Just Bingeing Or Bingeing and Purging? Differences and Myths

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Bingeing and Purging

Some people binge and feel bad, while others engage in bingeing and purging. 

What’s the difference? 

One person binges and stops at feeling bad. The second person does the same but then purges.

Why does the second person purge? 

This informational article explores the key eating disorder myths and differences between bingeing and purging: 

  • What’s the difference between bingeing versus bingeing and purging?
  • What does bingeing and purging do to your body?
  • Should you purge after a binge?
  • How many calories do you lose from purging?

What’s The Difference Between Binging Versus Binging And Purging?

The short answer obviously is purging. 

In Eating Disorder terminology, the person who binges but doesn’t purge has Binge Eating Disorder.

The person who binges and purges has Bulimia Nervosa.

As shown in the image below, the only difference between Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa is step #3.

Different Types of Binges and Binge Foods

For this blog article we are only focusing on eating disorders involving large amounts of food, that is on:.

Remember, the only difference between these two eating disorders is purging. Both eating disorders involve binge eating.

Since bingeing is a common factor, let’s briefly examine two common myths that are associated with:

  • The different types of binges
  • The different foods people binge on

There are essentially three different types of binges:

  • Lots of food
  • Normal amounts of food
  • Little amounts of food

What??!!  How can you binge on a normal amount of food? Or even just a little bit?

Well, what constitutes a binge is subjective. Sometimes people think a binge has to be big, but this is an eating disorder myth. 

The real key is If you feel like you lost control and feel terribly guilty after eating, well, that’s a binge. 

It doesn’t matter how much food you did, or did not eat. What matters is whether you perceive yourself bingeing or not.

Common Foods In Binge Eating Disorder

Generally speaking two common factors are present when people binge:

  • Forbidden foods
  • High calorie foods

High calorie foods and forbidden foods feed off of each other. 

These foods are perceived as ‘bad’ and contributing to ‘weight gain’. Since people want to avoid weight gain or being ‘bad’, these high calorie foods become seen as forbidden. 

What you think is “don’t eat these foods!”

But this type of thinking backfires. As deprivation and restriction pressures mount, a person begins to crave their forbidden high calorie foods until they binge.

It’s a myth thinking that not eating ‘forbidden’ foods will work.

What Are Foods That Are Both Forbidden And High In Calories?

  • Any type of bread
  • Chocolates
  • Candy
  • Donuts
  • Sugary cereals
  • Cakes
  • Potato chips
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Sodas
  • Sweet drinks
  • Cheese

Different Types of Purges In Bulimia Nervosa

When you hear purging, your mind probably goes to images of self-induced vomiting.

Self-induced vomiting is purging, but several other types of purging are found in eating disorders too.

That’s right! You do not need to vomit in order to purge. It’s an eating disorder myth that the only type of purging involves vomiting. 

The medical definition of purging also includes:

  • Excessive exercise
  • Laxatives 
  • Diuretics

Basically purging is where you try to ‘compensate’ for the binge by getting rid of all the extra calories. 

How you get rid of those extra calories doesn’t matter. 

You can run for 7 hours on the treadmill, poop out all the contents of your stomach with a diuretic, or throw up. 

All of these are purging. 

What Does Binging And Purging Do To Your Body?

When you binge, obviously, your belly feels horribly painfully full afterwards. 

Again, somewhat obviously, if you overeat past the point of fullness, this is likely to contribute to weight gain.

However, bingeing is more a mental battle than a physical struggle. 

While overeating does impact your body physically, the real side effects come from the corresponding negative mental health effects: 

  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Horrible guilt
  • Disgust
  • Self hatred
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

More often than not, these mentally painful side effects of binge eating drive people to purge.

However, what if we could run an experiment where this person only felt the physically painful feelings of eating too much?

Like where you would only feel very full / bloated, but without any of the negative mental effects such as shame or disgust. Would you purge then?

I believe in most cases people would not purge. 

While the physically painful feelings of eating too much are indeed painful, it’s really the mental side of things driving people to purge.

Physical Consequences Of Purging 

People purge because they want to ‘compensate’ for eating too much.

They feel terrible, full, guilty, painful, shameful ….so many different negative emotions.

This is why the binge and purge cycle develops.

People want to avoid feeling bad, lose weight and feel successful in terms of weight loss.

A purge seems to check off all these marks all at once.

It’s almost like all the guilt, shame and despair can be erased by a single binge / purge.

Unfortunately, engaging in binge / purge can become highly addicting because it can seem like you had all this pressure or guilt post binge which gets removed by purging.

Should You Purge After A Binge?

If you find relief after engaging in a binge / purge cycle, this begs the question: 

Should you purge after a binge?

No. The relief from purging often sets people up for years of addictive struggle because their relief from purging is only temporary. 

Even worse, people report becoming addicted to the purges in-and-of-themselves!

Basically, many people will engage in episodes of binge eating so that they can then purge afterwards!

Plus, the physical consequences of purging (vomit) are disgusting:

Admittedly, the teeth problem only happens with vomiting and not other types of purging. 

However, even worse than ruined teeth is the damage purging does to your heart and body.

When you purge, your electrolyte balances and your digestive system get wrecked. You become like a walking zombie that can barely function mentally because you’re dehydrated and lacking nutrients.

Purging also does tremendous damage to your heart. Estimates say 3.9% of people with bulimia nervosa will die from heart problems, and also because of self-harm, because of their disorder. 

Plus, while it may seem rational to purge, you’d be surprised to learn how little calories you actually lose when purging.

How Many Calories Do You Lose From Purging?

Just take a look at this quote from a bulimia helpline:

Purging isn’t effective at getting rid of calories, which is why most people suffering with bulimia end up gaining weight over time. Vomiting immediately after eating won’t eliminate more than 50% of the calories consumed— usually much less.

50%! That’s it! Even if you purge right away it’s only 50%! 

I know it may seem like you’re ‘compensating’ and getting rid of all those extra calories, but you’re not. It’s an eating disorder myth that purging is a good way to get rid of extra calories.

With that being said, I hope this article clarifies some important differences between bingeing and purging, as well as misunderstandings like the effectiveness of purging. 

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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