Bulimia Weight Loss and Weight Gain - The Truth

Richard Kerr's picture

Many bulimics believe that they “need” to purge in order to lose weight, or to maintain their current weight, but this just isn’t true. In fact more and more research studies are proving that purging actually leads to weight gain in the long run!

A study published in the International journal of Eating Disorders in May 2012 found that most bulimics reach their HIGHEST EVER BODY WEIGHT after developing their eating disorder, regardless of purging behaviours.

Being told that purging does not work for weight loss (or even long term weight maintenance) may come as a shock to you, especially if you’ve been convinced that purging is somehow helping you to control your weight, but it is a scientific fact. 

Of course it’s not hard to understand where the misconception comes from in the first place.  After all if you’re purging everything you eat then logically you’d expect to lose weight this way, but the true relationship between bulimia and weight is so much more complex. 

Does bulimia ever cause weight loss?

It is common to experience some initial weight loss when you first develop bulimia, however after not much time at all your bodies basic survival mechanisms kick in, which means sustaining this weight loss over time is practically impossible.  

Your body begins to fight back by lowering your basic metabolic rate, increasing urges to binge eat and storing any food it does manage to keep hold of as fat.  

Of course, like with most things the effect that bulimia has on weight can differ from person to person and it’s only right to acknowledge that in some rare cases bulimia does allow people to maintain lower than healthy body weights – but again for the majority of people this is not the case.

Countless scientific research studies have PROVEN that all methods of purging are highly ineffective at removing calories from the body. Put simply, PURGING IS POINTLESS!

Let’s explore this further by looking at why each method of purging individually.

Vomiting is not an effective way to remove calories 

Following an episode of binge eating may bulimics induce vomiting as a way to avoid gaining any excess weight. However you may be amazed to discover that even after purging, a significant amount of the calories consumed will remain in the body. 

One study found that around 1000-1200 calories remained in the body, regardless of the size of the binge, and  this happened even when participants purged straight after bingeing

A separate study which required a group of bulimic women to binge and vomit as they normally would compared the amount of calories eaten with the amount of calories purges and discovered that while the average binge consisted of 2131 calories, the women only purged an average of 979 calories by vomiting.

So even when you vomit immediately after bingeing, and even when you believe you’ve emptied your stomach contents, your body still goes on to absorb 40-75% of the calories consumed. 

Not only that, but due to its effects on your hormones and blood sugar, vomiting actually encourages MORE bingeing. 

Laxatives do not significantly reduce calorie absorption

After taking laxatives you can feel as though you’ve lost weight, you may even weigh less but any difference is a result of water loss and dehydration only. 

When it comes to real weight loss very few things are as ineffective as laxatives, with studies showing laxatives only decrease caloric consumption by around 12%. 

Plus due to constant dehydration your body starts to store much more water than it normally would, meaning laxatives can actually end up causing bloating! 

In a dehydrated state you’re much more prone to episodes of binge eating too, as chronic thirst confuses your brain, convincing it that you’re hungry when you’re actually just very thirsty.  

Diuretics have zero effect on calorie absorption

Diuretics 100% just do not work for weight loss or weight maintenance because they have no effect whatsoever on calorie consumption. All they do is cause a temporary loss of water. 

Excessive exercise is not an effective purging method

When you exercise to excess your body stops burning off fat and actually begins to break down and destroy your muscles (especially if you’re not getting adequate nutrition). 

As muscle helps with metabolic regulation, a reduced muscle mass caused by excessive exercise means your basic metabolic rate will lower. 

A lower basic metabolic rate means your body is going to be working harder to retain more calories from any food consumed, storing them as fat rather than burning them as energy. 

Exercising excessively also increases hunger (meaning more bingeing and purging). 

So as you can see from the evidence, purging really does not work in the long run. 

It might be hard to believe but you can actually stop purging and NOT gain any weight because the chances are you are consuming more calories bingeing and purging than you would be if you were to eat normally. 

The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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