I’m done using the term “binge watch.” I didn’t “binge” on the new-to-me Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast I found a few weeks ago. I’m not “binging” on The Queen’s Gambit right now.
I know many of us aren’t proud when we spend hours consuming content, but it truly isn’t the same thing. We may be numbing out, which can be analogous, but binging is so much more than an act of self-sabotage and shame.
We would never say, “I refused to watch that whole series; I was totally anorexic about it!” Ok, so in part we wouldn’t say it because it sounds weird, but more than that, we recognize that it is insensitive. It makes light of a serious medical condition. Binge eating can be serious, too. And for the person who struggles with binging regularly, it is deeply painful.
My guess is that we are ok making light of binging because most of us unconsciously hold the belief that it’s ultimately an act in the binge eater’s control and shows their personal weakness rather than something larger. Most people who habitually overeat believe that they are fully responsible for this behavior. They have bought into the diet culture belief that overeating is a sign of personal weakness, not a product of their environment, personal food history, food availability and so much more. Even if they are aware of the research pointing to these influences, people often believe that they can override them with strong enough willpower and discipline.
Binge eating, though, is a symptom of dieting culture and fatism. People who chronically restrict their food, either in quantity or in type, are high risk for binge eating episodes. Research suggests that even the thought of restriction, “I really shouldn’t eat cupcakes anymore,” can lead to binging episodes later. In addition, binge eating is actually encouraged by food producers, and for a fairly large percentage of the population, we are susceptible to the cues–flavor, texture, visuals, etc.–to keep eating that bag of chips or stack of cookies until they are all gone. However, most habitual overeaters, and most folks who are aware of them, will still put the responsibility squarely onto the laps of the eater, not diet culture and food manufacturers.
I don’t want to contribute to these assumptions anymore. I’m not willing to make light of binge eating or to perpetuate the lie that chronic overeating is only about personal will and discipline. No, when I sit down to re-watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in series next weekend, I won’t be binge watching them. I’m just going to be enjoying my movies.
Can you help out, dear reader? What phrase can we use instead of “binge watch?”
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle science and health teacher. She can be found serially watching nostalgic, nerdy movies, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.