The Issue With Casually Using The Word “Binge”

You watched 12 episodes of Netflix’s show on Saturday.

You ate the entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s last Thursday.

You can read the whole series in a week.

Indulgence is normal when we enjoy something. We have a word for when we indulge in things we want: ‘binge. We binge-watch. We binge-eat. We binge-read. Binge is a positive expression that means we love something so much that we eat it all up at once. There are concerns that the use of “binge” may be mocking serious disorders.

What does it mean to binge?

Binge was first recorded in the English dialect during the mid-1800s. It is said that this word refers to “soaking a vessel” so the wood will expand to prevent leaks. In 1854, binge was used as both a verb and noun to describe heavy drinking, as though “soaking” one’s body in alcohol.

Binge has been used to describe other “excessive indulgences,” such as eating too much. This was evident in the 1950s. Bindulging may be a joke, but it is actually a disorder. Binge eating disorder (BED) is a common eating disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s characterized by “constantly eating large quantities of food, and feeling unable stop eating.”

BED, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, is the most common consuming disorder in the United States. People living with Bulimia may purge (and binge) after binging, though purges do not mark BED.

Problems with using binge casually

binge refers to watching multiple episodes in a short period. This is usually done because you are eager to see what happens next. The binge can be a fun indulgence that we all enjoy.

If someone claims to have gorged because they ate two doughnuts out of a box in the office break room, this is a way of saying that they indulged in something decadent.

Binge eating isn’t just eating junk food or having cheat days. Binge-eating is when you eat excessively and in a manner that makes you feel ashamed. Binge eaters who have developed a disorder often hide their food or eat secretly, consuming so much that they are uncomfortably stuffed. They also associate eating with feelings like guilt and disgust.

BED is a common eating disorder that has often been overlooked. Albert Stunkard described BED in the 1950s as a mental illness. He called it a night eating disorder. Since at least the 1980s, it has been known as Binge Eating Disorder.

In 1987, binge eating was listed as a bulimia symptom, meaning it wasn’t considered “unique” enough to warrant a specific treatment.

In 2013, BED became a recognized eating disorder that was treated and studied in the same way as other mental disorders. Many people with BED struggle to get their eating disorders taken seriously. This is because many people think that eating disorders are associated with being very thin and restricting foods. It is often the case that people who are overweight, or even average weight, and struggle with extreme overeating are not viewed as having an “actual” eating disorder.

The way we speak about eating disorders is important

We are not strangers to joking about eating disorders. In the 1990s, the expression gage me with a teaspoon was used to express disgust. Around Halloween 2010, stores sold “Anna Rexia,” a parody of Anorexia, which involved a skeleton costume with a measuring tape belt.

We don’t mean to harm anyone when we use phrases such as binge-watch and gag with a spoon. Our willingness to make light of eating disorders, their vocabulary, and their symptoms, whether inadvertently or not, can lead to the feeling that their condition isn’t serious.

Game with a spoon has become a thing of the past. And those who create insensitive Halloween costumes get called out, if not banned outright. What’s left to do is move past our collective obsession with the word.

  • indulge
  • Treat myself
  • Splurge
  • gorge

Netflix binges are just as enjoyable as Netflix marathons, and it does not shame eating disorders.

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