Most of us have worked all our lives to develop a good body image -- what a complicated concept!
It's hard to develop and maintain confidence about our bodies in a world filled with messages and marketing telling us every waking minute that our bodies could be much better than they are.
But there is good news. Despite all of our opportunities to doubt, midlife women are more likely to accept their bodies than younger women are. Maybe it's a sense of arrival. Maybe it's a biological realization that all of the stress and competition of reproduction are behind us. For us, menopause is good news, a welcomed relief. If we're lucky enough to be in strong, trusting, respectful relationships , we tend to have better body images anyway, regardless of their shape.
If that sounds like you, congratulations! But some of us have had lifelong struggles, feelings of low self-worth fueled by unhappiness about our bodies that inhibit us from enjoying good sexual health. And while menopause spells freedom for some women, it can feel like loss to others. Hormonal changes bring some weight gain, thinner skin and hair. We might be wearing glasses now, and we definitely need more moisturizer. All of this leaves some midlife women feeling anything but sexy. Culturally, we rarely see women like us portrayed in sexual roles. So we're sexually invisible.
And of course, good or bad health can make an enormous difference in your sexuality. Plenty of exercise and a healthy diet contribute profoundly to sexual well-being. All by itself, exercise can be a kind of foreplay for partners. On the other hand, when your health suffers, the first thing to go is your libido.
So what steps can you take to improve your body image, start feeling your sexual potential? First, try to separate Marketing Sex from Real Sex. Real sexuality is not about appearance. It's not nearly so much in the body as it is in the mind. Sexiness is attitude, not dress size.
Next, decide to love your body, just the way it is. Engage in exercises that will help you appreciate it, rather than long for what it isn't. Take very good care of it by exercising it, feeding it well, and taking your time caring for every inch of it. Self care can be very sexy, when you love, rather than hate, your body.
Learn about the actions you could take, listed at right, to address this condition or see other conditions that could affect you.
First published 01/13/2010 Last updated 06/03/2011
Learn how your body's changes affect your sexuality.
Understanding what's changing can help you keep sex enjoyable.
Enhance comfort by caring for your vaginal and vulvar tissues.
Compensating for lower hormone levels means taking care of yourself.
Increase sensation in genital tissues.
Taking more time, energy, and attention can re-awaken our sensations.
Maintain tone in the pelvic floor muscles.
Exercising these muscles encourages circulation and strengthens orgasms.
Build intimate relationships.
Having emotional bonds is essential for good sex after 40.