Mid-life eating disorders on the rise

DENVER — It’s a disease more common with younger women, but eating disorders is on the rise for women in midlife.

Treatment centers report an increase in middle-aged women seeking help, including the eating recovery center in Denver.

Sarah Moses traveled from Springfield, Missouri to Lowry to get help at ERC.

She’s struggled with anorexia and bulimia since she was 13.

But life as a 45-year-old, over-extended mother triggered a full-on return of her eating disorder.

“On the outside, it looked like I had the perfect life,” says Moses.

But on the inside, she says she felt broken.

“Everything just started tumbling and it got worse and worse…the past year-and-a-half, it’s really gone downhill in a really dark spiral,” she says.

She says she started buckling under the pressure to be perfect–of overwhelming commitments at her kids’ school, and in her community.

“All of a sudden I was becoming someone I wasn’t. I felt I was doing all these things, being so involved to prove who I was, and then I lost myself,” says Moses.

She says she then found her identity in her disorder.

She knew she needed help.

So she came to Eating Recovery Center.

“This has built up for over 30 years. And it was the right time for me,” she says.

The National Eating Disorders Association reports a 42-percent increase of middle-aged women with eating disorders from 2001 to 2010.

“One advantage we have to treat men and women in midlife are maturity and life experience, which gives them a unique opportunity to seize the day,” says Bonnie Brenan, the Clinical Director of Adult Partial Hospitalization at ERC.

She says eating disorders rarely start in mid-life, but are carried over from adolescence, and triggered by stress.

“There’s the end of a relationship, maybe kids going off to college, sometimes illness-related, or as Sarah was talking about, the pressure of being able to do it all,” says Brenan.

After four weeks of treatment, Moses says she’s excited about life again and can’t wait to see her family.

“It’s going to be a struggle. You just don’t wake up and you’re better. It’s a recovery process that will last the rest of my life,” says Moses.

She hopes to go home to her three girls and husband June 22.

The eating recovery center says of the 50 patients doctors are treating right now, about 10 of them are over 30 years old.