A few months ago we ran a guest post about eating disorders by Nicole Christina, LCSW, called “The Tragedy of Body Shame,” and it drew a lot of attention; the post spiked our web traffic! Clearly, the problems of appearance, relationships with food, and body shame are plaguing our demographic. And we wear these problems like a fashion statement; whatever issues we’ve had with food throughout our lives often rise up like a tidal wave after 50 and wreak havoc with our feelings about our bodies. We wear our body shame like this season’s new style as we traverse major life changes such as menopause, aging skin, weight gain and/or distribution, health challenges like arthritis, and personal issues such as divorce, caring for elderly parents, or navigating difficult relationships with our grown children.
One of our readers, Laura Tanner Swinand, was kind enough to send us a link to another article on the same topic, which discusses the numbers of older women seeking professional help for eating disorders. The article states that potential triggers for eating disorders include low self-esteem and social pressure, which certainly can affect people of all ages – but midlife often brings additional, unique challenges that raise the chances even more. And cases are on the rise.
The Renfrew Center, which specializes in treating eating disorders, has found that over the past decade, there’s been a 42% increase in women over 35 seeking treatment for problems such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. These problematic behaviors over food are never healthy, but they can be especially dangerous for older women, either simply because of age or because their behaviors have been taking a toll on their bodies for decades. Extended eating disorders can lead to nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney problems, gastrointestinal issues, and heart disease.