Health · Menopause

Eating Disorders in Women Over 40


The peri-menopausal period appears to be a particularly vulnerable time for some women.  We still don’t understand why midlife seems to make women susceptible to developing eating disorders.  Most women, from an early age, are not happy with their body shape – research shows that 9 out of 10 women ages 45 and older are unhappy with their bodies—but that is nearly the same rate as for younger women, suggesting that body dissatisfaction alone is not what’s driving this resurgence of disordered eating.

RELATED: The Elusive Quest for Healthy Self-Esteem

Menopause, like adolescence, is a period associated with significant hormonal change.  For example, it was once thought that estrogen simply declined during the peri-menopause.  We now know that estrogen and other ovarian hormones fluctuate significantly during this period and estrogen can reach levels higher than those seen in adolescence.  It has been suggested by some investigators that it is these hormonal fluctuations that predispose some to developing an eating disorder.  However, more research is needed to understand this interplay.

What to do with this information?  First, recognize that eating disorders can occur at any age, not just in the teenage years. If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has developed an eating disorder, please seek help.  This could be from your primary care doctor, a therapist, a nutritionist, or a psychiatrist. Because not everyone is skilled in treating individuals with eating disorders, for best results it is best to look for someone with expertise. These illnesses are treatable, and help is available.


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Baker JH, Runfola CD. Eating disorders in midlife women: A perimenopausal eating disorder? 2016 Mar; 85: 112 – 116.

Elran-Barak R, Fitzsimmons-Craft EE, Benyamini Y, Crow SJ, Peterson CB, Hill LL, Crosby RD, Mitchell JE, Le Grange D. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder in Midlife and Beyond. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2015 Aug;203(8):583-90.

Meng X, D’Arcy C. Comorbidity between lifetime eating problems and mood and anxiety disorders: results from the Canadian Community Health Survey of Mental Health and Well-being. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2015 Mar;23(2):156-62.

Runfola CD, Von Holle A, Trace SE, Brownley KA, Hofmeier SM, Gagne DA, Bulik CM. Body dissatisfaction in women across the lifespan: results of the UNC-SELF and Gender and Body Image (GABI) studies. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2013 Jan;21(1):52-9.

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  • Maria Jasmine Freeman January 28, 2016 at 5:15 am

    Absolutely true; my experience in menopause validated this information. I was on the verge of cachexia in menopause Camouflage, eating no beans or fruits, or hardly any food, evading ” triggers” of my evolving conquering Irriable Bowel symptoms which turned out stemming from cryptic flashes. When hot flashes ran their course, I was transmogrified acutely, besides other horrid symptoms, into a morbidly obese 50 European size woman, although I had vanquishing nausea, and was recalcitrantly vomiting!! With improvement, I would have binges on carbs and chocolate.
    My menopause was typical of this information, but also of other untypical symptoms, of stupor, lunacy of excruciating electrifying pain, and literal multiple seizures and gasping, daily, for thirteen years already,
    Menopause is hormone imbalance causing our perturbed physiology, and our brain and therefrom our body responds accordingly!!
    Thanks very much for your space.
    Maria Jasmine Freeman