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All Forms of Purging

Purging includes making yourself vomit, chewing food and spitting it out, and abusing laxatives. “These unhealthy and unsafe behaviors are not uncommon on college campuses, pose serious health problems, and are the first step in the development of eating disorders,” says Connie Diekman, RD. She's the director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, where she also counsels students who have eating disorders.

Acid in the stomach is extremely strong. Strong acid is necessary to prepare food for digestion and absorption. Stomach contents are meant to stay in the stomach, not be regurgitated into the throat and mouth. “Extremely acidic vomit can cause erosion in the esophagus and mouth and on tooth enamel. This can increase risk for certain cancers, tooth decay, and more when purging becomes a ritual,” Diekman says.

Regular purging by vomiting or abuse of laxatives also causes excess fluid loss that can cause serious dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

All of these forms of weight loss are dangerous, but the most dangerous is the use of syrup of ipecac, Diekman says. “One dose can trigger cardiac irregularity and can lead to cardiac arrest.”

Purging in all its forms is no way to whittle down the waistline. Eating and drinking healthfully is a much safer weight loss approach.

Extreme Exercising

Extreme exercise may make for good reality television. But in the real world, it can cause grave problems. It causes severe wear and tear; increases the risk for injury, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance; and psychologically turns exercise into punishment for eating, May says.

The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise 5 days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorously intense cardio exercise 3 days a week, and strength-training exercises that work all the major muscle groups two to three times a week. Some people think more is better and go way beyond what’s healthy. That kind of obsessive exercise can begin to control their lives in an unhealthy way. Take a moderate approach to exercise, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it for the long haul.

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