When Eating Disorders Grow Up
> 3/29/2006 3:24:46 PM

Way, way back when we really started to blog in earnest, one of my first posts included a link to an ABC News story about middle aged women who were struggling with eating disorders. This week CNN ran a similar story as part of its special report on Healthy Bodies.

At the heart of the CNN piece there is a positive message: more and more, these older eating disorder sufferers are seeking help. As in the ABC story, the stress here is on the fact that older women (and men) who suffer from anorexia, or other eating disorders, usually fly under the radar because they don't match the stereotypical age range of someone who would have an eating problem. In reality, Dr. Katherine Halmi, director of the eating disorder program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, New York, estimates that 10 to 12 percent of those seeking treatment are over the age of 40. Often times, these older patients are the most difficult because they have been dealing with a problem for decades. Other times a traumatic or stressful event may trigger the onset of a previously treated eating disorder.

In either case, the sooner that a person presents for treatment the better. The lasting harm that eating disorders does to a body accrues over time, and those who continue to battle disorders into middle age are at an extremely increased risk of circulatory and bone problems. Beyond that, as one woman speaks about in the article, children learn from watching their parents. A mother who's struggled says it all:

"When you are eating something different from everyone else at the table, your kids notice," she said "They may not say something about it, but they notice."

"My children don't know what I've been through," Cindy said. "But one day they may and, hopefully, they'll see that I faced something really big."

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