WASHINGTON – Women do not outgrow the desire to be thin and age brings no relief from poor body image, a new study finds.
Eating disorders, extreme dieting and extreme exercising are not age-exclusive, despite being commonly associated with the young. In fact, more than 70 percent of women over 50 are currently trying to lose weight.
These are just some of the findings of a study done by researchers at the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program.
“We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies,” says Cynthia M. Bulik, a researcher on the study. “An unfortunate assumption is that they ‘grow out of’ body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, but no one has really bothered to ask.”
For the study, nearly 1,900 women between the ages of 50 and 85 were surveyed and asked about their age, race, height and weight, as well as if they’d experienced symptoms of eating disorders like binging or purging, how much they worried about their weight, if they were dieting and what methods they had employed to lose weight.
A shocking 64 percent of respondents said they thought about their weight every day. And nearly 80 percent said their body shape and size played a moderate to major role in their self-image. Sixty-eight percent of the women said their weight affected their lives in a negative way. And 36 percent said they’d spent at least half of the last five years on a diet.
When it came to behavior, 8 percent of women said they’d purged in the last five years and 3.5 percent reported binge eating.
The most hated body part was the stomach, the study found, with more than 80 percent of women saying they were unhappy with its appearance. The second most- hated aspect of the body was its shape, with 73 percent of women saying they weren’t happy with it.
“The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don’t discriminate on the basis of age,” says Bulik.