Best Life: Women working to overcome midlife bulimia battle

Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 8:29 AM CST
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TAMPA, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It’s a ferocious fight with food -- bulimia. But it’s not just effecting the young. Research shows 13 percent of women over 50 are living with an eating disorder. But It’s not too late to get help.

Knitting keeps 72-year-old Iris Ruth Pastor from unraveling.

“My pleasure was eating like a gallon of ice cream then throwing it up,” Pastor said.

She battled bulimia for 46 years.

“If I didn’t stop this, I was going to die from it,” she said.

Seventy-nine-year-old Joy Tapper knows the feeling. She started bingeing on foods then throwing up when she was 15. Her mother told her she was fat.

“The shameful way that I behaved and ate in secret; threw up out of my bedroom window,” Tapper told Ivanhoe.

Tapper and Pastor are part of a growing trend. There’s a 42 percent increase in women over 35 seeking counseling for eating disorders. But they’re also proof it’s never too late to get help.

“Bulimia in the middle age demographic is something that’s very, very prevalent. We don’t always know it because, first of all, you don’t always see it,” Sandee Nebel, LMHC, certified east disorder specialist, said.

But Nebel says with an aging body, there’s even more risk factors.

“Cardiovascular, bone and bone loss,” Nebel explained.

And women suffering from eating disorders are more likely to suffer from depression, use drugs and are more at risk of suicide.

“I used to say to myself, oh well, I’ll be the thinnest person in the coffin because I knew it was killing me,” Tapper said.

Pastor is not only facing her demons, but is sharing her secret in her new book, “The Secret Life of a Weight Obsessed Women.”

“It's such a shameful topic, such a shameful situation,” Pastor said.

But finding something to replace that urge to purge and sharing their stories have helped them both from being eaten alive.

Women in midlife can become bulimic because of empty nest, financial issues, body changes, becoming widowed, divorced or stresses of care taking older parents. That stress can actually trigger an eating disorder they had when they were younger.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved. Contributor(s) to this news report include: Emily Maza Gleason, Producer; Chris Tilly, Videographer and Roque Correa, Editor.