Weight of the World

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.

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24 thoughts on “Weight of the World

  1. my sister is 44 and married to a guy that is 28.. she has an amazing amount of self confidence as far as i am concerned,, but then again,, she knows what plastic surgery is and is not afraid to use it…

    i could definitely benefit by the loss of a few pounds.. ok like 25,, but i cannot even fathom the pressure she must feel if she felt compelled to binge and purge.. somehow,, i cannot view that as an offshoot of love,, i feel it is more the loss of control she feels she has now that the aging process has reared its ugly head.. .and that is a feeling i can definitely relate to,, although i am just maintaining a low profile till i have been like this long enough it feels like me…..

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  2. I don’t hear this side of the story very often. I’ve always been told about how much more comfortable you’ll feel when you’re 30, and then 40, and then 50.

    Thanks for telling it – and doing it so well (as always).

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  3. Ok, ok. So, at 44, I hate the “muffin top” too. However, I am not prone to extremes, so I don’t think I could succumb to an eating disorder, even if I “wanted” to. My mom IS extreme and was bulemic in her 50s. She’s doing better now, but still teeters at times on that guilty emotional roller coaster. (and she’s not married at all!)

    I am currently on the Sonoma diet. VERY tasty, fairly simple, and very healthy. I’m never hungry and I can still “cheat” once in a while when those peri-menopausal cravings make me less than human and lose weight. I’ve lost 11 pounds and have 10-15 to go. I aim to have it all off before winter sets in.

    Then come the casseroles and comfort foods.

    Oh well, carrot, anyone?

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  4. I’d hoped that as we get older that kind of pressure would stop. Encourage her to get help, we are so much more than our bodies, it’s just so hard to get passed the physical eh?

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  5. I’m glad Chelsea is getting help. This age is difficult at times, and when we start adding unnecessary stressors, we can unravel in unexpected ways.

    My best to her (and her husband).

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  6. I think of Sandra, who always seemed to be on a perpetual diet. Years ago, we met in the coffee shop; Lorraine was just finishing up a cream-cake and a hot chocolate, and Sandra said how do you do it? Eating those fattening things, and never seeming to put a pound on?

    Lorraine said I have no idea … but, I must run! I have a game of badminton booked!

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  7. At 46 I see the changes in my body. A little extra weight and not as toned as it used to be. It only bothers me once in a while. Like when I’m trying on clothes or having to wear a bathing suit or when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or when I notice that roll on my stomach when I sit or…Like I said, only once in a while.

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  8. I must admit I don’t worry too much about my body although obviously there are things I would change if pressed. Lately though I have become very much aware of being older and have found myself yearning for my youth more than once. I’m not really sure why though. I certainly felt less invisible 25 years ago….perhaps that’s it.

    I hope Chelsea gets some help ecause it sounds like it’s become too serious and ingrained for her to manage it herself.

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  9. At 39 years old and 55 lbs. overweight, my current imperatives to lose weight are health-related. My female hormones are out of whack, I have prediabetes and plantar fasciitis.

    I am also tired of carrying the baby weight from a child who is about to start preschool. And yes, I wish I looked better. But, luckily 90% of my self-esteem hinges on my mental capacity. Which means I am not likely to develop an eating disorder. However, I will become a wreck as I get older and start forgetting things and taking longer to figure out stuff.

    I have started to control what I eat and to exercise a few times a week. I hope it’s not too late to develop a healthy lifestyle.

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  10. Size zero!!??!! Gawd!!! I’m considered “thin” and I’m a size 9… I can’t even imagine what zero looks like. Maybe like “nothing”?

    I’ve never had a body image problem, but I did have self esteem problems. Then I hit 30 and suddenly I “got” it – what’s important and worth concerning myself about, and what’s not. I think once I’ve absorbed that lesson properly (a lot of bad habits to untrain still), there’ll be very little stopping me.

    I hope your friend finds peace with her body.

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  11. been there. done that. not pretty. not fun. In fact sometimes I still struggle with the eating disorder demons. and none of my other medical conditions all of which surround food sometimes makes it tougher to deal with.

    I hope she gets the help she needs. Hating yourself in the mirror and your body is a very difficult way to go through life.

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  12. It is definitely harder to maintain and/or lose weight after the big 40, but not impossible. I think exercise is the key and enough to make a difference, not just a brisk walk now and then.

    I was still wearing CND size 8 tall (equiv. to U.S. about Size 4) jeans up until a few years ago (and 40 had come and gone….sigh) and it all was due to a running/ walking regime that I was VERY faithful to and happy with. Not excessive but very consistent.

    I am not a believer in diets, I don’t think they work in the long run. Great thing about exercise, you can eat more when your metabolism is revved up and oh…did running ever do it for me. I’ve had some foot problems in the past 2 years that being the reason that my runnings been on hold.And yes, I have gained weight in the meantime. Hopefully not much longer before I can get out and feel the wind in my face and sweat it up on the path. LOVE IT!!!

    Sorry…I digress. I am sorry that your friend has put herself into this kind of health situation. Hopefully she will get good help and put this behind her soon. The love of a good man will certainly help. He sounds like a keeper! You certainly have a lot of friends Selma. And of course all of us who love you in Blogland too! 🙂

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  13. PAISLEY – I think it’s an aging thing too. Getting older can be quite sobering for many people and your anxieties can creep up behind you unexpectedly. You are right – she’s trying to hold onto her youth rather than onto love. Life is so complicated, isn’t it?

    BRITT- I didn’t expect it to happen, either. It is rarely talked about. I thought the 40s would be a breeze too, but a lot of unexpected things have cropped up. I actually quite like getting older but I know for many people the physical changes are tough to cope with.

    GROOVY – way to go on losing 11 pounds. That is fantastic. *Go Groovy. Go Groovy* I’m going to google the Sonoma diet because I’ve heard of it but don’t know what it involves. So sorry to hear about your Mum. How awful for her. I am glad she’s feeling a little better. We never really know for sure how things are going to turn out, do we?

    NAT – oh, for sure. The odd thing is she never felt the pressure when she was younger. She was always reed thin and could eat whatever she wanted. I think the metabolism changes slightly as we get older and we often don’t burn things off as quickly as we used to. Which can be a shock to the system. I know, I have the bum to prove it. Still, it keeps me warm in the winter!

    KAREN – I know what you mean about the unravelling. I don’t like it when things unravel. I think maintaining good emotional and physical health is crucial in order to avoid that. I want, above all, to keep things together.

    TRAVELRAT – Yay for Lorraine. She knows what’s what. Badminton is a great game, incidentally. I used to play it a few years ago on Saturdays. It is so much fun and keeps you really fit. An unsung hero of the games world.

    LINDA – you crack me up. I know what you mean. Don’t make me laugh – the roll on my stomach jiggles too much. LOL.

    GYPSY – that’s it. You do feel a little invisible as you get older. It’s as if society is programmed to pay more attention to youth. I have noticed it too. It can be a little unsettling.

    INGRID – I firmly believe it is never too late. You have just said one of the most important things I have ever heard regarding weight – ‘90% of my self-esteem hinges on my mental capacity.’ Oh, if only we could get more women to believe that. What an awesome point of view!

    DAOINE – I think a size zero is almost like the size a 12-year old girl would wear. I’m a size 10-12 and cannot imagine what I would have to do to get to a size zero. I actually don’t think it’s physically possible for my height and my build. I think there’s no stopping you now. You go, girl!

    MELEAH – I know you’ve gone through that. When Chelsea told me what was going on I thought:’Meleah has gone through this’ and I felt for you so much. I admire you so much because you haven’t let your past experiences stand in your way and have continued to move forward.And you’ve maintained your sense of humour throughout it all. That is such a strength. XXX

    GERALDINE – the runners and the dancers usually maintain their physiques, don’t they? I think I better get moving. I’ve got a few good buddies but in recent years most of my friends have been made in the blogosphere. It’s a wonderful world out there. Thank you, internet!

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  14. What a good post! I am wondering, after reading your post, the comments, and the accompanying articles, how men feel about their bodies as they age. Uncommunicative little buggers, they never really say, and I’m afraid we make assumptions.

    Yes, absolutely, excercise helps – a whole range of things. Not the least of which is the very necessary requirement to just get out and PLAY as we age.

    Now I’m thinking about how I feel about my body…

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  15. NANNA – I think men feel it as acutely as we do. But you know what they’re like, reluctant to talk about it. I think I’ll research it. And yes, getting out to play is very important!

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  16. Okay, I’ve just realized that I’ve been holding stereotypical ideas about Australians. I’ve had this thought that there is a greater acceptance of clothing optional beaches and nudity in Australia and as a result individuals have a greater body acceptance there. You see, ever since my days of skinny dipping in college I’ve had this belief that people who do stuff like that must be more physically accepting of themselves.

    I see now that I’ve been making all sorts of assumtions. It was probably seeing that episode of the Simpsons when the Prime Minister of Australia is shown floating around naked on an inner tube that I began making sweeping conclusions about Aussies. I feel a mite idiotic now.

    I guess we all need to believe that there’s a place out there somewhere where things are better -where people do things the right way and have solved the problems we have in our little world over here.

    Well, the flesh fails us all eventually. As Ozzy sings in I Just Want You, “there ain’t no fountain of youth”.

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  17. RWHACKMAN – you’re not entirely incorrect. A lot of Aussies will whip their gear off at the drop of a hat. There is a lot of topless bathing at the beaches. However, this is frowned on now because of the hole in the ozone layer. The effects of this means more sunburn and let’s face it, no one likes burned boobies. It ain’t pretty. Incidentally, we always laugh at that Simpsons episode because the accents are soooo bad. Strewth. We don’t all talk like a bunch of blokes from the bush. Stop comin’ the raw prawn, mate. Fair suck of the sav!

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  18. >>Strewth. We don’t all talk like a bunch of blokes from the bush. <<

    Lorraine’s standard reply to ‘You don’t sound like an Australian’ is … ‘We don’t all talk like Crocodile bloody Dundee!’. In a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ accent, of course, but she’ll freely admit I can do a better one than she can.

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  19. Hi Selma…I just posted at http://www.salon.com
    a comment on those Botox Bridal Parties(some bride was complaining about being 35(!) as if that was “old” and she justified doing Botox to look younger(yuck!)). I was a first-time bride at 49, and never felt more gorgeous(That picture at my blog–and the one that posts each time I comment– was taken 8 days before our wedding–it was shot a few months after my 49th birthday–on Feb 2nd, 2007). My hubby is almost 14 years younger, and age is NOT an issue. I’m 50 now, and never want to be 25 again. I hope your friend realizes how much she has to offer, BESIDES her pretty figure!

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  20. TRAVELRAT – Hahaha. The Croc Dundee accent – slipping into it is one of my fave past times, particularly with telemarketers. It’s absolutely bonza, mate!

    LISA – you are 50! You look 10 to 15 years younger. Good on you, you obviously look after yourself. I don’t want to be 25 again, either. I was an idiot back then. To revisit the old me would be sheer torture. LOL.

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  21. Selma–thanks for the compliments, but I really want to emphasize:
    concern over weight(unless one’s health & well-being is in serious jeopardy)cosmetic/plastic surgery, botox, etc., is NOT the way to go. Though I try not to “judge” anyone, it is sooo silly to rely on these types of things. To all you folks who believe you “regain youth” through botox or silicone, etc., I think reading a great book, or volunteering to help someone, and then sitting back and smiling about the great read, or uh, the great deed, will take years off your face, and you’ll FEEL great, too!
    Keep up the great work, Selma. I truly hope I get to meet you in person one day!

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  22. LISA – I completely agree with you about the seriousness of the situation. It is very important to age gracefully. It is going to happen to all of us and it will be a lot less painful if we just accept it. I am alarmed at the number of young people queuing up for botox these days. My neighbour is 22 and has had botox injected into her forehead. 22! She has no lines on her face at all. I think it’s irresponsible for a doctor to agree to it at her age. Uuuggh, don’t get me started. One day you and I are going to meet and have a good chat. That would be brilliant. I really want to see one of your shows!

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  23. i recently had that bash-in-your-head 40s moment recently. where it hits you, finally hits you, that you’re a teenager anymore, that all things are no longer possible

    there’s a great line in the movie, Friends with Money. One of the characters is on her way to a birthday dinner with friends. It’s her 43rd birthday.

    she turns to her husband and says (something like): it means that there’s no more wondering what your life is going to be like…this is it

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  24. BRENDA – oh yes, yes. That is it. Stop dreaming of how your life is going to be because guess what – you’re standing in it right now. And hey, all things considered, it ain’t such a bad place to be! XX00

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