Aftermath of a massive eating binge

First of all, my views on this are highly unconventional and probably controversial.  Much of what I’m talking about has hardly been discussed or researched.  You won’t find this in the DSM-5 or any DSM and most shrinks, even “eating disorders specialists” don’t know this stuff. Why? They have never experienced massive binge eating themselves.

Secondly, some of what I am saying won’t apply to certain populations.  If you vomit afterward, none of this applies. I’m only talking about what happens if you don’t vomit.  Also, if you are diabetic and are insulin-dependent or have other serious medical conditions and you experience a binge, then what I’m saying here about what happens following a binge may or may not be true for you PLUS you may also have further serious medical complications not listed here. Consumption of alcohol or drugs will also complicate matters.

If you are reading this and are in medical danger, don’t even read further. Get help.  I do know a binge can be serious. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, or trivialize it.

Now, that saying…I disagree with the DSM!  Why?  The DSM does us a great disservice by classifying all binge eating into one lump diagnosis category. So what happens is that there are all different kinds of binge eating, and it’s all lumped together as the same “diagnosis.”

I have been talking to so many people who suffer from this or have suffered from it.  Some people binge primarily on sugary foods. Many of these folks discover that their binge eating is addiction-like and some of these folks benefit from  eliminating concentrated sugars or certain types of dessert foods, even certain breads.

Others binge on anything, it doesn’t have to necessarily be sugar.  I have heard that some binge on primarily protein foods or salty foods.

I do believe that binge eating is a physical disorder that is generally nutritionally based.  It could be hormonally-influenced or even caused by seizures.  And of course, any drug, whether prescribed or not, can cause binge eating, including marijuana.   I have heard, also, that certain physical ailments, such as Lyme Disease, can cause binge eating or symptoms that mimic eating disorders of all types.

Back in the 1980’s, I read all the literature about what to do if you find yourself overeating when you are feeling blue. Or when mindlessly eating in front of the TV, or bored.  Or if you went out and ate junk food when your boyfriend dumped you.  I found that none of this literature applied to me, nor was it helpful.  In fact, I found the “poor coping” theories insulting to say the least.  These people who touted “better coping” had no clue what I was going through.

See, the DSM may talk about binge eating disorder but makes no distinction between the following: 1) There are those that eat a few candy bars, or a few pieces of pizza, and then call that a binge.  They feel horribly guilty afterward and maybe have a tummy ache from the candy for an hour or two.  Maybe they gain weight, cuz it is, in fact, too much to eat.  Or maybe they don’t.

2) Others massively binge eat.  I’m talking about huge quantities, like 10,000-15,000 calories.  I have rarely actually counted the number of calories in any of my massive binges, but I know the quantity was around that much.  I have heard that 15,000 was the most anyone can humanly stuff in, but I’m not sure that’s accurate…and over what period of time? Anyway, that number sticks in my head.

What I am saying is this: The medical profession is lumping us all together. So if someone complains of binge eating, and in fact, they’re doing  mini-binges (sorry, but a few candy bars isn’t a binge in my eyes) what happens is that the medical profession and these specialists think the main problem is guilt.  So they think, “Hey, they’re neurotics!  These gals make a mountain out of a molehill.”  That’s why those of us who massively binge get poo-pooed at the treatment centers and in doctor’s offices, and we end up wondering why.

I do think massive binge eating is indeed serious.  Now, I’ll talk about what happens to a person AFTER eating those thousands and thousands of calories AND not throwing them up.

This is my own experience.  I’m writing this out in second person, however, for whatever reason.

Something stops you from eating.  Maybe you just can’t fit in anything else.  Maybe you start to choke or the food won’t go down anymore or it seems to be filling up right up into your throat.  Or you run out of food.

You are at risk for stomach rupture. This has indeed happened to people and personally, I’m positive it happens far more often than medical science is willing to admit.  Rarely does a person survive if their stomach ruptures.  I believe that it has occurred and not been documented because without an autopsy, the person’s death may be documented as a heart attack or other cause.

I have heard that you should never, ever take Alka Seltzer or bicarbonate of soda, also called baking soda, following a massive binge. These will increase your risk of stomach rupture.  I don’t know if this is true but that’s what I’ve heard.  I remember from childhood my mom used to tell us to take baking soda for a stomach ache, but I’m sure glad I never took it after a binge.

You feel sedation. This hits hard.  Like you have taken a very strong sleeping pill that kicks in fast. (I’ve actually passed out, but not really fainted, simply collapsed to the floor.  It hasn’t happened too often. Usually, I have the good sense to lie down before I’m out cold.)

If you sleep, you sleep deeply despite the fact that you’ve got all that food in you.  How long?  It varies.

Your stomach is huge.  Probably it is larger than it would be if you were pregnant. Unlike pregnancy, there is expansion all around, not just in front, although I think this varies from person to person. It will stay that way for a long, long time.  If you binge Sunday night, your stomach will be huge all day Monday and most likely into Tuesday as well.

You may notice swelling in other parts of your body, including your face, arms, hands, legs, ankles, anywhere.

I can see why many people are tempted to abuse laxatives, because these speed up the digestive process.  It means the huge tummy won’t be around as long.  However, if you have diarrhea, either induced or it just happens, here’s what to expect:

Your stomach gets extremely bloated and uncomfortable for a long time prior to the diarrhea. So it will actually be larger for a while.  Your stomach will growl like mad.  You may experience a lot of abdominal pain that lasts for hours, including cramping. The swelling in other parts of your body, such as your ankles or thighs may worsen.  You will most likely have to defecate rather suddenly, and if there’s no bathroom around, you might leak.  If you are stuck sharing a bathroom or using a public bathroom, you might go through a bit of embarrassment. I’m not going to go on and on about the warnings about laxative abuse cuz you’ve already heard them.  I do know of people who have died or have permanent damage.  It’s far from rare.

Another thing that happens is that your body gets revved at some point.  Your heart pounds, you sweat, and you feel very hot.   Some people have reported a raised blood pressure and pulse, and even raised body temperature.  It sounds like what physically happens to the body when you are exercising, or when you feel afraid.  However, these sensations are more a nuisance than anything else.  You aren’t likely to be able to sleep while your body is revved like this.

An acupuncturist explained to me why this happens. It’s because your digestion is working on overtime.  It’s working extra hard.  It’s got a huge amount of food to process and it’s not designed for a “meal” that large.  It’s going to take extra time, too, to process all of it.

You may or may not experience gassy emissions, such as burping or flatulence.  The burps may contain stomach acid or even bits of the food you ate, or have a sour taste, or taste somewhat like what you binged on.  This will affect your breath odor. Flatulence may be uncontrolled and may be in a large quantity.

Now what do these “experts” tell us? First of all, they assume we all go out jogging after a binge, or just feel guilty and otherwise go about our normal days. Given the above, clearly these “experts” have no clue what a person goes through physically following a binge.

Most “experts” will tell you to go right back on your meal plan, that is, if you binge Saturday afternoon, just eat dinner as usual.  Oh, really?

As for those of you who do these mini-binges and call what you have binge eating disorder, maybe you need to realize that guilt won’t hurt you. It’s a feeling.  Yes, it’s real, but you’re not in physical pain due to guilt. Guilty feelings don’t mean you will be punished, fined, jailed, or reprimanded. Guilty feelings don’t mean some St. Peter will choose Hell for you. It’s a feeling and it passes. Once you realize this, the “moral issue” of these mini-binges is wiped out. Do go right back on your meal plan, if you choose to use one, and you’re likely to be fine.  You won’t even gain weight.

These “experts” have clearly never experienced massive binge eating themselves.  If you try to eat again following a massive binge, YOU CAN’T!  You might try, but you aren’t even capable of putting anything into your mouth for a long time after a binge.  Your stomach turns when you try to eat.  You may even have trouble getting  liquids in for a long time, and as a result, suffer dehydration.  You’re just too sick.

The experts assume some of us jog off the calories.  For those who do those mini-binges, this is probably applicable.  However, following a massive binge, you cannot even comfortably sit in a chair, you cannot walk, you cannot stand up. Absolutely no position is tolerable. Probably lying down is the only thing you can do, but it’s far from comfortable. If you try to concentrate on a task, you find that you cannot do so.  You’re in too much pain. This can go on for a whole day following the binge.  If you try to eat, you feel worse.

I’m going to address something else that’s concerning to me.  People have reported to me binge eating over and over in succession, or having too many binges very close together in time. This has happened to me, too.

I’ve been going through this for over three decades.  I can tell you one thing: I’ve been in the situation where I was binge eating over and over and my stomach never had a chance to return to a tolerable state of comfort before the next binge.  I remember gaining weight very rapidly during those periods and I felt extremely sick.

This is truly critical. There’s no way your body can process all the food you’re putting into it.  You must do something to make it stop.

The times I was in this situation, I recall desperately trying to get help, and literally getting laughed at by doctors.  I had no clue what to do.  The hospitals didn’t take it seriously, either. Nowadays, many still don’t, but some do.

I saw the hospital as a way to stop it, but since “I can’t stop bingeing” would never get taken seriously, I had to lie my way into the hospital.  I assumed the hospital was the answer. Get myself locked up so I won’t binge. I had to say I was suicidal so that they’d take me seriously and maybe admit me. This went on for years, sadly.  I wish there had been some other way.  I wonder what other things I could have done instead of subjecting myself to all that lockup.

I have tried to tell doctors about all this stuff, about the sedation, the sweating, the farts, everything. No one has ever taken the time to listen except that one acupuncturist I had quite a while back.  That’s why I’m documenting it here.

Take care you guys.


8 thoughts on “Aftermath of a massive eating binge”

  1. Julie, I am such a pleb and I admit that I do not understand this…and therein lies the problem. As someone who eats too much and could do with losing a fair bit of weight, I can’t relate to this binging. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic but more that I couldn’t do that myself. I can’t imagine how this could happen, but I have other failings. A glass of wine too many, I am familiar with this problem. I own it.

    Julie, I love you. You’re a great girl who has endured terrible hardship. I’m always going to be on your side. Cheers. Mx

    1. Thanks so much. There are so few that will make this statement. It’s so sad that what I end up hearing is, “This is impossible,” or, “You don’t really do that,” or, “You are exaggerating,” or, “You are lying,” or, “You are trying to get attention.” I heard that for years. I’m so grateful for your honest response. It’s true that most people do not experience this. It’s not a common problem. I believe genetics are at play here. There is so little research that I am shocked.

      When I was a young girl, I simply assumed all the research was there and that all these doctors knew just what to do. I had so much faith in them. Wow, was I ever wrong. After a year or two it was rather obvious the ones I was seeing had no clue. I only wish they had been honest with me. I found out only a couple of years ago that they STILL had no clue. I was shocked.

      As a young girl, I would have been far better off doing my own research instead of believing those docs could cure me, and thinking they were gods. It’s very sad.


  2. This is an old post I know, but I just came across it, thank you so much for writing this. I was feeling so alone because all the binge eating forums are just full of people saying ‘I ate a whole packet of biscuits, must have been like 1000 calories, I feel so disgusting’ – that does not even approach what I call a binge. I thought maybe I was the only one who could put away tens of thousands of calories, falling into a bingeing madness for days, finding myself at 2am crying and frantically stuffing down plain oatmeal because it is the only edible thing left. I get short of breath, gassy, exactly as you describe. I too feel a disconnect between what I do and all the advice out there. ‘Forget it and move on’? How do you do that when you suddenly don’t fit into your jeans and your saliva glands are swollen like you have the flu? Nor do I know why I do this. I mean, comfort eating?? I think you’ll agree it is the furthest thing from comfort you can get!
    So, I guess I’m just happy to know that I am not alone. Thank for addressing this.

    1. Thanks so much. Yes, it’s an old post but I am glad that it is reaching people. I, too, felt so alone with it, for decades. Trying to get help for it was impossible. I finally decided that there was no such thing as “help,” that I was barking up the wrong tree. To seek “help” from a mental health professional is to put yourself in a dependent position. Suddenly, you are seen as far more needy than you really are, because no adult should bow down to another in this fashion. It’s degrading.

      I don’t mean to insult those who eat a few cookies and then “feel devastated.” Fine. They complain endlessly about emotional angst. But what about those of us who end up in serious physical danger due to the binge eating alone? ESPECIALLY if we don’t vomit. Science has both the “emotional” binge eaters and those of us who massively binge eat lumped together as one “disorder” when clearly, it isn’t.

      Medical science states that the main danger is overweight. I think this is completely overlooking the problem of the actual act of binge eating. Many of us aren’t overweight. In fact, if you go to many websites you’ll see the statement that “binge eating disorder” is the same as “compulsive overeating.” Whoever makes this statement completely misses the point.

      For some, “poor coping” may be the problem, but I believe that for most, it isn’t. For years I was led to believe that if I resolved my “inner issues,” I’d fix the problem, but going to endless therapy didn’t help at all. Medication was far more effective, but if you read other entries in my blog, you will see that my body was seriously damaged later in life by the pills I took that I for years I thought were the answer. Most of those pills either didn’t help binge eating, or made it far worse.

      A year ago, I still couldn’t convince doctors that binge eating was serious. After decades of this suffering. How often have folks like us been laughed at by these professionals, told it’s “nothing” when in fact, it’s physically disabling and puts a person into a dangerous medical state? It’s more physically disabling than disabling in the emotional sense. I could never get a doctor or therapist to understand. Many of my friends (if I even admitted it) thought I threw up to keep my weight down, but I didn’t. And go jogging the next day? Um, no, you can’t. Nor go “right back on your meal plan.” You can’t do that either. You’re too physically ill.

      I do have suggested solutions. Perhaps I should post these. I hate to recommend something that may not be helpful to other people, or might in fact be harmful. However, in the absence of compassionate medical care for this, or any medical care whatsoever, I should probably post what has worked for me.

      Thanks again, Julie

  3. I would really like to hear your suggestions because I know exactly what you are talking about and my loved one has been suffering for so long that nothing you suggest could be worse than what we are dealing with now. Thank you.

    1. Hi Emily, I should really put this in a post since many have asked me recently. Also, I haven’t discussed my own ED in a while so I need to perhaps update you all’s on that and how, precisely, I beat it, including binge eating. I do, in fact, have suggestions, only suggestions of things people might try, not guaranteed solutions nor end-all-cure-alls. If I did, I’d be just another false advertiser. Oy, we have seen far, far too many of those! So here comes another totally imperfect post.

  4. He has tried so much…living in complete isolation, micromanaging every thing he does, seen dozens of doctors and therapists. Just had a massive binge…used to be only in the middle of the night. now he is triggered at any moment. 10 years of this…since age 19.

    1. Yes, that often happens. Therapy often encourages “mood charts” or charting bingeing, or doing coping skills lists, or having some kind of system in place that’s supposed to be the magic FORMULA. What we end up is FORMULAs, meal plans, and more and more and more diet mentality, which is how we got into binge eating in the first place. We either dieted, or we ate in a manner that reflected diet mentality. The formulaic approach only furthers the diet mentality. Night eating often starts as something physical, an actual physical disturbance in sleep, such as a sleeping pill or something causing the person to get up. Automatic eating, done while asleep, is not even consciously done, I cannot see it as “poor coping” but rather a knee-jerk reaction.

      I’m still writing all the ideas, all the things I tried and would recommend to others. Maybe we should talk further offline. It’s up to you guys.

Feedback and comments welcome!