The Weight-Bearing Years: Eating Disorders and Body Image Despair in Adult Women

Age does not immunize women from full-syndrome and subclinical eating disorders. The rhythmic cycles of the female body, many of which are associated with weight gain, such as premenstrual bloating, pregnancy, and the slower menopausal metabolism, are great challenges in an era that glorifies youth, thinness, and unrealistic beauty images. In this cultural environment, post-pregnancy weight gain and the pounds gained at menopause can be distressing and disempowering. The “war on obesity” and the misinformation promulgated by the diet industry intensify many women’s concerns about health at and beyond midlife, potentially triggering adult eating disorders. Despite the number of adult women suffering, misguided beliefs about who is at risk for eating disorders create a bias shared by professionals as well as the public. This workshop examines the patterns, contributing factors, and treatment needs of this important population. While adults share many issues with younger patients, critical differences will be discussed. Case material, unique clinical issues, and implications for professional training, outreach, prevention, and policy will also be discussed. Ample time for audience involvement and discussion will be provided throughout the presentation.