Saturday, December 30, 2017

Healthy Habits: Eating Disorders in Older Women

An unspoken illness is on the rise among Baby Boomer women across America. Eating disorder treatment centers are reporting a 42 percent increase in the number of older patients over the past decade. Now, Iris Ruth Pastor—a mother and grandmother who battled bulimia for 46 years—is breaking her silence.
In The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman (Ladies, Ink, January 30, 2018)Pastor offers an inside look at the unique triggers of eating disorders in older women, revealing distinct patterns and signs. She then provides hope that recovery is possible at any age.

I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

We often think about bulimia as primary a young woman's disease - high school or college. Why is it important to be aware that it's not confined to that demographic?

Bulimia and other eating disorders are prevalent in all age groups.
According to the U.S. Census, the number of baby boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 - hovers around 77 million. And thirteen per cent of women over the age of fifty engage in eating disorder behaviors. That’s a lot of people.

What are some triggers for eating disorders later in life?

As people age out of child rearing and the work force, loss of connection to community and other people often occurs. Additional triggers are: 
  • Death of friends and loved ones
  • Divorce/Widowhood
  • Empty nest/boomerang kids/less relevancy in adult children’s lives
  • Care giving pressures
  • Aging, increased health issues, diminished attractiveness
  • Retirement/job loss
  • Geographical distance from family and friends
  • Financial constraints 
What traits should people be aware of to help loved ones seek help?
  • Secrecy about their eating habits
  • Depression
  • Body distortion issues
  • Family history of addiction 
  • Using food for comfort 
  • Equating self-worth with where needle on the scale registers
  • Reluctance to talk about feelings
  • Regrets and unresolved conflicts in personal life
  • Problems managing anger, frustration and yearnings
How can people recognize they need treatment and move towards recovery?
  • Inability to stop disordered eating patterns 
  • Feeling powerless and loss of control 
  • Severe restriction of calories 
  • Bingeing and purging/laxative overuse 
  • Excessive exercising 
  • Overuse of diuretics and or diet pills
  • Drastic curtailment of food or eating huge amounts of food in short periods of time with or without significant weight gain
  • Avoidance of social situations where there is food
Moving toward recovery involves recognizing that eating disorders are mental illnesses that need professional help to overcome. Every sixty-two minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 
Treatment centers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and eating disorder associations abound.  
Iris Ruth Pastor has published more than 700 columns in various outlets, including the Huffington Post, where she was named a “Must Read Blogger.”  Her new memoir, The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman, emphasizes that change and renewal are possible at any age and any stage. 
3.  Eating Disorders Coalition. (2016). Facts About Eating Disorders: What The Research Shows.
4.  Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports,14(4), 406-414. 

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