How I Stay Body Positive in Midlife - From Co-Founder Vanessa Ford
I love the term body positivity. It wasn't around when I was growing up, and let me tell you, I could have used it! Literally, the only time I ever saw myself represented in media was when I read Laura Ingalls description of herself as “round.” And even then, she was negatively comparing herself to another woman who was tall and lean. If I’d been told it was OK to accept my body as it was back then, I think I’d be further ahead in many ways today.
I am now 47, and perimenopause is definitely making me rounder. If you had asked me 10 years ago if this would bother me, I would have said yes. But with age comes wisdom, and I am starting to recognize that it's not too late for me to love and accept my body for all of its wonderful qualities. And it’s not too late for you, either!
Accept Your Body’s New Changes
If your shape is getting a little fuller with age, does that fundamentally change who you are? Of course not!
Accepting that your body is going to change as you age is step one to being body positive. Aging is a privilege, but our society treats it as a disease to avoid, which I cannot for the life of me understand. Embracing aging as the privilege it truly is can go a long way toward helping you be positive about your body. I am not saying that you shouldn’t still strive to be healthy by eating the right foods or getting a healthy amount of movement and exercise, but I am saying that aging happens, and it’s OK. Holding yourself to the standards of what your body was when it was twenty years younger isn’t realistic or healthy.
And you know what else? Human beings come in a variety of sizes and shapes! I always found the photos and illustrations of Laura Ingalls to be beautiful. Even as a young girl, it made me sad that she didn't see herself as beautiful. What I didn’t realize was that I was doing the exact same thing to myself. When I look back at pictures of my younger self, I can’t believe I thought I was “too round” or “fat” or any of the other hundreds of things I’d convinced myself were wrong with me. And I know that when I look back at pictures of myself from today, that I will say the same thing. So I might as well start believing I am beautiful the way I am, and enjoy my life, and the body I live it in now.
Enhance What You Have
Body positivity is about embracing your body as it is. Many people in the body positivity movement say that you can help yourself do this by enhancing parts of your body that you like. I totally agree! If you have shapely legs, wear clothing that shows off your gams! There’s nothing like focusing on the things you like to make you feel good about yourself.
But I want to take it a step further and suggest that while you embrace and enhance your body, you do the same for all the other wonderful things that make you, you.
Along with the typical advice you've heard about wearing v-necks if your decolletage is something you want to enhance, I say to look for ways to enhance more than just your body. Embrace the different aspects of your personality, your intelligence, and your sense of humor, too.
For example, I’ve always had a really dry sense of humor (courtesy of my English grandmother), and it’s not always something that everyone “gets.” I’d often clam up in social situations in my younger days because I was afraid of offending someone because they didn’t understand that what I said was meant in jest.
But as I get older, I’ve come to embrace my sense of humor as part of me that I like, that I’m not going to change, and I’ve decided people either get me or they don’t. It’s so freeing, and I find I make wonderful, deep connections with the people who do “get” me. I think of all the potential friends I missed making because I was too afraid to be myself, and it makes me a little sad. Not only am I embracing my sense of humor, but I’m also using it to make lasting friendships.
If you’ve been holding parts of what makes you fundamentally you back, may I suggest that you really ask yourself why? Do you refrain from contributing to a conversation because you’ve been told you come across as too smart, too opinionated, or too insert-adjective-to-make-you-feel-inadequate here? Really think about what you’ve not fully embraced about yourself. It might be your boobs, it might be your book smarts, but whatever the reason you've had for keeping it under wraps, now's the time to let it shine!
A Nice Compliment Goes A Long Way
When you’re trying to be positive, there is nothing like spreading that positivity around. I look in the mirror, and if I'm having a good skin day, I acknowledge that. It makes me feel good about myself. And then I go and find something great about my husband, and I tell him that. It makes him feel good about himself. I usually get a nice compliment back, or a cup of coffee when he makes his next trip to the kitchen - and for me, coffee is just as good as a compliment!
If you don’t live with someone you can give a daily compliment to, throw one out to a coworker or a friend on social media. But for the love of all things menopause, give them to yourself! We’ve got to learn to be kinder to ourselves, especially now that our bodies can seem to have a mind of their own. We not only need to be our best health advocate, but we also need to be our biggest cheerleader.
So many women tell me that when they reach the other side of menopause, they wound up happier and better off than their life pre-menopause. If you’re still in the thick of the transition, it can seem really daunting, but you’re on your way to what is potentially the most fulfilling part of your life! Having a positive mindset about your body is going to serve you well while you get through this, and you’re going to be that much further ahead when you come out the other side.