Midlife eating disorders
In June 2012 the prestigious International Journal of Eating Disorders published the results of a seminal study on the prevalence of eating disorders in midlife and beyond.
5 Signs You May Have an Eating Disorder
- You make yourself vomit because you feel uncomfortably full.
- You worry that you have lost control over how much you eat.
- You’ve lost more than 14 pounds in a three-month period.
- You believe yourself to be fat when others think you are too thin.
- Thinking about food dominates your life.
Lead study author Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that 13 percent of American women 50 or older experience symptoms of an eating disorder; 60 percent report that their concerns about weight and shape negatively affect their lives; and 70 percent are trying to lose weight.
Those figures mirror the rates found among teens and young women, says Bulik, author of Midlife Eating Disorders: Your Journey to Recovery.
“Eating disorders affect quality of life, and this has a tremendous impact on society,” Bulik says. “It can affect productivity at work, well-being at home, and it can have very serious economic impacts” on families, as many insurance companies are reluctant to pay for care.
Although excessive concerns about weight can appear to be little more than vanity, an eating disorder is a mental illness with close links to depression and anxiety.
Besides bulimia, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, which causes a person to starve herself even while underweight, and binge eating disorder, which causes a person to consume large amounts of food without purging.
Patients who meet some, but not all, of the criteria for anorexia or bulimia or have other symptoms (such as forcing themselves to vomit after eating normal amounts of food, or chewing and spitting out large amounts of food) may be diagnosed with other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED).
A mental health condition with a physical impact
Apart from the psychiatric impact of eating disorders — sufferers often isolate themselves from friends and family — these conditions also have a serious medical impact.
Anorexia is the deadliest of all psychiatric disorders, killing up to 20 percent of chronic sufferers. Starvation, binge eating and purging all damage the heart and gastrointestinal systems. Erratic eating can cause hormone imbalances that can lead to osteoporosis. Repeated vomiting and malnutrition damage teeth, too. These problems affect eating disorder sufferers of any age, but they hit harder and faster as people get older and their bodies become less resilient.
Although no one knows exactly what causes an eating disorder, researchers believe it results from a complex interaction between our genes and our environment. Eating disorders most commonly begin during adolescence, amid the swirling hormones, physical changes and psychological adjustments of puberty.
While some patients recover in their teens and 20s, others continue to struggle into midlife and beyond. Some of those who do recover will relapse later in life. And still others will develop an eating disorder for the first time in midlife.
My new favorite rehydrator is coconut water. I drink it all the time, especially when I’m home in Miami. It combines the best characteristics of enhanced water and sports drinks.
Coconut water is “isotonic,” meaning it has the same balance of electrolytes in our bodies. This makes coconut water a great natural sports drink to replace those nutrients. Unlike sports drinks, coconut water is free of dyes, artificial sweeteners, added sugar and preservatives. It is low in calories too, around 40 calories per eight ounces. Some studies have found that this tropical water is more hydrating than water!
I do not want to play down the importance of good old water, however. When I work out, I drink a few ounces of water for every 10 minutes that I exercise. After your workout, you should replace the water you’ve lost through perspiration. That’s about two cups of water for each pound of lost body weight.
If you can make the commitment to start drinking more water, you’ll definitely notice a change in the way you feel, in the energy you have and the mental kick that sufficient water gives.
Bottled Water vs. Tap Water
I usually drink bottled water, rather than water from the tap, because it fits my needs and my lifestyle. But the quality of tap water has improved, and on the whole, Americans have good clean drinking water. You can get information about your community’s water supply by logging on to the Local Drinking Water Information Web page at the Environmental Protection Agency. Filtering out contaminants from tap water with a home water filter is another good option for making sure your drinking water is safe.
The best choice for staying hydrated boils down to your taste preferences and how many calories you can afford to ingest, based on your activity level. If you have trouble guzzling plain water, drink a low-calorie flavored version instead. As for working out and competing, coconut water and sports drinks can fulfill your post-workout requirements.
The bottom line is to drink up and stay hydrated. Your body will love you for it.