In a study of overeaters, 50 women with Binge Eating Disorder were recruited for a trial and given a placebo for four weeks before they started the active medication that was being evaluated. Binge eating fell by an average of 72% – from 6 to less than 2 episodes a week – during the placebo period. 22 of the group became ineligible for the trial because they were no longer experiencing the required disorder.
A blog I wrote some time ago includes more studies such as these, throwing light on the impact of expectation with regard to food, hunger and fullness. And there are many, many more studies along these lines.
There is really only one way to make sense of research like this, and that is to acknowledge that while the chemistry of our bodies has an effect on the mind, our beliefs and expectations have an effect on our bodies.
AUTOMATIC OR DELIBERATE
The influence of the mind on the body happens in many different ways: deliberately chosen, as in meditation or unconscious and automatic. They can be passing effects, gone in seconds, or they can last longer.
They can be so familiar they’re automatic and not at all deliberately chosen. One example you may know about is that when a doctor takes a patient’s blood pressure, the patient’s attitude actually sends the blood pressure up. This way of thinking, which probably includes some anxiety, produces a stronger reaction when a doctor takes the blood pressure than when a nurse does it!
Many patients, it seems, have particular beliefs about doctors, and these thoughts create physical effects.