Overeating: Addiction and Binge Eating Essay

Should I Eat The Last Cookie?
A chicken drumstick, mashed potatoes, ear of corn, peas, salad and a piece of chocolate cake; how many people can say that they can eat that much in one sitting? Overeating, otherwise known as gluttony, has begun to create controversy in today’s world. The controversy being over whether overeating is considered to be a sin, or in fact, considered an illness While most people think it is just an unhealthy attitude towards food, compulsive overeating disorder is not just about a food problem, but an illness with underlying issues and emotions. Overeating is an addiction to food. An addiction is continued repetition of a behavior, despite the negative effects, or consequence. Addiction is considered to be an illness. Overeating, therefore, is an illness.

Overeaters share the mindset of others with eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia aren’t the only eating disorders, overeating, in fact, is an eating disorder. Though, an eating disorder drastically affects its victims physically, it ultimately is a mental illness. Compulsive overeating produces emotional, psychological and physiological side effects that can dramatically compromise one’s quality of life and hope for the future. Biological abnormalities can contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness. Researchers have also found a genetic mutation that appears to cause food addiction. Finally, there is evidence that low levels of the brain chemical serotonin play a role in compulsive eating (Smith). Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. Many binge eaters are either depressed or have been before; others may have trouble with impulse control and managing and expressing their feelings. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating. One can develop fairly serious health issues due to excessive eating. Compulsive overeating can lead to serious medical conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and major depression. Additional long-term side effects of the condition also include kidney disease, arthritis, bone deterioration, and stroke (Something Fishy).

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Overeating is an addiction to food. Like most additions, overeating is a reaction to a low self-esteem, and a negative way of coping with life struggles and stress. Overeaters often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. They may also gorge themselves as fast as they can while barely registering what they’re eating or tasting (Smith). These characteristics are often displayed or noticed within hose addicted to drugs, self-harming, as well as alcoholism. This addiction can very much compare to alcoholism. Teresa Reyes, a research assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, experimented with mice. Reyes gave mice a high-fat diet from the time they were weaned until they reached 20 weeks, so they gained significant amounts of weight and became obese. Then the researchers looked at the brain’s pleasure centers — areas known to change in drug addiction (Something Fishy). “What we found is that in animals that were obese, there were really dramatic changes in these areas of the brain that participate in telling us how rewarding food is,” Reyes says. The changes made these areas less responsive to fatty foods. “So it is similar to what happens in cases of chronic drug abuse,” Reyes says. “The reward circuitry changes in a similar way and that promote the seeking of that drug, or in our case, in seeking palatable food.( Something Fishy)” Alcoholism is closely relatable. An alcoholic can be seen quite frequently drinking alcohol, to the same frequency as an over eater can be seen eating. Food soon becomes a means of pleasure for an overeater, as alcohol gives pleasure to an alcoholic. Alcoholics have support groups such as, alcoholics anonymous (AA), overeaters can go to overeaters anonymous (OA). Alcoholism is an illness.

Every other billboard sign on the highway is promoting a restaurant or some kind of food item. Media has taken over and is almost encouraging people to over indulge with food. Media is so contradicting. Looking at one side of the road, a bunch of food advertisements, begging you to eat their food, will be apparent, but look at the other side of the road, there would probably be a bunch of advertisements trying to sell their product with a picture of a really thin person, or someone really fit, or famous. How many people can really, realistically, eat all of the food they beg you too while still keeping the image that society pressures onto you.

Why is our society advocating while also looking down on this illness, overeating? Overeating may be comforting for a brief moment, but then reality sets back in, along with regret and self-loathing. Overeating often leads to weight gain and obesity, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse a binge eater feels about themself and their appearance, the more they use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief. Overeating is an illness. It should not be taken lightly. Media and everyday life play huge part in instigating the issue more than it needs to be. The causes of binge-eating disorder are unknown. Family history, biological factors, long-term dieting and psychological issues increase the risk. Overeating is considered a disorder in the psychiatric world, whether it occurs alone or in combination with some compensatory behavior. There is no such thing as a cure for overeating disorders. It’s an illness that one will have to live with for their entire life, it’s just up to oneself to take control and be able to fight the urge to overeat as they once did.


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