Empty Plates for "Empty Nesters"
Eating Disorders Among Older Women
Characteristics of Eating Disorders
- Anorexia nervosa is an illness that leads persons to deprive themselves of food so that they experience a state of starvation and dramatic weight loss.
- People with bulimia nervosa often have urges to eat extreme amounts of food and then immediately engage in behaviors (eg, vomiting, using laxatives, excessive exercise) to rid themselves of the excess food they have consumed. People with bulimia nervosa may appear overweight or have a normal weight.
- Binge-eating disorder is usually characterized by bingeing, or excessive intakes of food without purging, which usually leads to excessive weight gain.
Potential Reasons for the Trend
- Almost half of adolescents with anorexia have a full recovery over time, but more than 30% have only a partial recovery, and 20% have no substantial improvement in their condition. Therefore, eating disorders may continue in some people, as they get older.
- In addition, some middle-aged women may have the proverbial “mid-life crisis,” during which they exhibit signs of eating disorders as a result of life’s pressures, such as peer and societal pressure to be thin and young, fear of sexuality (especially relating to aging issues and spouse’s interest), and family conflicts. In this scenario, these women may have previously engaged in healthful behaviors, but now are exhibiting signs of disordered eating and behaviors relating to weight.
- Finally, some women may be engaging in more healthful behaviors, such as exercise, than they had previously. But life pressures may build, pushing them to extremes as they fit in several hours of exercise per day—at which point this becomes an unhealthful behavior. Subsequently, it develops into a disordered behavior relating to weight. Some have referred to this behavior as “gym bulimia.”
Long-lasting Generational Effects
National Eating Disorders Association http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
National Eating Disorder Information Centre http://www.nedic.ca/
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/
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- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2011 -
- Update Date: 05/12/2011 -