Secretive food concocting in binge eating: test of a famine hypothesis

Int J Eat Disord. 2013 Apr;46(3):212-25. doi: 10.1002/eat.22077. Epub 2012 Dec 19.


Objective: Food concocting, or making strange food mixtures, is well documented in the famine and experimental semistarvation literature and appears anecdotally in rare descriptions of eating disorder (ED) patients but has never been scientifically investigated. Here we do so in the context of binge-eating using a "famine hypothesis of concocting."

Method: A sample of 552 adults varying in binge eating and dieting traits completed a Concocting Survey created for this study. Exploratory ED groups were created to obtain predictions as to the nature of concocting in clinical populations.

Results: Binge eating predicted the 24.6% of participants who reported having ever concocted but dietary restraint, independently, even after controlling for binge eating, predicted its frequency and salience. Craving was the main motive. Emotions while concocting mirrored classic high-arousal symptoms associated with drug use; while eating the concoctions were associated with intensely negative/self-deprecating emotions. Concocting prevalence and salience was greater in the anorexia > bulimia > BED > no ED groups, consistent with their respectively incrementing dieting scores.

Discussion: Concocting distinguishes binge eating from other overeating and, consistent with the famine hypothesis, is accounted for by dietary restraint. Unlike its adaptive function in famine, concocting could worsen binge-eating disorders by increasing negative effect, shame, and secrecy. Its assessment in these disorders may prove therapeutically valuable.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires