How to have a healthy body image in the menopause
When you hear the word ‘Menopause’ what does it mean for you?
If you’re like most women, you associate it with a loss of youth and womanhood.
In the West, we’ve been conditioned to believe that once a woman has reached the menopause she is ‘past her best’.
Feeling this way about your body only worsens the perception you have of it. BUT, I don’t believe you have to feel this way.
If you’re a peri-menopausal or menopausal woman (like me!), I’ve got four strategies to help you navigate this transitional period of your life that will keep you body image healthy.
I believe that the menopause represents a new life stage for women that offers greater freedoms and opportunities. All we need to do is to open ourselves up to the possibilities.
Watch or read below:
A taboo subject
Menopause is a topic that’s really relevant to me right now, and I know that many of the women in my community are experiencing it too.
I know that it can be a taboo subject – there aren’t many places where it’s discussed or women can go to seek help or support in a safe space.
But I’d like to open up the dialogue about menopause and encourage you to speak about your experience.
I’d also like to turn the spotlight on menopause and the specific impact it has on your body image, and ways that you can keep your body image healthy during this transition.
The meaning of menopause
Menopause is the term for when your periods have stopped completely, while the peri-menopause is the time period leading up to the menopause.
You’re likely to experience peri-menopausal symptoms during your mid to late 40’s with the menopause occurring around the age of 50.
Of course there are exceptions to this – some women will see symptoms in their 30’s.
During the peri-menopause and beyond, you can experience mood swings, anxiety, hot flushes, weight gain, and hair loss to mention but a few symptoms.
Body image during the menopause
The peri-menopause/menopause is also a time when women experience heightened emotions towards their bodies, both positive and negative.
Typically, women report feeling like they’ve lost ‘control’ over their body, and with it their youth and beauty.
Feeling this way worsens the perception you have of our body. BUT, I believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Maintaining a healthy body image
As a peri-menopausal woman myself, I’m in the process of navigating the changes to my body and finding ways to accept and embrace it.
There are a few things that I find helpful in navigating my peri-menopause and maintaining a healthy body image:
Access a supportive community
I’ve joined a Facebook group called ‘Pause for Menopause’. It’s a closed group where women can openly share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.
We talk about everything from symptoms and ways to relieve them, to discussing how we feel about our bodies.
I encourage you to find a supportive space, even if it’s talking to your girlfriends about it.
When you share what you’re experiencing, it helps alleviate any worry, anxiety and negative feelings. It helps to know that you are NOT alone.
Exercise has been proven to reduce the severity of some menopausal symptoms. It also improves body image regardless of any physical change to the body, such as weight loss.
I find that exercise that makes me sweat helps reduce the increased levels of anxiety I’m experiencing in peri-menopause. Plus, it gets me focused on what my body can do, not what it looks like.
Quit comparisons with the younger generation
According to a 1986 study by Albert Bandura, comparing yourself with younger people increases the risk of lower self-esteem.
As self-esteem is so closely linked with body image, such comparisons won’t help your body image.
After all, what useful purpose does it serve to compare yourself with a 20-something? You’re both at completely different life stages, so it’s a pointless comparison.
Change your mind-set
Society and culture has a big role to play in how a women feels in her body during the ‘change’.
Much of the way women feel about themselves rests on the cultural stereotype.
In the West, culture portrays post-menopausal women as having lost their worth because they are no longer ‘young’ and ‘beautiful’.
Eastern cultures revere older women. As a result, these women experience greater self and body confidence.
Asian cultures refer to the menopause as the ‘second spring’. It’s celebrated for the greater freedoms it affords women.
Interestingly, women in countries with a positive attitude towards the menopause, also appear to experience less severe symptoms, suggesting that attitude is key!
I believe that the way we experience this feminine life transition is highly influenced by our mind-set, so be intentional about what you choose to believe about the menopause, and refuse to buy into the ‘old and past it’ messages churned out by our culture!
I’d love to hear about your experience of the menopause and its impact on your body image. Please leave a comment below.