Our middle-aged women suffer Desperate Housewives diet hell

Claire Murphy

WOMEN here are developing the so-called Desperate Housewives syndrome -- where they have eating disorders in middle age.

The syndrome is a new phenomenon as Irish women in their 40s attempt to keep as slim as Hollywood stars.

Director of the Eating Disorder Resource Centre of Ireland, Suzanne Horgan, said women here are trying to look like ageing icons Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Julia Roberts and J-Lo.

"It's about looking at a celebrity or model and seeing a way of life and thinking you have to look that way to get the man, the car and their life," she said.

"People are caught up with them because there seems to be a pressure to stay slim and young-looking in your 40s."

Ms Horgan said eating disorders with women in their 40s is a growing trend and the syndrome is called after Desperate Housewives because of the pressure to look like "something off the show".

Marcia Cross, who plays Bree in Desperate Housewives, once said how she was often starving because of the pressure to remain thin: "As an actress, they pay me not to eat; it's a living hell."


Specialists in the field say they've noticed an increase within the past five years. And similar to teenagers who are coping with eating disorders, older patients also suffer from low self-worth and anxiety.

But they also deal with a crushing sense of shame and failure for being self-destructive around food for so many years, researchers say.

"I think more women are becoming dissatisfied with how they look and rather than grow old with wisdom and grace, they are struggling with their body image in their 40s," Ms Horgan said.

"Then if they have a marriage separation, it can trigger a body image crisis which can lead to a diet followed by eating disorders."

Many eating disorder clinics are now offering programmes geared for adults over the age of 30.

"Before it was mainly people from the age of 12 to 18 developing disorders like bulimia, but now it has gone to all ages," Ms Horgan added.