Binge Eating

Your body is designed to make you eat. You would die relatively quickly if you didn’t. Therefore, you have an incredible loop of positive reinforcement each time you do. It is how your body ensures that you do, by providing a sensation of pleasure as a reward for having eaten. The horror of horrors, just imagine if you decided that it was too boring to eat. Your body doesn’t trust your instincts and instead relies on pleasure sensations to ensure that you comply.

Sometimes, this loop goes awry. When it does, you don’t stop at eating to live; you start to binge eat. You do not need the extra calories, and you will most certainly suffer for it, but you can’t get yourself to stop. This inability can occur daily or occasionally, but when it does, you have no control. This emotion is not dissimilar from gambling. You know the house always wins, but you gamble anyways. Apparently, it would be beneficial if you could break out of this negative loop.

Researchers at Stanford have identified the surge of brain impulses that cause you to binge eat. Using deep brain stimulation in mice, they were able to pass electrical impulses to impair the generation of these desires. Since you would not like to be strapped to a chair to prevent your binging, scientists are figuring out how to identify the surge in advance and trigger an appropriate response. It is equally essential to isolate those impulses that get triggered while wanting to binge and not inhibit usual hunger pangs. The research seems to suggest that this may be possible. Various challenges remain for example, identifying different triggers that cause you to binge ranging from emotional eating, stress eating, habitual binging to social interaction induced binging. Someday, they will get it right, and there will be a pill to prevent you from tipping over. Till then, do realize that it is in your hand and your response is physiological and not mental.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.