The percentage of women aged 50 and over who are satisfied with their bodies is quite low, according to research from the Journal of Women & Aging (2013; 25 , 287–304).
The report was based on information from 1,789 women, who reported body-size satisfaction on a figure-rating scale. Only 12.2% of respondents were satisfied with their bodies.
“Satisfied women had a lower body mass index and reported fewer eating disorder symptoms, dieting behaviors, and weight and appearance dis- satisfaction,” the authors reported.
The researchers also discovered that satisfied women exercised more than dissatisfied ones and that weight and shape were components of self-evaluation.
“Body satisfaction was associated with better overall functioning,” added the authors. “This end point appears to represent effortful body satisfaction rather than passive contentment.”
Carrie Michele Myers, owner of Carrie Michele Fitness in Lisbon, New Hampshire, faces women from the other 87.8% on a daily basis. During her training sessions, Myers emphasizes awareness to help clients improve their self-satisfaction. Here are her tactics:
- She gives almost all of her clients homework that entails writing out personal positive affirmations, or what Myers calls “Self-Declarations.” “A self-declaration involves writing out who they believe they really are—or who they would like to believe they are,” she says. “They don’t have to believe what they’re writing at the time; the point is that they’ll overwrite the old self-beliefs.”
- She educates women about what goes into a photo shoot and how magazine photos are altered. This brings clients &ldquo:back to reality.”
- She asks probing, reflective questions; for example, “At the end of your life, what do you want to be known for? What kind of person you were? Or how much time you spent worry- ing about the last 10 pounds, your belly bulge, or the wrinkles on your face? Think of how much time you waste worrying about these things, when you could be spending that time on much more valuable things.”
- She has a “No Self-Deprecating Comments Allowed” rule. “If I hear one [negative comment], they do burpees. Since instating that rule, there has been no bad self-talk.”
What do you do to encourage positive body image in your female clients? We’d love to hear from you. Send your responses to rhalvorson@ ideafit.com.