Why does this not surprise me?
Two studies in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience show that when animals are stressed, deprived and exposed to tempting food, they overeat, with different degrees of interaction. The powerful interplay between internal and external factors helps explain why dieters rebound and even one cookie can trigger a binge if someone’s predisposed to binge.
Anybody who’s been (or is) a binge eater (me) will tell you that when it’s real bad, it’s like trying to resist a drug. When I go cold turkey and I’m highly stressed and dieting, resisting junk food (highly sweet, highly salty, high carb), my whole body starts to shake and I can’t think about anything else but the food I’m craving. This will last anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. Now that I’m eating better, the withdrawl behavior doesn’t happen anymore, and I’ve gone from binging (tons of food, say, 3-5,000 calories in some instances) to craving (a chocolate bar).
I still associate the cravings with stress (I ate chocolate last night, but wasn’t “hungry.” It was definately stress eating), but I’ve gotten to the point where because I don’t deprive myself the rest of the day, I’m less likely to chow down when the stress eating does come up.
Ideally, I’ll find other alternatives to deal with said stress. Working on that…
Opioids or endorphins (the brain’s “feel good chemicals”) play a key role in our liking of food. Yet external substances such as heroin and morphine mimic endorphins by binding to the same receptors in the brain, produce a sense of reward (among other functions). The researchers compared how binge-eating rats versus non-binge eating rats responded to drugs that either turn on opioid receptors (butorphanol, which treats pain) or block them (naloxone, which treats heroin addiction).
From the rats’ responses to these drugs, Boggiano and her colleagues inferred how stress and dieting change the brain’s opioid control of eating. The binge eating occurred after rats experienced both foot shock (stress) and cyclic caloric restriction (dieting). Either caloric restriction or stress alone were not enough to produce changes in food intake, but stressed and underfed rats ate twice the normal amount of Oreo® cookies, which rats find rewarding. In other words, animals subjected to both stressors became binge eaters, confirming how strongly these outside factors interact to change eating behavior.
Dieting + stress = binge behavior.
I’m going to go finish up my breakfast now.