In American culture, aging is considered a “dirty word.” Everywhere, brands are touting magic plans, diets, exercises, surgical procedures, etc. to sell the secret to eternal youth and reject body acceptance.
The anti-aging industry was worth 140.3 billion dollars in 2015, an already astronomical sum that is expected to increase to 216.52 billion dollars by the end of 2021 . Yet, with all of this money spent, there is no way to put the “Fountain of Youth” into Google Maps and find your way there.
The truth is, aging is inevitable. We will all age. Regardless of how much money you have, your race, your education, you will age. Learning body acceptance and to accept and embrace aging in a culture that is hell-bent on pretending it is somehow wrong is no small feat.
Learn What Physical Changes to Expect
A big reason aging can be so uncomfortable is that it is something we cannot control. Even with all of the surgeries, potions, and exercises in the world, you cannot escape it, and that’s scary.
One way to regain a sense of control is to learn what physiological changes you can expect. This can help you with body acceptance, but if you get this information from advertisements and magazines, you will be led down a false path that you can look 30-years-old forever, you just have to spend the money.
Try digging deeper to learn the truth about how your body will change as you experience the aging process by reading evidence-based books or asking your doctor.
For example, middle-age often brings a decrease in strength, coordination, reaction time, and sensory perception. None of this sounds fun, but knowing that these changes are common can help you to normalize them for yourself instead of feeling as if you are aging “poorly.”
Remember What the Body is For
Anyone that is blessed to make it to middle age has lived life a million times over, likely experiencing numerous chapters, seasons, and iterations of themselves.
Take a moment to do a flashback-reel of your life. The people you’ve loved, the moments you have laughed, the moments you have cried or fought or stormed off, the victories you have celebrated, the places you have lived, the cars you have rocked out to, and what songs were blasting through their radios.
None of those moments would have been possible without your body. Your body has carried every version of you that has existed through every trial and joy and struggle and success.
Maybe it bore your children or helped you rock them to sleep. Maybe it allowed you to kiss a significant other or hold a loved one. Your body has allowed you to endure and to overcome so much.
To help with body acceptance, instead of looking at aging as the body breaking down, imagine it as the body is broken in. Your body is well-worn with experience, and that is something to be proud of. Your body has carried you through so much, and it is okay for it to look and feel like it!
Refuse to Give In
I bet you could quickly and easily name a few diets, cosmetics, or clothing fads that you participated in overtime. Imagine for a second the money, time, and self-view spent on these fads.
In fact, I bet diet culture had you hating your body at 12, 16, 18, 21, 30, and on-and-on-and on. Looking back now, you cannot understand why you spent so much time hating your body at those ages.
You have the choice to stop the charade and refuse to fall into that trap any longer. Commit yourself to fight for body love and body acceptance no matter what time brings you or what anti-aging (again, not impossible!) culture tells you.
A few tips for practicing body acceptance versus body hate are to:
- Make a list of all your body has done and continues to do, for you
- Surround yourself with people, also fighting the toxicity of anti-aging culture and embracing the beautiful sands of time.
- Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and fabulous!
- Remind yourself that beauty means so much more than external appearances.
- Write down things you love about yourself.
- Stop even using terms like “aging gracefully” or “aging poorly,” just saying aging…or, don’t even say that because who cares!
- Critically view social messages and advertisements.
Just as with diet, exercise, and cosmetic fads, you do not have to accept society’s assertion that you cannot love yourself as you are, no matter what age you are.
Resources: Unknown (2018). Anti-aging market to touch US $216 billion by the end of 2021, globally. Zion Market Research. Retrieved from https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/08/30/1563523/0/en/Anti-Aging-Market-To-Touch-US-216-52-Billion-By-the-End-of-2021-Globally-ZMR-Report.html
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published June 22, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on June 22, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC