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The Body Image Obsession

Body image issues exist at midlife and beyond. Let's change that.Sue Loncaric can be found writing regularly over at Sizzling Towards Sixty where she shares stories about her midlife experience and connects with people to encourage them to sizzle!

It might be difficult to grasp this – but body 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.

A study of body image in women aged 50+, conducted by Dr Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program and a research team asked 1,849 women from across the United States to discuss their thoughts and feelings on this topic.

The statistics are not surprising but I still find them upsetting. It saddens me that we are all still preoccupied with the way we look. 79% of respondents 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 took some time to think about how I view my body. And I have to admit that I probably do find myself with a body image problem. Although I need to clarify, it’s nothing as bad as what I experienced in my youth. 

My sister had an eating disorder when she was 17. This was back in the 70’s when not much research was around. She was at her lowest weight at around 3 stone [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. Lucky for her, she went on to have three 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. I do this BECAUSE I WANT TO BE HEALTHY, rather than because I’m 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 looking at us 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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”True beauty comes from within. Focus on the person you are inside and you will look beautiful.” quote=”True beauty comes from within. Focus on the person you are inside and you will look beautiful.”]

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

We need to focus on 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 and 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 and special. I’ve focused on why you need to look past the mirror. 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.


Let’s Keep Sizzling!

Cathy Lawdanski

Thursday 6th of October 2016

So true! I fight the body image issue all the time! Words of Wisdom, Sue

Toni Pike

Monday 3rd of October 2016

A great article, Sue - and so important. After all, we're only young and "beautiful' for a very short time and then ageing for a very long time. We need to take all your advice - and thank you for sharing that very moving story about your sister.


Monday 3rd of October 2016

Thanks for posting my submission. Have a beautiful day!

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