Bulimia Weight Loss – Fact or Fiction?
There is a commonly held belief that bulimia, or more specifically the compensatory behavior of purging, helps with weight loss. However, beliefs are not necessarily true. So, is bulimia weight loss Fact or Fiction? Read on to discover the truth.
Now I know from my own experience that it can seem like bulimia weight loss is Fact: It seems the strategies of throwing up, exercising frantically, using laxatives etc and or restricting your food intake in some way, does compensate for overeating, breaking dietary rules or bingeing.
And maybe they do…
And therein lies the trap: Initially they can work and because of this, the idea ‘you can lose weight with bulimia’ is validated.
And besides it makes sense – right?
- If you throw up the food you’ve recently eaten, all things being equal you should at the very least counteract the binge and possibly loose weight.
- If you exercise like crazy, you should burn off the calories you’ve eaten.
- If you reduce your calorie intake; miss meals, or perhaps fast or ‘detox’ you should be able to counteract any effect of over-eating or bingeing.
I remember watching the downward trend of the scales and receiving the compliments with joy.
HOWEVER, ALL IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS.
The downward trend of the scales stops or gets erratic, you often feel fat and any happiness gets quickly replaced with confusion, frustration and fear.
So How Come Bulimia Weight Loss Strategies Work Initially And Then Stop?
The thing is you can’t fool Mother Nature, or not for too long! Whilst the compensating behaviours that follow bingeing may seem like effective weight loss strategies, Mother Nature soon bites back. And when you look at the Science, you’ll understand why.
So let’s look at the science and research behind the 7 Most Common Bulimia Weight Loss Strategies and you can draw your own conclusion as to whether Bulimia Weight Loss is Fact or Fiction.
Maybe it will settle some doubt in your mind, if you believe there is something wrong with you that you can’t be bulimic and loose weight and maybe if you’re looking for some bulimia tips to loose weight, you’ll realise that loosing weight with bulimia simply won’t work.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY #1 Self Induced Vomiting.
Self induced vomiting is perhaps the most common method of purging. However research shows that even if you throw up immediately after a binge your body has already absorbed 40% to 70% of the calories eaten! This means that realistically the number of calories you absorb from a binge, even after vomiting, is probably going to be greater than the number of calories you would have absorbed, if you’d eaten sensible-sized portions on a binge-free day.
Now for you mathematicians out there…
You may think you can calculate this and stay well within a calorie deficit and therefore loose weight but this becomes increasing harder to calculate because…
- Bingeing has a tendency to become an increasingly frenzied, out of control behaviour and keeping track of what goes in and comes back up, even with ‘markers’ becomes harder.
- Overtime the binges become more frequent and larger as your body tries to compensate for the restriction.
- Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you cannot get all the food back up.
And that’s not all…
Self Induced Vomiting Plays Havoc With Your Blood Sugar Levels and Encourages More Bingeing.
Because of the tendency to binge on large amounts of sugary food, blood sugar levels in the body rocket. This is not a healthy state for your body and so it responds by releasing Insulin to bring your blood sugar level back down. However, when you ‘throw up’ the food, the elevated levels of insulin still in your body, cause your blood sugar levels to crash which can leave you feeling…
- Shaky, nervous or anxious
- Tired (fatigued)
Your pulse may quicken, you may experience palpitations and sweating is common.
LOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS ARE DANGEROUS. Therefore this rapid and extreme drop in blood sugar needs further adjustment; more food, high in sugar and starch is required to ‘sweep’ up the insulin. For this reason, it’s common to actually have stronger cravings and urges to binge than it was before that cycle of bingeing and purging started! And so bingeing can become more frequent and out of your control.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY #2 Over-Exercising.
Exercising may seem a more pleasant and less harmful way to to compensate for overeating or bingeing, than throwing up. On top of which we are told exercise is good for us: We are designed to move and we actually need to move, so exercise is a great thing for the body and has many health benefits. So more exercise should be better – right?
Logic would say that by exercising enough you should be able to burn off the calories eaten. A notion validated by the plethora of machines and gadgets available, that tell you how many calories you are burning.
Again, all is not what it seems: Whilst you can possibly manage or lose weight for a time through exercise – Mother Nature has her eye on you.
Science now shows that weight loss through exercise is a myth. And over-exercising, especially when used to compensate for eating, over-eating or bingeing, and or to create a calorie deficit, in an attempt to lose weight, can pose serious physical and mental health risks.
The truth is whilst exercise makes your body more efficient at burning calories, due to your metabolism being raised, it also has a tendency to INCREASE your appetite**.
And when you exercise and are not eating correctly to compensate for the energy expended and satisfy your hunger you are far more likely to…
- Have food and eating in the fore front of your mind.
- Over-eat or binge
- Feel tired and experience mood swings
Rather than burning fat, muscle fiber is broken down for energy: When you use muscle fiber, you lose muscle mass, the very thing that helps you burn calories and keeps your body toned and in good shape!
And if most of your energy intake (calories) is being used for exercise, the body will start lowering it’s basic metabolic rate. Fewer calories are then required for the effective functioning of your body, making it harder for you to lose weight.
A slowed metabolism compromises digestion and reduces the speed at which food moves through the gut. This can cause weight gain, bloating, gas and constipation; conditions that make you feel fat, and are common triggers for bingeing.
If your basic metabolic rate goes too low, your health will be seriously compromised.
If you still think over-exercising works to help you lose or control your weight or you HAVE TO EXERCISE, that is you have an overwhelming desire to exercise and burn calories or you must burn the calories you’ve eaten, please click HERE to check out the serious health risks posed by this behaviour.
** INCREASED Appetite: You may not necessarily experience an increase in appetite immediately after exercise, particularly intense exercise, due to the suppression of the hormone ghrelin. However, ghrelin levels go back to normal after about half an hour, so you may incorrectly assume that your hunger is down to something other than the exercise you’ve just done.
Lastly, exercise can increase your weight as you build muscle, although you may be loosing inches from various parts of your body, so the number on the scales is not a reliable indicator of what is going on.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY#3 Laxatives
Many people believe that they will be able to control their weight or counter the effects of a binge by taking laxatives. However, because laxatives ONLY work in the lower part of the digestive tract, by which point most of the food that’s been eaten has been absorbed, they do not mitigate the consequences of a binge.
Any ‘weight loss’ is a temporary loss caused by the loss of water and returns once the body is re-hydrated.
Now you might be tempted to avoid re-hydrating yourself so you can avoid the water weight but correct hydration is vital for your health and well being. Not re-hydrating can lead to serious health complications and even death. If you are using laxatives or have become dependant on them please read the dangers of laxative abuse.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY#4 Diuretics
Similar to laxatives, any weight loss from diuretics is due to water loss and will return once you have a drink. Diuretics have NO EFFECT on calorie consumption whatsoever.
A common side effect of the overuse of diuretics is dehydration. And when you’re dehydrated it can cause your body to hold onto water. This doesn’t just increase your weight, but it makes you feel uncomfortable, bloated and constipated and for many people, ‘feeling fat’ can trigger bingeing.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY#5 Controlling Your Food Intake.
Possibly even before bulimia fully develops, especially if you’d been following a restrictive diet, the body ADAPTS to the restricted food intake and erratic eating patterns by LOWERING the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate** and INCREASING Fat Conversion. This reverses the trend of weight loss and increases the chances of weight gain, even though you maybe eating less!
** The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is an estimate of how many calories you’d burn doing nothing but rest for 24 hours. It represents the minimum amount of energy needed to keep your body functioning effectively, including breathing, digestion, brain function and keeping your heart beating. As an example the average BMR for a 28 year old woman is approximately 1586 calories, which is higher than the calories recommend in many diets and is why so many people struggle sticking to them.
This adaptation to food restriction is hard-wired into our brains and is triggered whenever the brain perceives a famine – which is exactly how the brain perceives dieting – regardless of your conscious desire to diet and loose weight.
After the initial Honeymoon period where there is some weight loss, RESTRICTIVE DIETING in any form (calorie counting, avoiding or missing out certain food groups, missing meals etc) is generally the MAIN TRIGGER for bingeing and the start of the cycle of binging and purging behaviours that ultimately lead to weight gain.
Restrictive dieting or controlling your food intake in some way that doesn’t meet your body’s requirements, is seen as a threat to your survival and is extremely stressful for the body. To get an understanding of the impact of this stress on your body please read “The Side Effects of Under Eating”. The side effects may not just surprise you but you may finally understand why you feel so awful (if you’re dieting and or struggling with bulimia).
Your Body Demands Fuel.
The demand for fuel is first experienced as an increase in appetite or hunger. If that hunger isn’t satisfied you will begin to obsess about food and eating and experience overwhelming cravings and urges to eat. Not just that, you will find yourself compelled to seek out food and when you find it, eat as much as possible. .
These demands and compulsions are automatic, that is they are outside your conscious control and can be quite frightening. And as they run counter to your desire to lose weight, you find yourself at war with your body and mind: Food becomes the enemy and consequently there is a lot of anxiety and agitation experienced around food and eating.
The inner conflict becomes increasing stressful physically, mentally and emotionally. Stress is further increased with the physical, mental and emotional stress brought on by any compensatory behaviors of purging.
This chronic level of stress raises the levels of the cortisol level, which is linked to weight gain. For more information read Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol.
An important thing to know is that many bulimics actually lose weight when they replace bingeing and purging with healthy patterns of eating.
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY #6 Weight Loss Pills & Potions
The old adage, “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” fits the promises made by the advertisers of diet pills and teas.
Whilst there can be an initial weight loss – perhaps due more to the placebo effect – research shows that…
- The majority of these pills and teas, have little or no effect
- The way results are achieved, tend to be unhealthy and unsustainable.
And because diet pills and potions are unregulated and with the possibility of buying them online, some are not just ineffective but dangerous and can kill you!
I remember resorting to drastic measures to divert my attention away from my desire to eat, curb my cravings and prevent myself from bingeing. This included a variety of slimming pills, both over the counter and prescription – ultimately none of them worked. But I didn’t come to that conclusion until after I’d become increasing dependent, for a time, on more and or stronger substances and made myself quite ill.
As with laxatives and durietics, you can come to believe that you need diet pills, especially those that have addictive qualities and make you feel better when you take them. However like anything addictive, over time you need more, or stronger, to get the same effect.
Whilst some of the side effects are short term and go when you stop taking the pills or teas, some are not; long-term use of some diet pills can have serious consequences, especially for those with underlying vulnerabilities.
Despite the FDA banning many of the harmful ingredients that were added to diet / slimming pills and teas, they make their way back into the market through the internet and poor regulation of dietary supplements.
As with anything that artificially restricts your food intake and or reduces your body weight below what is a good weight for your body, Mother Nature will work to redress it. With the adverse side effects of diet pills, some of which are listed below, are ask you is it worth it?
The adverse side effects of Diet Pills.
- Blurred vision
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Increased risk of cancer, heart attack or strokes, high blood pressure, primary pulmonary hypertension
- Shallow breathing
BULIMIA WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY #7 Will Power.
There’s a very common belief that if you just had enough Will Power, you’d be able to…
- Stick to a diet,
- Control yourself around food
- Resist any urge to binge.
- Lose weight
Unfortunately this is not the case. Rather than helping you lose weight, ‘trying‘ to use will power, can actually make you gain weight.
I say ‘trying‘ to use will power because it’s likely you’ve experienced that it’s often not long, before you cave in and eat what you didn’t want to or didn’t think you should eat.
The thing is we human beings only have so much will power before it is depleted.
Resisting Repeated Temptations has a Mental Toll
You may not have thought about this but exerting Will Power USES UP ENERGY. And in one way or another your Will Power is being drained throughout the day, and I’m not just talking around food.
EVERY TIME any temptation or urge is resisted, whether that is…
- Finishing off a task, rather than checking out your Social Media
- ‘Biting your tongue’, rather than making a snide remark or
- Being diplomatic with an infuriating colleague
YOU ARE DEPLETING YOUR WILL POWER RESERVE.
And when you add all the times you are also trying to…
- Resist what you want to eat,
- Stick to dietary rules or
- Use Will Power to manage the urges to binge,
Your Will Power store is going down and it’s going down fast.
NOT JUST THAT…
Using Will power as a Bulimia Weight Loss strategy causes stress, initiating the release of Cortisol, the hormone linked to weight gain.
Persistent high levels of Cortisol not only make you feel anxious and disrupt sleep which further compromise Will Power, it can also make you eat!
Maybe It’s Time Break Free From Any Bulimia Weight Loss Strategies.
The truth is the behaviours and strategies associated with bulimia weight loss and any form of restrictive dieting, are counterproductive.
Rather than help you lose, maintain or control your weight, they only serve to make your weight more uncontrollable, more variable and ultimately weight gain.
None of which is conducive to your happiness.
So if you are toying with the idea of using any of these bulimia weight loss strategies, I’d be more than happy to speak with you to show you how you can reach your goals without resorting to these behaviours.
If you are struggling with bulimia you’ll be far more likely to lose weight if you stop purging NOW and eat healthy, nutritious meals with enough calories for your body’s requirements on a regular basis, consistently over time.
For some people this is relatively easy but for the majority of people suffering from bulimia eating in this way can be difficult because of underlying fears and beliefs. It can become even more challenging if you’ve had bulimia for sometime because of the habitual nature of the behavior and unconscious programming to binge under certain emotional conditions.
If you’d like some help please email me at Julie@BulimiaFree.com.
Bulimia Recovery Coach
Julie won a 15 year battle with bulimia over 20 years ago and now mentors and coaches others to bulimia freedom. She is a compassionate, caring bulimia recovery coach who brings a unique and powerful perspective on recovery that has helped people from all walks of life, not just stop bingeing and purging but learn how to love themselves and their bodies and create a life they love.