While binge eaters are often believed to be lacking in self-control, the root of such behavior might instead be linked to rigid dieting practices. An article posted on the Web site for The Sydney Morning Herald discussed the relationship between starvation and bingeing.
In a landmark study conducted during the 1940s, what has become known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, was conducted to study the effects of starvation on the bodies of 36 men. The men were conditioned to eliminate calories until they reached about 75 percent of their original weight.
The researchers found that as the men starved themselves, they became increasingly obsessed with food, not only talking and thinking about food constantly, but also buying cookbooks, developing recipes and even dreaming about food. After the period of starvation ended, however, the men all became binge eaters.
The author of the article, a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, suggested that binge eating may begin when individuals recover from an adoption of rigid eating habits. When under a strict diet that mimics the effects of starvation, the body may be preparing for a new type of behavior pattern, one that consumes a large amount of food in a relatively short period of time.
The relationship between strict dieting and later binging may explain the high numbers of people who become trapped in a cycle of dieting and weight gain, often reaching higher and higher weights after each round of dieting and binging.