When Becky Marsalla turned 40, she decided to get in shape with a new diet and work out routine. But her mission turned into an obsession that brought her down to just 58 pounds.
"No matter how slim or petite they are, they see themselves as fat or carrying additional weight," says Kerry Seymour, owner of Nutrition Resources in Reno. "So there's definite distortion of body image there."
( Seymore specializes in eating disorders, and says she's not surprised that more adult women are following this dangerous path. Experts say the cases of adult anorexia have doubled in the past few years. Seymore blames the growing pressure to be thin, that she says is perpetuated by hollywood and the fashion industry.
"In some third world countries, before television, they didn't know... there was no word for eating disorder," Seymore says. "When TV was introduced and western magazines, all of a sudden eating disorders popped up in young women. So we know there's something wrong with what we put forward about the ideal body for women."
Health experts say there are also other "triggers" that cause adult women to slip into anorexia, like divorce, children leaving home, remarriage or career changes. For others, it stems from a psychological need to feel they're in control, and that is expressed in the amount of food they take in. Whatever the cause, experts say its crucial to get help as soon as possible.
"The concern is the longer the behaviors get ingrained, the more challenging it is to normalize or get back to healthy eating."