Menopause and Body Image
Menopause and Body Image
Dr Michelle Woolhouse
Menopause is a natural transition period that every woman will eventually go through. It is characterised by a whole raft of different changes that affect a woman’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. The changes in hormonal levels, have a widespread impact. These changes are often seen as negative for many women, and it is a common time in a woman’s life when their body image is negatively impacted. In addition, many women become dissatisfied with the way their body looks which can further impact their relationship to food, eating, sexuality and intimate partner relationships. This article is written with the hope of increasing awareness of this common issue and offering some support and reassurance to help you regain or maintain a healthy attitude to your body.
I often suggest to take a moment to reflect upon how you feel about your body right now:
- How often do you talk negatively about it?
- Has your negative self talk increased lately?
- Is your relationship to food and eating healthy? Have you been avoiding looking in the mirror or being intimate because of how you look?
- Do you ever take the time to feel the wonderful capacity your body has?
- Do you celebrate your bodies achievements?
What is body image?
Body image is an internal sense of how you relate to your own body. It starts early as we develop a sense of our body as compared to another person’s. When you think, feel or picture your body in a negative light, this is called a negative body image and it is a growing problem in both men and women. During times of change, for example pregnancy, adolescence, breast feeding, menopause or after injury or surgery, increases the chances of developing or reigniting an undesirable body image.
Poor body image can affect people of any age, for example nearly half of all average weight women overestimate their size and shape and 73% of Australian women wished they could change the way they looked. Poor body image is strongly associated with low self-esteem which can have a negative impact on your self-care. Lets face it, it is harder to look after a body you don’t like! So it is important to challenge your negative self-talk and learn ways to reframe your thinking so you can make self-care easier and more sustainable.
There are many factors that can increase your risk of a poor body image, these include things such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, health issues, illness and surgery, injury or deformity, time spent on social media, society values and culture. Many of us are in simply bad mental habits when it comes to body image and challenging the way we talk to ourselves, what we reflect on, and our word choices can make a big difference.
Menopause & body image
Perimenopause is a time of emotional, mental and physical change: from dryness of the vagina to weight gain across the belly, to skin losing its elasticity and muscle tone loss. There are a lot of fluctuations to deal with and in a busy life, and the changes can come as quite a surprise. Lots of women find that their relationship to their bodies change, so you are not alone.
Many women speak about a sense of loss of control of the body, where as in the past they felt like they had some control over it and could rely on its patterns. Other women find they gain a greater sense of confidence in their body, being less controlled by body image and a need to be “perfect”.
Spending some time reflecting on how you feel, can reveal helpful insights during this critical transitional time:
Ask yourself do you:
- Like a particular part of your body: your hair, your eyes, your shape, your breasts, your buttocks, your legs, your hands?
- Overly focus on the parts which you find less appealing: your wrinkles, your chin hairs, the sagging, the stretch marks, the scars?
- Respect what your body can do: cycle, hike, jog, work-out, travel, massage, embrace and make love?
- Embrace ageing as a positive or a negative thing?
These questions invite you to consider your innate self-talk, how you reframe things to be supportive or unsupportive of your changing shape. Be honest with yourself and see if you can coach yourself to a more supportive way of being.
When to seek help?
Taking an extreme view point of your body or of your eating and nourishment of your body can be harmful for you and for your loved ones. A negative body image can be either an underlying cause or an impact on your mental and emotional well-being.
Talk to your health care advisor about your feelings, they may have some great advice for you to support you in this common issue. Treating your body and mind well, can help foster better self-care during this time.
Bottom of Form