IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

A rational eating model of binges, diets and obesity


  • Dragone, Davide


This paper addresses the rapid diffusion of obesity and the existence of different individual patterns of food consumption between non-dieters and chronic dieters. I propose a rational eating model where a forward-looking agent optimizes the intertemporal satisfaction from eating, taking into account the cost of changing consumption habits and the negative health consequences of having a non-optimal body weight. Consistent with the evidence, I show that the intertemporal maximization problem leads to a condition of overweightness, and that heterogeneity in the individual relevance of habits in consumption can determine the observed differences in the individual intertemporal patterns of food consumption and body weight. Sufficient conditions for determining when the convergence to the steady state implies oscillations or is monotonic are given. In the former case, the agent optimally alternates diets and binges until the steady state is reached, in the latter a regular intertemporal pattern of food consumption is optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Dragone, Davide, 2009. "A rational eating model of binges, diets and obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 799-804, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:4:p:799-804

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Boyer, Marcel, 1983. "Rational demand and expenditures patterns under habit formation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 27-53, October.
    2. Iannaccone, Laurence R., 1986. "Addiction and satiation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 95-99.
    3. Boyer, Marcel, 1978. "A Habit Forming Optimal Growth Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 19(3), pages 585-609, October.
    4. Pollak, Robert A., 1976. "Habit formation and long-run utility functions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 272-297, October.
    5. D. Dragone, 2009. "On the non existence of cyclical food-consumption patterns in a model of non-addictive eating," Working Papers 663, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    6. Levy, Amnon, 2002. "Rational eating: can it lead to overweightness or underweightness?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 887-899, September.
    7. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
    8. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
    9. Feichtinger, Gustav & Novak, Andreas & Wirl, Franz, 1994. "Limit cycles in intertemporal adjustment models : Theory and applications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 353-380, March.
    10. Pollak, Robert A, 1970. "Habit Formation and Dynamic Demand Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(4), pages 745-763, Part I Ju.
    11. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Sun, Ruoyan, 2016. "Optimal weight based on energy imbalance and utility maximization," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 442(C), pages 429-435.
    2. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2017. "Modelling body weight, dieting and obesity traps," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 468(C), pages 139-146.
    3. Kyle Rozema & Nicolas Ziebarth, 2015. "Behavioral Responses to Taxation: Cigarette Taxes and Food Stamp Take-Up," Working Papers 150015, Canadian Centre for Health Economics.
    4. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2016. "Weight loss, obesity traps and policy policies," MPRA Paper 71327, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Amnon Levy, 2011. "An Integrative Model of Rational Diet and Physical Activity: Physiological, Gastronomic and Budgetary Aspects," Economics Working Papers wp11-06, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
    6. Dragone, D. & Ziebarth, N.R., 2015. "Non-Separable Time Preferences and Novelty Consumption: Theory and Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 15/28, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    7. Kalamov, Zarko Y., 2016. "A Sales Tax Is Better at Promoting Healthy Diets than the Fat Tax and the Thin Subsidy," EconStor Preprints 148007, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    8. Liu, Yaqin & Ferreira, Susana & Colson, Gregory & Wetzstein, Michael, 2013. "Obesity and Counseling," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 149947, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    9. Davide Dragone & Francesco Manaresi & Luca Savorelli, 2013. "Obesity and smoking: can we catch two birds with one tax?," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201306, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    10. Amnon Levy, 2011. "Physiological, Gastronomic and Budgetary Aspects and the Diets of Perfectly and Imperfectly Lifetime-Rational Consumers," Economics Working Papers wp11-13, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
    11. Dragone, Davide & Savorelli, Luca, 2012. "Thinness and obesity: A model of food consumption, health concerns, and social pressure," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 243-256.
    12. Rhodes, Charles, 2012. "A Dynamic Model of Failure to Maximize Utility in the Chronic Consumer Choice to Consume Foods High in Added Sugars," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124693, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    13. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2015. "Body Weight, Dieting and Obesity Traps," MPRA Paper 67671, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Federico Perali & Luca Piccoli & Knut R. Wangen, 2015. "An Extended Theory of Rational Addiction," DEA Working Papers 69, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Departament d'Economía Aplicada.
    15. Dragone, Davide & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2017. "Non-separable time preferences, novelty consumption and body weight: Theory and evidence from the East German transition to capitalism," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 41-65.
    16. Gomis-Porqueras, Pedro & Moslehi, Solmaz & Suen, Richard M.H., 2016. "The role of dietary choices and medical expenditures on health outcomes when health shocks are endogenous," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 13-25.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:4:p:799-804. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.