Do you ever find yourself combining random foods together and then overeating or binge eating? This phenomenon, called concocting, has been observed among people who are starving, but rarely investigated among people who eat too much. A new study recently released online found that concocting was common among students with symptoms of binge eating disorder.

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.

Unlike general overeating, binge eating disorder involves eating large amounts of food in short periods of time and feeling an associated loss of control (read more about the difference).

 What did the concoctions in the study 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.

If you've found yourself mixing odd foods together and then binge eating, you are clearly not alone.

Dr. Gupta is a professor at Barnard College of Columbia University and provides individual therapy at Tribeca Psychology in NYC.

This article is posted on Binge Eating and Bulimia: The latest psychological research

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About the Author

Sumati Gupta, Ph.D.

Sumati Gupta, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Columbia University's Barnard College and privately sees patients at Tribeca Psychology in New York City.

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