How did eating disorders first develop?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Eating disorders probably developed as a survival mechanism; in times of famine, the group would need to migrate (think run on the treadmill for a prolonged period of time) with little to eat (induced starvation) until they found a better living situation. It was in each person’s best interest to survive the famine. When food was plentiful, it made sense physiologically to store some nuts up for the winter, or develop extra padding, to survive the next famine. That’s why fertility goddesses are all roly-poly, as fertility would not occur in the starved state, but only in times of plenty. And now that we have no sabertooth tigers to outrun, and most developed countries have plenty of food so no induced famine, nature seems to be activating that gene at the most inopportune times, with kids or adults creating similar starvation and over exercising patterns in an unhealthy way. Adaptive now? Not so much. Detrimental to health and well-being? Definitely.

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A few years ago, we wrote YOU: The Owner’s Manual, which taught people about the inner workings of their bodies—and how to keep them running strong. But you know what? There’s a big difference...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.