Although eating disorders are generally thought of as a teen struggle, an increasing number of middle-aged women are seeking out treatment for disordered eating that began in their youth. These women have either had an eating disorder when they were younger, or experienced some sort of disordered eating, and were never fully treated.
When unhealthy eating patterns are determined during adolescent years, these set behaviors often linger into adulthood. A University of Minnesota Study, which followed 2,287 kids as they grew into adults, found that more than half of the girls continued their unhealthy eating patterns into their mid to late 20s. It is entirely possible for these behaviors to be treated with therapy, although they seem to be resurfacing as adults when triggered with stress or personal crisis.
Unfortunately, our bodies are much less resilient during middle age, and the physical damage of an eating disorder can be devastating. Ed Tyson, an eating disorders specialist in Texas, explains the added risks of battling an eating disorder during middle age. He reveals that health issues transpire in a much more rapid manner, with a longer-lasting impact on health. “Older bodies do not have the plasticity that younger bodies do,” he says. “They can’t tolerate the stresses and risks”. At this point, we are more vulnerable to osteoporosis, chemical imbalances, and many other serious health issues.
This information suggests the importance of early intervention and treatment of eating disorders in teens. Eating disorders need to be properly diagnosed and treated at an early age, so that disordered eating behaviors can be corrected, underlying issues addressed and worked through, and patients given the tools and skills for making it through triggering moments (as teens and adults) without relying on eating disorder behaviors. Additionally, patients should be knowledgeable about what to do in the event of a relapse, regardless of what their age is, and seek support without feeling shame or failure.
No matter what your age, or how long you’ve been struggling, you need to get treatment for your eating disorder. A friend and colleague of mine expressed this beautifully:
”If you are someone struggling to eat consistently well, to nourish your body truly well, to stop exercising to work off food, to stop purging, to love your body, etc., PLEASE do every single thing you need to do to make that happen starting TODAY. It’s never too early to recover, but it can be too late –before you know it, it can be too late. …And I know no one ever thinks that they will be the next person to succumb to under-nutrition…but that thinking is often the reason people die. Realize that every day needs to be a healthy day. And if you need help, then reach out for it today. If you need to take yourself by the hand and lead yourself into healthy, then do it. Don’t wait.” ~Kathleen MacDonald.
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