Embracing Body Acceptance in Menopause
The changes in the body for women in their perimenopausal and menopausal years can be harsh.
Menopause inevitably brings physical changes, including weight gain, how weight is distributed, an increase in fat, and a decrease in muscle mass. In fact, a woman’s body shape can undergo a complete—unwanted—transformation.
It’s well known that menopause can also make it harder to lose weight and build muscle.
For these reasons, it can be a tough transition. You may find yourself looking in the mirror and not recognizing who you see.
It’s crucial to love and accept yourself in order to live a happy and healthy life. Accepting your body does not mean that you’re not going to work hard to improve it; rather, it means that you are in a place of self-love and respect.
Defining Body Acceptance
The meaning of body acceptance is accepting your body as it is, even when you’re not completely satisfied with all aspects of it.
This movement is a response to the unrealistic beauty standards that have been set on women in recent years. It aims to celebrate all body types as unique and beautiful, fostering a more inclusive society.
This does not necessarily mean that you have to be in love with your shape. You can still look at particular areas and want to improve them. Accepting your body is simply appreciating where you are in the present moment.
In my professional and personal opinion, accepting your body as it is right now enables you to move forward. It motivates you to take care of yourself from a loving, nurturing place rather than from a place of shame and guilt.
It enables you to make healthy changes that are sustainable in the long term and gives you a more realistic outlook on what it means to live an overall balanced life. By accepting your body, you can begin to implement healthier habits without punishing yourself if something doesn’t work out quite the way you want.
Body Positivity is a movement that originated in the 60s and 70s with the key focus of appreciation of one’s body regardless of shape or size. This movement was started to eliminate the stigma of those in larger bodies.
Since then, the term ‘body positivity’ has taken a broader definition, as it now relates to skin tone, gender, and physical capabilities. At its core, body positivity aims to create a more inclusive and accepting society.
One of the main concerns about body positivity is the potential for misinterpretation and promotion of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. While it is crucial to love yourself at all stages, it is important to note that obesity is detrimental to health, and engaging in healthy behaviors should be prioritized.
Body Positivity vs Body Acceptance
Body positivity is a social movement that challenges beauty standards and promotes acceptance of diverse bodies. Acceptance focuses on individual self-acceptance and cultivating a positive attitude toward oneself.
Body positivity aims for collective change, while body acceptance emphasizes inner acceptance. Both strive to foster a healthier relationship with yourself and promote inclusivity.
Unlike body positivity, which promotes activity embracing and celebrating all physical types, body neutrality takes a neutral stance toward the body itself.
Neutrality is more of a middle ground between positivity and negativity. The goal of body neutrality is to focus on what you can do versus how you look.
The term ‘body neutrality’ gained popularity around 2015 when eating disorders counselor Anne Poirier began using the term to help her clients create a healthier balance between food and exercise.
A concern that some may have with this idea is that it lacks specificity. Critics have argued that it’s a vague concept and does not give actionable steps to achieving neutrality. That makes it difficult to embrace meaningful changes to individuals’ relationships with their bodies.
Body Neutrality vs Body Acceptance
Both terms are very similar. They both focus on promoting acceptance of everyone’s physical self.
Why Body Acceptance is Important
Accepting your body is beneficial for a variety of reasons. From self-esteem to overall well-being, accepting yourself as you are will improve your relationship with yourself.
Body acceptance can help you feel comfortable in your skin, and it can also lead to better physical health. When we accept our own bodies, we are more likely to create healthy habits that benefit us both mentally and physically. We may be less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as crash dieting or excessive exercise.
Accepting your body can also help you embrace the changes related to menopause.
When you accept who you are, you can start to live a life that aligns with your own values and challenge societal expectations.
Tips for Achieving Body Acceptance
In today’s day and age, it’s so easy to compare your body to those around you. Comparing yourself to your favorite social media influencer, your best friend, or even your past self can be detrimental.
Take a break from social media if the comparison has become a problem. Instead, try taking pictures for the sole purpose of memories without feeling the pressure of posting them online. It could be liberating.
Also, stop comparing yourself to the person you were ten years ago. It’s okay to change, and it’s a natural development.
Appreciate What Your Body has Done/Continues to do for You
Your body has gotten you this far, don’t turn it on now. Whether you’re a mother, an athlete, or someone who has achieved personal and professional goals, your physical self has played a vital role in your journey.
We often get so caught up in aesthetics that we forget what a blessing it is that we are able to get out of bed each morning, walk, exercise, and perform everyday tasks that some people are not able to do.
Now is the time to reflect on your capabilities beyond aesthetics and appreciate your resilience.
Keep a List
Maintain a list of characteristics that you love about yourself, both physical and non-physical. Focus on your qualities as a friend, a hard worker, a nurturer, and any other personal accomplishments.
Remember, your size is the least interesting thing about you. Keep reminding yourself of all the incredible things you have accomplished.
Wear Clothing that Makes you Feel Good
There’s no need to succumb to the pressures of any fashion trends that make you uncomfortable. Choose clothing that boosts your confidence and enables you to feel comfortable in your own skin.
Dressing in a way that aligns with your personal style will contribute to a positive self image.
Think Healthier, NOT Skinnier
Shift your focus from being thin to being healthy. Moving in a way that feels good and eating a nutritious diet is so beneficial for more than just how you look.
If you change your goal to overall health vs being as skinny as possible, you can actually appreciate the progress being made in your health status instead of just being thin.
Losing weight might be a side effect of engaging in a healthy lifestyle, but it should not be the only thing that keeps you going.
Ditch the Scale
The number on the scale can be so deceiving and does always accurately assess progress.
For example, muscle weighs far more than fat, so if you’re working out and losing fat but also gaining muscle, the number on the scale might go up!
If you are a person that uses a scale to weigh yourself regularly and is left with nothing but disappointment, get rid of it!
Focus on other indicators, like strength, energy levels, how your clothes fit, and how you’re feeling overall. By redirecting your attention away from the scale, you can feel a much better sense of success and self-worth.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
Training your brain is kind of like training a muscle. It takes consistency and repetition to change. Take every negative thought that you have about yourself and challenge it with a positive affirmation.
This will feel like you’re lying to yourself at first. But as you continue to train your brain to think positively, it’ll become a habit, and you will actually believe it.
My Expert Opinion
Negative thoughts about your body can be overwhelming. This can make it hard to appreciate the small joys of life.
It’s important to note that the movement of body acceptance is not meant to disregard health but to simply change the focus from weight, shape, and size to promoting overall healthy habits.
By accepting yourself, you can quiet the noise in your head. Instead, you can be present in the moment and enjoy the journey of becoming healthier.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL, is dedicated to empowering women in perimenopause and menopause to live healthier, more satisfying lives.
With a doctorate in clinical nutrition from the University of North Florida, she has expertise in menopause and weight loss, including the unique challenges faced by those on weight loss medications.
Su-Nui’s passion for her field is evident in her previous role as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.