Offering all-you can-eat meals is a common practice at some restaurants in America. A rap group in the 80s, the Fat Boys, even had a celebratory, if not cheeky, tribute to overconsumption titled, “All You Can Eat.” Some online information even details all-you-can-eat restaurants.
But isn’t this situation in part, really binge eating by another name? One of the more disturbing aspects of this mentality is witnessed in the advertising slogan, “Kids Eat Free.” Isn’t binge eating with children teaching them that overeating is acceptable, and even enjoyable? This style of restaurant eating seems to encourage overconsumption because the goal is to eat as much as possible in one session to maximize one’s dollars. Each return trip to the buffet seems to make the whole experience a better and better deal financially.
I recall visiting a sushi restaurant with a deal of all the sushi you can eat in one hour, for twelve dollars. A companion wolfed down 48 pieces just under the buzzer (so to speak). Who knows exactly what he consumed, (such as mercury or PCBs, or if he even cared). He certainly got a deal at 25 cents per item. As a very active college student he could tolerate such overeating once in a while, but I wonder today if he is not obese.
Another issue is that too often buffet food is not of the healthiest variety to start with, and it is intended to be consumed in large, or very large quantities. Restaurants offering buffets at low prices must be buying the cheapest foods they can find, in order to provide them at such low cost.
It may seem that gorging on a large quantity of food for a lower price is a shopper’s delight, and occasionally it could be. But if it is a regular practice it could be unhealthy, both physically and psychologically.
Binge eating has been listed in the appendix of the DSM as binge eating disorder for almost 20 years, but recent revisions are likely to reposition it in the main part of the manual. Of course there is some controversy over this notion of binge eating being a mental illness, because who decides what makes it that, and by what scientifically validated method?