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Does Throwing Up Make You Lose Weight?

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a woman is closing her mouth with her hand, is about to throw up, Does Throwing Up Make You Lose Weight
Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

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Weight stigma is real, let’s admit it. For many people, worrying about your body weight can bring on social anxiety, low self-esteem, or even depression. Body image issues make many people go to any lengths—sometimes beyond reason—to lose weight. 

Today we discuss one such method some individuals use as a weight-loss strategy: intentional purging. 

But does throwing up make you lose weight? Does throwing up burn calories, and how many calories does it ‘burn’? We aim to answer these questions in today’s post as well as talk in-depth about the risks of vomiting to lose weight.

Is Purging a Weight-Loss Strategy?

It doesn’t sound ideal, but some people do use vomiting as a weight-loss strategy. The truth is you can lose weight to an extent in the initial phases of purging, so this might seem like an easy way out to some. 

Throwing up often comes after an episode of binge eating and can sometimes be accompanied by misuse of laxatives for weight loss, extended fasting, or extreme workouts. 

These symptoms are associated with a serious eating disorder called bulimia nervosa [1]

People who suffer from bulimia live in fear of gaining weight but they can’t control their eating. They will usually consume a large amount of food in one sitting, otherwise known as bingeing, and then intentionally throw up in the hopes of getting the calories they just consumed out of their body. 

This might work at first, but it can lead to weight gain over the years. Bulimia can also be life-threatening if not treated on time.

How Many Calories Can You Lose by Throwing Up?

To answer the common question of how many calories does throwing up ‘burn’—throwing up does not “burn” any calories, at least not a significant amount. However, it can remove food from the stomach before it gets a chance to digest, so you can lose some calories if you throw up just after eating. 

At first thought, you might think that purging immediately after eating can get rid of all the calories you consumed. However, science says otherwise. 

Vomiting can only remove up to 50% of the calories you consume, and most of the time, it’s less than half [2].

The rest of the calories will be absorbed by the body and might lead to weight gain over the course of time if you have a bingeing episode. 

So, Does Throwing Up Make You Lose Weight?

At first, yes. You will experience a temporary loss in the first few weeks or months after you start this practice. You might also notice that the numbers on your scale go down almost immediately. 

But the reality is those numbers only reflect the loss of your stomach contents and the water weight but do not give a clear picture of actual weight loss. 

In fact, people suffering from bulimia can experience weight gain a few years after they develop the eating disorder. In one particular study, researchers found that individuals with bulimia reached their highest body weight after they started their bulimic behavior [3]

Risks of Induced Vomiting

Needless to say, the habit of vomiting on purpose is an extremely unhealthy way of losing weight. Here we describe the major complications associated with induced vomiting.

It Can Severely Impair Your Digestive System

Vomiting immediately after eating can weaken your stomach, so retaining even a small amount of food in the stomach can make you feel uncomfortable [4]. It can also hinder your ability to determine fullness and hunger.

It Can Cause Serious Nutritional Deficiencies

Since you will be expelling the majority of your food through vomiting, there’s a chance that you won’t get enough nutrients to maintain your health. When this keeps going on for the long term, you will most certainly experience nutritional deficiencies that could cause critical health risks.

It Will Result in Dental Problems

The acidity in vomit can erode tooth enamel and cause damaged, brittle teeth [5]. This can make your teeth sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and also cause pain when biting. There is also the risk of tooth loss in extreme cases.

It Can Damage the Lining of Your Esophagus

Forceful purging can cause ruptures in the mucous membrane lining your esophagus (which is the pipe that connects your throat to your stomach). This can lead to severe bleeding, and you may sometimes spot blood in your vomit. This condition is known as Mallory Weiss Syndrome, which can even be life-threatening [6].

It Can Cause Heart Conditions Like Cardiac Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat)

Regular vomiting can result in dehydration, which can also lead to electrolyte imbalances in the blood, such as a potassium imbalance. This can result in conditions such as arrhythmia, which can lead to heart failure in some cases [7] [8].

It Can Bring About Several Psychological Issues

The pressure of throwing up after every meal can make you feel anxious about eating, guilty about throwing up, and shameful about the whole experience. These emotions can get out of control and may even snowball into depression or even more serious mental health conditions.

It Can Lead to Kidney Failure

Prolonged dehydration caused by regular self-induced vomiting can eventually result in chronic kidney disease [9].

Choosing a Healthy Weight-Loss Strategy

It’s only natural to want to shed pounds as quickly as possible. People often try extreme low-calorie diets and even get tricked into weight-loss scams in the hope of losing weight within a short amount of time. 

However, keep in mind that trying to achieve “rapid weight loss” is not favorable in the long run, and it can damage your metabolism. 

If you want to lose weight and maintain and preserve your health in the process, you need to choose a healthy weight-loss strategy. 

Ultimately, weight loss comes down to maintaining a daily caloric deficit and following a diet regimen that suits your personality, lifestyle, and specific health needs. 

Start by changing your eating habits for the better, one day at a time. Then you can achieve a calorie deficit by reducing portion sizes, limiting certain food groups, or restricting the time you eat, such as in the case of intermittent fasting

To keep the process more enjoyable and flexible, you can include a cheat day or a cheat meal in your healthy diet as well. 

You can also enlist the help of an all-in-one weight-loss app to record your calorie intake and meal choices and use it while working with a registered dietitian for individual support and guidance.

In order to improve your physical strength and prevent muscle loss, you also need to engage in regular physical activity. A healthy diet combined with exercise will lead to sustainable weight loss and will help you maintain your weight for years. 


  • If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this: there are no shortcuts to sustainable weight loss. Self-induced vomiting can make you lose weight temporarily but it can spiral into a full-blown eating disorder called bulimia. 
  • Does throwing up make you lose weight? Only temporarily. Over the years, you can gain more weight than you lost. Plus, frequent vomiting can do you more harm than good.
  • If you have been throwing up to lose weight, you should immediately consult a physician or a nutritionist to get your situation analyzed. 
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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