A rational eating model of binges, diets and obesity
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.
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