"Is HealthyGirl Only For 'Young' Women?"

HealthyGirl might be directed at younger women, but our older, wiser sisters are welcome here, too! (via flickr user ♥ellie♥)

I got this note from a 51-year-old reader and wanted to share. The “age” question is one I’ve gotten more than once:

Q: Is this site only for young women, and if so is there one for older ones? I am 51.  I have struggled with binge eating all my life, until I went into therapy in 2005 (only because my son was, I didn’t think I needed it … ha ha).  I subsequently lost about 112 pounds and felt as if I had completely conquered it.  I ate like a normal person, was happy with who I was and liked myself for the first time in my life. I got a job, a boyfriend and a life!  I was so happy and energetic. I could have taken over the world. Then last year I had a heart attack. I was furious! After all that work to make myself healthier my body had played a really nasty joke on me. I was OK for a few months, still maintained the healthy eating, went to the gym and back to work. And a couple of months after that (4 months after the heart attack) I broke down. I was put on antidepressants and eventually retired from work on health grounds. And since then I have put on 40 pounds and am binge eating like the old days. I feel like I am trying to self destruct. Drowning in a vat of blubber.  I’m disappearing under a mound of fat. It never occurred to me when I lost the weight that I would put it back on. Even though, every time I had lost weight before I had put it all back on again, with interest.  This time it was different.  I maintained for 3 years, which I had never managed before. I was SO proud of myself. I am back seeing the therapist and just feel such a failure. I am ashamed to leave the house. Won’t undress in front of my fiance. And loathe myself even more than I did before, because I have failed. —Lola

A: Oh, Lola! First, you—and women and girls of any age—are welcome here, anytime. It’s true that I founded HealthyGirl with young women in mind, but as you’ve no doubt noticed, the struggles and the principles of getting better are the same no matter how old you are.

Now, to what you’re going through right now: I feel like we’ve been talking about relapse a lot on the site lately. And why not? It’s an important step in recovery for many of us, and something that I have come to think of as a normal part of the path. Nearly everyone runs into bumps in the road, big or small, on their journey to getting sane about food. (Need proof? Check out Trish’s latest post, this Q&A with reader Carly, and this Q&A with reader Jessica.) But it sounds to me like you have done the right (and smart) thing for yourself already: you went back to one of the tools that helped you start to get better in the first place.

Please let us know how you’re doing. It sounds like you’ve hit a tough bump in the road, but it doesn’t mean you’re failing at recovery or that you are doomed to be a binge eater. Ups and downs are normal as we get better—what’s most important is that we never stop moving forward. You’ll be free, you’ll see! xo…Sunny

11 Responses to "Is HealthyGirl Only For 'Young' Women?"

  1. gail says:

    Gosh I hope this site is not just for young women. I just turned 57 and I get inspiration from this site whenever I read it. I once was 200lbs and lost 60 lbs slowly but did it. I maintained it for about 2years -when this late summer and fall I went into a free fall- stress, worry, loneliness - and I ate my way up 15 lbs. I was miserable- depressed and not sleeping. I found this site this fall and realized I have a binge eating disorder and have really worked hard at doing what worked before- and getting those foods out of the house that set me off on a free fall of eating. It is not easy with a husband who snacks late in the evening and a teenage son… My therapist would ask, “what worked before”…so that mantra helped me get back on track along with these words to myself when I wanted to dive into the chips or cookies, “not now…maybe later…just not now.” Forgive yourself- and ask yourself, ” what worked before” and realize it is a journey-not a destination- no matter what age you are.

  2. Ellie says:

    The timeliness of this post is eerie to me. Sunny, I actually hopped on here to say thank you for this site - I’ve been following you since your body-by-glamour days. This site has been a godsend. I’m 32, not a girl, but still in need of help and support. I actually took a really big step yesterday by admitting to myself that I do in fact have an eating disorder, after years of denying it and thinking it will just get better with time and that I can take care of it myself - I don’t need any help. Well, that is just not true and I’m tired of struggling with it. I told my husband and best friend straight up what I’m struggling with after years of hiding and lying about it and they are 100% supportive. I am going to get a physical from my doctor and get into therapy so I can move on with my life. The relief I feel is indescribable. I don’ t think I would have gotten to this place if it weren’t for the support, awareness and info on healthygirl.org. Thank you so much Sunny. I am proof positive that this site is not just for girls but women too - we can all learn something here. Lola, honey - hang it there. You did it once, you can do it again! I wish you the best.

  3. Nina says:

    Thank you for this honest post and I love that this iste is for all ages!! I am 31 and sometimes feel that I should have recovered a long time ago. But I have had full recovery for 4 years now and I know what its like to struggle. Prior to that I had many weight loss and recovery attempts. The trick is to never ever give up! It took me a decade to achieve the 4 years of complete recovery that I have now.

    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
    Winston Churchill

  4. Deanna says:

    I’m 42. It has been less than I year since I “got serious” about addressing my eating problems and have been making positive changes. Initially I was a little put-off by the “young women” thing, but decided that it didn’t matter how old I was. Noone but me would know. And I have found a lot of help and sanity here.

    At 51 you are only about half-way through life. It isn’t too late to make changes. It isn’t too late to get healthier. Reaching out is an important first step. Accepting that progress isn’t perfection is another step. Yes, you might be up forty pounds, but that is still 60 pounds less than you were, for example.

    Anyway today is a perfect day to start making things better. It might be a year, or two, or three before you get to a good place, but you will be 54 anyway. Why not be 54 and healthy?

    Best wishes to you. It isn’t an easy journey, but it is worth a try. You and the life you have ahead are worth the investment.

  5. Lauren says:

    I’m 59, have been working on this issue since the summer I turned 24. I keep looking for the cure, the fix, and each time I find something new (book, diet, strategy, philosophy, guru…) I think ‘this is it,’ once and for all I will be ‘normal.’
    And maybe for a while I am - until something happens… And I turn to food again to cope, to sooth, to distract, to make it all go away. And for a brief moment it does.
    But then the reality of the consequences hit and I have to clean up the mess I’ve made.
    That’s where I am now - and why your post really touched me Lola.
    A few weeks ago (months?) someone posted a comment/question suggesting we rate the binge on a Richter scale, and also rate what triggered the binge on the same scale. That put things in perspective for me. And is a reminder not to beat myself up for doing the best I can to look after myself in a difficult situation.
    I realize I still need to develop more/better self-soothing techniques (suggestions?) - and I need to work on practical strategies to make eating healthy an easy choice. (i.e. lots of fresh veggies to snack on! Putting things out of sight that tempt me…)
    Most important - and hardest to accept as a perfectionist, is to believe it’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect.
    We are lovable just the way we are.

  6. Katie says:

    Lola, have you talked to your doctor about whether you might need additional treatment for depression? Depression is common after heart attacks. You mentioned that you were put on antidepressants, but it sounds like you are blaming yourself, rather than your depression, for your feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and weight gain (which are all SYMPTOMS of a depressive episode!). It might be time for another round of talk therapy in addition to the meds (or a psychiatrist might recommend a med change; all antidepressants don’t affect people the same way).

    Check out this link: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/heartdisease/recovery/702.html
    “As many as 1 out of every 3 people who have a heart attack report feelings of depression. Women, people who have had depression before, and people who feel alone and without social or emotional support are at a higher risk of depression after a heart attack.”

  7. LovesCatsinCA says:

    I had diagnosed bulimia from college into my early 20s, so it started 30 years ago. All those laxatives gave me an electrolyte imbalance and I started to faint so I got treatment… but I still had a tendency to stress eat/emotionally eat-whatever you want to call something that’s shy of thousands and thousands of binge calories but still an emotional thing. So I gained weight over the years, slowly. And then when I got high blood pressure, I lost the 30 pounds I gained over the years and everyone tells me I look great but then I’m left with okay-I still have a tendency to eat to deal with stuff-what to do about it…

    The tendency is still there. So when I went through a lot of grief and stress and financial issues combined in the past few months, I dove back into food. I didn’t regain a whole bunch of weight (and being otherwise vigilant about nutrition when I’m not indulging in chocolate, and exercising regularly and doing some relaxation stuff to help with stress, helped). But I realized some things:

    1) I have a tendency toward using food for nonphysical reasons
    2) it’s not the worst thing I could do to cope with an enormous amount of loss and change
    3) relapse isn’t permanent
    4) whether you’re 16 or 36 or 66, if you’re coping with life this way you have more in common with me than someone who doesn’t
    5) whether you’re fat or thin, obese or anorexic or bulimic, if you eat for emotional reasons or have in the past, you have a lot in common with me
    6) it helps me to read blogs like this and realize that other people are like me
    7) it gives me hope to read about others’ success
    8) even normal people overeat sometimes but they don’t beat themselves up about it

    So let’s see-I went from being a disciplined and healthy eater who built some treats into her day and emotionally overate once a week, to spending a few months using lots of chocolate every night to cope after dinner when I wasn’t hungry. I went from using laxatives to purge maybe 4-6 times a year max to using laxatives several times a week (not in copious quantities but deliberately to purge not because I was constipated) for around a month. I was anxious and miserable. And then I started to get better again. I’m still over indulging in chocolate but not in the same quantities, and I’m less overwhelmed-and I’m not getting colds every other week…

    Please don’t beat yourself up about regaining some weight or being depressed. It sounds like you think your body betrayed you with your heart attack, after all that work you did to get healthy. You are doing the best you can, coping in the way you are familiar with. And you’ll get back into healthier habits and feeling better over time.

    I think the main difference between those of us who are older and those who are younger is how much time we’ve spent in our various coping behaviors and eating issues. 30 years of misusing food for emotional reasons is longer than some of the younger women have been alive-but that’s the only difference really.

    I consider myself to have had an eating disorder, to have recently fallen back into a lot of disordered eating, and someone who is working her way back to health… I’m a work in progress. And I enjoy everyone else’s company here.

  8. […] Yes, yes, yes there’s hope for you, Carol! This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a question like this from a woman over 50. There are many, many women of your generation who do not realize that they have eating issues […]

  9. Joyce says:

    I am reading your book. The title definitley applies to me. I am 45 and have been binge eating since I was 12 years old. I was put on a diet at age 11 by my pedatrician and well-meaning father. For years I have dieted, restricted my foods and exercised -all in the name of losing weight. I was always told by most people that I wasn’t overweight, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t until 2005, when my mother died that I realized that it was an eating disorder. For years I thought I was this “messed person” with no will power. I am in therapy and feel better about myself. The road to recovery is challenging, but now I have hope.

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.