This site is the only one that offers an evolutionary explanation for Anorexia Nervosa and other mysterious and mundane human behaviors. Whether you yourself, or someone you love, struggles to understand maladaptive eating behaviors, the information on this site is for you. This site was written for professionals, clinicians, researchers, clients in recovery, parents of eating disorder sufferers of any age, spouses or partners, and friends and loved ones.
The purpose of this site is to provide you with a theory of eating behaviors that deserves your attention – the Adapted to Famine Theory. As a clinical practitioner for over 30 years, I, Dr. Shan Guisinger, have seen the profound ways in which the Adapted to Famine Theory has aided countless people in their recovery from eating disorders. In short, the Adapted to Famine Theory posits that the symptoms of restrictive eating disorders, such as restricting food, hyperactivity, and denial of starvation, are reflective of adaptive mechanisms that once facilitated migration in response to local famine. In other words, eating behaviors that resemble Anorexia Nervosa are likely to be evolved genetic responses that allowed our ancestors to leave and survive times of famine. Individuals who lose too much weight may trigger these archaic adaptations. This theory accounts for the occurrence of anorexia-like syndromes in both humans and animals, and is consistent with changes observed in the physiology, cognitions, and behavior of patients diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.
Why is the Adapted to Famine Theory important? Eating disorders, especially Anorexia Nervosa, have commonly been attributed to psychological conflicts, attempts to be fashionably slender, neuroendocrine dysfunction, or some combination of these factors. Research reveals these theories to be incomplete. In addition, these theories tend to blame and shame those who suffer because of their eating behaviors. The Adapted to Famine Theory helps people with eating disorders and obesity give up shame and confusion and understand that certain eating behavior traits helped our ancestors survive. The urge to restrict food and the compulsion to exercise are evolved responses to famine. The key to recovery, then, involves gaining enough weight and energy to shut the migratory response down. This theory is vital for motivation and hope in the recovery from eating disorders.
On this site you will find essays, journal articles, patient guides, podcasts, and more. Most things in psychology make more sense in the light of evolution. Consider,
- Patient Guide
- Adapted to Famine: An Evolutionary Explanation for Anorexia (journal article)
- Client-Therapist Script and Instructional Tool for Utilizing the Adapted to Famine Theory In-Session
Explore the site to read additional papers and publications by Dr. Guisinger and colleagues on topics of eating disorders, neurology, clinical psychology, and biological evolution.