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Self-Provoked Vomiting to Get Rid of Food

Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest version: 08 Aug 2008.


If you like to eat, but think your weight is too high, one solution chosen by many people is to induce vomiting, in order to get rid of the food they have just eaten. This practice, however, has medical problems.


How effective is it to make yourself vomit to get rid of unwanted calories? Why do people make themselves vomit? Is it an eating disorder to make yourself vomit to get rid of unwanted calories?


A lot of people who suffer from eating disorders provoke vomiting to limit calorie absorption as well as subjecting themselves to a strict diet and to an exhausting routine of exercise.

This disorder is present in the majority of people who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa and in half the people who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa, while it is usually absent in people affected by Binge Eating disorder.

Occasional vomiting seems to be a weight control technique which is rather widespread among women between the ages of 15 and 35, even if they have no specific food disorders. Studies made in Europe and USA have underlined the fact that roughly 10% of women in this age bracket say they provoke vomiting occasionally and 2% vomit once or more per week.

Methods used by these people to provoke vomiting range from manual or mechanical stimulation of the throat and of the zone behind the tongue (done with cutlery, wands, toothbrush, tongue depressor) to the ingestion of large quantities of fizzy drinks and abdominal compression obtained manually or with different objects.

In this way patients believe they are eliminating almost all effects on weight increase. In reality recent studies made in Pittsburgh (USA) have demonstrated that with vomiting you eliminate roughly 50% of eaten calories.

Actually, a patient vomiting after a high caloric binge assimilates, despite vomiting, caloric quantities equivalent to a big meal.

Vomit has effects, however, that are very harmful to patients' food behaviour.

We have noticed that when eating disorder patients begin to provoke vomiting the binge number starts increasing in a staggering way, because the patients believe they have found a magic wand that allows them to eat what they want without risking gaining weight. Vomiting seems to have a tranquillizing effect that strengthens their abuse.

The habit of provoking vomiting is not free from complications for the health of people that use it.

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