I experienced a range of symptoms of bulimia during my 10 year battle with this evil illness. Some were scary, some drained my bank account (like my expensive bulimia teeth!) Others were just plain embarrassing.
I had dry skin, a heart murmur, gray bags under my eyes and teeth that were crumbling like old buildings.
Yes, bulimia ravages your body. It affects you in so many negative ways. But in this article I'm only going to focus on those symptoms of bulimia that ruin your physical looks …
1. Chipmunk Cheeks
The regular binging and purging that bulimics do causes their lymph nodes, salivary glands and parotid glands to swell. This makes their cheeks look puffy and swollen like a chipmunks.
Although it has a cute name, these definitely aren't cute. I felt so self conscious when I used to have them. I was terrified that they would give away my bulimia secret.
Bulimics often don't absorb enough iron from the food they do digest. Over time this leads to anemia.
Anemia is draining on your body. It feels like everything is such an effort, and you have no energy.
But low energy is not the only symptom. Sickly pale skin is common and also gray bags under your eyes. It makes you look – and feel – like a zombie.
3. Lanugo (Growth of Bodily and Facial Hair)
Of all the symptoms of bulimia, lanugo has got to be the most embarrassing. Your body begins to grow more hair to keep itself warm. And when I say "more hair" I mean lots more. It grows on your face, arms, back and legs. Anywhere that it can so that your body is kept as warm as possible.
I remember looking back at photos the other day from my bulimia days. My eyebrows almost joined up to my hairline! This could have been the early stages of Lanugo. Yuk! Thank goodness I discovered an amazing lady from Iraq who did eyebrow threading … She was my saving grace!
4. Red eyes or blood in the eyes
The high pressure from forcing yourself to vomit can rupture blood vessels in your eyes. This looks horrible and will make you feel like a bit of a freak.
When this happens, it will happen quickly and give you a massive fright. It can also take ages to heal if you do actually burst a blood vessel.
5. Mouth Sores
Mouth sores look disgusting. They are sore, red and angry. I had plenty of mouth sores when I was bulimic and they made me feel so ugly … But worse than the ugly appearance of them is the excruciating pain they cause. Imagine trying to binge and purge when you've got a weeping sore the size of a dollar on your mouth!
Bulimics get mouth sores for 2 main reasons.
The first is stomach acid. When you purge, stomach acid comes up your throat and onto your mouth and lips. It burns all the soft tissue in this area starting painful sores. The more purging that occurs, the more damage gets done and the bigger the sores get.
The second reason is poor nutrition. Bulimics often binge on foods which have almost zero nutritional value. They lack vitamins and minerals and they don't support the body. On top of that, the nutrients they do swallow just end up being vomited up again. This is a recipe for disaster and leaves the body in a weakened state – perfect for these painful sores. (Geez, you would think we have enough to deal with already!)
Those are 5 of the visible symptoms of bulimia. They look horrible and make you feel just the same. I suffered from all of them – and if you're bulimic – chances are that you can relate!
The good news is, all of these symptoms are reversible. Once I started my recovery journey, I began to look much healthier. My skin became more vibrant and my eyes began to sparkle again. For the first time in 10 years I began to see that I was pretty.