The Binge Eating Blues

binge eatingThe holiday season is when love and connectivity with family and friends is craved the most.[1] Humans are a social species, so when this is missing, sorrow sets in.1 For compulsive overeaters, the season to be jolly is instead a season to be bingeing, psychologically distressed, and feeling out of control.1

Usually, compulsive overeaters begin bingeing on Thanksgiving and do not stop until New Year’s Day when the annual New Year’s resolution diets begin.1 This is partly due to the fact that holidays are a time when binge eating is not only socially acceptable, but expected and encouraged. Instead of binge eating, it is commonly called “celebration.”1 As humans, we love to dance around the truth.1 Holiday binge eating is not celebratory, but a multifaceted, complex, and socially encouraged pathological behavior.1 For people who are not binge eaters, holiday bingeing is circumstantial and not problematic; however, for compulsive overeaters, it is a recurring nightmare.1

Holiday binge eating is an inconspicuous, episodic, excessive food consumption that is not driven by hunger.1 It is often secretive, and as holiday binge eating is socially sanctioned, it becomes inconspicuous as everyone is doing it.1

When humans are faced with delicious, rich, calorie-dense holiday foods, they will binge.1 In fact, a single bite is almost impossible, as high-sugar and high-fat foods trigger the need for more.1 Therefore, holiday foods are more dangerous to compulsive overeaters as there is a more addictive relationship there.1 People who do not compulsively eat may have one rich dessert or a non-alcoholic may have one glass of champagne, while one is not enough for the binge-eater or alcoholic.1 It just isn’t a viable option.1

Consuming these rich holiday treats also intervenes with some of the psychological and physiological consequences of stress.1 Eating those foods result in dopamine release and makes you feel happier.1 Holiday compulsive eating is like a drug addiction.1 It causes guilt, self-loathing, and psychological distress.1 Compulsively overeating large amounts of food has an underlying neurobiological process similar to addiction.1

Environmental and physiological stress also plays a vital role in binge eating.1 When humans are not stressed out, given access to regular food, they do not overeat as much as when they are stressed out.1 Stress flips a switch that inspires compulsive eaters to binge on rich foods.1

Eating is not like substance dependence in this regard. You can’t just quit eating and being around food as it is necessary to sustain life.1 Eating is instinctual; therefore, when the holidays roll around, we can’t just lock ourselves in a room because we are compulsive overeaters.1 Instead, you must understand it as best you can, be vigilant, and handle it responsibly and lovingly.1 We are who we are and have to embrace our triumphs, tragedies, personal angels, and private demons at all times.1

[1] Gordon, B. (2013, December 6). Christmas Cookie Blue. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/obesely-speaking/201312/christmas-cookie-blue

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