Women struggle with eating issues at various ages, and research suggests that over the course of their lifetimes, women maintain relatively constant levels of body dissatisfaction. More recent findings reveal that middle-aged women are among the fastest growing segment of the population with eating problems and body image issues today. “Findings consistently indicate that midlife women desire to be thinner, diet despite being a healthy weight and engage more frequently in avoidant behavior associated with body image concerns than do women of other ages,” said Sian A. McLean of the School of Psychological Science at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria Australia. “Studies of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) based interventions for body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in young women have shown clinically significant reductions in body dissatisfaction, bulimic symptoms, dietary restraint, and depressive symptoms,” she said. McLean and her colleagues theorized that CBT aimed at addressing the issues that plague middle-aged women would realize same results.
The team enlisted 61 women ranging in age from 30 to 60 and assigned them to a control group, a delayed treatment group, or an intervention group. The women in the intervention group met once a week for eight weeks for CBT which highlighted midlife themes. Additionally, the therapy focused on appearance changes, self-worth, acceptance and other age-related issues. “Participants in the intervention group showed significant improvements of large effect size from baseline to post-test in comparison with the control group on body dissatisfaction, body attitudes, eating, and physical self-care variables,” said the researchers. They also noted that the improvements were maintained at six months. “This study shows the program was valuable in meeting the needs of this particular group, in this case midlife-specific factors related to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.” They added, “Focusing on the circumstances of midlife resulted in the exploration of pertinent situations that trigger and maintain body image and eating concerns.”
McLean, S. A., Paxton, S. J., & Wertheim, E. H. (2011, October 17). A Body Image and Disordered Eating Intervention for Women in Midlife: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026094
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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