"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Eating disorders in midlife.

What does an eating disorder seem like? What likely springs to mind is a young, waif-like woman strutting down the catwalk, boning beneath her dress. However, her older siblings are usually not proof against anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Efforts to regulate weight enter dangerous territory in additional women in midlife and beyond than popular images suggest.

“Many women with midlife eating disorders have had the problem for most of their lives,” says Dr. Peck. “And starting at age 40 is going through a lot of life changes that are all different than a teenager or a young woman.”

Disordered eating that hardly straddles the road between normal and problematic can be quite common, much more so than diagnosed eating disorders. “By midlife, this can look like chronic dieting, yo-yo dieting, or excessive exercise. Sometimes women get wrapped up in the identity of being a gym rat who eats too clean, fueled by menopause. The physiological changes that occur make them more so,” says Dr. Peck. “It may not feel like a problem for them. It gets really complicated.”

Mid-life risk aspects

Many variations of eating disorders are possible, but three types predominate: Anorexia nervosa, characterised by extreme food restriction; bulimia nervosa, purging by vomiting or laxatives after gorging; and binge eating disorder, eating greater than full.

Anorexia becomes less common after age 26, but bulimia rates don't peak until age 47, in response to a November 2017 study. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Meanwhile, binge eating disorder — essentially the most common eating disorder amongst all adults — can turn into an issue for ladies of their 70s.

What fuels such a pathological preoccupation with food and weight over the many years? Midlife and older women could also be attempting to stay competitive within the workplace, where thinness could also be related to youth, or reemerge on the dating scene after divorce or widowhood. The shock of an empty nest may also prompt attempts to redefine the body.

In fact, the estrogen changes related to the menopausal transition can increase the risks of eating disorders. “We know that estrogen plays a role in the development of eating disorders at both ends of the spectrum, but in terms of why, the jury is still out,” says Dr. Peake. “Women are more likely to gain weight during menopause, and you may feel like your body is working against you.”

How can you see an eating disorder?

Extreme weight reduction is a transparent sign that somebody can have an eating disorder. But how will you see this condition in yourself or in others? find.

  • Dramatic fluctuations in weight, whether up or down
  • Preoccupation with weight, calories, and body size and shape
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or food categories (resembling sugar or carbohydrates).
  • Exercising excessively
  • Skipping meals or eating only small portions of standard meals
  • Eating habits, resembling excessive chewing or not touching different foods on the plate
  • Signs of purging behaviors, resembling frequent bathroom trips, vomiting sounds or odors, or laxative wrappers
  • Lots of empty food wrappers or containers inside a brief time period.

“Whenever these thoughts and behaviors are taking over your life, it's a sign to get help,” says Dr. Holly Peck, associate medical director of the Klerman Eating Disorders Center at McLean Hospital.

An array of health effects

Extreme weight reduction, purging, and malnutrition may also result in these problems:

Bone loss. Dr. Bentley says the chance of bone fractures is seven times higher in individuals with anorexia than in the overall population. Although bone density testing isn't routinely beneficial for ladies of their 50s, she orders it for many who think they might have an eating disorder, in addition to those that For those whose bones are broken.

Heart problems Low electrolyte levels from irregular eating can result in irregular heartbeat. Women in midlife are also more more likely to take medications for chronic conditions, which might increase this risk. “It's a recipe for a medical emergency, because your body isn't as flexible as it was when you were 16,” says Dr. Peck.

Lung conditions. Chest muscles weaken over time, especially in individuals who repeatedly force themselves to vomit. This increases the chance of pneumonia.

Gastrointestinal problems. Reflux, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea could also be dismissed as the results of aging but may as a substitute be related to an eating disorder.

Diabetes. People with eating disorders have a better rate of diabetes, Dr. Bentley says, possibly due to frequent spikes in blood sugar after meals.

Skin disorders. Poor wound healing and deep facial wrinkles are common in individuals with chronic anorexia, says Dr. Bentley. This probably reflects the general poor dietary status.

Although eating disorders claim more lives than another sort of mental illness, only 27 percent of victims seek skilled help. A team of health professionals, including nutritionists and physicians, may help shepherd patients to higher physical and mental health. If you think you've gotten an eating disorder, don't be afraid to confer with your doctor openly. She is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders as she would another medical condition, without judgment.

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