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Patsy Westcott imagines what her future self would tell her current one to stay feeling positive about her body
Lists of ‘What I’d tell my teenage self’ have been a bit of a thing online for a while. And they invariably include something about accepting yourself as you are.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently in regard to midlife. In many ways being a certain age is strongly reminiscent of the teenage years. There are the same hormone-driven mood swings and the same fast and bewildering body changes.
It’s hardly surprising that, according to experts, this stage of life can be a time of body dissatisfaction, which, if left unchallenged, can even lead to depression.
Like what you see?
With the rise of Instagram, Pinterest and the like, images of fit, young, slim women with perfect skin and hair are everywhere. And, at a time when our bodies are heading in the opposite direction, it can take confidence to resist the feeling that you’re not quite ‘all that’ any more.
And yet, and yet…there’s never been a better time to be our age, because the internet is also abounding with positive role models in every area of life. Sisters of 50-plus really are doin’ it for themselves nowadays – Annie Lennox herself for one.
So, taking inspo from Eleanor Roosevelt’s cheering quote - ‘Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again’ – here are my five messages to my midlife self.
I hope to be looking at them in 30 years.
1. It’s more important to be healthy than thin
Doctors are reporting an increase in midlife eating disorders, perhaps triggered by our image-conscious culture. But, at our age, we should really know that the quest for extreme slimness isn’t worth it. Caring for our health is.
If we look after our body – nurture it with good food (a Mediterranean diet is sustainable and allows the occasional indulgence), the right exercise (dance, yoga, netball, walking or whatever rocks your boat) and rest and relaxation – we can be our best self ever right now.
2. Don’t ignore health checks
I know, it’s no fun having your boobs squished into something like a George Formby Grill every three years. And cervical smears are no breeze once oestrogen starts to dwindle. (Tip: a short course of oestrogen pessaries if you don’t use them already can restore moisture ‘down there’ and make things easier.) But screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer really can save lives, so it’s worth it. Why not treat yourself afterwards – perhaps with a lovely essential oil soak, a massage, or a cocktail with a friend?
3. Don’t diss yourself
You wouldn’t say to your best friend, “You’re fat, flabby, ugly, wrinkled, past it,” would you? So why say it to yourself – even in the privacy of your own mind? Refuse to give headspace to negative thoughts and instead practice ‘positive self-talk’. Focus on the good things about your body – how amazing it is, how it’s survived this far, how it carries you through each day. Celebrate what it can do rather than on what it looks like.
4. Get real
Read up on what you can realistically expect at this time of life. That “menopudge” (it’s officially a thing, folks) is a result of normal hormonal changes and slower metabolism post-50. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but if it bothers you do something. Resistance training, HIIT (aka high intensity interval training) and eating a low-carb diet pattern can help whittle that waist and reduce the risk of health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
5. It’s great to be grey – or blonde, red, brunette or whatever
If, like me, you’re beginning to feel keeping on top of your roots is a Canute-like enterprise doomed to failure, here’s some good news: grey hair is having a moment. And it can be gorgeous, stylish and, yes, sexy.
Think British Vogue’s fashion features editor, Sarah Harris, model, Ingrid Becker, and (my current girl crush) Paris-based model, Simone J. If you are tempted to embrace the grey, check out our article on How to go grey gracefully.
But if grey locks are not for you right now, reach for the bottle – with today’s fantastic hair dyes your hair can be any colour of the rainbow.
What are your body confidence tips now you’re over 50? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!