Aging and Body Image


I was always lucky to have had a body that didn’t easily gain weight.

Oh I worried about how I looked and I wasn’t ever happy with myself in a bathing swimsuit, but the weight thing, not a problem. I never had to diet or think too much about what foods I ate.

That was then.  This is now.

As the years since menopause have marched on, I’ve learned what it’s like to struggle with weight gain.  The pounds go on so easily and like most of us, my middle gets thicker and the cellulite shows up almost everywhere.  I can see how it’s easy to start obsessing about food and diets.  I am so much more aware of what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat.

All I want is to find a way to feel strong and healthy and comfortable in my body.  And it’s a moving target because almost every week or month things change, again.

I once talked to my health care provider about getting older.  We laughed about the fact that physically, there isn’t much that’s positive about aging.  But today I’m not laughing.  This aging thing is tough going.  You can read all you want about re-inventing yourself, and embracing aging with grace but the reality is that it’s a huge challenge to our body image.

A study from the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program found that 70 percent of women over 50 are trying to lose weight.

The study also found that:

  • 62 percent of the women claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted their life;

  • 79 percent said that it affected their self-perception;

  • 64 percent said that they thought about it daily; and

  • 66 percent said they were unhappy with their overall appearance, with 84 percent saying they were most unhappy about their stomach.

And along with this has come an increase in the number of women over 50 with eating disorders, many of who had disorders as teens only to find them re-emerge after menopause.

Having been told all our lives that our worth is in how we look rather than who we are, it’s no surprise that we carry these messages into our post menopausal years.  Add the message that aging is a personal failure to be avoided at any and all costs one can see how poor body image and low self worth become magnified by the challenging physical changes of menopause and aging.

I don’t have an answer.  But I know it has something to do with being healthy and strong and feeling comfortable in my body as it is.  I’m working on it.

How about you?  

How do you feel about the physical changes of aging?  And what are you doing to ensure your healthy adjustment to these changes?