I never realised that my mother influenced my health so much

When my mother retired, something shifted in her mind. I loved Mum dearly but without the demands of work and

When my mother retired, something shifted in her mind. I loved Mum dearly but without the demands of work and a young family, she slowly let herself go and became far less active.

Within just a few years my mother had gone from a healthy Size 12 to a Size 22. She relied on my father more and more to get around, and she soon needed a mobility scooter.

I still believe if my mother had stayed active, gone outdoors, visited the shops or even done volunteer work she could have prolonged her life. She may not have spent over a decade confined to her lounge room chair.

Unfortunately, I never realised that my mother influenced my own health so much. Watching my mother engage less with life meant that my greatest fear became turning into her.

I was terrified of gaining excessive weight, losing the ability to move around or just slowing down too much. After my mother died, I joined a cycling club and began writing down everything I ate.

Every day, I cycled for over an hour. I’d plan my breakfast, lunch and dinner, then not allow myself to have extra snacks. Soon my food intake grew smaller and my bike-rides were longer.

My husband was worried. “You’re looking too thin”, he said. “This dessert isn’t going to kill you!” I spoke with my GP about all the thoughts I was having about my weight. She said I could be anorexic.

Yes, anorexia affects older women too. I was shocked and sad that I had let my fears take over in this way. Feeling ashamed, I sought out a counsellor to help make sense of what I was doing to myself.

Anorexia is an awful mental health condition to have, because often your anxiety about one issue controls how you eat, exercise and view your body.

Working with a counsellor helped me realise that my mother’s unhealthy choices had propelled me too far in the other direction. I was lucky my condition hadn’t advanced too far before I spoke with a professional.

Very, very slowly I got back to my old self though. I learned to enjoy food again, with the help of my husband’s Italian cooking. I stayed with my cycling club, but only went out three times a week.

It was extremely hard to get rid of the negative thoughts in my head, but I reminded myself that being thin doesn’t necessarily equal being healthy. I didn’t want to end up immobile because my bones were brittle, or body was weak.

Sharing my story is important because the past decade has seen the number of eating disorders (like anorexia and bulimia) increase amongst older women.

The good news is there is help available, all you need to do is take that first step of speaking to someone. It’s very hard to dismiss those negative, anorexic thoughts but your happiness is truly worth it.

Respecting your body in your sixties is less to do with how much you weigh, and more to do with your own personal wellbeing.

As a person over 60, how do you respect your body? Has someone in your family influenced your own health choices?

  1. It’s so good that you sought help. It’s very difficult when you start a health regime and it becomes obsessive. I know someone who has gone through what you have,and not only forced her husband into her lifestyle but also her dog and then much to our horror,she had a heart attack and is still having problems. She was the last person in the world we all thought that could have ended up with a heart attack. Fortunately her hubby is seeing to his own food intake now and the dog is relieved about relaxation to his lifestyle as well!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, over the years I have put on weight and taken it off again. I was losing weight as my daughter is getting married in May. I had been pleased and had lost 10 kegs with another 10 to go. Over the last 4 months I have have ongoing chest infections and as I have asthma this has affected my breathing quite badly. I have gained 4 kgs as the result of taking steirods for the asthma, it makes you feel very hungry. I must admit I have been doing a little bit of comfort eating as it has been quite difficult. I have had a few stays in hospital, hoping I will be well very soon

  3. My husband and I were both made redundant in December, my job was sedentary, sat at a computer all day. I am overweight 106kgs had lost 9 kgs last year, I had a routine at work, oats for breakfast, salad and fruit for lunch, I tried making my walks to the printer into some exercise and would walk to speak to others instead of using the phone or email. Now that I am at home I have to really motivate myself to try and keep some of this routine going , my husband has an issue with one foot and is not mobile, I find I am sitting with him more watching tv or on the iPad so that he is not alone as he is struggling with not having a job , We are off overseas in April so I am trying to get a routine going again to loose more weight before I have to get onto a long flight , I try to look at it as a work project .

  4. Obsession with loosing weight is a tough nut to crack and you did it and I do envy your resolve to do that. We tend to think of anorexic conditions belonging to the young but not so in your case. A good, strong effort on your behalf to overcome that.
    I was a skinny person all my life and thought that when I started to age I would remain skinny, you know, you can’t fatten mongrel dogs :o), I had a high metabolic rate. I retired from an active job in the late 1990’s and about the same time menopause hit. I didn’t remain active as I took up my genealogy research again and sat at the computer all day. So lack of physical activity, constant stress with family issues and ill health has blown my weight up from 48kg to 71kg. I’m 68 and wondering what the frack happened! I allowed most of this to happen through laziness and the “can’t be bothereds”. I’ve joined a gym but I have one good week then the next I’m not well again and it all goes down the tubes……have to start again. I envy the elderly ladies who have been able to retain their slim figures, I misled myself thinking that was going to happen to me. I don’t eat much Found out I was Coeliac 3 years ago so most food is fresh food, not processed. I need some of your resolve to go the other way and loose this weight before it kills me.

  5. I spent my life with eating disorders trying to avoid becoming fat like my mother. Now I am the same weight as her and a life measured out in grams and vomiting

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  7. Sue Crawley  

    This story hits home with me. My Mum retired and basically sat in a chair doing crosswords and watching TV for the rest of her life. She had replacement knee and hip surgery but refused to do the physio so ended up bed ridden. I saw what it did to her life expectancy and are determined not to follow her example. I do at least 30 mins of walking every day and my husband and are are planning to do the Big lap when I retire. No sitting and watching the world go past for us

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