Five Very Real, Raw, and Serious Dangers of Binge Eating

binge eating

Binge Eating Disorder

Five Very Real, Raw, and Serious Risks + Dangers of Binge Eating

It is not uncommon for all of us to have to overeaten at least once or twice before. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, the main course was *too* good, or a second piece was simply irresistible. Mild discomfort ensues, our body adjusts, digests, and we move on. But what happens to the bodies of individuals who binge in regular intervals, upwards of a couple times a week? Our bodies are incredibly resilient and work hard to keep us balanced; physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But our physical bodies, just like our mental, are not infinite, capable of withstanding a constant state of struggle. Our bodies require compassion, care and rest. Unfortunately, a body that binges is not capable of providing compassion, care, or rest.

What is binge eating?

Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder that manifests in episodes of binge eating, or binges. Those suffering from this ED are objectively overconsuming and overeating, far beyond the point of feeling satiated, and well past what the body deems a necessary energy intake for its nutrition and development needs. Binge Eating Disorder, like all other eating disorders, uses food as a method of control and emotional regulation. In the way that those with Anorexia Nervosa restrict, those with Binge Eating Disorder binge. An important distinction between Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa however is that those individuals with BED do not immediately, or at all, engage in compensatory behaviour post binge, such as purging or the use of diuretics and laxatives.  

What are potential health risks of binge eating

There are five major health risks associated with binge eating.  However serious these five side effects are, there are a myriad of minor ramifications of perpetuating the binge cycle.

  1. Weight Gain – It must be articulated that gaining weight at times in one’s life is not always a health risk, sometimes the opposite is true! There are times that it is necessary for a body to gain weight, as it is under functioning and underperforming. However, weight gain as a result of binging is not your body’s way of regulating its weight for protection and optimal functioning, it simply cannot keep up with the caloric consumption that is being ingested. 
  2. Heart Disease – Rapid weight gain can cause the body to have increased blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels, all factors that can lead to a heart attack or heart disease.
  3. Type 2 Diabetes – Binge eating can drastically impact your blood glucose levels and metabolism, which are factors in developing Type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is reversible however and can be managed via various ways.
  4. Gallbladder Disease – Constantly overeating can impact the gallbladder, contributing to gallstones.  Gallstones are formed when bile hardens and consequently can block the bile ducts, leading to intense pain.
  5. Depression – Binge eating more often than not leaves the individual in a state of anxiety, upset, shame, and embarrassment leading to potentially serious depression, which can contribute to the continued binges.  The cycle is cyclical and can be challenging to break by oneself.

How do you avoid binge eating?

It is unnecessary to try and recover from your eating disorder on your own. Seeking the help of health care professionals can immensely help on your road to recovery. There are ways however, to help manage your urges to binge on your road to recovery:  

  • Plan meals in advance
  • Remove trigger foods from your house until you are in a more evolved place
  • Eat at regular hours, even if your appetite is wavering
  • Consume well rounded meals consisting of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates
  • Be gentle! You’ve already been through so much, there may be times in your recovery that you feel like you are not making progress, or even taking a couple steps back. This is natural and normal; eating disorder recovery is not linear.

Related Article: Understanding Eating Disorders: Binge Eating Disorder

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens to your body when you binge? 

A: Below is a list of possible side effects that happen as a result of continued binge eating:

  • Digestive upset
  • Nausea or involuntary vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stretching of the stomach because of larger food load, making satiation challenging
  • Interruption of natural hunger cues
  • Thyroid dysregulation and disturbances
  • Pre-diabetes leading to Diabetes
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Q: What should I do immediately after a binge?

A: Try to stay calm! The binge is over, and you should not take any action to try and reverse what has happened.  Slowly, your body will digest and you will begin to physically feel more comfortable. It is important to not shame or guilt yourself for what has happened, Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder that can be bigger than your ability to simply “not”.

Q: What happens if you binge eat once a week?

A: Binge eating can impact us physically and mentally, if you don’t see any negative impacts physically, you may notice them psychosocially, and vice versa.  Binge eating will eventually wreak havoc on the body and begin to present its effects.

Dr. Natalie Mulligan graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She completed her clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with a focused interest in mental health. Prior to attending CCNM, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Waterloo.