Although anorexia is usually associated with teenage girls, the number of mid-life women that suffer from eating disorders is on the increase. Researchers say that it is hard to know the exact number. Since weight loss and appetite changes are often side effects of medications commonly taken in this season of life, anorexia is often undiagnosed.
This should not be very surprising considering the typical American obsession with body image. The last of the baby boomers have hit middle age and we donâ€™t want to get old.
We were the generation that quipped, â€œDonâ€™t trust anyone over 30â€ thinking that we would be young forever. The media has consistently bombarded us with images of beautiful, thin, toned women, reminding us that beauty is found only in the size four section of our favorite store.
I was anorexic as a teenager. My metabolism is very efficient and it doesnâ€™t take many calories to keep me going. I am also a muscular type build â€“ I will never have that tall, willowy look that is presented as ultimate beauty. It became a habit for me to eat once every few days to maintain my weight where I wanted it to be.
Jump several decades, eight children, and a thyroidectomy and you will find that weight has crept up on me despite my best efforts to eat healthy. I am, like many other women my age, obsessed with regaining the figure I had at 18 and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Although at 5â€™4â€, I am a size 8, I skip meals, do over 200 crunches a day, and run up and down my Victorian staircase in an effort to whip my body into submission.
I am a food writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer. My battle against weight is almost comic since I am constantly working with or thinking about food and flavor.
I have remembered how to taste and spit from my anorexic days and a couple of times I have headed for the bathroom to vomit after having eaten more than I think I should have. I often go for a few days between meals, and when I eat, it is usually something like lean turkey breast in a lettuce wrap.
Since I have adult ADD, I am taking Ritalin, an amphetamine. It helps because it keeps me from being hungry. Interestingly enough, at age 18 I was taking illegal amphetamines and practicing the same eating and exercise habits.
My mood for the day is determined by what the scale tells me each morning. My self-image changes with my weight fluctuations â€“ and at age 52 I can tell you the weight fluctuates a lot.
Having taken a cruise recently I can confidently say that I am not alone. I watched women my age excuse themselves from the table halfway through meals, push food around on their plates, and take tiny bites of things and exclaim how full they were.
Just like me.
I saw mid-life women, out of shape and overweight, stuffing themselves in bikinis in attempt to regain that feeling of being 18 and undeniably sexy. Maybe they had better body images than I do, but I found it sad and quite unattractive.
I am sharing this more as a personal story than an article about what researchers are finding out â€“ things that many of us already knew. I doubt that those of us who have fallen back into these habits will starve ourselves to oblivion like teenagers do, but we arenâ€™t eating properly either.
I donâ€™t have an answer â€“ just an acknowledgement that anorexia is alive and well amongst women of a certain age. After all, we must be perfect to be loved.
photo credit: Dana Robinson