It’s true that bulimia happens among ballet dancers and beauty queens, and other people whose bodies are their livelihoods. But the reality of bulimia and other eating disorders that involve purging – through vomiting, overexercise, or laxative abuse – is that many people suffering from them don’t look like ballerinas or pageant contestants. Many women with bulimia – about 80% of bulimics are women – are not skinny women trying to stay skinny or trying to lose even more weight. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, people with bulimia “usually appear to be of average body weight.”
Watching pop culture portrayals of bulimia, you’d never know it. You’d also never know just how grotesque bulimia can be. It turns out that purging laxatives doesn’t make for great TV. It’s hard to give actresses the swollen cheeks that can result from frequent vomiting, while still keeping them appropriately hot. It’s hard to depict the way the stomach acid eats away at the teeth over time.