Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Changing Face of Anorexia

At first, there’s nothing to place her apart from everyone else, except that she seems to be one of those lucky people blessed with a quick metabolism. Jealous? Not when you realise her cheeks protrude a little more than is healthy and her clothes hang baggily off her beyond-skinny frame. Her eyes are empty and her body language says, ‘I have no energy.’ And the lines etched upon her face make her look like she’s in her late 60s, or even her 70s.

Chances are, however, that she’s only in her 30s or 40s. Women like this are the new face of anorexia. A recent study of ‘weight preoccupied women’ in Canada found that “women in the 45–64 year age group were more likely to be ‘food preoccupied’ (e.g. bingeing, feeling guilty after eating, feeling ‘food controls your life’, and giving too much time and thought to food) than those aged less than 45 years.” Statistics published in [health journal] PLoS one last month reported that “people who reported purging and dieting [a]re on average 10 years older, a difference much greater than expected by population ageing,” than the average anorexic female was in 1996.

Older women typically have more stress to deal with than younger women, which could be one of the reasons why more older women are becoming anorexic. Greta Kretchner of the Eating Disorders Foundation says, “It may be divorce, it may be a sickness, a loss of a partner. It could be job stress, it could be children moving out and moving on, you know, growing up and so their role as a mum has changed - those sorts of issues – and the pressure of their own parents aging and the stress that comes with that.”

Or it could really just be the desire to lose weight that triggers the onset of anorexia. “Particularly for women that have had babies, there’s the pressure to drop baby weight very quickly. There’s a whole lot of pressure on celebrities so it’s taken as a given that people have to drop baby weight very quickly,” says Kretchner.

Dr. Patricia McVeagh, of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, says, “Women having problems recognising their own hunger can have problems with their own children. Sometimes they might overfeed them, because the mother doesn’t want her children to follow the same route. Other times, they might limit the child’s feed, because they can’t interpret signs of fullness and take food away before the child is finished.”

“It’s also harder for them to be there for the baby, particularly if they are a compulsive exerciser.”

Kletchner says it’s important not to judge, but that those around the anorexia sufferer should “express honest concern and encourage her to seek professional help and then, if they manage to get them into professional help, supporting them in whatever way that can encourage them stay with that help.”

“I would think that apart from monitoring in a community setting, through a GP and maybe her relatives and friends, it would probably be important that her mental strength get assessed,” says a clinical nurse specialist from Westmead Hospital.

In a way, it’s sad that society makes it so simple for women to fall from being mildly self-conscious about their health and weight, to being obsessed to the point that she places “being thin” as her number one priority. In the March edition of US Elle magazine, Amanda Fortini wrote about how men preferred her when she was a stick-thin waif with a BMI (body mass index) of 16.1 (the average person’s BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9).
She wrote, “As a male friend once put it to me, semifacetiously, 'A little anorexia is hot.’”

So it’s clear that thin is in, and this makes it easier for women to slip into anorexia. Particularly older women, as they battle with middle-age waistlines and the stresses of life. And then, while losing weight may not be their initial goal, once they’re thin and anorexic, they may be shunned. How dare they become so scrawny? How dare they place so much importance on it? But they’re really only reflecting what society drums into us – that to be thin is the most important goal in life.

Photo: Istock photos


Bonita Silva said...

wow you know i actually didn't know this was an issue in anorexia circles. haha, no really! interesting article, and my oh my so true. good workkkkk miss!

henree said...



SO whens the serious issue of FASHIONNNNNNN gonna be reported on xDD

love ya cutie =]