Many people around the world, but specifically in developed countries, suffer from an intense impulse to rid themselves of the calories they just ingested. They wonder what is the best way to lose the most amount of calories. Should they exercise for hours to work them off? Should they just not eat for periods of days? Many stumble on the concept of purging, which is vomiting up the food they just swallowed. A question they might have is, “Just how many calories would I get rid of if I purge?”


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Disorders associated with purging behavior


Purging is a symptom of multiple eating disorders, most notably is bulimia nervosa. Purging has the potential to be life-threatening and is often accompanied by bingeing large amounts of food and then attempting to counteract the calories they just ingested. Those ailed by these disorders usually counteract the calories through vomiting.

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Although other methods can also be performed, sometimes in combination. These include dieting, fasting, using laxatives, or excessive exercise.


Medical case study of bulimia nervosa


A study (Kaye, Weltzin, Hsu, McConaha, & Bolton, 1993) was conducted in 1993 that followed 17 subjects, all of which had bulimia nervosa. The subjects were tracked on how many calories they ingested on a binge and then the vomit was examined to see how many calories were expelled. They concluded that only about half of the contents would be effectively lost.

For example, someone who just binged 2000 calories would vomit about 1000 of those calories out. However, this is especially noticeable in higher calorie binges that go over 2500 calories. Smaller binges are usually less effective for various reasons. The reasons can include things such as your body’s ability to quickly digest food and the length of time between the binge and the purge.

The study also concluded that most subjects had the same amount of calories retained no matter how much they binged which was roughly 1200 calories. This is not 100% conclusive considering the size of the study. With only 17 participants the results vary by a wide range with their most of their conclusions focusing on the group 10 or so participants that showed similar attributes in the number of calories consumed and maintained.

There are few studies on this subject, and the ones that exist are often small and do not have subjects with differing disorders. They usually just have participants who have bulimia nervosa.

Overall, the general conclusion is that 50% of calories are retained after binge eating and then purging through vomiting. Another way to purge calories is with the use of laxatives. This is even less successful with only about 12% calories purged. This method is less common and also less studied with similar research barriers as with vomiting.


Why is purging bad for you?


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It is important for anybody seeking this knowledge to understand the safety risks involved when purging. Purging through vomiting can lead to some very serious ailments, including death.

It all starts in the stomach, a mixture of stomach acid and food is ejected from the stomach by a combination of muscles in the abdomen. This mixture travels upwards through the esophagus where, after too many purges, it can cause semi-permanent or permanent damage, such as a sore throat and esophageal tears.Once past the esophagus, it travels through the mouth causing similar degrees of damage to the teeth and gums. This can lead to major dental decay and even gum disease.The whole process of vomiting drains the body of important nutrients and electrolytes as well as severely dehydrates the individual.The lack of stomach acid along with other factors causes a metabolic disturbance that can affect the body over an extended period of time.The dehydration also stresses the kidneys which, if this behavior continues, can cause kidney failure.Perhaps the most dangerous by-product of purging is the possibility of a heart attack. The act of vomiting puts a lot of strain on the heart, and, while the effects are usually mild, like increased or irregular heart rate, it can lead to cardiac arrest.

Laxatives and diuretics have some similar symptoms in common, such as dehydration and loss of nutrients, which can make them just as harmful as vomiting.

Overall, purging puts a lot of strain on the body, and long term purging is going to have some lasting effects that may not be reversible. Those considering purging should be helped by a medical professional, usually a psychiatrist so that they can avoid hurting themselves.


Will purging help me lose weight?


Those who purge often do it to lose weight or prevent themselves from gaining weight. While they may only retain 50% of their calories, they still have that other 50%. The psychological factors can also increase weight over time and many who purge often have recorded this.

When a person expects to purge after eating it is likely they may eat more than they would have normally, perhaps they are uninformed and think that any food ingested would be discarded after purging.

This person may not realize either that as soon as they started eating their body began producing insulin to absorb the sugar it expects to be in the blood shortly. However, after purging there is no extra sugar available but still plenty of insulin.

The insulin absorbs the normal supply of blood sugar leaving one with low blood sugar, causing the body to send a signal that it needs food. This means eating more, which is generally considered a bad way to lose weight. So you should immediately stop asking yourself about how many calories do you retain after purging.


Healthy weight loss

When you decide to make a change for the better in your life, you have already taken the first step. Healthy weight loss is a loss of weight in a way that does not hurt your body in the long run. The next step is to change your menu to allow healthy weight loss.

Choose healthy ingredients, remove white flour and white sugar from your diet and enjoy more small meals. In healthy weight loss, it is important to remember that it is necessary to combine a healthy diet with increased physical activity.

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Every beginning is difficult, but it gets easier from there on!


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If you or anybody that you know is considering the use of purging, especially by vomiting, the information provided here should dissuade them. Any person considering purging is probably not as informed as they should be. The calories lost during purging are negligible to start with and when you consider all the potential diseases and conditions one can get from it…

Well, it doesn’t seem worth it. This combined with the likelihood that those who purge will gain weight and it is illogical for someone to purge to lose or limit weight gain. Perhaps they should read this essay to understand the health risk factors behind purging and become a bit more informed.