Binge eating in Quarantine — a troubling coping mechanism
Image Credits - Hyoun
Hopefully, 2020 will be the most apocalyptic year we will ever face. I know that we are facing so much globally, but I stay immersed in my own petty problems- online classes till 4, internships till 10, meals round-the-clock on my bed. The monotonous cycle is suffocating.
It is incredibly limiting to be able to count the number of times you have stepped out of your house in the past 5 months. Interestingly, I find a common habit among my friends- we are eating more than we used to.
This may sound terribly counter-intuitive but eating doesn’t always mean you’re hungry. It may be coping mechanism or a sign that you are thirsty. We do a lot of emotional eating by stress-eating, pleasure-eating, ultimately OVER-eating. While an occasional indulgence is not too troubling, binging of any kind should be mindfully observed.
Image Source - Surbhi
Dr Michael Mantell, a clinical psychologist believes binge eating can arise out of powerlessness, secrecy, shame and social isolation. When we binge food, our brain releases dopamine- a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. This can quickly spiral to a physical addiction.
In research conducted by Nature Neuroscience, “high-fat high-sugar food show behavioral and physiological changes that are similar to those caused by drugs of abuse”.
The pandemic has drastically changed our home environment. A lot of us feel isolated, helpless and stressed. Our food supplies are stocked high to limit social interactions. We are facing a sudden but long-drawn shift in our lifestyle and we have become exceedingly sedentary. All of this makes binging seem like a lucrative choice.
Everybody has different means and reasons to binge, so everybody has different ways to address it. For people with a severely strained relationship with food, getting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been an incredibly useful method to re-establish a healthy eating pattern. Staying away from overly restrictive diets is another crucial lifestyle change that may help reduce the constant urges to 'cheat' or to binge eat. Dietary changes like adding more fiber to our meals also help us stay satiated for longer periods of time. Constantly keeping ourselves hydrated helps our brain to not mix the 'I'm thirsty' cue with the 'I'm hungry cue'.
The internet has a lot of new dietary lifestyles online, one of them is Intermittent Fasting. While it works for some, it can be triggering for others. Please be wary before making a big change to your eating habits because of something you see online as different people have different dietary needs and goals. The distribution of well-balanced meals throughout the day is one of the most widely- recognized ways of healthy eating.
Finally, I know its challenging to stay active right now, but exercising a little every day is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. It releases dopamine and serotonin which will ultimately make us us feel good and we can all use a little happiness right now.
Approaches to binge-eating vastly vary, but being mindful about them is one of the first steps towards recovery. I know its a long drawn process and it can be really hard some days but remember you're doing this because of self-love.
Please note that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, everybody’s dietary needs and restrictions are different.
If you need an online assessment of your eating disorders, here’s a link to the SCOFF questionnaire by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).