Being stuck in a cycle of constantly binging on food and then purging it out of your system (either through induced vomiting or laxatives) may seem like a solid weight loss plan. However, for many people who have started a binging and purging cycle, they realize that this is ineffective for weight loss. Binging and purging chronically is a disorder called bulimia nervosa.
What Is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia is a condition that is characterized by the National Center for Eating Disorders as recurring episodes of binge eating and episodes of purging. Purging can involve anything from laxatives, diuretics, or vomiting.
Recurring episodes is the key feature to a diagnosis in bulimia nervosa. Most bulimics either have a normal body weight or are overweight. Underweight individuals will usually have anorexia rather than bulimia.
What Is Binge Eating?
Today many people say they binged on food. Unfortunately, the term can get a little muddied when not given specific definitions. Eating three slices of pizza instead of your normal to may not qualify as a binge eating episodes.
The National Eating Disorders Alliance provides a useful definition for binge eating. The common theme with all diagnosis and definitions of binge eating is that it is a recurring event. The symptoms of binge eating can include:
- Eating in secret amount of time, in quantities that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar timeframe under similar circumstances.
- A sense of a loss of control over eating during these episodes.
Again, with bulimia it is always followed by purging. Purging can be seen as useful at first because it allows the bulimics to eat more food, however eventually purging becomes addictive and begins to interfere with daily activities
Why Isn’t Binging and Purging Good for Weight Loss?
Chances are if you’re going to ignore the fact that bulimia nervosa is a medical condition that needs professional counseling then you are already in the process of developing bulimic habits. If your goal is to lose weight, there is some bad news for you. According to Brookhaven Hospital, new studies show that bulimic behaviors cause weight gain.
In the study, doctors at Drexel University showed that women hit their highest weights while engaging in bulimic behaviors like binging and purging. The longer a woman continues to battle bulimia the higher her weight will climbed.
One of the reasons that purging is unsuccessful is that you are unable to purge all of the food consumed. While you are getting rid of a good majority of calories during the purge, food absorption still occurs. For people who binge and eat thousands and thousands of calories as a single sitting, this means they end up absorbing far more calories than they think.
Breaking the cycle of binging and purging may require medical intervention from a license clinical social worker or therapist specializing in eating disorders.
Often treatments for bulimia include referencing the physical harm that the active purging can cause. Many bulimics suffer irreparable damage to their esophagus and teeth.
Also, since it is not an effective weight loss strategy many therapists will focus on how binging and purging behaviors make a bulimic feel. Getting in contact with the emotions driving the binging and purging behavior can help a bulimic enter recovery.
Focusing on proper nutrition and portion control may help control binging and purging behaviors. Many people have a difficult time quitting these behaviors even after they discover that binging and purging will likely cause them to gain weight. It is important to understand the effects that constant purging has on your body as well as the nutritional effects binge eating has.
Breaking the cycle of binging and purging can help free a bulimic to live a healthy life not focused on food. Bulimia is definitely not a weight loss strategy, it is a sign of greater behavioral health problems. Admitting that you need help controlling your food intake and emotions about food is the first step to becoming a happy and healthy individual.