Older women still suffer from eating disorders

By Shayna Brouker • Published: September 3rd, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Teenage and twentysomething girls seem to bear the brunt of the pressure to stay thin, but as it turns out, women don’t outgrow their weight worries as they age. A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 62 percent of the women who participated in an Internet survey said their weight or shape negatively affected their life. The survey also found that 13 percent of these women actually succumbed to eating disorders long after their youth.

The study looked at the eating behaviors of almost 2,000 women with an average age of 59 and found that many body image issues persist late into adulthood. So much for letting yourself go. More than 70 percent of women said their weight shaped their self-perception and that they were trying to lose weight.

Two-thirds thought about their weight on a daily basis. And more than one-third had spent at least half of the last five years dieting. Some women even reported resorting to extreme measures like laxatives, diet pills, diuretics, vomiting and excessive exercise.

Some had struggled with eating issues throughout their lives. With others, body image issues were triggered by upheaval and life changes like divorce, a layoff or financial instability. And then, of course, there’s the enormous societal pressures to stay trim and slim no matter your metabolism.

But no figure is worth the toll such behaviors can take on the body, especially in older age. Extreme dieting measures can damage the gastrointestinal tract, heart and bones.

So how can you get to a happy place with your body, no matter the shape in the mirror? First, accept that bigger is not bad. Surround yourself with people who reinforce a positive body image. And exercise! Endorphins work wonders for self-worth, and there’s nothing like that post-workout glow to put a skip in your step. No diet pill can do that.