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04.07.132:00 PM ET

Forty and Dying to Be Thin

Book finds that eating disorders are far more common in midlife than in teenage years.

Say “eating disorder" and what tends to spring to mind is a whippet-thin teen model with the telltale protruding rib cage. But according to a story on Women’s eNews today, the more likely victim is a woman who has already edged out of her youthful years and is struggling, often in secret, with shameful feelings about body image and developing destructive and potentially life-threatening habits:

If we look at the numbers, the most common profile of someone with an eating disorder is a woman in her 30s or 40s who struggles with weight control and suffers from binge eating disorder. But countless women and men in midlife and beyond—from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds—wake up each morning to an ongoing battle with eating and body image, with many suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, purging disorder, binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome.

The article, excerpted from the new tome Midlife Eating Disorders by Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik, points out that common stereotypes about anorexia and bulimia as adolescent diseases often lead physicians, ob-gyns, and therapists to overlook the disorder in adults: “Millions ... lurk below the diagnostic radar with enough disordered eating to disrupt their lives, but not to receive an official diagnosis.”