Eating disorders continue to be on the increase in today’s society and not just among teenage girls. Many people believe that eating disorders affect only teenage girls, but that could not be further from the truth. Women are under just as much pressure to be thin as teenagers are. We are seeing more and more women developing eating disorders in their twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond. The onset on anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating can occur at any time in a person’s life.
Even though the reasons for the development of an eating disorder may vary, the feelings about oneself are usually the same. The women suffer with feelings of self-hate, worthlessness, low self-esteem, and they usually feel that in order to be happy, they must be thin. Some may feel their lives are out of control and they turn to the one area of their lives that they can control, their weight. Others may believe that once they attain the “ideal” body image, then their lives will become perfect.
There are many reasons why eating disorders may develop later in one’s life. With the high rate of divorce, many women are finding themselves back in the dating game in their forties and fifties. They many begin to believe that in order to find another man, they must be thin. If they are in a marriage and find out that their husband has been having an affair, they may blame themselves for that. The woman might feel that her husband has strayed because he no longer finds her attractive. She will then focus her attention on her weight and feel that if she had only been thin, her husband would not have been unfaithful. Usually when affairs happen in a marriage, weight is not the problem. There are deeper problems in the marriage that probably caused the affair to happen.
Women need to stop blaming themselves for their husband’s infidelity. Sometimes blaming themselves and their weight for the affair is easier than dealing with the deeper problems that caused the marriage to crumble. In other situations, eating disorders may develop once the children are grown and out on their own. A women who has dedicated her life to raising her children, may all of a sudden find herself alone and start to feel like she has no real purpose anymore. She may start focusing on her weight, believing that she will be happy, once she becomes thin. She may also turn to food for comfort to try and fill the void she feels inside.
Society also puts women under a lot of pressure to be thin. Women are constantly being told that we must have a perfect marriage, be a perfect mother, and have the perfect career. We are given the message that in order to obtain all that, we must have the perfect body. Growing older in today’s society is much different for women than it is for men. If a man’s body changes or his hair starts to turn gray, he is considered to be “distinguished”. If a woman’s body changes and her hair starts to turn gray, she is considered to be “letting herself go”. Eating disorders become a woman’s way of escaping the daily pressures of life. We can no longer enjoy food or allow ourselves to provide our bodies with the nutrition it needs and deserves, because society and the media makes us feel guilty for eating.
A while back I read a quote by Pauline Frederick, it went, “When a man gets up to speak, people listen then look. When a woman gets up, people look, then, if they like what they see, they listen”. Unfortunately that statement is very true. Women aren’t yet taken seriously enough in the business industry and in their careers. A woman trying to advance in her career may feel that in order to be taken seriously and have her ideas listened to, she must be thin. People today need to realize that someone’s appearance has nothing to do with their ability to function in their career. Weight has no effect on someone’s intelligence, abilities and job performance. It’s time the world started respecting women for their accomplishments and stop judging us by our appearance.
Women need to take a stand and stop trying to live up to the standards that society has set for us. We need to stop buying those fashion magazines and diet products. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we are a person of great value and our weight should not play a part in how we feel about ourselves. We spend to much time and money focusing on losing weight and trying to attain the “ideal” body. Instead, we need to focus on ourselves. We need to get off the diet roller coasters. Diets just don’t work and losing weight will never bring you true happiness. Be proud of yourself for who you are and for your accomplishments. Don’t allow a scale to rule your life anymore.
If you are suffering with an eating disorder or think you are, I would urge you to seek help immediately. There is no shame in having an eating disorder. Older women sometimes find it hard to reach out and ask for help, because eating disorders are still very much associated as being an illness that only affects teenage girls. The fact is, eating disorders can affect any woman or man at anytime in their lives, age has nothing to do with it. Eating disorders can be beaten and there is help available. You don’t need to continue to live this hell everyday. You can free yourself and you can start living the happy, healthy life that you deserve to live.
Written by: Colleen Thompson