Menopause is a crazy time.
I’ve lived with the shadow of anorexia for 45 years and have spent a lot of that time trying to understand why this happened to me. It took me nine years to physically recover; weight within a normal range, regular periods and less sensitivity to the cold. But in my internal world the duality continued.
Ageing is confronting in a world where beauty is valued and financially rewarded. Although the body ages slowly, the changes are possibly more apparent to someone living with an eating disorder. Many women my age, 55 plus, have neither not been diagnosed nor have never been treated for their eating disorders.
Many have only been vaguely aware that something is wrong and in times of stress simply dump kilograms. They accept it as normal. A common misconception is that women that age should have grown out of ‘it’ by now. Mid-life has unique pressures; ageing parents, raising teens, marital discord, divorce, return to the work place because of financial pressure and of course menopause.
Studies are now revealing a massive increase in the prevalence of eating disorders in middle aged women. This trend seems universal in first world societies. It’s hardly surprising. This group of women have largely been left to their own devices. Their lives often look perfect to the outside world; the perfect house, marriage, career and family. But they still struggle silently with the bathroom mirror each morning.
Menopause is a crazy time. The hot flushes and sleep deprivation are enough to tip the mental balance. When combined with the end of one’s reproductive capacity, it shakes one’s esteem. More confronting than any of these factors is weight gain. Our bodies change as fat deposits are laid down to augment our flagging oestrogen supplies. We gain weight.
I have found it hard accepting the new me; a woman who can no longer bear children, has large breasts and a slight paunch. The compliment, ‘But you look wonderful for a woman your age,’ is of little consolation. Menopause combined with social, financial and family pressures put women with eating disorders at risk of relapse.