Eating Disorders in Women over 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70 or 80+)

Recently I received a letter from a woman who said she was in a lonely minority of women who developed full blown bulimia after becoming 40 years old. (I hope she posts her letter on this blog so you can read her story in her words.) (She did. Please see her post and my response in the comment section below).

Elusive numbers and false beliefs
Numbers are elusive in eating disorder statistics. Many people with eating disorders never let themselves be seen or known in a way that will allow their presence to be counted. Every woman over forty who has ever been in my practice for eating disorder recovery believed she was a shameful exception. This belief is not true.

Eating disorders at any age
Women of every age can suffer from an eating disorder. An eating disorder can come on at any age. A woman of any age with an eating disorder is understandable and not exceptional, at least not in terms of the illness. An adult woman with an eating disorder feels shame because shame is a symptom, not a personality trait or character trait.

Why the older woman with an eating disorder is not seen
Because eating disorders often begin at an early age, the disorder has become associated with pre-teen and adolescence. But an eating disorder can become apparent at any time in a person’s life. An eating disorder in an older woman may go unnoticed or unrecognized because an adult woman has more access than a child to tools that will help her hide, disguise or, sadly, glorify her symptoms. Perhaps if our society recognized this situation more women over forty would come out of hiding. With less shame and more open acknowledgment of their illness they could seek the recovery help that could be theirs and could lead them to greater health and freedom.


0 # I first developed an eating disorder atKymL 2009-11-24 18:27
I first developed an eating disorder at the age of 30. I had 14 years of recovery after that and now at the age of 48 I've relapsed. There is a lot of shame involved (I should have known better after all). I've limited the number of people I've told to my partner and Naturopath; neither have a lot of time. My ED makes me isolate anyway, but not sharing with others makes me feel like I'm doing this on my own!! I'm hoping to find some comfort from this website! Just seeing this article helps me to know that I'm not the only older person with this problem.
Carole Quine
0 # Kym--You are definitely not alone. I'm 5Carole Quine 2009-12-05 13:48
Kym--You are definitely not alone. I'm 51 and have an ED (binge eating). I have had OCD as long as I can remember. Originally, one of its manifestations was in anorexia, something I recovered from in my early 30s by becoming a compulsive eater. (I had a transition period where I transferred some of my compulsive behavior to cigarette smoking. When I stopped that, I simply started drinking for about one year. That ended when I started binging on food. I now have a host of medical problems thanks to the binging. Those problems have been a blessing, though, since they made me pay attention to the harsh way in which I was treating my body.) A few months ago, I entered an outpatient ED clinic. I'm not totally impressed with the nutritionist and psychiatrist I've been assigned, but the psychologist is great and, so, I'm sticking to the program. So far, I've come to realize that my anxiety and depression problems have magnified my need to eat, so I'm working on those things. In addition, I am coming to terms with some old family issues that played into the depression, etc. I am far from cured as I still binge heavily. However, I am practicing new skills that shorten my binges. And, although I still check out the latest diets, I also end up talking myself out of trying them. This road is a rough one, but I am developing some good shock absorbers! Good luck to you.
Stacey Fallon
0 # I thought I was alone too. I am 45 andStacey Fallon 2011-04-26 08:38
I thought I was alone too. I am 45 and have been bulimic for 30 years! There were some years where I was not bulimic but mostly they are bulimic years. When I was 18 my mother kicked me out of the house and I went into an inpatient hospital that I found in a desperate attempt to get healthy. When I came out everyone assumed I was well and I never told anyone the truth - that I still struggle every day. I didn't want anyone to be disappointed or ashamed of me so I live this lie. My mother still boasts how her "tough love" saved me. Little does she know I purge every day.

Now, I have 2 young daughters that I hide this disorder from and it is exhausting. It is time for me to find help again because as much as I promise myself everyday that I will not purge - I struggle and fall into the cycle almost every day.
Thank you for your post. Helps not to feel alone.
0 # S.F. I hope you get the help you need.KymL 2011-04-26 21:59
S.F. I hope you get the help you need. I've come so far since writing my original comment, and I have told sooooo many more people. I got to the point where recovery was more important than worrying about what other people think. I had thought I had to save my pride by hiding my ED, but now I can look at all I've overcome and I've never been more proud of myself!!! And the people I thought would judgement me or think less of me are actually proud of me too! I'm still on my recovery journey, encountering struggles along the way, but I have no regrets getting the help I needed!! For your sake and your daughters' sake (they know when Mommy is struggling, no matter how well you think you're hiding it), I pray you find the courage to seek deserve it!
S. F.
0 # Kym - Thank you for your comment - I didS. F. 2011-04-27 20:39
Kym - Thank you for your comment - I didn't even realize that your original post was from 2009. I am so happy to hear that you have come far in your recovery since then. Your note made me feel inspired and understood. I am so ashamed and have been saving my pride by hiding my ED also. Would you mind if I ask what kind of help you have found? Therapists, nutritionists, etc.? I have called a few outpatient facilities and they say they will call me back when they determine the right therapist in their practice for me but they never call back. Very disheartening. Thank you and I hope you continue to heal on your recovery path!
0 # I started with a therapist who knew nothKymL 2011-04-27 21:50
I started with a therapist who knew nothing about ED's. I figured that out very quickly and requested a transfer to a specialist. I got my request (totally an act of G*d as the HMO I belong to isn't known for doing that!!) and started to see her and got into the therapy group she runs (again G*d was at work because normally there's a waiting list). After about 4 months it became obvious that I needed more so I went into IOP for 6 weeks After that I continued the therapy and therapy group. I also see a dietian and I regularly attend a local community group. I read a lot of books and recovery blogs (Joanna's was my first and continues to help me alot!!). It may seem a little much, but I really needed it at first to stay out of trouble. When temptations came, I turned to a blog, or group, or book. Now it's not a matter of life and death, but a good reminder that my recovery comes first! I've met a lot of people along their own recovery journeys and we each have our road to take; explore, trust and find what works for you! it's a hard road to take, but it's easier then life with Ed and it's so worth it!!
0 # My ED is very ingrained, I've been on dishh 2011-04-28 01:49
My ED is very ingrained, I've been on diets from the age of about 7 (my mother used to force them upon me at that age), and when she wasn't forcing me to diet, she was plying me with "treats", I don't have any recollection of ever having a "normal" relationship with food...I'm either dieting or bingeing...have been my whole life (I'm now in my late 30's).

Over time it evolved to the point that my diet times were v pusnishing and restrictive and conversely my binge times involved enormous amounts of food and constant grazing between.

Reading Joanna's work was what made me realise that I had an ED - that was 10 or more years ago, but I didn't have the courage to do anything about it, it took the birth of my first daughter to make me try to take responsibilty for myself and seek help.

It's been a long road just to get the right referrals and see the right people...I've been passed around for the last 7 years, but I am noe finally seeing a therapist within an eating disorders setting, who has helped me so much.

It's not easy, but I'm grateful now to feel my true emotions and to start to know my true self.

Therapy is such a rocky road, it's forced me to address relationships that I never thought I had the courage to deal with...but it's so empowering too!

As Kym's so worthwhile, and my life now is 100x better when I just lived for my ED.

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