In India, festivities and food are quite synonymous. Round the year festive celebrations give us the perfect excuse to indulge in some mouth-watering delicacies. And then there are the special sweet delights like laddoos, jalebis, gulab jamun and ghewar. We make them, we receive them from friends and family, we share them. Force feeding our friends and even children has come to be equated with love and affection. In India, binge eating during festive occasions has become quite acceptable. What is unacceptable, though, is falling sick due to such overindulgence.
Food is at the centre of Indian life and society. While this can be quite a wonderful thing if we balance traditional culinary practices with health, we have made this an excuse to overeat, binge eat and indulge our taste buds with no concern for our health. Children, the elderly, and those who are at high risk of developing lifestyle disease, in particular, are vulnerable and prone to falling sick following such overindulgences during the festive seasons. Here are just a few of the damages that binge eating can do to us –
Gastritis and constipation – One of the common health issues that most people complain of, following any festival, is gastritis. This is because of the consumption of very spicy or very greasy foods. The high quantities of oil, sugar, and refined flour that goes into making the “special” dishes and sweets during the festivities lead to acid reflux, heartburn, and even constipation.
Cavities and dental caries - Traditional sweets prepared at home are lower in sugar content than store-bought sweets. Convenience, however, has led to a culture of exchanging sweets prepared by confectioners which are high in sugar content and additionally contain artificial sweeteners. These are just the ingredients that cause cavities and gum problems.
Increase in cholesterol levels – Oily curries, deep fried snacks, and sweets made from hydrogenated vegetable oils are common foods we indulge in during the festive season. Be it Holi, Diwali, Eid, or Christmas, all the foods we look forward to in these occasions, play a great role in increasing the triglyceride, LDL, and cholesterol levels in our blood. Not only is this harmful for the heart health but also puts added pressure on the liver function.
Higher risk of developing diabetes –India is now the diabetes capital of the world with over 69.2 million people suffering from this disease. The high levels of sugar consumption over the festive season and binge eating may just be the tipping point that pushes those with pre-diabetes over to develop diabetes.
Weight gain – Even health conscious people give in and indulge in overeating and gluttony during the festivals. With innumerable temptations it is indeed hard to resist. What they do not seem to remember is that they could well be undoing all the hard work they put in by way of exercise and maintaining their diet through the rest of the year. Weight gain, obesity and hard-to-shake-off body fat is the inevitable result.
Festivities need to enshrine the spirit of fun, giving, sharing, and joy. Overindulgence in food is indeed not the essence of Indian festivals but is certainly the way to develop numerous diseases.