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How Much Food Actually Comes Up When You Vomit?

I used to believe that I was a super-skilled purger... I thought that I got rid of at least 90% of my food when I vomited. This made me believe that if I stopped purging and ate a normal amount of food, my weight would spiral out of control...

I could imagine the numbers ticking up, up and up... and it terrified me!

I thought that purging was the only way I could maintain my weight!

What I didn't realize was that the amount I actually threw up was far less than I thought... I now know that I was throwing up around 60% of the calories I consumed!

If I had eaten (and digested) a normal amount of food - I would have been absorbing fewer calories than when I binged!

And, guess what... You're no different!

Want Proof? Here we go...

Throwing Up In The Laboratory...

Lets look at a study that was done at the Pittsburg Human Feeding Laboratory...

18 women who were suffering from bulimia were asked to binge and vomit as they would normally do. Except this time, every calorie they consumed would be carefully monitored...

Once they purged, the contents of their vomit would be scientifically examined and the calories would be counted.

I can't imagine how incredibly awkward this must have been for those girls but... the results would open their eyes, my eyes - and your eyes too...

The total of their binges averaged 2131 calories... Their vomit, only 979 calories!

That means that they were only able to throw up around 46% of the calories they consumed...

So even if you are the most effective purger, chances are, you're not throwing up much more than 50-60%. BUT, even if you are throwing up as much as 80% of the content of your binge (which is very uncommon!) - when a binge easily reaches well above 2000 calories, you're still digesting 400+ calories in every binge. That's quivalent to a tasty lunch.

Look at these scenarios...

Scenario 1 - A day of Bulimia

Despite feeling faint and light headed, you restrict your food all day, only consuming 500 calories. By the evening, you're ravenous...

Without thinking, you walk to the pantry and before you know it, you've plowed through a box of cereal and 1/2 a loaf of bread with chocolate spread. A total of 4000 calories.

You're only able to throw up around 50% of that - which takes your total daily caloric absorption to 2500 calories.

You're feeling exhausted from binging and fall asleep promising yourself "Tomorrow I'll do better".

Scenario 2 - A day of normal (and fun!) eating

You get up in the morning and have a bowl of cereal, a yogurt and a banana, totaling about 400 calories.

You're feeling full of bounce and all this energy makes you feel peckish by 10.30am. It's time to enjoy a muesli bar, an apple and a cup of tea - another 300 calories.

Lunch is a chicken salad and bun, 400 calories.

It's a cold winters afternoon, so as an afternoon snack you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and 2 chocolate chip cookies. 300 calories.

After your evening 45 minute workout, you're feeling nicely hungry and decide to try out a new recipe you found on the internet... It's Thai curry with black rice - yum! 500 calories.

As an after dinner sweet, you have a cup of tea and another chocolate chip cookie. 150 calories.

You go to bed feeling very content. You're well nourished and are looking forward to a good sleep and the day ahead.

You digested a total of 2050 calories. This is less than you would have digested if you had starved yourself all day and then binged and purged.


When you look at these 2 scenarios, Normal eating sounds like heaven...

And I'm telling you... It is!

Yes, food is here to nourish us - but it is also here to be enjoyed!

And I promise that you can get to the point where you truly enjoy food... For it's taste, for it's social elements and for it's nutritional benefits too :)


Now here's a small challenge for you today...

Do one thing to help you get a step closer to recovery:

Your small steps will add up! If you keep putting one foot in front of the other - you will reach recovery :)


Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program