Physical Impact Of Binge Eating Disorder On The Body
There is a lot to be said about the impact of binge eating disorder on the body. In the post, we’re going to focus on the physical impact and what binge eating disorder does to the body physically.
Please keep an eye out for the update about the impact of binge eating disorder on mental health.
I do talk about the physical impact of binge eating disorder on the body in snippets throughout my other content. But I wanted to bring it together in one short, clear, concise place.
We’re going to split this up into 2 sections – the immediate, short-term, or acute impact, and then the longer-term impact.
Definition Of Binge Eating Disorder
In case this is the first time you are coming across my content, I like to set the foundation by adding my definition of binge eating disorder.
It is the consumption of a volume of food, in a short span of time, to the point of feeling uncomfortably full. It involves repeated or regular episodes of this eating behaviour and often includes feeling a loss of control over food intake during these times.
Short-Term Impact of Binge Eating Disorder
When I talk about the short-term impact of binge eating disorder on the body, I am specifically referring to the physical feeling that happens in the first few hours, maybe up to the first 2-3 days after a food binge had taken place.
First and foremost, after a binge, you are likely to feel bloated, full, nauseated and generally very uncomfortable.
And one of the most common reactions to that is to try and get it out of your body ASAP.
This might be through a load of exercise, taking laxatives, or inducing vomiting.
Not only can these kinds of behaviour patterns carry their own health risks, but they also overlap with another eating disorder – bulimia.
You are also likely to lack energy and feel lethargic. Most of your body’s energy will probably be going into trying to process the food that is in your system. According to some sources, on a normal day, 10-15% of the calories we take in are used in digesting food. So an increase in food intake will put a higher demand on the energy required for digestion.
You may also be prone to other digestive issues as a result of food intake including:
- acid reflux.
- stomach cramps, and
I remember once after one of my worse binges, I was struggling to breathe fully. I wasn’t suffocating and could still get oxygen in. But I couldn’t take a proper deep breath – the kind that fills your lungs and expands your chest.
And there is also a good chance you will have some issues with getting to sleep and also sleep quality. Your body is dealing with a hell of a lot. And it’s likely that it will impact your ability to sleep.
That is not only uncomfortable in itself, but it will lead to a lack of energy, lethargy, impact on mood, and affect your ability to function well the following day too.
Long-Term Physical Impact Of Binge Eating Disorder
There is a strong overlap between the impact of binge eating disorder on physical health and mental health. Eating disorders are mental health conditions that can manifest physically.
And the long-term impact of binge eating disorder on mental health is something I will be covering in another post (or may already have, depending on when you read this). But for now, we’re focusing on the physical side.
One of the most common and maybe more noticeable physical impacts of binge eating disorder is weight gain.
If you are consuming more calories than your body is using or is able to process, that is going to lead to some weight gain over time.
Depending on the volume of food, the frequency of your binges, and how intense they are, that might be a sudden and pretty immediate weight gain. Or it might happen gradually over a longer period of time.
While weight gain is the most common physical symptom of binge eating disorder, it isn’t always the case. I lost weight while my binge eating disorder was at its worst.
My overall lifestyle was healthy. I was active, had a balanced diet, and was generally focused on weight loss. And the binges I had, while pretty regular, weren’t frequent enough or large enough in volume to outdo the positive impact on the health of my overall lifestyle.
So while it is very likely to be a rare case, I guess it does happen sometimes.
Many of the physical health impacts of binge eating disorder over the longer-term overlap with the impact of weight gain, or being overweight, and can depend on the amount of weight that is gained.
Increased weight over longer periods of time can lead to increased risks of a number of health conditions including:
- high blood pressure
- cardiovascular disease
- certain types of cancer
The additional weight also increases pressure on the joints.
Many of the other physical impacts of binge eating disorder do overlap with the impact of weight gain. Plus it can depend on the extent of the weight that is gained.
One thing I do want to point out here however is that while weight gain is a common symptom of binge eating disorder, weight loss isn’t a recommended treatment option.
I hope that makes sense.
Focusing on weight loss focuses on one of the symptoms of the eating disorder, rather than on the eating disorder itself. Treatment for binge eating disorder should be about addressing the underlying cause or binge triggers, and working on the symptoms should to some extent be seen as a separate process.
It’s also worth noting that weight and weight loss can have a huge knock-on impact on body image and mental health, which in turn can exacerbate emotions that trigger binges. Another reason it might be wise to try and work on them separately.
Impact Of Binge Eating Disorder On The Body
So that’s a quick run-through of the physical impact of binge eating disorder on the body. We talk about both the immediate period after a binge and the longer-term effect.
As I mentioned, it is a mental health issue that can manifest physically. And we’ll talk about that in more depth in another post.
If you have any comments, questions, or feedback, please feel free to get in touch.