The first runway models weighed 155 pounds or more. Today the average fashion model is 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighs 107 pounds and has a body mass index (BMI) of 15.4. That’s lower than the BMI cutoff for anorexia, which is 18.5.

According to Margo Maine, Ph.D., co-founder of the Maine & Weinstein Specialty Group in West Hartford, the cultural focus on thinness as a reflection of a person’s self-worth has led to an increase in anorexia.

“Weightism is the politically correct form of prejudice,” according to Dr. Maine.

Women are obsessed with their weight, she said, and when they get together and have a conversation, it almost always includes a discussion about weight, food, body image or personal appearance.

While males also develop eating disorders, given the importance placed on a woman’s weight, she said, it’s no wonder that women develop eating disorders far more often than men.

Eating Disorder Triggers
In adult women, an eating disorder is often triggered by a life-changing event, such as pregnancy, menopause, divorce, infidelity, work issues or retirement.

When adult women develop an eating disorder, they often feel shame about developing what they may consider to be a “teen ager’s problem.” They often find it more difficult to admit the need for help and to be motivated to receive treatment. They have increased anxiety about their appearance because of the natural aging process, but there are more obstacles to seeking treatment because of their responsibilities.

She said it is natural for women to gain eight to 12 pounds during menopause, and that they should embrace the minor weight gain instead of becoming obsessed about losing the weight, as moderate weight gain at mid-life is associated with longer life.

Dr. Maine quoted a patient, who said, “I used to see this roll around my middle as a spare tire. Now I see it as a life preserver.”