Most people believe that eating disorders only affect adolescents, however that is not actually the case. The truth is, midlife eating disorders are on the rise. In fact, treatment centers around the country are reporting a rise in the number of women and men over 35 who are presenting for treatment for eating disorders.
Considering the fact that only a fraction of people with eating disorders seek treatment, it’s likely that there are even more people suffering than we are aware of. So what are some common signs of a a midlife eating disorders? What are some common triggers of midlife eating disorders?
Midlife Eating Disorder Triggers
While just about any major stressor could trigger an underlying eating disorder, there are a few main ones that seem to be pretty common. Here are a few triggers to watch out for:
1. Divorce or Loss of a Loved One
Divorce is one of the most common triggers of eating disorders among midlife woman. Divorce can trigger disordered eating in several ways. For most, it comes in the form of stress and anxiety. The same can go for the loss of a loved one.
If you are experiencing major changes and losses, sometimes your body will react in a negative way. Sometimes there is even a delayed response. You may have girded your loins and trudged bravely through
divorce proceedings, and only later do signs of deep stress emerge. In short, eating disorders look different for everyone. But divorce and loss are two of the major triggers for midlife eating disorder.
2. Increased Stress From Caring for Aging Loved Ones
Stress is one of the main causes of midlife eating disorders. Stress can be caused by many things, but it often comes from situations you may have at home. And for many, caring for aging loved ones can result in a great deal of stress.
When a sudden change occurs in your life, it can be hard to manage the additional stress. And in many midlife woman, this results in triggering an underlying predisposition to an eating disorder.
Both hormonal change and the stress of transition into a new life stage may affect women in midlife negatively. This transition and change into a new life often results in a midlife eating disorder.
Some women have struggled with eating disorders their entire life, or had an eating disorder in adolescence that seemed to resolve, only to recur as they went through menopause. For others, though, an eating disorder develops for the first time in midlife
4. Empty Nest
If you have raised children, you know they become a huge part of your life. And many are not prepared for the changes that occur after their last child walks out the door. There are both procedural and emotional factors associated with an empty nest that can be triggers for disordered eating.
Children leaving home, along with problems reorienting to being a couple, can lead to feelings of low mood or depression, which themselves can influence eating behavior. It’s very common among midlife woman and men, as it is a major change that impacts their whole life.
5. Other Common Triggers
Here are a few more common midlife eating disorder triggers:
- Heightened body dissatisfaction resulting from the ageing process when the body’s metabolism slows, wrinkles appear and hair greys. This can leave people feeling self- conscious as their appearance naturally moves away from Western ideals of beauty, such as slimness and youth.
- Lifestyle changes which can lead to weight gain and body dissatisfaction. These may include less regular exercise (sometimes due to physical health problems) or a change in diet (e.g. eating at restaurants more frequently or consuming more pre-prepared meals).
- Changes in family structure. Many parents feel lonely when their children leave home, or as their own parents age.
- Stress associated with financing retirement.
- A loss of identity as people exit the workforce and enter retirement; resulting in feelings of low self esteem, boredom and worthlessness.
The Midlife Eating Disorder Takeaway
In short, midlife eating disorders can be triggered by any number of stressors. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone and to seek professional help if you think you may be experiencing a midlife eating disorder.
Interested in learning how to best explore in an effort to experience the vibrant life you desire? If so, I encourage you to check out my website. I offer a variety of programs all dedicated to helping you live a healthier life, from the inside out. My approach is positive and compassionate, my practice is based on the principles of Functional Medicine. Together we’ll take the deep dive into learning WHO you are as an eater, addressing the underlying cause of your symptoms. You’ll learn how to master the skills needed to Live the Change…Be the Change…See the Change.