TOXIC LOVE AT FIRST BITE

Sneha .K. Saji

St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

 

No, I just had my dinner I don’t need this packet of chips.” She said to herself but another pesky demon inside kept chanting “It’s okay, just open the pack and have some, not a big deal”.Soon she found herself consumed in guilt and shame. Now to fill the void caused by the emotional state she overate and the cycle repeated. [1]


Yes, the struggle is real. Trust me, the venture is going to be hard but you are stronger than you think.


The neuroscience behind binge eating:

Food is a magical sensation that nourishes our body and soul but a little change in our eating pattern can turn this sincere love into a nightmare. Binge eating is not just about our overwhelming desire to eat food, there is so much more involved and let me crack the codes for you.

Binge eating is a byproduct of both biological and emotional responses. To discuss the biological phase of this condition we should be aware of our body’s natural response to hunger. When digestion is complete and all energy from the previous meal gets used up, we experience a drop in our blood sugar and insulin levels as a response to which our guts produce a hormone called GHRELIN [2]. Ghrelin travels up the brain and lets it know that we need sustenance. Our brain in return release another hormone called Neuropeptide – Y which stimulates our appetite [2].

The mesolimbic centre of our brain is responsible for processing the sensation of pleasure [3]. Therefore, when we eat our favourite food, this area gets highly stimulated and triggers the release of Dopamine (the feel-good hormone). Yes, you heard it right it’s the same hormone that is released when “WE FALL IN LOVE” (No wonder we seek it more and more). Dopamine is also associated with habit learning therefore the behaviour can gradually turn into a habit even if it’s no longer linked to pleasurable outcomes [4].


Usually, the binge eating tendency starts when we restrict the amount or quality of food intake. When we consciously avoid eating a certain group of food that we really enjoy eating (example: fried food, sweets, etc.…) it creates a sense of emotional restriction.


From the survey conducted it is evident that we mostly crave food that has high sugar and fat content just because they gift us a pleasurable state of food euphoria.

From here the story is pretty obvious when we put ourselves in the restriction phase with very low dopamine levels even the slightest exposure to stress or anxiety can make us seek comfort in food and we end up overeating. This is because of the increased production of Cortisol (the stress hormone) which can elevate our appetite [5]. Slowly the brain will start associating binge eating as an escape from stressful events.


Once our stomach is full the nerves present there sense the stretching and sends a message to our brain that we are full but while binge eating, we feel detached from our body due to which its easier to ignore the satiation sensation.


Even our genetic constitution can influence the brain circuits that are responsible for our appetite and mood [6].


How to improve your relationship with food?

Here are some of the best hacks that were suggested in my survey.

· Plan regular snacks and meals: when we don’t eat for a long period of time it increases the likelihood of binge eating. As our blood sugar and insulin level drops.

· Stop labelling food as good and bad: Food isn’t our enemy. Food is supposed to make us feel nourished and happy.

· Adopt mindful eating habits: in the survey conducted it was observed that most of us are highly distracted while having food due to which the process becomes automatic and uncontrollable. Try to focus and enjoy every bite of your food.

· Slow down and relax: get adequate sleep, drink lots of water, meditate, practise any kind of physical exercise and try to keep yourself stress-free [5].

· Seek help from a professional: According to the survey report most of us are unaware that binge eating is a disorder. As soon as you observe a severe change in your eating patterns contact a professional. Do not hesitate to seek help.

References:

1) https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/beyond-hunger-struggling-binge-eating-disorder

2) https://www.chemistry-neuroscienceblog.com/post/the-get-fit-era-of-2020

3) https://psychscenehub.com/psychinsights/neurobiology-of-binge-eating-disorder/

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4919948/

5) https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heres-the-deal-with-your-junk-food-cravings/

6) https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder/why-binge-eating

7)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aWgUILtn7Q

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