• "Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up." — Brené Brown

  • Midlife Eating Disorders

  • Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It's a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs. - Pema Chodron
  • In general, an eating disorder is rarely the result of one isolated event or life situation. Various factors can contribute to the development of an eating disorder, such as genetics, dieting, perfectionism, trauma, or the influence of media. However, the development, re-appearance and/or escalation of an eating disorder in midlife is thought to be triggered by drastic or unexpected life transitions. Below are some examples of such catalysts.

  • With the increased recognition of eating disorders in middle to older age women, treatment options are becoming readily available and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of this population. 

  • aging body

    The American culture is obsessed with youth, which places extreme pressure on women as they age. Remaining slender is part of this youth obsession, even though it is abnormal for women over 40 to have the same bodies as they did at 18. The necessity to maintain a certain weight is particularly critical when a woman’s identity and self-esteem is wrapped up in her appearance. This may galvanize her to seek a thin, youthful body through unhealthy behaviors, such as food restriction, diet pills, extreme exercise, illicit drugs, laxatives, or purging. 

  • unexpected illness

    No one is immune from illness. A disease such as breast cancer can result in a drastically impaired body image and difficulty accepting a different body shape, and women may turn to extraordinary weight loss to reclaim lost youth or reshape her body.

  • empty nest

    Children leaving the home can prove highly traumatic for some mothers. This is especially true when a woman is defined by her children and her primary identity is that of being a mother. It is not uncommon for women to feel worthless without her children to validate her role as mother. Women can develop eating disorders as they focus on appearance, diets, health, and exercise to fill that empty space and provide new identity.

  • divorce & separation

    Divorce or separation, regardless of the whys behind it, is a difficult transition time. Women may struggle with fears of spending the remainder of their lives alone. Returning to the world of dating may cause extreme anxiety and insecurity. After all, women are confronted daily with media messages telling them that females must be rail thin to achieve success and receive love. Under such an onslaught, a woman’s self-esteem diminishes, while her body dissatisfaction escalates. In order to achieve a younger, thinner, and more desirable body, she may turn to extreme measures to lose weight. Her dieting and/or exercising could easily get out of control.

  • parent's death

    The illness or death of a parent has a profound effect on adult women especially when the death is sudden and the woman is not prepared for the loss. Some women may feel unable to manage the feelings of sadness, grief, or shock. Some may feel unable to meet the demands of adulthood in the midst of their loss. For predisposed women, an eating disorder may develop or re-emerge as a means to cope with the intense feelings associated with death of a loved one. Eating disorders may also provide these women a way to escape from real-life responsibilities, which persist in the face of life’s ups and downs.