anorexia and body imageBody image in Midlife is still a problem for a surprising number of women. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders revealed that 62% of women suggested that their weight and body image had a negative impact on their lives. 1,849 women from across the United States took part in the study “Body Image in Women 50 and Over – Tell Us What You Think and Feel”, which was conducted by Dr Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program and a research team.

The statistics are not surprising but I find them sad that we are all still preoccupied with the way we look.  79% said their self-perception was affected, with 64% saying that they thought about it daily.  Diet pills, laxatives, excessive exercising, vomiting and diuretics are all ways women try to lose weight. And this is still happening in midlife and beyond!

So why is body image in midlife still an obsession with some women?

I sat down and thought about how I view my body and yes I have to admit that I probably do have a body image problem although nothing as bad as in my youth.  My sister had an eating disorder at 17 back in the 70’s when not much research was around.  She was at her lowest weight at around 42 pounds and I remember my poor mother coming home from admitting my sister to hospital the day after Christmas Day feeling devastated that she could not help my sister.  Six months later and my sister was released and luckily for her went on to have 3 strong healthy sons.

Although I did not go to the lengths my sister did, I did have a body image problem.  I think this stems from being self-conscious about everything to do with myself as I was growing up and even into later life.

Now that I am much older, I still exercise and aim to have my body in the best shape it can be for my age BUT BECAUSE I WANT TO BE HEALTHY rather than trying to impress.  In saying that, I do admit that I like to look the best that I can.  Sure, I’m no supermodel but looking after myself and my body gives me self-confidence and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

It is hard not to become obsessed with body image when:

the media just never gives up on the subject of the way we look.  Multi-million dollar industries have been flourished promoting ways to make us look better.

clothing designers ‘play with our heads’ by having different sizing for different labels – ever find you are one size wearing one designer and then a different size for another?

society still promotes beauty and slim and trim as standards for acceptance rather than for the person we are.

Depression can follow as we always feel we don’t live up to perceived expectations.  We aren’t happy with the way we look and focus on the physical appearance, rather than focusing on being happy with the person we are – it isn’t all about looks.

How can we change the way we view body image – for ourselves and others?

Need for positive aging

We need to try to promote ‘positive aging’ and really mean it.  Being over 50 doesn’t mean the end.  Sure we have wrinkles and our body sags and if you want to change that there are ways to do it.  It is up to the individual to accept oneself and feel comfortable with who we are. We have the ability to change what we don’t like about ourselves – it is in our power.  The bottom line is we do age but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Healthy & Happy– not Starving and Sad

Being healthy on the inside shows on the outside. When we diet and try to exist on lettuce leaves and water, we aren’t happy and this shows in the way we look and feel.  Instead of trying to attain an unrealistic image which makes us feel anxious and stressed, choose to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.  Choose healthier food options, exercise and do things you love for your soul.

Accept who we are and learn to love ourselves

Until we accept who we are and the unique person we are then we will always be striving to be someone different.  I’ve written about ‘learning to love yourself’ and the fact that we are all ‘unique’.  We need to give ourselves permission to love ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin.  WE NEED TO STOP COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS.

What message are you sending your children and grandchildren?

Being preoccupied with body image can sometimes take away from our happiness and what kind of message are we sending.  Instead of concentrating on how we look, we should be setting an example to our children and grandchildren by living a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve recently been accepted as a Body Image Movement Global Ambassador spreading the message about Positive Body Image.

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