Women over 50 have eating disorders too

It turns out that no matter your age, it’s still common to feel uncomfortable with your body if you are a woman. Whether this is due to pressure from media and society or our own personal insecurities, it seems like just about every woman you talk to is on a diet. In fact, if you were to go out to lunch with a group of ladies and announced to the group that you were getting the cheeseburger and french fries because you feel great about your body, you would most likely get a lot of strange looks from the other women.

So why is it that even older women feel so insecure? After all, isn’t body image supposed to be something we struggle with in our teens and maybe even in our twenties before we come to terms with our bodies? However, a recent study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders reveals 62 percent of women aged 50 and older report their body shape or weight has had a negative impact on their life. What’s more alarming is that 3.5 percent reported binge eating and nearly 8 percent reported purging. It turns out that eating disorders are more common among women over 50 than previously thought.

What is an eating disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an eating disorder is an illness that causes serious changes to your everyday diet, such as overeating or eating too little. These disorders frequently occur with other illnesses such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse and depression.

While eating disorders often appear in teens or young adults, the resource explains they may also occur in childhood or later in life. The most common types of disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

‘Body Image in Women 50 and Over – Tell Us What You Think and Feel’

The study that determined the presence of eating disorders among women in their 50s was led by Dr. Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program. In a study titled Gender and Body Image Study (GABI), 1,849 women from around the country completed a survey called  ‘Body Image in Women 50 and Over – Tell Us What You Think and Feel.’

ScienceDaily reports the average age of the participants was 59 and included a combination of weights – normal (42 percent), overweight (29 percent), obese (27 percent) and underweight (2 percent).

“We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies,” explained Bulik. “An unfortunate assumption is that they ‘grow out of’ body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, but no one has really bothered to ask. Since most research focuses on younger women, our goal was to capture the concerns of women in this age range to inform future research and service planning.”

The survey results revealed that not only were eating disorders common, but they were most prevalent in women in their early 50s and also occurred in women over 75 years old. Of the women surveyed, 36 percent said they have spent at least half of the last five years dieting and 64 percent said they think about their weight daily. Finally, a whopping 66 percent were unhappy with their overall appearance.

What can we do?

It’s unfortunate to find out so many mature women are feeling down about their bodies and as a result have developed unhealthy eating behaviors. If you are feeling insecure about your body, talk to your health care provider for suggestions on how you can make a lifestyle change to improve your body image.

This might include more physical activity or simply learning to accept that your body is healthy how it is, and you don’t have to look like a celebrity to be beautiful. If you are hoping to shed a few pounds, however, talk to your doctor about trying Skinny D. This all-natural supplement is a favorite among Dr. Newton’s Naturals customers, and it may help you finally lose weight and feel confident.