Here’s What the Science Says
Basically, what I have learned, is that research with people (the University of Minnesota Key studies) and with mice studies shows that once the individual was exposed to having fewer calories than recommended for his or her body size/type, the primitive parts of our brain begin a lengthy, or even lifelong pursuit, of large amounts of food. Feelings and urges of the primitive or animal brain become thoughts and actions of our more complex higher or human brain. Forgive the use of such simplistic representations of the mind, but it really is consistent with everything we know about 1) personality, 2) brain structure, and 3) treatment.
If I may digress for a moment, I want to explain that the primitive brain or animal brain consists of the brain stem (responsible for regulating breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and consciousness), the limbic system (responsible for emotional regulation), and the cerebellum (responsible for movement, balance, and posture). Together, these systems can steer you toward a binge with great power. They will make you think it is necessary for your survival to binge without you even realizing that is what they are doing. They will make you connect eating to emotional regulation.
You have one part of the brain you can manipulate to a greater extent, and that is the the higher brain, human brain, or the cerebral cortex, responsible for thinking, planning, and reasoning. People have seemingly achieved remarkable feats with their higher brain. They have meditated their heart rate down to extremely slow beats per minute. They have overcome failures of the primitive brain like loss of consciousness from a coma or major depression. They have recovered from eating disorders by learning different therapies or trying different strategies to eat normally.
The only hope of avoiding binges at some point in one’s life is to try to signal your brain that you will be getting food regularly and in sufficient amounts. Otherwise, there will come a time when the primitive brain overrules the higher brain and starts forcing binges. When I was in treatment, it tended to be the young people who had anorexia, though this is not exclusively true. By their 30s, most women had become switched to binge eating disorder or bulimia diagnoses. It’s the way the brain works. It only allows you to starve for so long.