Abstract To determine whether the characteristics of binge eating could be observed in a single-item meal, in a laboratory, patients with bulima nervosa and controls ate two single-item meals and two multiple-item meals. When they were instructed to binge eat, the patients ate significantly more and for a longer time on both single- and multiple-item meals than did controls. When they were instructed not to binge, intakes of the two groups did not differ. Controls, but not most of the patients, showed deceleration in their eating rate when they were asked to binge. Intakes of the single- and multiple-item meals were significantly correlated for the patients under both sets of instructions. These results are consistent with previous reports in indicating that patients with bulimia nervosa eat differently from controls and suggest that a single-item meal can be used to examine the characteristics of binge eating in patients with bulimia nervosa.