You’re never too old to have bulimia

Catherine Liberty's picture

I’ve heard a lot of strange and sometimes dangerous myths about eating disorders over the years, as I’m sure you have too. You know the kind of statements that just make you shudder, things like:

You can tell someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them,” or “only women suffer from eating disorders.”

One big misconception that campaigners, medical professionals and recovery activists are currently working hard to raise awareness about is the misleading notion that you can be “too old to have an eating disorder.”

In reality, bulimia doesn’t care how old you are!

So many people are under the impression that eating disorders only affect teenage girls,  and while it is true that bulimia statistics still suggest the vast majority of suffers are younger females, there are some important things to bear in mind. 

  • Firstly, no matter how accurate statistics may be, they still fail to paint the full picture because they only include people who have been formally diagnosed with eating disorders. So there could be potentially hundreds, or more likely thousands of older bulimics who simply haven’t told anyone about their bulimia, meaning they cannot be accounted for when statistics are compiled. 
  • Secondly, many professionals have noted that as eating disorder awareness has grown so too has the rate of bulimia diagnosis in older men and women.  Regardless of whether this increase is due to people developing bulimia for the first time later in life, or only choosing to seek treatment later in life, there could actually be a silver lining to this increase in reported cases of “middle-aged bulimia.”

4 reasons why the increasing rate of bulimia diagnosis in older people could actually be a positive thing…

Of course it’s horrible to think of people developing an eating disorder for the first time later in their lives (or at all), but there are a couple of reasons why the upsurge in older people being diagnosed may not be all bad. 

1. It means people who’ve hidden away, ashamed or confused by their eating disorders finally feel safe enough to seek the support they need and deserve. 

2. It shows that older bulimics are beginning to understand that they are just as deserving of this support and that having bulimia is nothing to be ashamed of. 

3. It proves that more and more people are discovering what we already know - that recovery is always an option, regardless of how long you’ve suffered for.  

4. It means that in time we’ll have countless incredible recovery stories like that of Joy Tapper (who recovered following a 55 year battle with bulimia) to inspire people who may have given up all hope for bulimia treatment success.

No matter what your age, you are not alone

If you’ve ever felt that you’re too old to have an eating disorder then you only have to look through our forms to know that you’re not alone in this. There are people of all ages and from all backgrounds.

In fact just looking through the first couple of posts in the forum where new members introduce themselves I can see ages ranging from 19-52. So please remember, you are never too old to have bulimia and it is never too late to recover!



PollyM's picture
I'm a big believer that

I'm a big believer that recovery is possible no matter how long you've had bulimia or how hard you've tried in the past. I had many, many years of ups and downs while I battled bulimia over a 20 year period and I'm happy to say I've been recovered fully since 2005. I appreciate you sharing this story because I believe there are a lot of women in their late 30's, 40's and maybe even beyond who are suffering in silence. I hope they see that recovery is possible no matter what.

With love and light,


hermit's picture
Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this article. I just joined three days ago and I was feeling very out of place. I'm in my mid-50s and have never sought treatment or attempted to recover from the vicious cycle of bingeing-purging that I've lived with for more that 25 years.

My mother loves to tell the story that my first diet was at the age of six weeks, when I was put on an alternative formula as I was gaining too much too quickly. By age two, my legs got caught in the rungs of the crib and by age ten, I was put on a doctor supervised diet to lose over 30 pounds. As an adult, I have survived two divorces and the death of a significant other, finding bingeing-purging along the way. All of this while maintaining a full-time career, receiving a Ph.D., and rearing a son as a single parent. As an introvert, I have never had friends to call on when needing support.

Instead of people friends, food has always been my constant companion. When learning to walk - it was a cookie for each hand. Across the years, hiding food and eating alone became a way of life. I ate my first green vegetable at age 30 and finally learned about nutrition. This, however, never stopped my obsessive compulsion to eat any and everything sweet in sight. I've lost and gained the same 50 pounds repeatedly.

I'm hopeful that learning through a recovery program will finally allow me to accept myself for who I am and give me the path to move ahead. I may be older - but I'm no less willing to build my health for the next phase of my life's journey.


Heathenchild80@...'s picture
Hi thx for sharing, it

Hi thx for sharing, it certainly sounds a about time to give yourself the life you deserve! I wish you all the best on your exciting/at times frightening journey to "full" recovery. I too am in recovery and have battled the dark demon "bulimia" for 20 years . The success stories I have read coupled with my own progress I truly believe " full" recovery is possible:) despite the ups and downs moments of strength and moments of intense doubt , never give up your ability to be free from bulimia.


Bernutri's picture
Thank you for this article -

Thank you for this article - it is so relevent to my 26 year war with bulimia!


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