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Eating Disorders

Vomiting

04/19/2006

Question:

Hi when I was sixteen I started vomiting to get and stay thin it worked to as I was 54kg and 164cm tall and I never binged.

The problem is I gave it up when I was pregnant at 20 so that I could be a good mum. I exercise and do all dieting mesures and I still can`t loose weight. Then I gave up smoking and started zyban tablets I started vomiting again and everytime I eat I vomit and I do not need to put my finger down my throat it now comes naturally should I worry about long term complications or when I loose the weight will the need stop on its own again.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. Vomiting to get rid of food is never a healthy (or an effective) way to diet. You made the right decision to stop while pregnant to protect your baby. Now, however, the vomiting can have very serious health consequences for you. Frequent vomiting upsets the balance of electrolytes (these are chemicals like potassium and sodium) in your body. Serious cardiac abnormalities can occur due to these imbalances such as potentially life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms. Other complications include tears or ruptures of the esophagus, dehydration, constipation, and dental enamel erosion. Therefore, you are right to worry about both short- and long-term complications.

Your experience of not needing to "force" yourself to vomit is common in women with eating disorders. Over time the vomiting becomes a habit. Unfortunately, this can make it hard to stop on your own without some help in normalizing your eating behaviors and stopping the purging cycle. The purging of each meal has likely upset your regular metabolic cycles and made it hard for your body to correctly discern when it is hungry and full. I'd put your desire to lose weight on hold for now and focus instead on stopping the vomiting behavior.

Studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral treatments (alone or in combination with a class of medications called S.S.R.I.'s--Prozac is an example) are quite helpful in stopping the eating/purging cycle. The focus of treatment should be on helping you eat three healthy meals a day and help you build skills to stop you from getting rid of them. You may be surprised to learn that many women find that maintaining a healthy weight is easier once their eating becomes stable.

For more information on purging and its health consequences and treatment: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

For help finding a treatment provider, look at the eating disorders referral network: www.edreferral.com

For more information:

Go to the Eating Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Leslie J Heinberg, PhD Leslie J Heinberg, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University