Wednesday Bubble: long-term effects of the short-term binge

Posted by on Aug 25, 2010 in exercise, weight | 4 comments

Stress, emotions, life.  All of these factors can contribute to binge eating. However, have you ever wondered if the binges that might occur during long vacations or breaks may contribute to a longer-term problem?

This week, I’m bursting the myth that many of us, including myself, like to tell ourselves after a few weeks of the ‘bad food’ binge, “it won’t hurt.”

Guess what?

This bit of information is straight out of BioMed Central‘s nutrition and metabolism section, and it ain’t pretty. However, the good news is that after reading this, lengthy binges may become a thing of your past and hopefully, not your future.

Researchers are saying that individuals who lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle and consume large amounts of energy (not nutrient) dense food over a period of as little as four weeks may end up with more fat mass over the long-term, even if they lose the weight they’ve gained from binging by returning to usual eating and activity levels.

In this particular case, 18 young men and women (aged ~26 years) who weighed within the normal healthy ranges were asked to increase their daily energy intake by 70% (including at least two fast food meals per day or foods rich in protein and saturated animal fat) over four weeks and limit physical activity to no more than 5,000 steps a day (which they measured using a pedometer). Thereafter, they could return to normal. The findings?

Compared to a group of men and women who ate and exercised normally, a month of binging led to an average weight gain of 14 pounds! Moreover, only a third of the people studied returned to their normal weigh after 6 months, and on average, they still managed to gain an extra 3 pounds by one year’s time following the study. Even worse was the fact that fat mass increased by as much as 3% of the total body weight by the end of the study. When the researchers looked at this separately, they found an average increase in abdominal/trunk fat by ~17% and leg fat mass by 28%.

The underlying message is that a short-term  excessive binge can possibly change your physiology, making it harder to lose the weight and keep it off.

Granted, this is a small study and was conducted in individuals substantially younger than the readers of this blog. Nevertheless, if the findings prove true, it is likely that the longer term ramifications of binging at our age may pose some serious effects on health.

Just a wee bit of food for thought for a Wednesday. Keep it healthy. And move your body.


  1. 8-25-2010

    Wow, who knew? Thanks for bringing that research to us…yet another reason for moderation.

    • 8-25-2010

      Definitely Lori! And for making better choices on a daily basis.

  2. 8-25-2010

    This is a very interesting finding, Liz. It definitely confirms the weight loss issues I find with my clients who tend to have a binge/diet pattern of eating. The most interesting aspect of this to me is the definition of “binge.” Eating 70% more than usual and not being active can happen simply as a result of a busy month at work!

    It’s further proof that the trick to maintaining your weight at any age is to be mindful of everything that goes into your mouth – especially during times when you are less active. It also illustrates how quickly the calories add up when eating out daily and not planning for meals. These calories are compounded in the 40+ population, when metabolism slows down.

    • 8-25-2010

      Very useful information Danielle – that a 70% increase can mean a busy month and work. More food for thought, along with the metabolic slowdown. Thanks so much!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *