Clinical binge eating runs a protracted course. The etiology of binge eating remains perplexing in part because, in humans, it is difficult to isolate and assess the independent and aggregate impact of various contributing variables. Using rats, we found that footshock stress and a history of caloric restriction (S + R), combine synergistically to induce binge eating. Stress and dieting are also strong antecedents and relapse factors in human eating disorders. Here we report further behavioral and physiological parallels to human binge eating. Like the protracted course of human binge eating, young female Sprague-Dawley rats continued to binge eat after 23 restriction/stress cycles (7 months) and this despite experiencing no significant weight loss during the restriction phases. Stress alone reduced adiposity by 35% (p < 0.001) but S + R rats had no significant fat loss. An endocrine profile of normal plasma leptin and insulin levels but marked elevation of plasma corticosterone levels was found only in the binge-eating (S + R) rats (p < 0.01), also paralleling endocrine profiles reported in clinical binge-eating studies. These behavioral and physiological similarities between this animal model and clinical binge eating increase its utility in understanding binge eating. Importantly, our findings also highlight the stubborn nature of binge eating: once a critical experience with dieting and stress is experienced, little if any further weight loss or food restriction is necessary to sustain it. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.