Are YOU dying to be thin?
Today's blog article is about the ever increasing problem of adult eating disorders. It is highly likely that you or someone you love may experience this, so please read on!
If I say anorexia, bulimia or binge eating do you automatically envisage adolescent, white, middle class girls pushing a single leaf of rocket around a plate? The answer is probably yes as this is the group we traditionally think of as suffering the living hell of an eating disorder. As an educator, I came to realise that young men can also experience this phenomenon too. I once had a class of law students where three girls and one boy were competing to see who could eat the least. They were literally fading away in front of me. Of course, I sought help for them, before you ask! But be aware that eating disorders are not the preserve of young people.
It is fair to surmise that EDs are not actually about food per se. We must recognise that they are a serious mental illness with many catalysts. It is also the mental disorder with the highest rate of suicide. I find that truly shocking.
Sondra Kroneberg (ref.2), discovered that women with extreme behaviour personalities are more prone to EDs. For example, if she reads that sugar is unhealthy, rather than be selective about refined sugars she understands it to mean ALL sugars. Clearly our bodies need sugar to function.
The recent explosion of super healthy living and the growing swathes of people believing they have "food allergies" allows them to indulge their need to control food but it is disguised and validated as a healthy lifestyle. Of course there are people with terrible food allergies, but these are life threatening or life inhibiting and are not EDs.
What triggers an ED in older women is not so easy to understand. There is a lack of research on the subject. This can lead to misdiagnosis which in itself is dangerous. Furthermore, women may be loathe to go to their GP as they believe that because they are an adult they should know better. If this is you, being an adult is not relevant at all. If you are unwell you need help and you do not need to be embarrassed.
The rather pernicious notion of MILF has been cited as a trigger. It used to be that women who had had children or hit the menopause were expected to have curves. Nowadays, we see celebs ping into shape a day after having a baby or being super svelte ,(think Jane Fonda), into their later years. We think this has to be us so we too can be sexually appealing and a MILF. A few years ago I was helping out in a bar when a group of men came in. They started chanting MILF at me. I have to be honest, I wasn't flattered. My body is mine only and I decide everything about it. The following evening they came in with chocolates and sincere apologies. They were genuinely sorry and hadn't realised that what they had done was not flattering but excruciatingly awful.
Perhaps this explains why the Journal of Eating Disorders reported that 70 % of the over 50s have been on a diet for at least 50% of the last 5 years. Disordered eating was reported as affecting 13% of the over 50s.(ref4)
If there was more awareness, then maybe more overs 50s would present to their GPs. Various research projects show that older women, feel that EDs are for young people. They suffer with guilt about being an older woman who will be viewed as silly for getting into such a mess. They feel they will be stigmatized. One contributor on a health forum reported that their medical professional had asked her if she didn’t think she was a bit old for an ED. I am hopeful that most practitioners would not react like this but once is too often. (ref.5)
Whilst the myth perpetuates that eating disorders are for the young too many older people will struggle and even die. When we are older the illness can ravage our bodies very quickly. If you think you have an ED or a friend or family member does please encourage them to seek help. EDs are curable and there are many different types of treatment available. Being free from the misery of this terrible illness means life can once again be for living.
I hope that this has been useful for you or a loved one. We have a private Facebook Group - Savvy 'n' Sassy - refuse to be invisible. Please come along and join us .