Eighty to ninety percent of women in midlife are unhappy with their body image. Many women at this stage of life attempt to control their body shape in ways that may be unhealthy and extreme, trying to defy the biology of aging.

Women who are satisfied with their bodies do not go to extremes in their diet and lifestyle. They are kinder to themselves. While women may grieve the loss of a younger body, they can also accept these changes. Part of this experience is shifting a mindset toward self-care, and aiming for health versus appearance.

 

Your Body Will Change In Midlife and Menopause: Here is what you can do                                                                                                               

 1)     Learn what to expect – Just as we educate teenagers on how their bodies change as they go through puberty, so, too, we can learn about how ours change through aging and menopause.

 2)     Keep moving - Women who enter midlife with a greater level of physical activity have a lower tendency to gain weight than do their less active peers. Activity is associated with greater satisfaction with body image. Exercise benefits a woman’s body image, weight management and mental and physical health.

 3)     Avoid diet talk, even with friends – Well-meaning family and friends often have upset women unnecessarily with unsolicited advice or suggestions on diets. In many cases, we have no idea about people’s relationships and past experiences with food. It is kinder and more useful to find something else to talk about besides what to eat and how to exercise.  

 4)     Say no to dieting and yes to eating and moving in a way you can enjoy and sustain. Increased physical activity alone, without caloric restriction, is unlikely to lead to weight loss initially. Dietary restriction alone is not likely to provide sustained results without a regular exercise program. Furthermore, sustained calorie deprivation leads to a decrease in metabolism and energy expenditure, which negates the effect of reduced calorie intake. Ongoing weight loss from dieting is extremely difficult and unlikely.

 Predictors of the ability to maintain weight include following a consistent eating pattern (versus emotional eating), engaging in a healthful social support system and practising good problem-solving abilities. Consistent behavioural counseling and intensive physical activity (200-300 minutes/week) can also help prevent weight regain.

 5)     Take care of the goddess within. Self-care is what you do to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. It includes eating healthfully, engaging in adequate  physical activity and setting realistic health goals relative to age.Make a plan to take care of your mental health with coping strategies that enhance physical and emotional well- being. Unmanaged mental illness can compromise the ability to stick to a healthful lifestyle.

6)   Keep only the clothes that fit you.Wear clothes that make you feel good about your body. You might grieve the loss of clothes that no longer fit, but don’t hang on to them. Donate them to someone who could use them. Buy clothes that fit and flatter your new body.

 7)     Shift your perspective. Ask yourself these questions: What have I gained in my life? Family and friends? A rewarding career or volunteer role?  A form of creative expression? Shift priorities away from appearance and toward health, functionality, self-care and what is available to you. Find new ways to value your body. Ponder what you could do to be happy with your body. Focus on the future and how you can contribute wisdom gained from your experience.

 8)     Practice self-care– Do what you value and like. Participate in enjoyable physical and social activities. Accept who you are becoming.

 Lifestyle changes are a marathon, not a sprint. A long-term commitment to self-care has the greatest potential to impact health and quality of life. 



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Kristyn Hall MSc, RD

Registered Dietitian

Kristyn helps men and women over 40 achieve vitality and wellness through energizing their nutrition, one bite at a time. Kristyn is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Health and Wellness Coach with Energize Nutrition in Calgary Alberta. She is a member of the Dietitians of Canada blog.

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