Dirk Miller, executive director of the Minnesota-based Emily Program for the treatment of eating disorders, points to what is still considered the seminal study on food deprivation -- "The Biology of Human Starvation." The 1951 study took a group of war protestors and asked them to go on a hunger strike. The volunteers -- men with no history of pathology -- went on a medically supervised, highly restrictive diet.
The men developed an unhealthy obsession with food even after the study was completed and they were able to eat whatever they wanted. Moreover, they developed an obsession with weight -- they wanted to stay very, very thin, Miller said.
Well into old age many of the volunteers continued to suffer from food and body-image thoughts that nearly parallel those of people with bona-fide eating disorders.
While the detrimental effects of anabolic steroids is now well known, the dangers were not always common knowledge, and most doctors would emphasize using extreme caution before tinkering with a healthy body.
One could say there's a terrible irony in the fact that in an effort to better their physical selves, a significant number of athletes are achieving just the opposite.