Disordered Eating Across a Woman’s Lifespan

Monday, Nov 23  •  


Women from all backgrounds may go through a period of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction at some point in their life. Historically, therapists have been aware of disordered eating among adolescents and young adults, however, now clinicians are facing increased instances of disordered eating among women of all ages. 

In today’s culture, the media typically values men based on their money and intelligence, whereas women are often valued based on their appearance and thinness. This inappropriate emphasis on body image and physical attractiveness makes women more vulnerable to misguided beliefs regarding weight and food. Moreover, the physical changes that women go through during menstruation, pregnancy, and aging can further increase their dissatisfaction with their bodies. 

Disordered Eating and Age

Youth and young adults are prone to dieting, extreme weight-loss behaviors, and body dissatisfaction, especially with the recent influence of social media. Social media encourages self-comparisons and often provides a “community” that can worsen struggles associated with body dissatisfaction. These online communities promote the idea that an eating disorder is an acceptable lifestyle choice, rather than a serious, mental illness.  

For adult women, social media is a contributing factor, especially in the encouragement of diet culture. It was reported in a study that 35% of women with normal dieting practices progressed to pathological dieting and 20-30% of those dieters progressed to meeting partial or full criteria for an eating disorder (Shisslak). Although dieting itself does not cause an eating disorder, it is an indicator that a person may be at risk for developing one. 

Body dissatisfaction can be high amongst all ages and it is often thought that body dissatisfaction declines with age, however, this is not necessarily true. As women age, they are presented with unique challenges as their body changes. It is common to compare their new body to their younger self. As women grow older, new body concerns appear to only increase body dissatisfaction. 

Disordered eating is no longer an adolescent problem. Women across the lifespan are vulnerable to cultural expectations of thinness and beauty, which makes them just as subjectable to the temptations of disordered eating. With an adolescent and adult home, Avalon Hills is dedicated to helping women of all ages dealing with an eating disorder. If you or your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, do not hesitate to reach out for help. 

Shisslak, C. M., Crago, M., & Estes, L. S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal

of Eating Disorders, 18, 209–219.