Do you feel the uncontrollable urge to eat even when you are not hungry or Do you sneak out during the night and empty your fridge? Well then, you are not alone, 2.8% of the American adults suffer from Binge Eating Disorder during their lifetime Have you ever wondered why you binge eat?
Let us analyze some possible reasons for why an individual binge eats,
Excessive urges to eat large quantities of food in short time is called binge eating. This is often rubbed off as a minor issue but this practice might constitute a more serious disorder called Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
Clinical psychologist, Dr.Michael Mantell explains that Binging is a “Way of dealing with negative emotions that are not rational or Healthy”. The Major reasons for binge eating are,
Psychological factors such as Depression, Anger, Boredom, Anxiety, and sadness influence most people to binge to eat. The human brain often uses binge eating as a coping mechanism. In other words, the brain distracts itself from feelings of low self-esteem, negative body image, and difficulties in handling emotions through binge eating. Psychologists state that this disorder is characterized by feelings of powerlessness, secrecy, shame and Social Isolation.
People who binge eat experience shame and guilt as an aftermath of overeating which leads to
Further stress and depression.
Biological factors that contribute to binge eating include Genetic factors, Hormones/Brain Chemicals, Lack of sleep.
Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep can induce an individual to binge eat. The hormones Ghrelin and Leptin, which regulate hunger, are affected by sleep. Leptin decreases hunger while Ghrelin increases it. Sleep deprivation leads to a fall in the level of leptin and a rise in the level of ghrelin leading to an increase in hunger.
Lack of sleep also raises the level of lipid in the blood which acts on the brain the same way marijuana does making eating more pleasurable in the evening and night. It also increases the cravings for certain types of food rich in sugar and fat.
According to James I. Hudson, MD, ScD, director of biological psychiatry Laboratory at Harvard Affiliated McLean Hospital, there may be a genetic component to Binge eating disorder and whatever genetic factors are causing BED are also playing a role in severe obesity.
Binge eating is found to be inherited in families that use food to soothe, comfort and get enjoyment. Some families use food as a reward to discipline their children, this conditioning creates a long-term impact on the children. Hence, Food is considered a reward even as they grow into adults
Brain chemicals/ Hormones
Dopamine, the happiness hormone is a major contributor to binge eating. This feel-good chemical is released by the brain when we consume sugar and fat. If the brain secrets this hormone while binge eating. It is most likely to become a physical addiction. When a person eats more, he/she craves the Dopamine rush more.
Low levels of Serotonin (another happiness drug) and Dopamine are low lead to depression and compulsive behavior. This hormonal imbalance is an endless cycle when the levels of happy hormones are low stress makes the individual indulge in reward-seeking behavior through eating sugar and fat.
Dieting often involves avoiding our trigger foods. This serves as a catalyst for compulsive and emotional eating. In some cases, dieting leads to forbidden fruit syndrome. Research states that one of the long-lasting side effects of dieting is Food preoccupation. In simple words, the more a food is restricted, the more we think about it. The restricted foods appear so attractive that we eventually give up on the diet.
The social and cultural backgrounds exert pressure on an individual by creating standards of perfection, which an individual is expected to achieve. Failure in meeting those standards pushes a person into depression and he/she resorts to emotional eating to overcome the feeling of shame and guilt. For example, critical comments about a person’s body or weight make them vulnerable to binge eating.
Social Isolation of an individual can also force them to seek comfort in food. People who have faced traumatic situations such as physical and sexual abuse can increase the risk of Binge Eating.
Binge eating might be considered as harmless but can cause serious damage to our health, researchers state that there is not enough evidence to prove that food or any nutrient can induce the brain to crave more except drugs and alcohol. Food does not have addictive quality but certain foods like ice cream, chocolate and pizza can make a person eat more to gain pleasure. If you binge, eat too much or you know someone who does, you had better take it as a serious issue.