Diet Mythbusting

Self-Induced Calorie Purging Eating Disorders Actually Increase Your Weight: Here’s How

When it comes to weight loss, you are likely to come across some of the more unusual techniques to trim a few inches off your waistline and also some of the most dangerous ones. Talk about self-induced calorie purging, and you can safely say that this technique is not just one of the most dangerous, but also startlingly ineffective techniques you can adopt. Yes! If you are in the habit of purging yourself of ‘extra’ calories that you have consumed, you may actually be helping your body GAIN more weight. That is apart from the other adverse health impact that you are sending out an invite for when you try to purge calories by force.

Purging calories by force is actually an eating disorder that does not end well for your general health or your waistline. Obviously, you don’t want to be doing something that could ruin your health, do you? To ensure you haven’t fallen into the eating disorders trap, you need to be able to identify the symptoms. The first step is to learn if you are suffering from an eating disorder.

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Do You Have an Eating Disorder?

The National Eating Disorders Association statistics show that about 10 million American men and 20 million American women will have an eating disorder at some point during their lifetime. That’s quite a startlingly huge number. These disorders can affect practically anyone – race, ethnicity, and even age notwithstanding. In fact, if you just take bulimia, statistics show that around two percent of women suffer from this ailment. The U.S. department of Health and Human Services 2012 study shows that about three percent of women above the age of 50 have some kind of eating disorder. The bottom line is that eating disorders are far more common than you think, and you may be suffering from one without even knowing it.

The first step to better health is to learn if you do have a disorder that may be promoting an unhealthy weight gain, plus a plethora of other problems, under the guise of a weight loss strategy. Take a look at various eating disorders more in detail:

Bulimia

Bulimia Nervosa typically develops in adolescence or teen years, and it is also more commonly seen in women. A bulimic person tends to eat a large amount of food at one go, going on a binge. Once the binge is done, the person then purges himself or herself to get the extra calories out of the system quickly. The most common purging methods include self- induced vomiting, taking laxatives, taking diuretics, and exercising at breakneck speed. The last is a considerably less commonly found method of purging. Typically, a bulimic person does this cycle of bingeing and purging at least once a week.

With bulimic people, you usually see an obsession with body weight or their size. They also tend to be terrified of putting on weight and are frequently found to be checking if they have done so.

Anorexia

Also known as Anorexia Nervosa, this is yet another eating disorder that those who are obsessed with weight gain may suffer from. Anorexia too is more prevalent among women and among those in their adolescence and early adulthood. In anorexia, you have two variants: One is the calorie restriction variant, and the other is the binge eating/purging variant. As with bulimic people, anorexic ones also tend to binge eat on a load of food and then try to get rid of the calories by purging in one form or another. As with bulimic people, anorexic people may also exhibit an obsession with being thin and their confidence may wane depending on their perception of their body. Their food habits may be awfully restricted, and they may avoid eating in view of others as well.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

This is also called selective food disorder, and it is quite similar to anorexia in the sense that the person restricts the calories he or she consumes. However, a person with ARFID is not concerned about weight gain or body size. The problem is a simple disinterest in eating. Since here there is no purging involved, we won’t discuss this in this article.

What is Purging and Why is It Ineffective?

Purging is what bulimic or anorexic people do in a bid to get rid of the calories they have consumed. The goal here is to get the food consumed out of the system and, as a result of that, to get the calories out of the body. Purging is the behavior that indicates that a person may suffer from an eating disorder.

Typically, the act of purging may be done soon after a binge, even right after the meal is finished. However, this is not always the case. Some may even purge right after a small or moderate meal. The size of the meal does not quite indicate if the act of purging will follow or not. It has more to do with the individual’s perception of themselves, their degree of fear of gaining weight, and their own notions about how they appear.

As mentioned already, there are different methods used to purge the body, all of them having some detrimental effects.

Vomiting

Soon after a full meal, the person may self-induce vomiting to get all the food out in one go. This method is extremely dangerous and can lead to some serious damage to your internal organs. Self induced vomiting can lead to severe water and electrolyte loss. As a result, one can end up dangerously dehydrated, while also throwing the delicate chemical balance within the body out of sync. In time, self-induced vomiting also puts such excessive strain on the gastrointestinal organs that they are damaged severely. The esophagus and stomach are the most commonly damaged parts in such situations, and these conditions can result in severe pain and further complications.

The other problem here with self induced vomiting is that it actually has a counterproductive effect on your body that might result in weight GAIN instead of weight loss. That happens because your body starts to produce insulin right after you finish your meal. The insulin release kicks in so that the sugar from the foods just eaten can be absorbed efficiently. When you purge, you get rid of some of the food that went into your body, but your body has already signaled enough insulin production to cover the whole of the food you binged upon. So the insulin levels remain high.

As sugar continues to be mopped up, you soon drop into a low sugar state. This is when your brain is triggered with a hunger alarm, and you get an urge to eat again. As a result, you may end up bingeing a second time. What is happening here is that the purging actually leads to bingeing, rather than you purging to get rid of what you binged upon.

The second, most important thing here is the size of the meals you have. Since you are going to purge anyway, you may be lulled into thinking that you can eat large meals that will get out of your body really quickly. However, the fact is that even after purging, your body retains about the same amount of food that you would eat at two normal meal times. So purging does not actually empty your stomach at all. You still retain the equivalent of two meals inside your body, and that is still contributing towards your weight/fat.

The most telling fact of all? Studies indicate that even after post self-induced vomiting, a whopping 1200 calories are retained inside the body! So if you are purging by self-induced vomiting and deluding yourself into believing that you have gotten rid of all the extra calories, your waistline will tell you the truth in no time at all! People who follow self- induced purging after bingeing have actually reported a weight gain over time.

Laxatives

Laxatives are medications that are given to cure constipation.  However,  bulimic and anorexic patients often resort to these to purge their food. There are quite a few different laxatives that are used commonly, and any one of these may be used to purge. What a laxative does is that it stimulates the electrolyte and water absorption, thus creating a bowel movement. It works on the large intestine and ensures that you excrete all the food in this organ. As per studies a reduction of just 12 percent in calorie absorption is seen after the use of laxatives. That’s even if you pass about five liters of diarrhea.

The problem here if you are using laxatives for weight loss is that these do not work on the small intestine at all. The digestive process is completed by the time the food goes out of the small intestine and into the larger one. Everything that needs to be absorbed from the food, be it nutrients or calories, is all already in the system. In the large intestine, the food that is ready to be thrown out is lodged. By taking a laxative, you are just hastening the pushing out of this food.

When you take a laxative and purge, you do feel light and see that your belly is flat, and often this misleads you into thinking that the laxative is working wonders. However, this is not true at all. What is happening is that you lost the water weight you were carrying around. This could lead to dehydration, for one thing and also, water weight loss is not weight loss at all because, as soon as your drink more fluids, you put on all of this weight once again. Add to this the side effect of a chemical imbalance in the body as a result of forced purging, and you can see why laxatives are not a good deal at all.

For many people, there is significant bloating when they eat after purging with laxatives, so they end up looking and feeling heavier than before. Remember that laxatives used over a long period leave some highly undesirable side effects as well, mainly constipation and bloating because your bowel functioning has been impaired.

Enemas are pretty similar, in the sense that they are equally ineffective as weight loss remedies with purging. These too have no impact on eliminating calories.

With either of these, your body gets dehydrated rather severely and so you may switch to drinking water in glassfuls. When you try to compensate for the water loss in this fashion you end up putting the same amount or more of water weight right back. Plus remember that you are placing your kidneys under great strain in all of this.

Diuretics

The worst of the water loss occurs when you resort to diuretics to purge after a binge eating bout. These are designed to get rid of the water from the body, and they are used to avoid water overload. In those who have liver disease, kidney problems, or heart ailments, these are prescribed for this express purpose of reducing the water load within the body. With diuretics, your kidneys are forced to expel fluid. As with other water elimination methods, these only give you a temporary feeling of lightness by pushing out the water, and this is quickly brought back to your normal state when you drink water or other fluids.

The not-so-fun side effect of continuous diuretic use is that your body trains itself to retain water excessively to ward off the impact of the diuretics. When this happens, you put on water weight and start looking bloated as well.

Diuretics can lead to blood pressure imbalances, and if the loss of electrolytes and the dehydration is not addressed effectively, you are also at risk of kidney damage, constipation, erratic heart beat, and dehydration related issues.

Ipecac Syrup

This might be one of the most dangerous purging methods you can ever use. Ipecac is used medically in case of accidental poisoning to make you throw up whatever you have just ingested. When someone has ingested a poison, they may be administered ipecac immediately to stop the poison from being absorbed. But this syrup is used by some to induce vomiting in a bid to rid the body of calories. This is extremely dangerous and can have fatal consequences.

The effects of ipecac do stop when you are no longer taking it, but it does not quite stop the absorption of calories as efficiently as you think. Also, induced vomiting with ipecac syrup can lead to a false feeling of emptiness that prompts you to go on another binge. Use of ipecac can result in seizures, internal hemorrhaging, muscle weaknesses, and severe dehydration.

Excessive Exercise

Apart from using these methods to expel the food out of the body forcibly, purging can also take the form of excessive, strenuous exercise. While exercising by itself is good, your body has its limits, and pushing it beyond those will cause damage, sometimes of irreparable nature. Also, excessive exercising may not result in any weight loss, and you may still find yourself putting on those pounds if you are bingeing on food say, five days a week, and then trying to compensate for it by excessive exercising over 2=two days.

Exercise purging or exercise compulsion may be chosen by anorexic or bulimic individuals because this is a more socially accepted form that they can use to purge. The biggest issue with compulsion exercising is this: Your body is under stress already thanks to your binge eating and purging, which means that you are not allowing proper absorption of all nutrients. In such case, your muscle and bone health is already severely compromised. To add insult to injury, you are causing immense stress and wear and tear to your body by rigorous exercise as well. A very common result of this is stress fractures.

Stress fractures occur in weight bearing areas of your body and eating disorder patients are at high risk of such fractures because they already have a predilection for bone loss. So you are combining the strain to your overworked body with poor nutrition, and you are giving your body no chance to recover or repair itself at all.

In women, a common side effect of compulsive exercising and exercise purging is amenorrhea, when your menstrual cycle just stops, a very clear and alarming sign that your body is crying for help. Apart from this, you may also suffer from an altered heartbeat, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic aches and pains, overuse injuries to various parts, and much more. A persistent feeling of sluggishness and lack of initiative to do anything are a common side effects of exercise purging, and you might end up binge eating just to improve your mood and bring yourself out of the blues. And if you do end up there, you are throwing yourself into a vicious cycle of weight gain and compulsive exercising all over again, which is going to impair your overall health.

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