Do you ever find yourself combining random foods together when binge eating? This phenomenon, called concocting, has been observed among people who are starving, but rarely investigated among people who binge eat. A new study released online yesterday found that concocting helped distinguish binge eating from general overeating.
The study, to be published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, surveyed college students in Alabama and Texas on their eating patterns. Almost 25% of all the students reported some degree of secretive concocting, but those students who reported binge eating disorder symptoms tended to engage in concocting more than other students.
What did the concoctions look like? Most often they included chocolate, peanut butter, and sugary ingredients in mixtures. Some examples included:
“A paste of hot chocolate mix, powder coffee creamer or powdered skim milk, and sweetener”
“Mashed potatoes w/ Oreos; Oreo cookies with peanut butter, pickles, and chocolate"
“Mayonnaise with cheese, beans, ketchup, and beef”
These concoctions were secretive in nature – the researchers asked students to describe mixtures that they would be too ashamed or embarrassed to make in front of other people. So students weren’t describing mixtures they simply ate for fun or when experimenting with cooking.
Furthermore, when making these secretive mixtures of foods, students felt strong negative emotions like guilt and anxiety that are associated with a loss of control (read more about loss of control). The researchers noted that the experience of cravings and negative emotions in binge eating mirrors classic symptoms associated with drug use (read another study about that).
Students who restricted their food intake the most tended to engage in the strongest forms of concocting. For example, a student who barely ate anything for two days and then started binge eating at night may be more likely to secretively mix strange foods when binge eating.
The study serves as a preliminary examination into concocting behavior when binge eating. As such, there’s room for improvement and concocting has yet to be investigated among people with a formal diagnosis of bulimia or binge eating disorder.
Dr. Gupta is a professor at Barnard College of Columbia University and provides individual therapy at Tribeca Psychology
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