About Body Image
The dictionary defines body image as a person’s perception of his or her own physical appearance. Body image is formed from a variety of experiences and, while not exclusive to the female gender, it can be a problem for many women throughout their lives. Many things affect how a woman feels about her body -- from puberty to pregnancy to menopause and every media or personal influence in between.
Menopause may constitute one of such influences. Body image may be affected by the physical, emotional, and social changes of approaching menopause life stage. Menopause at an earlier age, caused by surgery or chemotherapy, can have an even greater effect on self-perception. Taking steps to improve health will transform and enhance every woman’s sense of well-being and may help create a more positive body image.
Body Centric View
Be honest: When you think about your body, do you usually focus on how it looks or on what it can do? If you are all about the former, then take note: That body-centric perspective might have a serious impact on how well you handle menopause.
Women, who are more concerned with their physical appearance, tend to have stronger negative attitude about menopause, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology. To reach that conclusion, researchers surveyed 270 middle-aged women on topics like body image and perspective on menopause, and also engaged in more in-depth interviews with a handful of study participants. Unfortunately, the team also found, women with poor attitudes about menopause might be more likely to suffer from mental and physical health problems during their menopausal years.
Why the link? Because our appearance, not to mention our sex drive and mood, tends to change during menopause. So women who have “become used to being noticed, and have enjoyed the attention this brings… link menopause with aging and come to resent this phase and feel badly about it,” says the study’s lead author, Helena Rubinstein, PhD, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Cambridge.
And psychological dissatisfaction is not the only downside, Rubinstein found. “Women who start with negative attitudes towards menopause could experience worse physical symptoms,” she says.
How to Change Attitude?
Of course, it is not always easy to avoid an emphasis on physical appearance. So what a menopausal woman can do to improve her body image perception?
1. Shift your perspective
Menopause is a phase of life, not an illness. The women who were more accepting of changes in their bodies adjusted more rapidly. It does not mean that you should give it up and exchange your fitness routine for box of chocolates on a regular basis. Do what you like to do, do what you used to do, love yourself unconditionally as you are, but be more realistic, and do try not to focus your entire sense of self on your appearance.
2. Do your research
It is completely normal to feel ambivalent about what is occurring. The best approach is to find out as much as possible about this phase of life, so you can be mentally prepared, ready to handle it with decency and grace, learning on how to enjoy it as much as possible. There is a lot of information you can get online, or you can engage in the group workshops, informal meetups, or even more solidly structured multi-day retreats.
3. Get ready!
During your menopause, your life becomes little more liberated from some of the complications, you have experienced in your earlier life stages. You are not anticipating coming pregnancy and not raising children around the clock, as it used to be, so devote time to figuring out on how you will be able to cultivate wellness during middle age. What are you going to do to stay healthy for the rest of your life? What can you do to further a cause that is meaningful to you? How can you connect to people in your life and build relationships? How can you be a happy, self-conscious, self-sufficient human being, bringing light and wisdom on yourself and people you love? Finally, you have time, opportunities, and resources to do something special and private to enjoy and pursue, something that you have never been able to execute before? Explore, widen your horizons, experiment, enjoy, get crazy and get ecstatic. You deserve it!
4. Love your body
Love yourself because you are you. Be confident in yourself because you are you. Do not let the size you are dictate how you feel about yourself or how much confidence you have. Do you remember being in love? Yes, that was time, when nothing mattered and you loved everything in your mate, every trait, every facial feature, every curve in the smile. May be, it is time to fall in love with yourself? And, as soon as you do, you might start noticing that other people are starting to notice the difference and starting to treat you differently. Little magic transition, worth trying… Body positivity is contagious. When you accept, appreciate and love your body, that radiant energy is a compelling aphrodisiac and makes it a delight for your partner to also love your body in every sense. There is a reverence that comes with loving your body, creating the possibility for more enjoyment and a deeper, more meaningful connection to yourself and your partner.
5. Listen to your body
When you love your body by listening to it, it warns you when you are stressed, upset or angry. It helps identify when you are happy, engaged or at peace. This knowledge enables you to reduce what drains you and integrate more peace and joy into your life, which will leave you thriving again.
6. Find your inner goddess
How do you find that inner goddess? Start with a full-length mirror. Many women play a love-hate game with mirrors, gazing at the parts they like, and avoiding the ones they do not. They never look at their bodies as they are. So, find some private time, take off your clothes, and look at yourself. Let the hateful thoughts run their course, then pass. It will clear space in your mind for positive ones to replace them. Do not turn away from your reflection — try to clear your mind of judgment and keep looking. Now look closely at those parts you struggle with most. Do they remind you of anyone? Perhaps those full hips once belonged to your great-great-grandmother. If not for them, you may not even be here—her size could have helped her to survive pregnancy and childbirth. Our bodies are living family albums. Pay homage to your ancestors by loving the body they gave you and the legacy it represents.
7. Compliment yourself
If you are among those women who strive for perfection, constantly focusing on your flaws, you might be missing a big picture. Try focusing on your advantages and finer features. Write down a compliment or two and refer to it when you find yourself obsessing about those not-so-favorite traits. There is not a single woman alive who believes she has the perfect figure, yet every single woman does have something she can be proud of — her hair, soft skin, eyes, smile, breasts, legs, fingernails, etc... Discovering and appreciating what makes you special (and sexy!) lets your body respond and return the pleasure of living every moment fully.
8. Shower your body with loving thoughts
By projecting negative thoughts on to your body, you are actually reinforcing the very root of your undesirable weight and shape issues. The reason most people gain weight, is subconscious desire to fill themselves with a food, making up for a lack of love. Showering your body with loving thoughts is the best diet you can go on. You feel better, your body feels good, and with regular loving practice, it becomes the body, you truly love even if it remains the same.
9. Feed your inner self!
Treat yourself good, you really deserve it! Engaging in enjoyable and emotionally rewarding activities will help you advance on the journey of learning to feel good about yourself. Spiritual, relaxing, and entertaining activities may help eliminate or significantly decrease the stress and anxiety that may keep you critical of your body.
10. Be active!
Exercise tends to make women feel better about their body whether they lose weight or not. And, breaking the sedentary and passive lifestyle pattern will definitely help you to fill better, bringing vitality, courage, and strength to your body.
11. Treat your body with comfortable clothes
Do not abuse and mistreat your body, trying to squeeze it in the tight and uncomfortable clothes. Buy clothing (and, perhaps more importantly, underwear) that fits you and allows you to feel comfortable/sexy/pulled together/happy. Stop worrying about the size on the label. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have to starve yourself for a week to fit into that dress you bought a size too small, because you just couldn’t bring yourself to buy a size 6/14/24/whatever. Getting stressed about getting dressed in the morning has an unfortunate way of ruining your entire day, and sometimes the tight pull of your size-too-small-underwear becomes a constant reminder of your perceived failures all day long.
12. Do not leave your body without sensitive touch
Do not forget that your body supplies you with oxytocin (AKA the "love hormone"). Oxytocin helps you combat stress, resist disease, calms you, balances your emotions, and makes you want to make love! A loving partner’s body is the chief 'Oxytocin Dispenser'. Every time he or she gives you hugs, smiles, kisses, compliments and other loving touches, oxytocin is released in your body! If you do not have loving partner at the moment, it does not mean you should remain touch deprived. Engage in the social activities, held in the safe environment, where the sensual touch is acceptable: parties, dance workshops, tantra activities, or specially dedicated cuddling parties.
13. Enact a media ban
Research suggests that men and women are negatively affected by viewing idealized images of same sex individuals on TV, in magazines, video games, and on-line. One easy way to stop comparing yourself to these images is to stop viewing them. Try instituting a media ban for the rest of the month. No, you cannot control everything, but by making a choice to minimize your exposure to idealized images you see in the media can go a long way to helping you fight this source of social pressure.
14. Stop negative body talk
Stop saying negative things about your own and other's bodies and refuse to listen to negative body talk. Research suggests that at some level, our brains do not know the difference between something it hears, thinks, or says. So telling your friend, "You need to lose five pounds" is the same as you telling yourself, "I need to lose five pounds." The same goes for things you hear other people say (or hear on TV or on the radio). Your brain takes that information in and thinks the message was directed to you.
At some point, you may consider professional therapist assistance to deal with distorted negative body image. While there are different approaches, which may be considered as very helpful, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is probably the most popular and widely accepted methods to dramatically improve body image. CBT is evidence-based treatment - meaning that there is plenty of research to show that it is highly effective in improving body image.
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