It’s tough being a middle-aged woman with an eating disorder

It’s tough being a middle-aged woman with an eating disorder

Young girls aren’t the only people with eating disorders. Men get them too – and so do women well into middle age.

Last year, I had an article on this subject published in Wellbeing magazine. I wrote it because I had both anorexia and bulimia for 12 years from the age of 19. I’m fortunate enough to have reached a stage now where eating is a pleasure rather than a torment but I still – very occasionally – feel almost crippled by the same pressure that once drove me to binge or starve.

Life-changing support

Part of my good fortune was being able to spend a lot of time with a brilliant counsellor who helped me to understand what was driving my self-destructive behaviour and to develop strategies that really did change my life – strategies I wrote about in my book “You Can Beat the Binge”. It makes me very sad to think of all the women who continue to struggle as they get older. And, according to new research, this is surprisingly high number.

Eating disorders are always, by their nature, very isolating but you feel even more isolated when you’re an anorexic middle-aged woman being treated in a ward filled with 15-year-old girls. They’re also associated with feelings of shame and guilt – but how much more guilty and ashamed are you going to feel if you’re terrified of modelling binge eating disorder for your daughter?

There is hope

Some of the women I interviewed have been struggling for years and told me that it’s easy to feel there’s no hope of feeling ‘normal’ again.

But there is hope. Natalie Wild, a counsellor who works with people recovering from eating disorders admits that it can be a bumpy road but it’s important that no-one becomes disheartened. Finding a counsellor or psychologist is an important first step, but it has to be someone you can trust. When you’ve plucked up the courage to make an appointment, it’s deeply disappointing if you’re not comfortable with the person you’re talking to. Going through it again and again is a total pain, but  it’s vital that you keep on trying until you find someone who ‘gets’ you. The security of knowing you have someone on your side, as I did, can make all the difference to how resilient and optimistic you feel.

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