This week, I'd like to shed some light on a topic that I was recently exposed to during a professional training by Dr. Margot Maine, PhD - the prevalence of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction among older adult women.
Much of the current research on eating disorders focuses on how the disease plays out in the adolescent population. However, recently the tides are shifting to show an increase in eating disorders, negative body image, and disordered relationship to food even among women age 40's-ish to 60's-ish (sadly even older in some cases).
Even though adult women are likely caring for a household, managing a full-time career, and/or keeping up with social and volunteer activities, it doesn't mean they become immune to body dissatisfaction.
Quite the contrary, it seems that as we get older, our risk for disordered eating related to poor body image is equal to that of younger women.
A study in 2012 discovered that 79% of women in the US, age 50+, reported that weight/shape effected their self image. Additionally 41% admitted to weighing themselves daily, and 36% reported having spent at least half of the last five years on some type of diet. Unfortunately these statistics have been building up throughout our modern history. Let's take a look...
According to Dr. Margo Maine PhD, the first run way models in the early 20th century weighed in at about 155 lbs or more. The first Miss America in 1922 - 140 lbs at 5'7". Then along came earning the right to vote and with it the idea that slimmer was "better," so women started binding their breasts to meet the beauty ideals of the day.
Next came, the free spirited 1960's, "going to California with flowers in your hair", and sexual freedom with the advent of "the pill." The model Twiggy entered the run way scene at a scant 90 lbs and 5'6". What's fascinating, yet discouraging to me, is that with these new rights and freedoms, women's bodies continued to shrink in the hopes of achieving the societal beauty ideal.
Today, while women have the opportunity to become CEO's, political leaders, and having raised the glass ceiling in so many aspects of our female existence, we're still encouraged by our weight biased culture to fit into "ideal bodies" defined by media pictures of models at 5'10", 107 lbs with BMI's of only 15.4 - a BMI that is 3 points lower than the standard for diagnosing anorexia!
Through the years, women have literally been shrinking themselves as they gained societal freedoms. And now it's time for a change! A change inspired by the Me Too Movement, the women's marches, the strength of individual women who have bravely called out the injustice of sexual misconduct by men in positions of power.
Ladies, this is the women's liberation movement of our time.
With so many resources becoming available to support advocacy for Health At Every Size(R), fat acceptance, and general body liberation from our weight biased, patriarchal society - now is the time to stop shrinking ourselves and embrace the freedoms we've been given by our mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers. Right now. In whatever size, shape, age your body is in. Today!
Throughout the month of February, Alpine Nutrition will be focusing on the idea of body respect and body liberation. I hope you'll check back here to find more resources, tips, and probably some recipes too - all to help you embrace the body you have in this moment.
A few final thoughts from Dr. Maine:
"The most important relationship in a woman's life is her relationship with herself. Our self talk diminishes us or empowers us. In a culture so demanding, and dismissive of women, we need to rebel and stop apologizing for not being perfect, and start telling ourselves we are good enough as we are - simply good enough!"