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By On April 17th, 2012

New Study Shows that Bulimia Actually Causes Weight-Gain

Though many bulimics engage in binging and purging behavior in order to control weight-gain, a new study shows that bulimia actually tends to cause women to gain weight rather than lose it. The study, led by Drexel University, shows that women hit their highest weights while engaging in bulimic behaviors such as laxative abuse and vomiting to purge after eating binges. In fact, the longer that a woman battles bulimia, the more her weight will climb according to the study.

According to Drexler psychologist Michael Lowe, senior author of the study, the study has important implications. Lowe believes that “[Therapists] can argue that these drastic behaviors really aren’t working” and lead to weight gain.

The study ads evidence to the fact that the binge-purge cycle does not prevent weight gain. Though vomiting and laxative abuse can halt food absorption, those activities do not completely halt absorption. Therefore, consuming thousands of calories during a single sitting can actually cause one to gain weight, even in light of purging behavior.

Though bulimia can lead to weight gain, patients suffering with bulimia nervosa do not tend to be obese. Therefore, it’s best for therapists to focus on the harmful effects that bulimia can have on one’s system. Bulimic behavior can do damage to the teeth, throat and internal organs that is difficult-to-impossible to repair. However, it’s still worth noting to patients that bulimia is not a statistically effective weight-loss solution.

Though purging behaviors associated with bulimia are normally considered disgusting, they can actually create a sense of comfort. “[Binging] creates physical discomfort, so self-induced vomiting is both psychologically and physically a relief,” according to Michael Lowe. “Bulimics get stuck in a bind.” Breaking this cycle of behavior often requires that an individual enter a bulimia treatment program.

Many individuals who are struggling with bulimia require extra help in order to abandon their bulimic behaviors. There is no shame in admitting that you need help. A bulimia treatment program can provide you with the life skills that you need to engage in healthy eating behavior. By focusing on proper nutrition, you can remove the risks involved in sustaining bulimic behavior over long periods of time.

12 Responses

  1. christina says:

    This is true to a cetain extent but also what I don’t get is there,are a couple people ive seen in documnetaries and dr phil that are like 60 lbs and binge and purge on 24000-30000 calories..

  2. Amy says:

    They are 60 lbs because they are starving themselves with intermittent binges. A lot of bulimics start as anorexics or severe dieters. The constant restriction leads them to “rebel” and eventually bingeing behaviors get more extreme. A person stops starving and instead obsesses about food, eats constantly and may binge/purge 6-8 or more times a day. I can tell you from experience. When I started, I lost a lot of weight. Eventually I just started eating normally, even healthy, and would binge/purge almost every night. I was in complete denial. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t lose weight and was gaining because I worked out and would eat healthfully. I didn’t “count” my binges because I always purged. In reality, I was still absorbing a huge amount of calories. I started to lose weight as soon as I finally started structured eating and not binge/purging. I struggled for 15 years and i really didn’t stop until I realized my eating disorder wasn’t controlling my weight like I wanted to believe… it was actually stopping me from being a healthy weight. Among other obvious reasons there were to stop, that was really what motivated me the most. So I think this article is right. Therapists should explain this to bulimics because the biggest fear that stops most bulimics from getting help is the (incorrect) belief that not being bulimic will cause them to gain tons of weight.

    • Hca says:

      Oh my goodness, as I was reading this, I had to check to make it wasn’t me writing that wrote it. It sounds exactly to a t what I’m going through right now. And for as many years as you did. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Linda says:

    This was certainly my experience. I suffered for decades… obsessed with my weight… body dysmorphia… all of it. I was never heavy but thought I was; I binged, purged, exercised compulsively, and became addicted to the B/P cycle. It was a very long nightmare, one from which I was afraid to awaken, because I was so scared of becoming fat. Well! When I finally went into recovery and started learning not to eat my feelings but rather to simply experience them, I lost weight to the point where the structured eating which freed me from the B/P cycle was necessary in order to keep my weight up in the healthy zone. ANYONE STILL STUCK IN BULIMIA WHO’S READING THIS: please, my friends, please don’t give up. If I can recover from decades of daily B/P and not get fat in recovery and learn to have feelings and find a life free from this ghastly illness… SO CAN YOU!!!

    • Tracy snn says:

      Thank you Linda, you have helped me today and my gratitude is from the bottom of my heart. I have been wearing my mask for 36 years (I am 48 now) and totally at the mercy of my disease. I needed to hear this, but not from the therapists, doctors and all the books I read. From somebody who was like myself scared stuck and feeling at a complete loss. Thank you

  4. Julie says:

    I totally agree,I’m on a bulimic relaps at the moment and I’m hysterical because my clothes are starting to feel tight and people are commenting on “how healthy”I look!
    When I eat healthily and exsersise regularly I’m much smaller
    I stop today I have to before I get even fatter with a messed up body

  5. ** says:

    I started with anorexia. I stopped eating completely only consuming one apple a day before bed. I exercised non-stop. My starting weight was 215 pounds and in a year I got down to 140. It was the happiest year of my life. Everyone was complimenting me on my weight loss. Then I saw my sister in law eat a lot of food and just throw up when she’s done. And she had the best body ever. Well at least I thought she did. I was 16 at the time. Ever since then I’ve been eating huuuuuge amounts of food a couple times a day and then purging. It’s been 8 years and my life is completely upside down. I’m depressed all the time , I gained a lot of weight. I’m eating all the food in the house. And even though I know bulimia isn’t helping me but hurting me, I just can’t seem to stop. Every time I say I’ll stop tomorrow but then I binge and purge till the point I get tired. And the cycle just continues. Please please please to anyone who reads this don’t try throwing up. It’s no fun. It’s not worth it. You will always be unhappy and you will never be satisfied. Take it from someone who can’t escape the horrific cycle. God bless.

  6. Mariah says:

    This will really help me a lot because now, I gained so much it’s SO SCARY… What I hate about this is that every single binge in unplanned then I end up not throwing up bc my gag reflex is gone and I always get so depressed to the point where I just want to die instead of facing this everyday. But since I’ve read this, I am permanently going to stop even THINKING about purging bc thinking about it while eating can really lead to binging again and the vicious cycle continues. I’m going to stop

  7. Jess says:

    Hey guys… I wouldn’t really consider myself a bulemia because I don’t binge like a bulemia would, every once in a while I might eat around 2,000 calories in one sitting and then go work it off. I would say I am more on the side of purging disorder. It’s gotten to the point where o throw up almost everything I take in. I honestly don’t know what to do. It gets really bad when I’m feeling extremely depressed. Reading these hopefully will make me try even hard. I feel like I’m in an endless cycle

  8. K says:

    I think they’re leaving out a key possibility on why this is: they dont purge everything. That coupled eith regular eating leads bulimics to not lose or even gain weight

  9. […] with bulimia nervosa are not underweight; in fact, bulimia nervosa behaviors may actually lead to weight gain. In one study, 64% of patients with bulimia nervosa were classified as overweight and 36% of […]

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