As we age, the nagging negative body image of “feeling fat” doesn’t go away. For women over 50, more than 60% report issues with body image*. There are different reasons for this: cultural, physical, and our constant quest for personal “perfection.” Here is a look at a few challenges impacting positive body image in women as we grow into our wisdom years.
1. Societal and Media Pressures: Women often face societal beauty standards prioritizing youth and thinness. As women age, they may perceive themselves as falling short of these ideals, increasing body dissatisfaction. It is gratifying to see more women of a wisdom age in ads, television shows, sportscasters, and other forms of media. We often see the “made-up” camera-ready version of these women.
2. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during menopause and perimenopause can lead to changes in body composition, including weight gain and shifts in fat distribution. These physical changes can sometimes be challenging to accept. Only recently are we understanding how to combat the challenge of excess weight (especially around the middle). Balancing our hormones naturally (as with the Maynestreet Weight Loss & Wellness programs) can significantly impact weight, sleep challenges, hot flashes, joint pain, etc.
3. Health Concerns: As women age, they may become more aware of health-related issues, which can impact their body image. Concerns about chronic illnesses, mobility, and overall well-being may contribute to feelings of insecurity. Again, we can often alleviate and potentially prevent some of these chronic health issues that keep us from being physically active. Keeping our bodies moving feels good mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
4. Life Transitions: Major life events, such as divorce, empty nesting, or retirement, can trigger self-reflection and a focus on one’s appearance. These transitions can lead to heightened awareness of body image and self-esteem. Life’s challenges are all part of our journey. Let’s celebrate where we are, where we’ve been, and how it makes us incredible women.
5. Comparison to Youth: Women may compare their current appearance to their younger selves, which can lead to dissatisfaction. It’s essential to embrace the natural aging process and the wisdom that comes with it. If we spend time counting grey hairs and wrinkles, this will surely irritate us as we mature. Instead, let’s remember the experiences that brought us to where we are, the incredible feeling of simply not caring so much about what others think, and the wisdom that experience brings.
6. Lack of Self-Care: Neglecting self-care practices like exercise and healthy eating can contribute to physical changes that affect body confidence. If we are physically in pain, emotionally down, stressed out, worried about money, helping everyone else, and putting ourselves last, self-care goes out the window. STOP that right now. If it’s time, work out your schedule so you have weekly time to do something for YOU. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Go for a walk. Make a coffee date with a friend. Get a pedicure, a massage, or a facial. Doing these things consistently, even quarterly, will go a long way to make you feel better about where you are and excited for your future.
It’s essential to recognize that body image issues are not universal, and many women continue to feel secure and confident in their bodies as they age. The idea that menopause dooms us to extra weight around our middle is no longer an accepted belief. The notion that we cannot continue to be physically fit, active, and grow intellectually regardless of age is no longer valid. We can be physically fit and maintain our ideal healthy weight. Many women I coach have a more beneficial relationship with themselves than at any point in their younger lives.
My goal is to help YOU find that acceptance, not by accepting aches and pains, the extra weight you don’t want, or feeling “old.” Let’s celebrate all we have accomplished instead of the never-ending list of things we didn’t get to. We never actually get done. We grow into our wisdom years with all the grace, confidence, compassion, excitement for the future, and sense of humor we continue to discover along our unique journey.
*Psychology Today, August 5th, 2022, “Body Image Issues Are Not Just for Young Women”