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Purging and Calorie Absorption

By December 10, 2012

My question is about purging. I currently am trying to recover from binging and purging. The reason I started out purging was an attempt to lose weight. I know it is not the way to lose weight and that is why I am trying to stop. A few years ago I studied Anatomy and Physiology in school. We studied the digestive system in some detail. One thing I have read, written by therapists, is how Bulimics can be fooling themselves with purging. That when they binge and purge they actually do absorb calories even though they think they don’t due to purging. After studying A&P, I learned that when we eat something, it goes into the stomach and that it stays there for 2 – 4 hours being digested before going further. We learned that no calorie absorption occurs until it reaches the intestine which is hours later. I was wondering if you can tell me what the truth is? In one way I do allow myself to binge and purge because knowing this information about it not being absorbed, makes it easier. – S.C.

Dear S.C.,

You ask a very good question, one that I have heard from other women over the years. The truth is that although food can stay in the stomach for 2-4 hours before being digested, it depends on the content of the food (fat, carbs, protein) as to the time it takes to breakdown and move through the small intestine for absorption. Some foods are quickly broken down in minutes and are therefore absorbed much sooner than 2 hours; others can take that long or longer to fully be absorbed. There are many factors that affect the absorption time of food.

The good news is that you recognize that this is not an effective way to lose weight and you want to stop the binge/purge cycle…good job. Keep challenging those thoughts that distort the truth of how the body works. It sounds like you want freedom with food and eating. Keep devoting your time and energy into pursing this freedom. Sometimes learning about how the body works in such great detail can actually fuel the distortions of eating disorder practices…stay in the truth.

Take care,

Juliet N. Zuercher, RD