Debunking Myths: Does Bulimia Cause Weight Loss?

There is a significant misconception that bulimia nervosa, particularly binging and purging, results in weight loss. However, it is imperative to dispel myths about bulimia weight loss and review more accurate information about the long and short-term effects of bulimia. 

Does bulimia cause weight loss? Dispelling myths

There is a serious misconception that bulimia nervosa causes weight loss. A short-term effect of bulimia might include weight loss from the weight of food immediately purged, but long-term bulimia weight loss is not sustainable, nor is it healthy or safe.

Anorexia nervosa

-Understanding Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder categorized by behaviors like:

  • Exercising too much to try and compensate for eating and staying thin
  • Consuming more calories than the body can handle (binging) and then vomiting (voluntarily or involuntarily)

Bulimia commonly starts in adolescence or young adulthood, during which time individuals will struggle with years of symptoms. People who struggle with bulimia will experience:

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  2. Recurrent and inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, like excessive exercise
  3. A self-evaluation that is heavily influenced by weight and body shape.

People who struggle with bulimia will struggle with binge eating and compensatory behaviors at least once a week for three months. Some people lose control when they start eating, and they find themselves unable to stop until such time as they are sick and vomiting.

Others might have a dissociative quality where, when they are binge eating, they continue to do so without noticing any of the sounds or things around them, like a ringing telephone, but they’ll stop as soon as a spouse or roommate unexpectedly comes in the room.

Many people feel like binge eating is uncontrollable, and it’s usually done inconspicuously or in secret and leaves the individual uncomfortable. There are several triggers that can result in binge eating, like negative feelings about body weight, stress, or even boredom. For others, it’s the belief that bulimia weight loss is possible. But is it? Does bulimia cause weight loss? 

-The Myth of Bulimia-Induced Weight Loss

One of the most common myths about bulimia is the bulimia weight loss range. People mistakenly think that with bulimia, they are able to lose weight. In some cases, there might be a short-term effect of bulimia that includes weight loss, but that weight loss is generally only a few pounds and relates directly to the amount of food that was consumed. 

Most people with bulimia are a normal weight.

The purging, binging, fasting, or excessive exercise are done so frequently and simultaneously that they don’t actually result in long-term weight loss and instead cause more harm to the body than good. 

-Health Implications of Bulimia

When the body is regularly exposed to binging and purging or other compensatory behaviors, it starts to recognize that food is a limited resource. This stresses the body and causes it to store fat whenever possible based on the fact that it’s not regularly getting the amount of calories it needs to sustain overall health.

-Short-Term Effects of Bulimia on Weight

When it comes to weight loss, things like vomiting or the use of laxatives and enemas might make the number of pounds you weigh go down. However, this is not a result of actual sustained weight loss.

Instead, it is:

  • Water weight, which is water your body actually needs results in severe dehydration, which comes with its own set of secondary symptoms
  • Food weight, which is food that your body needs the nutrients from but is unable to process because of purging or vomiting

This type of weight loss is the same unsustainable weight loss a person might experience if:

  • It is a hot day, and they sweat to the point of being dehydrated
  • A person gets a stomach bug and gets diarrhea that prohibits their ability to keep down food

-Lack of Evidence for Sustained Weight Loss

Currently, there is no scientific evidence for sustained weight loss with bulimia. The bulimia weight loss scale means that a person with bulimia will constantly monitor themselves and their weight, finding that it is high when they binge and then low when they purge, struggling constantly with weight loss without sustaining any real weight loss. 

The only scientific studies have confirmed the damage that bulimia has, both short and long-term, on the body and on mental health. With continual issues regarding the health of other systems in the body and the inflammation that comes with things like vomiting, sustained weight loss can actually worsen. 

-Health Implications Beyond Weight

In the short term, bulimia causes significant health concerns related to purging, like gastrointestinal distress and inflammation. Damage extends to:

  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Esophagus
  • Teeth

The first visible symptoms and short-term effects of bulimia on weight have to do with the use of diuretics, vomiting, or laxatives. These cause dehydration, which can seem, on a scale, like weight loss, but absolutely is not real weight loss. 

Long-term, bulimia can cause serious symptoms like severe dehydration, heart attack, and even stroke. Things like organ damage and heart attack can be life-threatening or cause permanent damage without proper treatment.

Bulimia results in severe nutrient deficiencies because the body does not have the nutrients it needs, and combined with the vomiting, leads to several health risks like:

  • Holes burned into the stomach lining and esophagus
  • Tooth and gum damage
  • Ulcers
  • Internal bleeding
  • Cardiovascular problems 

With bulimia, there is a severe risk of dehydration. That dehydration can beget electrolyte imbalances, which cause cardiac complications, fatigue, and muscle weakness. Excessive vomiting or purging results in tooth decay and straining, cheek swelling, edemas, acid reflux, ulcers, and pancreatitis. 

Summing up

Does bulimia cause weight loss? There is a difficult relationship between bulimia and weight loss. A short-term effect of bulimia might include weight loss, which means that people mistakenly believe that it’s an effective way to lose weight. However, bulimia has a negative impact on long-term weight loss and overall health. It’s important to dispel any myths and always review accurate information about the effects of bulimia on the body and on your health and quality of life.