In 1944, 36 men participated in an experiment in starvation, in order to study the challenges confronting the many people who were starving due to World War II. We learned a lot about how the body reacts to a dangerously restricted diet, including the aftereffects when the subjects' eating returned to normal. A followup article looks at what happened when the experiment was over.
Recall that during the starvation period the men became obsessed with food. Food haunted their thoughts and dreams and took over their conversations.
But many of them remained preoccupied with food even after they gained back the weight. Some said that their perspectives and perceptions of food were forever changed. They faced more intense hunger more frequently than they did before the study. One described himself as, “being hungry and eating almost continuously for years after.”
What we learned: Our brain remembers “famine,” whether from a diet or a real famine. Once we’ve lost weight — and even if we’ve regained it — the brain puts more focus on food so we’re more likely to eat and be better prepared for the next famine.