Eating disorders don't just happen to teenagers; a new survey has found women over the age of 50 continue to struggle with food and body size issues.
Cynthia M Bulik from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, surveyed 1849 women over the age of 50. Of those, 7.5 percent said they used diet pills and seven percent said they did excessive exercise to control their weight.
About 3.5 percent reported binge-eating in the last month, which is similar to the proportion of young people who do it.
"We've become so conditioned to believe that this is a problem for the young," Bulik said. "There's almost the prejudice: 'Haven't you grown out of that yet?'"
About 70 percent said they were trying to lose weight and a third said they spent about 50 percent of the last five years dieting. A further 57 percent said they would be moderately to extremely upset to learn they had gained 2kg.
Bulik said there is increasing pressure on older women to look younger.
"I think that it is part of the '70 is the new 50' trend," Bulik said. "We have to keep our body looking 20 years younger than it actually is, and that's an enormous amount of pressure for these women.
"That's what sort of puts them on this slippery slope. They see the distance between what's happening to themselves, their body and the societal ideal, and then they start engaging in really unhealthy weight control practices.
"We've lost the niche for the grandmother. We're not allowed to look old anymore. We are all supposed to aspire to an ideal that isn't realistic."
Almost 60 percent of respondents said their weight or shape negatively impacted their lives; and for many, it was the most important measure of their self-esteem.
"I was actually saddened by that," said Bulik, whose work is published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders. "These women, having disrespectful thoughts about their bodies. It's really quite sad."
Bulik would like to see women ignore the pressures to look younger.
"Say something positive about yourself that has nothing to do with your appearance," Bulik suggests.
"Value all those things that make up who you are as a person that are going to be there long after your appearance succumbs to age."