Body confidence & the menopause

Posted on: 28 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

It’s not unusual for women going through the menopause to start to lose confidence and have a poor body image.

The menopause is different for all women but body confidence is an issue everyone feels strongly about. We all want to feel good about ourselves and enjoy receiving compliments but for the older woman, lack of body confidence can be compounded by a lack of support.

Often children have left home and parents may be dependant, unwell, or may even have died so the close family support network may be lacking. It’s important to realise that feeling uncomfortable with the way you look is normal when going through the menopause and that it is possible to feel great again.

Whether you have support or not, the basic symptoms are the same for all women and vary in intensity. For some they are severe, for others not too bad and the lucky ones, manageable. Flushes, night sweats, tiredness, mood swings, depression, weight gain, poor sleep, dry skin and hair as well as poor memory and concentration can all affect a woman’s confidence and body image.

Weight Gain

Decreasing oestrogen and slowing of your body’s metabolism during the menopause often leads to weight gain. When you notice your tummy and waist getting bigger, yet you seem to be eating the same as before, can be hard to accept but there are some things you can do to shape up and take control of your figure.

Reducing carbohydrates, fats and quantity of food can help a lot, but exercise to tone and speed up the metabolism is a must. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes, three times a week or more if you can and you should start to see results. Adapt the exercise to what you are capable of doing but be honest and remember, if you are not burning up the calories you don’t need to eat as much. I think it's important here to remember that  your mind and body are all one, so think thin - it can really make a difference.                 

Menopausal women often suffer with dry skin and hair due to the lack of oil production caused by the drop in oestrogens. By making a few changes this is something you can easily remedy.It’s important to drink lots of fluids to help rehydrate and make your skin look fresher and try treating your skin with a daily cleanse, tone, and moisturise to keep it in tip top shape.

As your skin changes beauty products that used to be suited to your skin might no longer have the same great results so try others out and find a new range that works for you. We all know that alcohol, smoking and too much sun will not help your skin so cut down, give up and wear a high protection sun cream! (and remember alcohol is now linked to an increase in breast cancer risk). It’s also worth noting that flushes and night sweats will be worse with alcohol and caffeine so your sleep can be badly affected too.

Many women going through the menopause experience mood swings and some experience depression. You might feel very moody, cry a lot or become depressed. It’s not unusual to feel guilty when you have a good life and have no reason to feel so low. You are not alone, this is also how  women also describe the  more severe forms of PMS.    

So what can we do about this part of the symptoms?

Feeling low and lacking motivation can defiantly affect your confidence and induce a poor body image. Add this to all the physical symptoms you have and you really need to do something about it, so here are some solutions.

Top Tips

  1. As  I  have mentioned try some lifestyle changes, these may not be easy, but they are very rewarding and definitely worth a try. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
  2. Try increasing the amount of soya in your diet, this is natural oestrogen and many people feel it helps. Products you can buy over the counter such as Phyto Soya, lubricants and skin creams are really worth a good try but give them a little time to work.
  3. If your doctor recommends it and you feel it’s an avenue you would like to explore, HRT is important for women who have an early menopause. You need oestrogen to help protect your bones, heart, skin, mood and vagina/urinary system. Taking a supplement can help but HRT will give you more protection at the earlier age. Remember you will need to see a doctor or specialist nurse to discuss possible contraindication. 

If you make the changes all this will be a big effort, but if you want to look good and feel good you need a healthy balanced mind and body.

Remember we live longer, perhaps 30 or more years beyond menopause so enjoy it and get a good quality of life.

Pat-jonesPat Jones – nurse specialist in menopause

Pat Jones, a primary care practitioner, qualified as a State Registered Nurse in 1968 and has been a specialist in the menopause for over 15 years following her training at Coventry University. Pat currently works as a nurse prescriber within her local GP surgery where she advises on family planning and the menopause, running two busy clinics.

In addition Pat, a British Menopause Society member, delivers talks to thousands of women to help them manage the symptoms of menopause and offers private consultations. Pat recommends women try various methods to manage their menopausal symptoms. For some, this includes phytoestrogen supplements and soya-rich diets. For others, HRT may be a more suitable option.

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