Binge and Purge Cycle: What Is It and How to Stop It?​

Written by: Meenakshi Joshi – M Sc (Psychology)

Last updated date : January 17, 2023

Do you eat a lot of food and then try to vomit it out? After a binge, do you force yourself to purge? Are you trying to break this binging and purging habit? You feel like you just have to vomit or throw up. Otherwise, you will gain weight, and it will disrupt your diet.

“Very interesting and relevant” John

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Chapter 1:

Define Binge and Purge

Binging and purging means eating too much food very fast and then trying to throw up. When you binge, you tend to eat a lot of food even if you are not hungry. This eating is most of the time related to how you are feeling. You eat more when you are stressed or depressed. You feel no control.

However, later you feel bad about it and want to compensate. So to not gain weight or “make up” for eating, you try to throw out the food you have consumed. You try to vomit or take laxatives to remove that food from your body. This purging is forceful, and thus it can be harmful.

Are there different ways in which people purge?

  • Vomiting by gag reflex – The most common way in which we tend to purge is to vomit. This vomiting is self-induced. It means that you do it to yourself. You might try to gag by putting your fingers in your mouth. This makes you gag and throw up. To binge and then purge by this method is seen very commonly in teens and young adults.
  • Medicines – You might even use medicines or other substances to throw up.
  • Drinking salty water – Drinking salty water can make you throw up. When you drink a litre of salty water, you will feel nauseated and are very likely to vomit.
  • Using laxatives – You can use laxatives or similar substances to cause diarrhea. This type of purging can be very harmful. These substances wash out water and other nutrients as well. You will feel dehydrated due to this. Long-term use can cause vitamins and other nutrient imbalances.

Boy playing football with friends at the beach to distract from binge and purge habits

Chapter 2:

What Is the Binge and Purge Cycle?

  • Binging –  The binge-purge cycle begins with your overeating. You might binge eat because you have poor eating habits and a very restrictive diet. Sometimes, you stay hungry for a long time and end up overeating. Additionally, feeling stressed, angry, sad, nervous, etc., can also result in binging.
  • Feeling shame and guilt –   Binging is followed by feelings of shame and guilt. You might also feel worried about gaining weight. The thought that you eat so much is highly disturbing. You feel so ashamed of what you have done. You feel that you have no control over yourself and might even feel angry at yourself.
  • Purging –  The feeling of shame and guilt makes you restless, and you try to vomit. You want to throw out all the food you have just eaten.
  • Starving or compensating –  Next, the whole binge and purge episode makes you do silly things like starving or going on extreme diets. You want to compensate for overeating. But staying hungry or going on a strict diet have the reverse effect.
  • Binging again –  Instead of compensating or helping you, the extreme diet or starvation makes you binge eat again.
  • The pattern repeats again and again –  This cycle or pattern keeps on repeating. Over time if not corrected, the frequency of these episodes increase. Also, your habits get stronger, and your behavior becomes rigid.

Is purging after binging effective?​

Purging after a binge is not effective. In fact, it is very harmful. You will cause harm to yourself in this process. No matter which method you use to purge, your digestive system gets affected. You might experience these side effects –

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of minerals and vitamins
  • Low potassium level
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Poor judgement
  • Kidney problems
  • Ulcers in the stomach or mouth
  • Swelling in cheeks
  • Fatigue

In other words, purging causes harm. It does not help to reduce weight or decrease the calories you intake. Rather, it can cause major damage to your body.

Is Binge-purge the same as Bulimia Nervosa?​

Binging and purging are symptoms or a part of eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa. A person who suffers from Bulimia tends to binge eat and purge frequently. However, not all bulimics purge. Some people might use laxatives, fasting, dieting, or excessive exercising to compensate for overeating.

The risk factors for bulimia and binge purge are

  •  Low self-esteem –  You are more like to engage in these behaviors if you have poor self-esteem. In other words, having low self-confidence or feeling that you are not good enough can push you towards these behaviors.
  •  Body image issues –   If you feel ugly or fat when you look into the mirror, then you might start engaging in these behaviors. Wanting to have a “zero figure” or “6 pack abs” can create a lot of pressure to have a certain type of body. If you cannot achieve that, then you might start getting a “complex” about yourself.
  •  History of abuse –  Studies have shown that people who face abuse at home mainly by a parent or spouse tend to be at a higher risk of having eating disorders.
  •  Going through a trauma –  Trauma can upset your life in a big way. Losing a loved one or going through an accident can have life-changing effects. The chances of developing an eating disorder after trauma are high.
  •  Lifestyle –  Food habits and lifestyle can also cause this disorder. Stress can greatly affect your health.

Are binging and purging associated with Anorexia?​

People who have Anorexia also binge-purge to maintain their weight. As they are obsessed with their weight, they might try to purge after eating to remove the calories they have eaten. The main difference is that people with Anorexia might not have a compulsive eating problem, i.e., they might not binge. But they might purge.

Chapter 3:

How Is Social Media Influencing Us?

The media today is hyper-focused on “looking good”. Everywhere in social media, you see pictures of models, celebrities, influencers, and also common people flaunting their amazing bodies. To feel loved and valued in a society that puts “being sexy or hot” at the top of the pyramid is very difficult and skewed.

In addition, peer pressure to “fit in” the trend can be very stressful as well. The constant need to be popular or to look “wow” can become too much to handle. All this can make things worse and might result in a person suffering from an eating disorder.

Chapter 4:

How to Stop Binging and Purging?

  • Do not engage in a restrictive or very strict diet.
  • Don’t hide your problem.
  • Seek help from family and friends
  • Seek professional help if needed
  • Identify triggers that lead to binge eating.
  • Start developing techniques that will distract you when you face the triggers or feel the urge to binge.
  • Try to change the negative thoughts that ultimately make you binge.
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Accept and be proud of how you look.
  • Stop feeling ashamed of who you are
  • Identify the damaging feelings.
  • Develop ways to deal with these feelings positive
  • Educate yourself about eating disorders
  • Therapy and counselling will help if there are some serious underlying issues or some other disorder.

In conclusion, binging and purging have serious physical harmful effects. The cause of these behaviors is, most of the time, psychological. It is possible to manage and overcome these disorders. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you feel overwhelmed or confused. There is no shame in asking for help. So, don’t ignore or hide your condition. Managing eating disorders can be tough, and it is better to have someone on your side through the fight.

If you want to learn more about eating disorders and need help overcoming your condition, please visit our courses page. Empower yourself to deal with these issues.

"Very interesting and relevant" John

72 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount

Binge and Purge Cycle: What Is It and How to Stop It?​