Body Image and the Older Woman

 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s focus is all about body image – how we think and feel about our bodies and how that impacts our mental wellbeing.

Last year the Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost 1 in every 3 people!

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we are going to be looking at different views on this complex subject.   We’ve got some amazing guest bloggers to help us see some different perspectives – because body image is all about perspective.  We will be looking at how body image can impact our health, both mental and physical whatever our age and whatever our gender.

Today’s blog takes at look at body image from the perspective of the older woman.

What do you imagine of when you think of body image?

Is it younger people or body image obsessed celebrities?

The representation of women in the media is usually of young, beautiful and slim women, but thankfully this is changing and even the fashion industry is changing to include older women as well as curvy and plus size models. The older woman tends to be overlooked and for those who are celebrated it’s often for their youthful looks. It’s interesting then to consider how advertising for cosmetics and skin care is very much aimed at prolonging youth and pointing out flaws as your body ages.

In recent years there has been a surge of older women with eating disorders. Although body image concerns are not restricted to people with eating disorders and can happen at any age. Chronic health conditions and the natural way women’s bodies age can impact how older women view their bodies. Of course older women still care about their appearance and can still feel the same pressures as younger women to be thin and beautiful.  Thankfully, this does lessen with age as body shape, weight and appearance become less important – yay!

Not all middle aged women are unhappy with their body image and one way to be happier is to have a sense of purpose which may include having a happy relationship with a partner, fulfilling job, circle of friends, hobbies or having a place within the local community.

Many women as they get older put the needs of their families first, resulting in guilt if they take time out for themselves. Self care is one of the lest selfish things you can do – honestly! If you think about the oxygen masks on planes, you are told to put the masks on yourself before attending to anyone else. This is also true in life, if you are unable to look after yourself, how can you care and look after someone else? Adopting new self care skills may be difficult if you’re unused to giving yourself priority, but this can be an important step to think about how you can move forward towards a more positive perspective. These self care skills could be as simple as restructuring your day to give you time to do something you really enjoy, or even scheduling a sit down for 10 minutes to have a cup of tea.

It is important to remember that self-care is needed to nurture not only your body, but your emotional, mental, spiritual, and social health as well. Doing something for yourself releases feel good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine which make you feel better about yourself and stop you dwelling on the negatives. An alternative way to think about your body in a different light is that you are your personality i.e. your brain, so your body is simply a means of carrying your brain around to interact with other brains.

As you get older there are complex changes happening to your body, and this can get worse in older life when you’re unable to be as active or as independent as you’d like. Women when they reach menopause tend to gain 5-10 pounds and this isn’t helped by the noticeable physical changes such as wrinkles. Changes in physical ability can lead to restrictions in social activities which in turn leads to lower self esteem as you’re no longer getting the positive social interaction we all require as human beings.

There are also double standards in ageing between men and women where men can be seen as ‘silver foxes’ and women become ignored and undervalued. This is a huge knock on affect to their body image and self esteem.

As a hypnotherapist I have seen women who come to me for help with their confidence and self esteem surrounding these issues. Hypnotherapy eases their stress related problems by enabling them feel calmer and reducing their mental and physical pain resulting in a positive outlook and better quality sleep.

So what can we go about improving our body image as older women?

  • Increase your sense of self worth by doing something you enjoy on a regular basis. This could be joining a club or engaging in activities that use both your brain and body such as dancing.
  • Dietary changes are necessary through your life and eating the right foods can reduce the risk of chromic ailments including heart health and osteoporosis. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health and can include cheese, yoghurt, spinach and fatty fish such as salmon.
  • Beauty isn’t always in the eye of the beholder it’s also in your perception of yourself, and the only opinion that truly matters is your own. If you think positively about yourself you project this image and will feel more confident.
  • Stop comparing yourself and your body to others. Believe in yourself and being true to who you are. Embrace your individuality – it’s what makes you unique and special.

About the Author: Carmen is based in our Market Harborough clinic. She especially likes seeing clients suffering from stress and anxiety because the results are truly life changing and they can happen in as little as 6 weeks. Carmen is also a successful piano teacher.

 

If you would like to explore how hypnotherapy can help you get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Somerset.

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