Tuesday’s Guest Blogger: Midlife Maze by Ellen Besso
Posted Aug 23 2008 3:18pm
We are pleased to have Ellen Besso, author of Midlife Maze, as our guest blogger today. With Ellen’s permission, we have posted her article “Midlife Women-Beyond Body Image.” You can read other articles on Midlife Maze by going to: http://ellenbesso.com/midlifemaze/
According to the popular ideal, a “feminine” woman controls or contains her emotions, body size, shape and reproductive system. And this particular control is particularly threatened, or at least in question, during menopause. Not surprisingly, one of the most common feelings reported by the women I worked with was that of feeling out of control.”
Lafern Page, Menopause & Emotions
Body image distortion has become a huge problem for women, and also for men, due to the way advertising bombards us with made up images of perfect people - perfectly slim, symetrical and beautifully made up! Models of perfect control. People of all ages are affected by this constant exposure..
Lafern Page’s research suggests that for many women self-image and appearance are pretty much interchangeable. This leads to a disconnect between the outward physical presentation and the actual body. Both the idea of appearance being self-image and the resulting separation between our bodies and our selves could certainly explain in large part the constant striving for thinness, and the extreme end of that continuum, anorexia. And when peri-menopause begins, with its often surprising changes, the loss of control is pretty shocking to a lot of women.
Lafern Page’s book was written over 10 years ago, and the media manipulation of body image has grown significantly since then. Even if we haven’t bought into the young and perfect look, when a size 10 model is considered a “large size”, (even though the average woman over 25 is size 12), we can’t help but look at ourselves and find something lacking. All that perfection makes us feel rotten!
Women are “supposed to be” - and stay - slim and fit at all ages, so as to fit the stereotype of perfection, (as well as for health reasons). And we as women are definitely not supposed to talk about our biological functions, especially the transition of menopause. Puberty is honoured as a biological and developmental transition and it is understood that young women (and men) need some time and some space to grow into adults. The same respect is denied us as women in one of the most significant changes we will ever go through.
“I’d given up, humiliated by my belly fat” - Ad on a menopause blog
Susun Weed, whose well-known book on natural treatment, Menopausal Years, Wise Woman Ways, has been reprinted many times, says that the years leading up to menopause are the time to gain a little weight. Yes, gain weight! Most women I speak to aren’t aware of this, because doctors don’t tell us, and the ‘how-to’ articles certainly wouldn’t.
Why is weight gain good now?
If we gain about 10 pounds in the years leading up to menopause, we retain more estrogen because it stores in the fat tissue of our hips, thighs and buttocks. The estrogen helps control some of the symptoms of menopause, and importantly, helps our bone health. Check out Weed’s article: Healthy Bones the Wise Woman Way .
The media gives a very distorted view of aging. Ad campaigns like Dove’s “ Campaign for Real Beauty” showing women with all size bodies is a great beginning. Let’s keep looking for all kinds of ‘alternative’ representations of health.