Age, it seems, has little to do with body image, weight and shape. The recent study shows women over fifty wrestling with body issues, with 70% saying they are trying to lose weight, 8% reporting purging (forcing themselves to throw up after eating), and 3.5% confessing to binge eating. Overall, 62% of women in the study said weight negatively impacted their lives.
The author of the study Cynthia Bulik, PhD, director of the Eating Disorders Program in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine collected information from nearly 1,850 women in the U.S. who participated in the Gender and Body Image Study (GABI) with a survey titled, "Body Image in Women 50 and Over - Tell Us What You Think and Feel."
In a recent CBS interview, Bulik confirmed her findings:
I think there is such pressure on older women to look younger, to not look like they are becoming older. Everything is about looking younger, trying to stay thin and attractive, whether that means surgery or cosmetics, or whatever, the pressure to not age is so strong. And that leads them down the path of unhealthy eating and dieting behaviors.
Bulik goes on to explain in her report that the average age of the participants was 59 and 92% of the women were white. More than a quarter (27%) were obese, 29% were overweight, 42% were normal weight and 2% were underweight. At the same time, more than a third of the women reported spending at least half of their time in the last five years dieting.
She goes on with more stunning revelations, with 79% saying weight and shape effected their self perception and 64% saying they thought about it daily. Another 41% checked their body weight daily, whilst 40% weighed themselves a few times per week. Those resorting to more extreme measures included:
- 7.5% Diet pills
- 7% Excessive exercise
- 2.5% Diuretics
- 2% Laxatives
- 1% Vomiting
"The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don't discriminate on the basis of age ... Health care providers should remain alert for eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns that may adversely influence women's physical and psychological wellbeing as they mature."
Written by Rupert Shepherd