How To Spot A Bulimic Person

How To Spot A Bulimic Person


“If only I’ve seen the signs earlier, my daughter would still be alive. I was so blind.”

This was the statement of a mother who lost her teenage daughter to bulimia. According to Eating Disorder Hope, 4% of women in the United States will experience bulimic tendencies in their lifetime. About 3.9% of men and women with bulimia will die because of the disorder. Finally, it was revealed that only 6% of bulimics will succumb to support and treatment. This eating disorder is truly a silent killer and people are unaware of how to “see” the symptoms.

What is the face of an eating disorder? Often, we envision a young thin white woman. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.


To provide awareness, here are some visible signs that your loved one may be suffering from bulimia:

– His or her cheeks are swollen. The reason why bulimics have swollen cheeks is because they are used to purging and even if they’re thin, the cheeks are stretched and puffy.

– The person’s knuckles are scraped or calloused. When they purge, bulimics have to put their fingers inside their mouths and attempt to touch their throats, which will facilitate the puking act. Now, their knuckles will rub with the edges of the teeth and thus create the scrapes.

– Food will mysteriously disappear and there is no evidence that someone ate it. Nobody will also say that he or she is the one who took it. They will get food that is not theirs when they are on binge mode and it cannot be controlled.

– They tend to go missing after meal times. Bulimics throw up after they eat and since they don’t want people to know of their “ways”, they take long showers to cover up the sound of purging.

When looking specifically at anorexia, people who restrict will obviously begin to lose weight, wear baggier clothing to hide it, move their food around on the plate but not eat it, chew food and spit it out. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

– If you have a bulimic person at home, all the drains in the house will be clogged because of the vomiting. Sometimes, the foods are still in full, solid form and that causes the blockage.

– No matter how fresh and sweet-smelling the bathroom is because of cleaning products, a funny smell will remain if a bulimic person purged within. No amount of air freshener, liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner or cologne will mask the smell of puke. In some cases, the person will even tell you that the bathroom is smelly and will discourage you from going inside.

– The person will smell of puke and a perfumed soap can’t wash the stink off, especially the hands.

– His or her clothes in the laundry will smell like vomit.

– Another style of a bulimic person who throws up in the toilet bowl is to flush it more than three times in a row. This is an attempt to get rid of the smell and yet, it doesn’t really work.

– They also love to count calories. The reason why they do this is because they are monitoring what goes in and what comes out, literally speaking.

– For some bulimics, they have a safe and not-safe-to-eat food list. What does this mean? The safe food list is a list of foods that doesn’t trigger their purging. And because they like this “safe food”, they would be eating this all day, every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

– For example, oranges are in the safe food list. A person with bulimia will eat a large quantity of oranges – like 5 or more in one sitting. This is not the behavior of a person who’s normal.

– They would eat so many bags of junk foods and then, throw it all up.

– Another sign of bulimia is for the person to exercise compulsively. This person won’t care if he does high intensity moves at 12 midnight or even in the wee hours of the morning, as long as he or she exercises for the day. This is their version of purging.

– A bulimic person is usually a loner, withdrawn and wants to be isolated from everyone. They stay away from their friends because they’re afraid that their secret will surface. Social activities will be rejected by them and they won’t go out anymore. When no one is home, that’s the only time that they’ll go around the house and do their thing.

– They’ll feel awkward when talking to other people and won’t make eye contact.

– Bulimics don’t want to be touched – both nonsexual and sexual ways. They feel disgusted and repulsed by their “being” bulimic and in their minds, they don’t deserve affection from others.

Foods have psychoactive components, which are enhanced when there are allergies or sensitivities, for example, to the opiate-like chemistry of gluten and casein that affects many people with eating disorders. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

– You will also notice that their eyes are bloodshot red and often swollen.


If you notice at least half of these signs in your loved one, create an intervention plan and help him or her with the bulimia problem ASAP.