Here’s How to Love and Respect Your Body As You Age.
I recently did an epic rant on Facebook about an article I found titled, ‘4 carbs that nobody over 40 should be eating because they cause stomach and back fat.’
I know it sounds like something out of the Onion, but sadly, the article was real. And this wasn’t the only time I’ve seen shit like this: it’s a fairly popular clickbait trick to target post-35 women with fear and relatively useless information about diets and ‘foods to avoid’ as their bodies change and they become a bit more sensitive to everything they see in the mirror.
Diet culture certainly knows how to turn up the heat on us elderlies. God forbid that women should age! God forbid we should be old and fat!
Our society is really afraid to age (and to die), and it often portrays aging as weak, ugly, and undesirable. As a result, businesses like Bulletproof, Goop, and Arbonne among others swindle age-fearing people out of a lot of money with their anti-aging supplements and useless woo-woo products. But their promises ring hollow: we’re all getting older, and trying to stop that is like trying to stop a speeding train. Not happening, even with the craziest of biohacking and crystal-infused water bottles.
It’s a weird time of life. I know because I’m living it. Many of my friends are also over 40, and so are a lot of my clients. I talk and hear about this stuff alllll the time. But even if you’re not in your 40s or older, chances are you’re dreading some aspects of being this age. I get it. I began noticing the changes in my body after I turned 30.
I fully admit that I sometimes look in the mirror and am not entirely comfortable with what I see. The loose skin. The new wrinkles. The fat deposits. Hm. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that those things don’t affect me in terms of how I see myself. In my mind, I’m still 32, and the reflection in the mirror completely contradicts that fantasy. How rude!
My body is changing, even though I eat well and work out four times a week and have done those things for pretty much forever.
I’m working hard to practice what I preach. It’s not always 100%, but for the most part, I honor my body every single day. It works damn hard for me, and over the years I’ve put it through some tough exercise, some hard partying, some random food hangups, and a lot of stress. My body deserves love, and so does yours.
I don’t ever want myself or you to fall prey to crazy anti-aging bullshit and articles about how certain foods are going to give you back fat.
So how do we counteract that sort of sensationalist garbage?
We start with a post about loving and respecting your body at this age, written by somebody who IS THIS AGE. Something that doesn’t talk about trying to STOP aging, but instead, helping you to be okay with it.
Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.
It’s always tempting to compare yourself to other people. Younger, older, the same age…we naturally want to see how we stack up against them. It’s normal, but it’s a waste of fucking time. Who cares about everyone else? What positives are you getting out of these comparisons? You have different genetics and a different lifestyle from other people, among plenty of other things. You have no idea what’s going on with them in their lives, so the best thing you can do is to stop the comparisons. Especially if they’re making you feel bad about yourself.
Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel like shit.
By the same token as the tip above, this goes without saying. Staring at other peoples’ photos on social media all day has been proven to increase body dissatisfaction, so why torture yourself? What exactly is the point of doing it, and what do you think you’ll miss if you strike these accounts from your ‘following’ list?
Probably nothing. Who gives a shit about that influencer’s bikini photos, anyhow?
We know that looking at images that make us feel bad about the way we look has been proven to increase the risk of eating disorders. And just in case you think that we’re immune to serious eating problems as we get older, eating disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent in middle aged people.
I can completely understand why: it would seem like the only way to control the massive changes our bodies are going through at this age.
Regardless, following aspirational posts can have a dramatically negative effect on our self-esteem. Unfollow.
Understand that aging is a normal process.
It’s inevitable: we’re all aging, we’re all going to die.
It’s totally acceptable to not go full-on wrinkle if you don’t want to, and I’m not saying to throw your night creams in the garbage. What I am saying is that hating your body and treating it badly because it’s only doing what it’s supposed to do is not okay. Starving yourself, overexercising, and outwardly and inwardly disparaging yourself because of the way you look is soul-sucking and sad. It prevents you from living your best life and it can cause major anxiety. Aging is going to happen. It’s okay.
I have to add that as much as I love how Jennifer Lopez and her other over-50 colleagues are making 50 look like 30, the other, more sinister side of the coin is that they’re setting an impossible ideal for the rest of us and creating unrealistic expectations for aging.
They aren’t the norm, far from it.
So, yay for sexy older women, but booo for being homogeneously wrinkle-free, filtered, fad-dieting and starving. As we age, we put on weight easier, but sadly, the celebrities many of us compare ourselves to have to maintain their appearances in order to work. The way they do that isn’t necessarily healthy.
Jennifer Lopez recently gave a bit of insight into her relationship with food in this quote in People:
“I want comfort, you know what I mean?” she said. “But that’s like the devil; it’s like the little demons coming to get you. You have to feed yourself better, you know. But after a show I just want a cookie, I want a cupcake, I feel like I’ve just danced for 2 hours so I want something. But I can’t.”
Just as sad is 61 year-old Angela Bassett eating a broccoli ‘cake’ for her birthday. Yes, a mound of broccoli with a candle in it instead of cake.
She was congratulated all over the internet for being so ‘disciplined,’ but I don’t think that’s really the right word for it. ‘Sad’ works better. So do restrictive and unyielding.
I’d rather have a few extra pounds than pretend to be happy eating a broccoli cake on my birthday. Oh my god never. But remember these examples when you envy a celebrity. Not the norm.
Know that you don’t always have to love the way you look, but try to feel neutral instead of negative.
Can’t be body and aging-positive right now? Try being neutral. Sometimes, going from negative to positive is just too big of a step. Can you go from being negative to neutral? That’s a lot less pressure.
Neutral means being happy about what your body can do, and not necessarily focusing on how it looks. Which brings me to my next suggestion.
See what your body can actually do.
One of the ways I maintain continuous respect for my body is by putting it through some intense workouts and keeping it active. From boxing to swimming to spinning, I mix that shit up and am always looking for new challenges. I realize that some of you might not have the access to some of those workouts, but adjust this recommendation for your individual situation. Discover new ways to move your body. Push yourself to complete a goal or challenge. Be consistent. Even as we age, our bodies still want to move. Being active also helps us cope with stress, and can help maintain bone density and muscle mass. Win-win-win!
Aging is a privilege.
I’m not going to call all of us who aren’t 1000% okay with aging ungrateful, but okay, yeah, I am.
We unfortunately all know people who have died in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They didn’t have the privilege of reaching the age we’re at. There are probably thousands of people our age or younger who are sick with terminal illness and who’d give anything to have your ass dimples and a full life ahead of them.
Life is so short. Treat yourself with care and love. Count your blessings. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Eat birthday cake.