You don’t have to be skinny to have bulimia

Catherine Liberty's picture

A lot of different fears went through my mind the first time I really considered telling someone that I had bulimia. In fact, the more I thought about disclosing my big secret, the more I found myself fixating on a question that I know worries so many people with bulimia…

“What if they don’t believe me?”

It’s very common to worry that you won’t be taken seriously when talking about your struggles with bulimia, especially when we consider the fact that bulimia shows so few physical signs

When it comes to eating disorders, appearances can be deceiving!

Due to media sensationalism and an abundance of eating disorder myths and misconceptions, many people believe that you can tell if someone has an eating disorder, simply by looking at them. 

Worse still, many eating disorders treatment facilities only offer help to those who meet certain BMI requirements – which only adds to the confusion and fear. 

Of course this is complete nonsense – you don’t have to be “skinny” to have an eating disorder and you certainly don’t have to be underweight to be in danger of dying from your eating disorder. 

Have you ever let these misconceptions convince you that you don’t need help?

I remember a time when I convinced myself that I wasn’t “that sick” because although I was bulimic, spending all of my waking hours binge eating and purging,  I was still maintaining a healthy weight. Right now I can look back on those days and see how completely illogical my thought processes were, but back then it was a completely different story.

Visiting my doctor for the first time I remember feeling like some kind of fraud because I didn’t fit in with the “typical” eating disorder stereotype. 

“It’s really great to see that you’re not underweight.” He said. 


“It’s really great to see that you’re not actually sick." I heard him say.


After that experience I decided there was no way I could attend the eating disorder clinic that I had been referred to, because all of the “evidence” I was faced with told me everyone there would be so much sicker than I was (so much thinner than I was).

I’d had bulimia for five years at that point, I wasn't able to find any bulimia treatment online at that time and so I didn’t seek help again for another six years. 

As my health continued to deteriorate, I learned that my size had nothing to do with how sick I was...

If only someone would have been around back then to tell me that I was worthy of this help, that it was typical to have bulimia and not be underweight, maybe things would have been different. 

If I can ask one thing of you, it is this…

Please don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t have a serious eating disorder because you’re not underweight - or worse still, that you don’t deserve help for bulimia because you’re not at a critically low weight – There is no way to judge the severity of bulimia based on weight alone.

Myth Busting for Eating Disorder Awareness week

Slowly we are raising awareness about the realities of bulimia and other eating disorders, and I know so many wonderful people from all over the world who are relentlessly campaigning for access treatment regardless of weight. 

Right now we’re in the middle of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2012, and there are some truly brilliant campaigns going on. 

One campaign in particular caught my eye. It’s by an organization called Body Gossip, who aim to encourage people to acknowledge the eating disorders that you can’t see. They have some really great videos up too! (“Proof you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder by their physical appearance” is one of my favourites). 

Beat and Neda's awareness campaigns:

Beat are asking everyone to help to break the silence around eating disorders with their campaign “today is the day you tell someone about your eating disorder.”

While Neda are helping to reduce the stigma and shame that often surrounds eating disorders with their campaign “Everybody Knows Somebody.” 

So why learn more about some of the great campaigns that are going on and see what you can do to help raise much needed awareness. 

Have a great week in recovery!


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The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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