Lepage Associates Newsletter
Mental Health Matters
August 2012

Lepage Associates
Call: (919) 572-0000
In This Issue
Life Transitions and Eating Disorders
ED in Women Over 50


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Monthly Reader

Each month we will recommend a book or two that someone at our practice has found useful.

This month's books:

 Appetites: Why Women Want

by Caroline Knapp
  8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder

by Carolyn Costin & Gwen Shubert Grabb   

Other articles on Eating Disorders:

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Greetings! Below we talk about how something as common as life transitions can trigger eating disorders. Also, when people think of eating disorders they often imagine a young woman, perhaps teen, college-age, or 20s, but read below to learn about eating disorders  in women age 50+. 


Dr. Tina Lepage

(First time recipient? Click here for more info.) 

Eating Disorder

Life Transitions Can Trigger  

Eating Disorders


Given how serious the consequences of eating disorders can be (anorexia nervosa represents the most frequently fatal mental illness in the US[1]), it may be surprising that many people develop an eating disorder after a common life transition. A recent study from the University of Minnesota[2] lends support to the idea of a link between life transitions and the emergence of eating disorders. Researchers identified six major events that triggered eating disorders in the research group:

  • School changes such as starting high school or going to college
  • Changing homes or jobs
  • Changes in important relationships such as parents splitting up or breaking up with a romantic partner
  • Death of a close friend or family member
  • Illness or hospitalization
  • Experiencing abuse, sexual assault or incest

Some of these events are part of the normal passages of life and are navigated without difficulty by many. Other factors, such as being victimized or assaulted, are traumatic and would be overwhelming for many people. The transition events, along with the level of support received following the events, provide important clues to help develop more effective ways to support and treat individuals diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia. If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing any of the above mentioned transitions, it would be a good time to talk about how to manage the stress and determine what kind of support would be helpful. By knowing when eating disorders are most likely to emerge, you may be able to help someone get the support they need to prevent an eating disorder. The right support may even save their life.

[1] www.nimh.nim.gov

[2] www.nim.nih.gov/medlineplus/eatingdisorders.htm.

wieght anxiety

Eating Disorders Prevalent Among Women Over 50


We've all heard that 50 is the new 40. While this saying sends an empowering message, it may also be opening up women to societal pressures and influencing them to take extreme measures to regulate their weight and body shape. The Gender and Body Image Study[1], conducted in our own backyard through The University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program, discovered that although eating disorders are more commonly attributed as a concern among teenage girls, many women over the age of 50 are also practicing disordered eating behaviors. Around two thirds of participants, all in their 50's and beyond, described they thought about their body image daily, believed their weight or shape had a negative impact on their life, and did not like their overall appearance. Additionally, many women reported partaking in unhealthy ways to lose weight.


Eating disorders have severe consequences, especially in women over the age of 50. As the body ages, it becomes less resilient to the stress of starvation, binge eating, and purging. According to Cynthia Bulik, the director of the UNC Eating Disorders Program, "Eating disorders in older women may lead to even more medical complications because the body bounces back less easily as it ages.[2]" Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Bulik. 


Some signs to look out for that may indicate the presence of an eating disorder include:

  • Precipitous weight loss or low weight
  • Withdrawing from family, partner, and friends
  • Evidence of binge eating or purging
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Not eating with the family
  • Avoiding events where there is food   

Now that research has uncovered a prevalence of eating disorders among women over 50, the next step is to tailor interventions and treatment appropriate to their developmental stage in life. If you or someone you know identifies with the above indicators of disordered eating behaviors, now would be a good time to seek help. You may want to start by speaking with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders or with a health psychologist.

[1] http://www.nlm.nih.gov.medlineplus/news/fullstory_126506.html

[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov.medlineplus/news/fullstory_126506.html



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