January 23, 2017

Evolutionary Perspectives on Anorexic Behavior: Ancestral Mechanisms in the Modern World

Catherine Salmon, University of Redlands

A compelling puzzle of our modern world is the disturbing obsession of some women with body image and dieting. Why do so many women in North America place such an emphasis on being thin? Why do these desires lead to eating disorders in only some women? It is commonly assumed that the desire for a thin female physique and its pathological expression in eating disorders result from a social pressure for thinness. In recent years, anorexia nervosa and bulimia have become the most attention grabbing eating disorders with a multitude of studies being published from a variety of perspectives. With all this attention, one would think that we would have a concrete understanding of the causes of eating disorders and yet there have been a plethora of theories that have been proposed in the literature. In my talk, I will review several adaptationist approaches to the study of dieting behavior, focusing on my work with colleagues on the link between reproductive suppression, dieting, parental and social pressures, and life history strategy.