Parallel Session 11

Invisible Women: Eating Disorders and the Pressure To Be Perfect At Midlife and Beyond: A Relational Cultural Approach



From early childhood until their dying days, contemporary women experience relentless pressure to be perfect and the body is the canvas on which these pressures play out. Increasingly global concerns, eating disorders now appear in diverse cultures, social spheres, and developmental stages. Historically, body satisfaction increased with age, but today 75% of midlife women express significant body distress and weight preoccupation. As many as 13% suffer from eating disorders, exceeding the number suffering from breast cancer Although under-diagnosed and under-served, increasing numbers of adult women are now seeking treatment for eating disorders. Some have been chronically ill, others have recovered and relapsed, and a small number develop eating disorders for the first time when confronting midlife stressors. Adult women have unique developmental issues, motivational factors, relational capacities and histories, bodily experiences, and treatment needs. They are best served by a biopsychosocial perspective and a Relational Cultural model, emphasizing growth fostering relationships and creating new neurobehavioral pathways towards recovery. Allowing ample time for discussion, the workshop examines incidence patterns, unique clinical issues and approaches, and the critical roles of psychoeducation and a feminist perspective to inform and empower midlife and older women, meet their complex needs, and move them toward recovery.



  • To identify the range and pattern of eating disorders and body image despair currently seen in adult women.
  • To understand the role chronic perfectionism plays in the increased incidence of eating disorders in adult women.
  • To build relational skills to challenge perfectionism, decrease the shame and isolation of eating disorders, and foster recovery


Knowledge Level: Intermediate to Advanced


Presenter Biography

A Founder and Adviser of the National Eating Disorders Association and Founding Fellow of the Academy for Eating Disorders, Dr. Margo Maine is author of: Pursuing Perfection: Eating Disorders, Body Myths, and Women at Midlife and Beyond; Treatment of Eating Disorders: Bridging the Research- Practice Gap; Effective Clinical Practice in the Treatment of Eating Disorders; The Body Myth; Father Hunger; and Body Wars; and senior editor of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. The 2007 recipient of The Lori Irving Award for Excellence in Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, and the 2015 recipient of the NEDA Lifetime Achievement Award, she is a member of the Renfrew Clinical Advisory Board, and the Walden Clinical Advisory Board. Maine is a 2016 Honoree of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. She lectures nationally and internationally on eating disorders and maintains a private practice, Maine & Weinstein Specialty Group, in West Hartford, CT.