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The Binge Effect

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whether it’s attending a wedding or visiting relatives and friends, you will be binge ing on a variety of food and drinks during the festive months. But, what is all that indulgence doing to your body? Dev Goswami & Sara Shah find out

It’s hard not to indulge in sweets during house visits (saying no to a plate of treats at a relative’s house is almost a crime!), be tempted by fancy drinks at your rich friend’s wedding (considering that you can’t afford them otherwise, you may as well, right?), or give in to the extensive, all-day meals that will be prepared back home.

Of course, the festive months are a time to relax the rules a bit and celebrate by indulging all your cravings. But, it helps to be aware of what you’re putting your body through. As celebrity lifestyle nutritionist, Dr. Tripti Gupta, tells us, “No matter how healthy your diet usually is, a binge is always harmful for you.” Pallavi Srivastava, fitness nutritionist and proprietor at Q-Slim Fitness, adds that the key to maintaining the balance during the festive season is to ensure that you don’t go overboard. Read on as we get Dr. Tripti and Pallavi to tell us about the effects of binging on common festive foods — both positive and negative!

Alcohol is something that some of us end up bingeing on regardless of whether the occasion calls for it or not. Sometimes, we simply invent an occasion (remember those frequent, stress-filled work days during the week?) to justify guzzling down a few drinks. And, it’s not like the effects are all negative, right? After all, it has been shown that after a night of binge drinking, you’re more likely to drink more water the next day, because of that terrible hangover.

But, that’s about all the benefits you will get from bingeing on alcohol, and re-hydrating your parched system isn’t really a benefit anyway. On the other hand, there are several negative effects. Dr. Tripti tells us, “Frequent guzzlers face excessive puffiness, bloating, heaviness, irregular motions, dullness and sluggish metabolism.” Now, we’re sure that a puffy, dull-looking face is not something you want to sport during the festive season. And, that sluggish metabolism? It’s only going to make the effects of bingeing on the next few items even worse.

From delicious sweets to items that we didn’t even know contained this, it’s so easy to binge on sugar. In fact, most people won’t even realise when they’ve eaten too much of it. And that is unfortunate, because excess sugar can really mess up your system. A binge means that your body will have to deal with more sugar than it requires, which results in it being stored as fat in your system. Want to avoid the flab from showing through your sari or bulging out past the seams of your sherwani? Well, keep your sugar consumption in check.

Also, remember that excess sugar can lead to immediate mood swings, more cravings (yes, we know that’s not what you expect when you’re eating “just one” peda), stomach aches and sleep apnea. Keep it up through the festive months and you will end up disturbing the insulin sensitivity in your body, which will adversely affect your nervous system. If you’re smart about your sugar consumption, it won’t do too much damage. Also, as Pallavi explains, it can give you an instant boost of energy, which will tide you over for a few hours. With all the running around during the festive season, we wonder if that is one of the reasons why sweets are so popular during these festive months.

Ghee is used so often while preparing festive delicacies that it deserves its own section. Including it in your diet has some benefits, ranging from healthier skin to better immunity. But, eating too many ghee-laden dishes is going to counteract any benefits and stress out your liver, which is already suffering because of your festive excesses. Pallavi adds that consuming too much ghee makes you sluggish and lethargic. It is definitely one of the reasons why you will find the idea of stepping out during the festive months difficult.

Dairy products
Yes, we know that drinking glass after glass of milk, or wolfing down blocks of cheese is not part of your festive celebration. But, while it may not be something that we binge on directly, look up the recipes for some of your favourite festive dishes, and you will find that several of them use milk or dairy in some form. And sadly, the effects of bingeing on dairy are pretty subtle. It does have some health benefits — it’s chockfull of various minerals and nutrients, but the effects can be seen with moderate consumption as well.

The other side of the coin, however, has serious consequences. Dr. Tripti explains that milk fat is absorbed too easily by your body, which means that the weight gain caused because of dairy is hard to get rid of. Also, a binge can cause hormonal imbalances and general discomfort after a heavy meal.  

Dried fruits & nuts
Don’t know what to give your friends or family at an occasion? Gift them a box of dried fruit and nuts! It may be the most-unimaginative idea and may usually be reserved for Diwali, but it is the easiest to gift, which explains its wide popularity during the season. But, this also means that you will be at the receiving of a tall stack of boxes filled with nuts and dry fruits. So, what do you do? Well, you could just leave them unopened and pass them along to your friends and family, and continue the cycle of gifting. You could also freeze them and spread them out over the year. Or, you could eat them all. And, that’s the problem. The health benefits of dried fruits and nuts need no introduction — a handful not only keep you full and energised, but also have numerous, positive long-term effects.

But, as both Pallavi and Dr. Tripti tell us that bingeing on nuts is a really bad idea. Most nuts are full of fats. Now, even though these are the good kind of fats, eating a large amount of nuts and dried fruits will lead to weight gain — especially if you don’t balance out your calorie intake during the day. The other effects you should be worried about include acne breakouts, dandruff and an upset stomach, which are all caused by the oil that is present in most dried fruits and nuts. 

Salty snacks
When we’re not eating an indulgent meal during the festive months, we’re munching on snacks. They can be freshly-made treats or packaged items such as sev and biscuits. And, all these items contain a lot of salt and sodium — for both, great taste as well as preservation. Sodium is an important part of your diet, but as Dr. Tripti tells us, a salt binge can be worse than eating too much sugar. Bloating is the most common, and quickest effect of a binge. It can also be dangerous if you suffer from diseases such as kidney stones or hypertension. So, if you have a high blood pressure issue, you should really stay away from salty snacks.

Binge-eating disorder
Your festive excesses may have their fair share of negative effects, but nothing can compare to a binge-eating disorder (BED), which is a serious eating problem, where you can’t stop yourself from eating large amounts of food. BED can overlap with food addiction, as both share similar characteristics. The condition is characterised by eating too much food, even when you’re uncomfortably full, eating in secret, eating rapidly and frequent, unsuccessful attempts to go on a diet. It’s advisable to visit a doctor if you think that you suffer from the problem, because this is a condition that you won’t be able to fight on your own. The worst part is that it also affects your mental health, because you will feel depressed, angry and guilty about not being able to stop your binges. It can lead to medical complications as well, and, like most eating disorders, can ruin your social life. The problem can be treated with the help of behavioural therapy, weight-loss programmes and medication.

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