May 15, 2014

Midlife Eating Disorders Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:42 pm by kellyfdennis

This is the second part of the guest blogger’s post about her journey through a midlife eating disorder. She continues:

“It took another crisis as an adult to make me seek therapy with the gentle nudge of my dietitian through my bariatric office. My dietitian was there to listen to what was going on with my entire life and realized that my issues were beyond her scope of expertise. Timing is everything. I was hooked almost from the first telephone call to my psychotherapist. She answered the call personally and we set up an appointment rather quickly. I tend to be an immediate gratification kind of gal, so this had worked well for me. I have to say that I have gotten much better in that respect through my therapy work.

My therapist specializes in women’s issues, anxiety, childhood abuse, and eating disorders. She helped me identify many issues that needed addressing. I was surprised where the path of therapy lead us. Before we were able to address the eating disorder, we had to unravel the underlining issues. Just what was I covering up with that emotional blanket? As a survivor of incest, there was much to uncover. It was an intense process. The therapeutic process is not as easily measured such as weight loss. However, moving forward, twisting and turning on that path and even slipping backwards from time to time has proven far more rewarding. A positive therapist/client relationship that provides a safe place to do the tough work is vital to success.

Once we were able to process forward with some of the core issues, we were able to address the eating disorder more head on. Purging through exercise was one of our first eating disorder battles. I would spend an unhealthy amount of time exercising and/or restricting my nutritional intake. I had been successful in losing the weight, there was no way that I was going to allow myself to slip and gain back the weight at any cost.

Early in therapy, I learned how to feel. Sounds silly to have to learn how to feel at the age of forty-three.   In fact, I had used food to numb myself from truly feeling anything. Before my weight loss, by over-eating. After my weight loss, by restricting and over-compulsive exercise. It continues to be an on-going battle for me. Eating disorders are difficult. It takes practice to learn the new behaviors. To view food as energy to fuel our bodies. Depriving ourselves the basic nutrients required daily, affects our body and mind and soul.

In essence, that is my story. I continue to look at a plate of food and can cry. I don’t want to be fat. I don’t want to gain weight. I have something to control by restricting or exercising four – six hours a day. However, I have asked for help and at the moment can say that I follow a prescribed nutritional plan of a required amount of food experiences a day. After having physical activity removed from life at times because I could not be trusted not to over-do, I (when not plagued with injury) am able to follow a prescribed exercise plan as well.

The loneliness that I spoke of earlier is real. There are many of women my age dealing with the same eating disorder issues as I do daily. The problem is that there is still much stigma attached to eating disorders. It is a common belief that it is one’s choice to “partake” in an eating disorder. As well, the first thing that typically comes to mind when one hears the phrases eating disorder, anorexia, etc., is a teenage girl. Whereas, men and women, boys and girls across the age and race spectrum are all susceptible to the struggles of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not discerning. If we as a society, could accept that this is a mental illness that effects anyone, it wouldn’t appear to be such a lonely place to find oneself.

I have found that a support group for middle-age women dealing with eating disorders are nearly non-existent. I have a strong support system of family and friends, yet I know few people, especially my age, to whom I can connect. Life experiences play an important factor in one’s healing. Participating in a group with teenage/college age girls when you are forty-five years old, would most likely negate the therapeutic value of the group.

So loneliness in this struggle will continue. However, I am blessed with a supportive team to help me heal… My broad goal is recovery. My more immediate goal is to not restrict my food intake as a means to lose weight. I only have one body… I need to learn to take care of it and to remind myself that I began this journey to become healthy!”


  1. Susan said,

    Thank you for sharing. Beautifully written. I appreciate your suggestion that bariatric patients go through psychotherapy before surgery. At one time I was a nutrition editor. That means I know nothing about nutrition but have a unique access to the experts. Arguably one of the most prominent figures in clinical nutrition told me that the emotional ramifications of bariatric surgery would be one of the biggest challenges in clinical nutrition in the foreseeable future. He told me that about 15 years ago.
    I would defer completely to your therapist and your comfort level, but I wonder if you are missing out by rejecting the idea of support groups with teenage members. They are not peers but there are similarities that could ultimately provide a sense of support. Just a thought. I could be totally wrong. Are there on-line support groups? Feeling like you are not alone is a priority.

    • kellyfdennis said,

      Thanks for your comment. Nutrition after bariatric surgery is definitely tricky!

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ponderings on life, food, God, and love

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