As a woman in my 30s recovering from anorexia, I have two fights on my hands – one against common social attitudes towards women as we get older, and the other dealing with anorexia as an ageing condition in itself. These are two fights I’m determined to win, and here’s the why and the how.
Fight Number One: Social Attitudes
As a woman, I’ve been conditioned to believe that my worth diminishes every year I get past 30. I need to start thinking about the ‘anti-ageing’ battle. Why am I not hitting all the dating sites to find a man – any man – quick!? Biological clock – tick tock, tick tock! Don’t I know everything’s going to head south? Better watch my eating! Bingo wings!
Here’s my answer: Rubbish! And insulting rubbish too!
Why do we use the term ‘anti-ageing’? Why is getting older necessarily a bad thing? I wish all the beauty products out there could be re-named in positive ways. I might reach for a certain product because I feel my skin looks tired, but maybe it’s because I’m tired, or unwell, or allergic – not necessarily because of my age. I might want to pamper myself with a luxury beauty treat, but I might not want to hide the fine lines appearing by my eyes. Perhaps I think they add something to my face. Don’t assume…
As for my body and my eating, it’s much less age-dependant than we still seem to believe. Yes, there are some things that might happen with age – we get tired more quickly, our hair turns white, we might face some age-related health conditions. But health isn’t completely age dependant. As an avid Strictly fan, watching Debbie McGee making it to the finals at age 59 has been an inspiration in fighting to recover my strength and fitness so that I can achieve my goal of learning ballroom dance. I aim to be much stronger physically and mentally in my 30s than I was for most of my 20s.
What about the bingo wings? The talk of a woman’s body like a page of an ageing AA road atlas with its various bits heading due south? The terms used to describe our bodies as we get older need to change. Let’s all think before we describe ourselves or anyone else in these ways. Let’s not insult ourselves. Changing the way I talk about my body – my own body that I own and appreciate – is helping me to get well.
How about the social pressures to do certain things? Bitter experience has taught me to date only when I want to. Biological clock? Again, it’s so individual. I don’t have to feel this. My life might be different, but it’s definitely not inferior.
Fight Number Two: Anorexia
Anorexia is an ageing condition. I’m dealing with a condition that ages sufferers both physically and mentally, however young or old we are. My body is showing the signs of a woman much older than me – lack of periods, osteoporosis, hair loss.
But I’m not giving in. I’m fighting back by recovering and re-discovering that I am an attractive awesome woman at any age and no matter what my body and mind have been through. My recovery might give me my periods back again, and it will stop the osteoporosis getting worse. But even if not everything is fixable, as long as I keep recovering things can only get better both physically and mentally. And another positive I can take from all of this is my drive to warn others younger than me to seek and push for help from any sources they can find as soon as they can. You do not have to live with an eating disorder for a decade!
But even more, I want to reach out to those in a similar position to me, those who have lived with eating disorders for many years, those who are growing older still with the same suffering – both women and men with all types of eating disorders. We need to build a community because we still lack support.
Yes, the media is gradually starting to notice us, but the stories are usually hopeless ones about the chronic sufferer who can’t recover. We must fight against the pity. We must craft our own positive message, telling the world that it’s never too late, and that life the other side of an eating disorder is full of hope and possibilities at any age.
I’m determined that my own recovery will prove this.