Does Hanna Marin have an eating disorder? (+9 signs of bulimia)

In this blog post, we shall answer the question “does Hanna Marin have an eating disorder?” and look at Hanna’s character in the show, Pretty Little Liars, her struggle with an eating disorder and the causes. We will also use her story to look at what bulimia is, the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

Does Hanna Marin have an eating disorder?

Yes, Hanna Marin has an eating disorder. Hanna is the main character of the series, Pretty Little Liars, and the show has tackled issues affecting society, i.e. bullying and eating disorders through her. She is seen having episodes of disordered eating which also worried her friends. 

Due to being ridiculed because of her weight, she decided to do everything possible to cut weight, which triggered an eating disorder. Before we discuss her journey with an eating disorder, let us look at the series Pretty Little Liars and Hanna’s role in it.

Pretty Little Liars and Hanna’s role

It is an American teen drama mystery-thriller television series developed by Marlene King. The series is loosely based on the novel pretty little liars by Sara Shepard which follows the lives of a clique of five best friends that falls apart after their leader, Alison, disappears. The four remaining friends are receiving messages from a mysterious person, figure A, who threatens to expose their deepest secrets. 

It premiered on June 8, 2010, and ended on June 27, 2017. Though the series remained a relative success from Freeform, it received mixed reactions and criticism from the audience and critics. Some people felt like the show depicted unrealistic standards of beauty that could influence young people in a negative way. The series portrays teenage girls and boys who are considered gorgeous and beautiful by their perfect bodies and thin statues.

The series also touches on eating disorders where some characters are acting and struggling with eating disorders. Some of these characters had gone through struggles with eating disorders in real life. People feel that the series tried to bring into awareness the issues faced by young people but still impacted young minds negatively by how they should look to be considered attractive and romantically interesting.

Hanna Marin is a fictional character played by Ashley Benson. She is also the storyteller in the series. The character depicts unhealthy eating patterns which pinpoint as being bulimic. 

She was weighing 30 pounds more than her friends and this earned her the nickname ‘hefty Hanna’ due to her physical appearance. Instead of Hanna’s problem being treated as a disease, she is ridiculed for being weak and socially inept.

She gained confidence by losing weight, dressing stylishly, purging and becoming rude and brute to be ‘noticed’. Hanna is rude to almost everyone she meets because she became so used to seeing the worst in people when she was overweight. She was not worthy of being called a ‘pretty little liar’ as she needed to be thin to be ‌beautiful.

Although she introduces herself as being anorexic, ‌her disordered eating originated from being called hefty Hanna by binging and purging. She is constantly depicted as eating when no one else is and at one point, her friends shame her by asking her ‘are you really going to eat that.’ in one episode she admits to being obsessed with counting calories and losing weight.

The actress playing Hanna, Ashley Benson, also came out to talk about the unrealistic beauty standards on them. She was denied a role for being a size two and was considered ‘too fat’. She confessed that she cried for thirty minutes but learnt how to overcome it as she knew it could cause the development of an eating disorder.

She also pointed out how their pictures would be edited to portray perfection when that is not how they really looked like. Thankfully, she is comfortable in her own skin and did not let the negative comments affect her self-esteem.

Let us now look at what bulimia is, its symptoms, and its treatment options.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating and afterwards, you try to lose weight inappropriately. Binge eating episodes are characterized by consuming large amounts of food uncontrollably in one sitting.

In the movie, Hanna’s friends notice that she is eating at all times when they are not and even shame her for it. She then feels ashamed and starts purging to try and regulate her weight. This is a characteristic of bulimia nervosa.

People with bulimia try methods of losing weight after binge eating and they include:

  • Use of laxatives and diuretics. Laxatives are medications used to loosen up stool passage and decrease constipation. They are also used for weight loss. Diuretics are used to reduce fluids from the body which can lead to weight loss.
  • Fasting. In the movie, Hanna, at one point, admits to being obsessed with counting calories and losing weight.
  • Enemas
  • Compulsive exercising

Some symptoms of bulimia nervosa are not apparent. Some of the red flags Hanna had that went unnoticed and depicted that she had bulimia nervosa included:

  • Having a negative/distorted body image
  • Constantly worrying and complaining that they are fat
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Eating an unusual large serving of food in one sitting
  • Strict dieting and fasting after binge eating
  • Exercising too much
  • Frequent bathroom visits during and after meals for long periods
  • Extreme body weight changes

Bulimia nervosa tends to start in early adulthood or late childhood. Most cases are realized when the illness is already full-blown as they hide and feel ashamed of their disordered eating and purging methods. Many also feel ashamed when they binge and feel relieved after purging.

Risk factors of bulimia nervosa

The causes of bulimia nervosa are unknown. What we have are risk factors that increase one’s chances of developing eating disorders. They include:


People with close relatives who have had or are struggling with an eating disorder are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Research has shown a ‌genetic link to eating disorders. Being overweight in childhood or teenage hood can act as a trigger in developing bulimia nervosa.

Hanna’s disorder stems from being overweight when she was a teenager. She had been ridiculed all her life and even given a nickname, “hefty Hanna.” This contributed heavily to her developing an eating disorder to try and fit the societal standards of being skinny and beautiful.


Many people with bulimia nervosa started with restricting calories and dieting before it became full-blown. Many people with bulimia restrict calories in between binge episodes, which again trigger binge eating and purging.

Emotional and psychological issues

Stress, anxiety and other psychological issues can be a trigger for binge eating. Environmental stressors and trauma can make one have a negative perception of their body image, therefore, triggering bulimia nervosa.

Hanna’s eating disorder can be related to the stress and anxiety that came with the societal expectations of a pretty girl being thin and beautiful. Her friends were critical of her eating habits and at one point, Alison told Hanna that she was unworthy of love because she was fat.

Other warning signs include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • The pressure of media and culture to conform
  • Negative body image

Was Hanna’s eating disorder well represented?

Although the show did a great job in bringing out an issue that is affecting millions of people, many people feel that Hanna’s eating disorder was not well represented. We will now look at the pros and cons of Hanna’s eating disorder in the show:


  • The show represents how a person with an eating disorder feels. Feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness are common and this is clearly shown by Hanna’s insecurity about her body. This makes her an easy target for A who cyberbullies her with her weight and eating habits as she knows this will hurt her. 
  • It shows how eating disorders can be an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress. When Hanna’s parents were going through a divorce, she turned to food as a way of comfort and relieving stress. She tells us how she binged cookies and ice cream before crying herself to sleep.
  • Acceptance is a key step to recovery. Hanna is able to talk freely to Aria about Alison teaching her how to purge and how that was one of her lowest moments. She also tells her that she knows she is stronger than that. 
  • Anything can be a trigger. Hanna’s eating disorder was triggered by her close friends being critical of her body weight, cyberbullying from A, Ashley sleeping with Wilden after Hanna shoplifts, e.t.c. people with eating disorders have negative thoughts and this affects how they feel and behave.


  • Hanna joked a lot about her weight and eating disorder. Although this could be interpreted as a way of self-acceptance, it could also be a cry for help. Joking about it made it seem like less of a problem, but in reality, it could be a way of dealing with her trauma, which is unhealthy.
  • Hanna gets well after she stops throwing up. The show did not put emphasis on the struggles people go through when recovering from bulimia. It assumes that once you stop throwing up, you get healed, which is far from the truth.


We have looked at who Hanna Marin was and her struggles with eating disorders in Pretty Little Liars. We have also defined eating disorders and looked at the types, their symptoms and their risk factors. We have also looked at the diagnostic criteria for bulimia and the tests done to determine if one has bulimia.

Finally, we have looked at the treatment options for bulimia nervosa. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: Does Hanna Marin have an eating disorder?

What is Hanna Marin personality?

She is rude to almost everyone she meets, and this is because she became so used to seeing the worst in people when she was overweight.

What is the most serious eating disorder?

Anorexia has a high mortality rate due to its adverse effects on one’s physical health. While all eating disorders pose a great threat to one’s life, professionals agree that anorexia is the most dangerous.

What are three examples of disordered eating habits?

  • Chronic weight fluctuations
  • Strict and extreme diet and exercise routines
  • Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating


Tsintziras A. (January 8, 2021). Pretty Little Liars: 10 Times The Show Tackled Deep Issues. Retrieved from

Maya R. (June 29, 2018). Was Hanna’s Eating Disorder Represented Well and Accurately? Retrieved from

MsJennyyo, (July 6, 2011). Pretty Little Liars – Hefty Hanna Scenes. Retrieved from

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!