This week I wanted focus on a very popular recovery topic - bulimia and face swelling.
Why does bulimia cause face swelling? What can you do about it? and more importantly how long will it take for your “bulimia face” to get back to normal once you start recovery?
Swelling in the face (specifically of the parotid glands) happens as a natural reaction to self induced vomiting. As your body loses water and becomes dehydrated from purging it fights back and tries to hold on to as much water as it can.
So most of that swelling you can see around your jaw line and at the sides of your face is water retention in your glands - a result of the glands themselves working to over compensate the loss of fluid elsewhere in the body.
The appearance of this bulimia face swelling can also be increased when glad tissues become damaged due to the constant attack from stomach acid during episodes of purging.
There is no denying that the face changes bulimia causes can be very upsetting and confusing.
The pictures below show face changes that you would expect to see in someone with bulimia. Can you see the similarities? You may recognise some of these faces from our bulimic celebs article.
I always say face swelling is the number 1 sign of bulimia.
Drinking more water, sipping on herbal teas and massaging the area may sometimes help to reduce the swelling in your face, but if you’re anything like me then you will probably find that there are just no quick fixes for getting rid of those bulimia chipmunk cheeks.
Until you are able to completely break the cycle of bingeing and purging and dedicate yourself to recovery you will almost certainly continue to struggle with face swelling in this way.
The great news is that recovery really does help you to get rid of that puffy looking bulimia face forever!
Personally I found that it took about 6 months for my face swelling to settle down. When it did, well the change was VERY dramatic.
I was so used to seeing it that way I presumed that was how I was supposed to look.
Of course here I go again with my favourite line - “it can be different for everyone”. You must be sick of hearing that by now, but I have to keep saying it because I will never mislead you when it comes to the reality of recovery.
Let’s take a look at two very different experiences from our members:
I still suffer with occasional swelling of the face after being recovered for over two years (Bulimia Help Member, 2010)
I’ve been in recover for a month and I’m happy to report that all of my facial swelling has gone!”(Bulimia Help Member, 2010)
So it really will be an individual experience, there is no way to guess how long it will take.
In order to overcome your face swelling you will need a lot of time and patience, especially in those earlier days when swelling could seem even worse than usual.
Sometimes when you first start recovery you can find that the swelling in your face actually gets worse for a short time.
Just the idea of this can put a lot of people off recovery, but please try to not be disheartened!
Many people say that purging can actually improve the appearance of their face swelling so they become even more afraid to recover...
Every time I try to recover my face swells a whole lot. It gets to me so much that I end up purging just to make it go down again” (Bulimia Help Member, 2010)
Reading about experiences like this or finding similar patterns in your own face swelling can not only cause you to become unmotivated with recovery but it can also cause confusion because recovery is supposed to make the swelling go down – right?
Well that is right, however purging makes you to lose some of the water from the glands in your face so it can actually initially give the impression of reduced swelling - but it is important to remember that this is very temporary.
Eventually, as a direct result of purging the swelling comes back again and until you are able to stop it always will.
When you have bulimia your face swells all of the time anyway, so is a few days or weeks of increased swelling at the start of recovery really that big of a deal?
At the time of course it can seem like the end of the world but really try and use your “bigger picture thinking” on this one.
To see the full benefits of recovery sometimes you have to take on the more challenging days first, but I promise you it will be worth it!
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