Why is the ‘binge’ culture harmful to your physical and mental health

Updated on: 15 March 2022, 12:33 pm IST

You must know the side effects on binge eating and binge watching before you indulge in it! These are the bane of our times!

binge eating
Binge eating can be a disorder! Get a grip on it NOW. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It is a common understanding that anything in excess is bad. And ‘anything’ also encompasses binge eating and binge watching. The side effects of binge eating can leave you reeling under physical and mental health issues, so it is a must that you be wary about it.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating.

It is more serious, complex, health issue that one’s affects emotional and physical health. It signifies an unhealthy relationship with food, body weight or appearance. There are many behavioural and emotional signs and symptoms of binge-eating too.

What is binge watching?

Binge watching is the practice of watching entertainment or informational content for a prolonged time span, usually a single television show. Binge watching television has been likened to having an addiction, due to the sensations and feelings of happiness produced. When doing something you love, the brain produces dopamine, a chemical responsible for promoting happiness, pleasure and excitement.

This, in turn, makes us feel good. But the problem is not with the feeling of happiness but the lack of moderation, which can lead to a host of health issues. This can have serious health repercussions.

Side effects of binge eating and binge watching on your health

The poor eating habits that are common in people with binge eating disorder can lead to serious health problems. The major complications of binge eating are the conditions that often result from being obese.

binge eating side effects
Binge watching will lead to binge eating, followed by obesity. So, watch out! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

These include:

* Malnutrition
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* Gallbladder disease
* Heart disease
* Diabetes
* Shortness of breath
* Certain types of cancer
* Menstrual problems
* Emotional problems include issues like depression, sleep problems, shame, guilt, social isolation, fatigue, anxiety and overall poor quality of life.
* Behavioural problems include abuse alcohol or other drugs. You may act impulsively, feel out of control, feel disconnected from your community.
In some cases, people will neglect their jobs, school, or social activities to binge eat.

Since binge watching is a relatively new phenomenon, there is limited research available. However, there are studies which depict a high correlation between binge watching, depression, and loneliness. Over time, binge watching may harm your health in ways you may not expect.

Issues raised by studies are decreased physical inactivity, sleep problems and fatigue, blood clots, heart problems, poor diet, social isolation, behavioural addiction, and cognitive decline.

Not only does binge watching affect a person’s sleep pattern, eye health, social life, mental health and posture, but also eating habits – often leading to mindless binge eating. Quite a few studies report that binge watching can actually serve as a catalyst for binge eating.

A sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices and habits often go hand in hand. One bad habit (binge watching) is hard to break as it is, let alone a situation where the brain is releasing dopamine from two sources! It’s twice as hard and thus leads to a cyclic process.

sedentary lifestyle
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you are more susceptible to binge eat. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How big of a problem is the binge culture for the youth?

Binge watching television, especially in the younger population, may lead to binge-eating behaviours because of overconsumption and a loss of impulse control – which can be a cyclic process. Research shows that children may be more prone to overeating while distracted in front of screens. They may also be exposed to more food advertisements on television which may add to their binging behaviour.

Children who spend a lot of time on social media platforms or watching TV at ages 9-10 years are more likely to develop binge eating disorder one year later, new research has found.

A US-based study also reported that each extra hour spent watching or streaming television or movies was linked with a 39 percent higher risk of binge eating disorder one year later.

Conversely, exposure to television and media also perpetuate unattainable body ideals especially in young women which may lead to a negative body image and subsequent binge eating.

Mehezabin Dordi Mehezabin Dordi

Mehezabin Dordi, Clinical Psychologist, Sir HN Reliance Hospital. 

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