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Anorexia/Eating Disorders/Facial change with anorexia


     I am in desperate need of some advice and I hope you can help. I had anorexia for around 7 months from January this year and now am in recovery. I am menstruating again but only every two months. My main fear however concerns my face. I noticed that the composition of my face appears to have changed during anorexia. Now when I smile I appear to have 'chipmunk cheeks' and when i don't my face just looks different- I used to have nice cheekbones but now my face is just one giant blob. I went to a doctor and massage therapist who both said it was not water retention. Is this normal and is there anything else it could be? Most importantly, will my face ever go back to the way it was. This consequence has a devastating effect on my social, emotional and overall life and I just regret it so much.
         Best wishes

ANSWER: Hi Louise,

I'm sorry you are going through this. I have a few ideas. The facial swelling is likely caused by swollen salivary or submandibular glands - makes you look like a chipmunk. This is more common among anorexics who vomit as well as calorie restrict.

It will get better over time as you recover. In the meantime, how are you on mineral intake? Do you take a multivitamin/multimineral? Deficiencies in things like sodium and potassium can exacerbate the problem. You may want to try a multivitamin/multimineral and supplement with liquid trace minerals for a while to help bring things back into balance.

Let me know if you have any additional questions and good luck!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thanks for replying to my query. I have a pretty healthy diet at the minute so would be surprised if I was deficient in anything. However, I might get some blood tests done to make sure. I never binged/purged and only restricted calorie intake for around 6 months- do you think its possible that  bone density or fat redistribution may be involved? Is there anything else it could be? Sorry to be so inquisitive I'm just desperate to find an answer- I hate not knowing if things will ever change .
         Louise x

Hi Louise,

You need to understand with mineral and bone issues that it's not what you are eating right now - it's what you were eating when you were anorexic (or not eating in your case). I would recommend a blood test as well as a bone density test to make sure there's not lasting damage from your eating disorder. While bone density would not address your face issue, it's still worth checking into. It could be fat redistribution but I doubt it given your symptoms. It really does sound like swollen glands - which can be caused by the fact that your body was immuno-compromised during your anorexia due to lack of caloric intake.

I know you're frustrated and I wish I had a simple answer and quick fix for you. Recovery, unfortunately, takes time.  

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Mary Pritchard


I can answer questions about the psychology of eating, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors such as drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, binge eating, body dysmorphia, dieting, excessive/obsessive exercise, and body dissatisfaction. I can also answer questions about anorexia and bulimia.


I have a PhD in Psychology and teach courses in the Psychology of Health and the Psychology of Eating. I have been conducting research on disordered eating and exercise behaviors for 15 years.

Midwestern psychological association, rocky mountain psychological association

Over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in journals such as Eating Behaviors, Eating Disorders, and Eating and Weight Disorders

PhD in Psychology from the University of Denver

Awards and Honors
30 teaching awards, have received funding to conduct my research from academic institutions and state and local government

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