Not just killing time: The health benefits of bingeing on binge-eating

Binging on YouTube videos is nothing new. Binging on actual binging, however, is an entirely new twist on video consumption.

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An ever-growing number of people are tuning in to watch “mukbang,” a Korean phenomenon that involves people posting videos involving them not just cooking food but also eating it. The trend has grown into a worldwide sensation and often involves massive consumption of foods in nauseating quantities.

Hosts will often prepare or buy a meal, sit down and eat as part of a live stream sometimes watched by hundreds of thousands of fans. The meal is interactive, allowing viewers to interact with the host. Many times, the whole purpose is to see the mukbang host take in multiple servings.

The trend is social and interactive. Watching someone eat while possibly having a meal at the same time (and perhaps the same meal that they are watching a mukbang entertainer consume on the screen) fills certain longings in a modern society with less personal interactoin, experts say.

“People are satisfying a need vicariously by watching others,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed psychologist who works with corporate and sports clients.

“There is also the element of excess, so watching people eat in excess, in my view, is almost analogous to a psychological technique of making a heavy smoker smoke a few cigarettes in a row fast, as a way to help him or her quit smoking," Murray said. "The viewer does not have to do it ... but can benefit by watching it. I think a lot of social-learning theory would fit here too. We often learn, grow, and discover mistakes and fulfill urges by simply observing others.”

Some mukbang producers have impressive followings, possibly because people trying to adopt healthier lifestyles and lose weight find satisfaction in watching others gorge themselves.

Japanese mukbang entertainer Yuka Kinoshita, for example, has 5.34 million subscribers on YouTube, outpacing Metallica with 5.06 million and Madonna with 3.36 million.

Perhaps the most popular individual in the genre, Kinoshita also has a loyal fan following in other social media channels as well as her own book.All because of an ability to eat 62 hamburgers in one sitting. Pass the antacid.

Cait Weingartner, senior director of trategy at Collectively Inc., an influencer marketing agency, says that currently on Instagram, there are 1.7 million posts with the mukbang hashtag and she expects the trend to grow.

“While the mukbang trend started in South Korea, food obviously has universal appeal and eating videos, often without much direct talking to camera, easily transcend various cultures without language barrier issues,” Weingartner told FOX Business.

“The mukbang trend can also trigger an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) response similar to those slime- or paint-smearing videos where viewers feel relaxed by the sounds and slurps associated with eating," Weingartner  said. "The excess nature of it aligns with the popularity of ‘haul’ videos, where viewers tune in to see item-by-item detail into each purchase on often excessive shopping trips.”