expect, a lot of it is not.
Top of the list of causes of binge eating is depression. People who have this health condition often find that eating bags of chips, one after another, can temporarily make them feel better. Thus they soon learn that eating certain foods takes away their pain, causing the addiction.
Though it is not a major focus of couples rehab facilities, it is something that has come to characterize a lot of relationships. One partner needs food to feel better, and the other provides it.
Unfortunately, binge eating and making food available can actually worsen the situation over time. Addictive junk foods, like ice cream, cause brain inflammation which can make a person feel worse than they would have done otherwise.
Stress And Anxiety
Binge eating can also be a response to stress and anxiety. Some people find that when they eat, they feel comforted. The feelings they don’t want to go away for a while. Emotional eating often follows traumatic events, such as losing a job or going through a divorce. It can also become chronic for people going through burnout or with particularly stressful lives.
Alas, some people overeat because of genetics too.
In the past, the overeating gene would have come in handy. People who could pack on more pounds during the season of plenty were in a better position to ride out the famine.
Unfortunately, these genes are counterproductive in the modern world. We live in a society that offers an abundance of food. It’s everywhere we turn. And this makes it easier than ever before to binge whenever we get the chance.
Eating healthy is sustainable. You can do it over the long term without feeling deprived.
Extreme diets, on the other hand, force you to go without the calories that you need to feel lively and energetic. Eating fewer calories than your body needs over the long term is a recipe for disaster.
In situations like these, biology almost always wins. You eventually fall prey to your cravings and wind up stuffing your face. The extent of the “refeeding” is usually proportional to the deprivation. You can often binge for weeks following an extreme diet, regaining all the weight you lost.
Starvation researchers like Ancel Keys discovered this behaviour in the 1950s during the Minnesota starvation experiments. Your reaction is likely to be the same.