My friend, Chelsea, is married to a man 10 years younger than her. She is 44. To me, they are just about the happiest couple I know. The age difference never really comes up. I have to say honestly, that it is never apparent. Yet Chelsea recently admitted she feels it – the pressure in her mid-forties to look young enough to hold onto a man ten years her junior.
Chelsea also admits that the pressure doesn’t come from him, not one bit. He is constantly telling her how beautiful he is, that he has never been happier. She hasn’t even caught him looking at another woman. Not once. The pressure comes solely from herself.
Energy, youthfulness, vivacity and yes, weight, all become issues in your forties. As menopause looms ever closer your body changes and one of the changes I, and many of my friends have noticed is how much more difficult it is to maintain your weight.
One of the reasons for this is that in the perimenopause stage, PMS symptoms can worsen and the carb and sugar cravings can hit you like a ton of bricks. Chelsea was suffering from this quite badly a few months ago and did put on a few pounds. But at 5 foot 10 and 55KG – no one noticed. Except for her.
I haven’t seen Chelsea for over a month. This morning I found out why. She has been hiding away from the world. She has developed an eating disorder. She has been binging on cakes, chocolate and hot chips then vomiting them up. She made herself so dehydrated she collapsed at work.
Her husband thought she might have collapsed because she was pregnant. He is excited and attentive. Chelsea doesn’t have the heart to tell him what’s really going on.
‘I don’t know why I’m doing it,’ she says. ‘I am so angry with myself.’
There is that moment in your forties when you realise you actually are getting older. The realisation isn’t just to do with physical appearance, there are more aches and pains than there used to be, and that little list you keep in your head of things you are going to do one day – like traveling through Europe, learning how to use Photoshop, or writing that much anticipated novel – screams more urgently at you every time you have a quiet moment.
Chelsea admits that when the bingeing was at its worst she was aiming to be a size zero. ‘I actually convinced myself that I would never be alone if I was a size zero. I lost all sense of perspective.’
Size zero is an unattainable size for most people. Just to get there for an average sized person involves a state of semi-starvation and excessive amounts of exercise. To stay there is almost impossible. The side effects can be incredibly damaging – ranging from liver failure to osteoporosis to memory loss.
Yet a recent article indicated that many women in their 40s hate their body. According to the survey conducted in the article more than 58% of women in their 40s had disordered eating patterns. It was also found that the average woman over 40 wanted to weigh less than she did at 20.
A specialist was quoted as saying:
“What is worrying is that women appear to be turning to inappropriate means of taking control of their weight and shape.”
Chelsea is seeking help. She doesn’t want her problem with eating to get any worse. She wants to get to a stage where she doesn’t panic if she puts on a few pounds. She doesn’t want to have any more days where all she eats is half an apple and a stick of celery. She doesn’t want to cancel lunch dates. She doesn’t want to feel nauseous with hunger. She wants, truly wants, to feel comfortable once more in her own skin.