Learn the possible side effects of binge eating and overeating, as well as the first step you can take to break the habit.
Maybe you had a rough day, or you’re simply feeling a little bored, so you reach for some food. Before you know it, you’re feeling uncomfortably full and asking yourself why you ate so much. If you’ve ever experienced a binge eating episode or overate before, this will sound familiar to you.
In order to change an existing habit, it’s helpful to understand exactly what’s going on, why it’s happening, as well as the possible repercussions.
A Friendly Note
Before we dive in, there are three things I want you to remember as you’re reading this article if you are struggling with binge eating or overeating. First, you’re not alone. There is a whole community of people out there (myself included!) ready to support you.
Second, it’s never too late. No matter how difficult or unimaginable change may seem at the moment, you are always worth fighting for. Third, this is always a judgment-free platform! We’re simply here to educate, support, and encourage.
Binge Eating and Overeating
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Research tells us that about 1.25% of adult women, 0.42% of adult men, and 1.6% of teens struggle with it (1). An even larger portion of adults and teens struggle with bouts of binge eating or overeating that don’t quite meet the criteria to be diagnosed with a disorder.
Because of this heightened prevalence, we’re starting to see some recurring side effects in both adults and teens. So what are the side effects to look out for? Let’s dive into it.
4 Side Effects of Binge Eating and Overeating
There are both physical and mental side effects of binge eating and overeating. The following four are some of the most common ones.
Binge eating and overeating tend to be a part of a cycle, and the cycle usually starts with a trigger. It could be extreme hunger, an emotion like sadness or loneliness, anxiety, an environmental cue, or even boredom.
After mindlessly binge eating or overeating as a result of the trigger, emotions of guilt and stress often ensue. You may put yourself down for having engaged in mindless eating and tell yourself you’re never going to reach your health and wellness goals as a result.
The focus is often on feelings of failure and self-loathing, rather than the trigger itself. Unfortunately, this leads to the cycle repeating itself time and time again. Feelings of guilt, stress, failure, and self-loathing when felt often can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and perceived self-efficacy.
On a more anatomical level, eating large volumes of food in a short period of time can lead to bouts of acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid comes back up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest.
It’s an uncomfortable side effect and one that can lead to further health complications down the road as well. If you find that you frequently experience acid reflux after eating, it may be a sign that you’re overeating or possibly binge eating.
Imbalanced Relationship with Food
There’s one phase of the binge eating and overeating cycle that I didn’t mention above. This is the intervention phase that occurs after the guilt and stress ensue. As a result of overeating, people will often try to, “make up for”, what just took place by creating food rules and restricting their intake.
Over time, this restriction can cause a strain on their relationship with food, and perpetuate the cycle further. Restriction leads to hunger, which results in a loss of control around food, making incidents of binge eating even more likely.
When guilt, stress, restriction, and food rules are present in a relationship with food, it becomes imbalanced and quite negative.
Unintentional Weight Gain
Overeating and binge eating is often a form of numbing as a result of an emotional or environmental trigger, just as we discussed. Because of this, usual anatomical cues and considerations are not used.
Rather than pausing to check in and see how hungry or full one might feel, they may simply surpass this point unknowingly. Over time, this can lead to a heightened intake of energy and unintentional weight gain.
The First Step Towards Change
If you find yourself relating to these side effects of binge eating and overeating, know that you’re not alone. There are steps you can take to break this existing habit and build new, positive habits that can help benefit your wellbeing.
The first step toward change is to practice something we like to call compassionate curiosity. Start to look at yourself, your actions, and your thoughts with a lens of curiosity.
Instead of focussing on the feelings of self-loathing and self-doubt after an incident of overeating occurs, ask yourself without judgment, why did it happen? Was there a trigger? Does this trigger influence you often? What might you do to remove or reduce said trigger?
And remember, do this with compassion. This will help you to move forward, slowly but surely reduce the incidents, and cope with your triggers in ways that are positive and beneficial to you.
Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?
Always know that you never have to go at it alone. Working to develop a balanced relationship with food takes time, knowledge, and patience. We can help!
Get started by finding your balanced eating type. Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body.