If You’re Over Fifty, Ladies, You Probably Don’t Like Your Body

by Kathleen Duhamel

I read about a recent study that showed only 12 percent of women age 50 and older are satisfied with their bodies. Immediately, I began compiling a mental checklist of all the things about my own body that bother me – the muffin top, double chin and a lumpy, scarred abdomen, the result of multiple surgeries.

Half of the women surveyed said they envied the way younger women looked (yep!) and a third confessed that they think about their weight every day (also true). Not long ago, I commented to a friend my age that I can tell if a woman is pre-menopausal because of her beautiful, glowing skin. After “the change,” no amount of expensive cosmetics can bring back that creamy, lit-from-within look.

I suspect that with most of us, body dissatisfaction began early in life. In my case, I can remember being put on a diet by my mother when I was about six years old, forced to eat a banana instead of what I really wanted – cake. The following year, I was humiliated in front of all my classmates when we were weighed in school, with the offending number called out for everyone to hear. My only consolation was knowing there was one bigger girl, so at least I wasn’t the fattest in the third grade.

At about age 12, my mother brought home an uncomfortable “training bra” and insisted that I wear it to school. Training for what, I’ve always wanted to know. The Titty Olympics? Boys didn’t have to go through these same strange rituals. They weren’t encouraged to reshape their bodies, get rid of unwanted hair or lose weight to be thought of as attractive.

Flash forward a few more years to college, when my fiancé came over after his hospital shift, unshaven, still in his scrubs and in need of a shower, to berate me for “letting myself go.” I still don’t know what he was referencing. (To my credit, I broke off the engagement not too long afterward.}

So here I am, half a century later, still dealing with some of the same old issues, and trying not to pass them on to my three-year-old granddaughter. There will be no mention of the word “fat” in regard to ourselves. I vowed I’d never make her sit at the table until she finishes her vegetables like my mother did. There will be no “good” foods vs. “bad” foods in our household. She can eat as much or as little as she wants during meal time, but if she chooses not to finish what’s on her plate, she can’t come back an hour later and beg for snacks.

I tell her that she’s strong and smart instead of focusing on her cuteness. She already gets enough of that through the ridiculous Disney films that promote a “princess” culture. “I’m a princess,” she told me, twirling around in a garish “Frozen” costume.

No, you’re not, honey, but you’ll find that out soon enough. I just hope you’ll learn to love your body, imperfections and all, and not let anyone tell you that you’re not beautiful, just as you are. I wish someone had said that to me long ago.