Embracing the Image in the Mirror by Stephanie S. Faubion, M.D.

Excerpted from Mayo Clinic The Menopause Solution: A doctor’s guide to relieving hot flashes, enjoying better sex, sleeping well, controlling your weight, and being happy!. Copyright © 2016 by Stephanie S. Faubion, M.D.  Reprinted with permission from Oxmoor House, an imprint of Time Inc. Books. All rights reserved.


(Photo credit: )

(Photo credit: Joseph Kane )

Menopause is a very good problem to have. Until about 1900, women didn’t have a life expectancy past the natural age of menopause. There was no such thing as a senior discount or silver fox and no debate about whether gray hair is the new black. There was no expectation of growing old gracefully or golfing through your golden years. There was no chance that you could see your grandbaby graduate from high school or pose for a family photograph with four generations.

Unfortunately, as a society, we have collectively, conveniently forgotten these facts. Instead, we’ve adopted a fictitious standard of beauty for women over age 50 that bears no resemblance to how we age naturally. We’ve deluded ourselves into wondering why we can’t have hard-earned wisdom and rock-hard abs all at the same time.

If you’re struggling to embrace your menopausal self in the mirror, it’s really no wonder. Menopause is a time of unbelievable change, and it takes a while to get comfortable in your new (old) skin. Plus, there ar very few true depictions of this stage of life in the media to help guide or reassure you. Most of the women featured in  magazines or movies are much younger or hiding behind a pair of Spanx and a team of makeup or photo editing artists.

It’s perfectly normal to feel self-conscious or embarrassed about some of the changes that occur during menopause. It’s not shallow or silly if you struggle to accept some of the things that are happening to your body. This chapter gives you some practical ideas for finding a realistic, positive perspective and being kind to yourself—at least most of the time.

Aging versus menopause

Aging and menopause go hand in hand. So it can be difficult to tease them apart and determine which physical and mental changes stem from the natural again process and which are directly linked to a decline in estrogen.

For the most part, it doesn’t really matter. But it can be helpful to understand what natural aging really looks like. Improvements in our health care and changes in our environment have significantly slowed the aging process over time, but a 60-year-old woman still isn’t going to look like a 20-year-old model. Even 49-year-old Cindy Crawford doesn’t look like a 20-year-old Cindy Crawford. The truth is that the natural aging process simply isn’t all that glamorous, despite all of the airbrushed images of older women you’ve seen over the years.

Aging differs. There’s no single, chronological timetable that all women follow. Genetics, lifestyle and disease affect the rate at which you age.

However, there are some normal changes that occur with healthy aging—even in the absence of any serious condition or disease. It’s normal to lose some hearing with age, even if you have no evidence of hearing disorders or noise-induced hearing loss. You may also notice that you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, learning new things, or remembering familiar words or names. The normal aging process also affects your eyes, teeth and gums, and your skin.

The human mind has an innate instinct to focus on imperfection, so if one thing is not right it can pull your attention like a magnet. During the aging process, it’s natural for women to find some physical imperfection to zero in on. It might be your less-than-perky breasts, your thick waist, your “turkey neck,” your spotted hands, your thin lips or your wrinkles knees. This is common and normal, but it’s certainly not productive.

Remind yourself that every age is a package deal—you get something and you lose something. You don’t gain wisdom without a few wrinkles. You can’t be discerning and perceptive without a few scars or spots. In the end, these trade-offs are worth it.


STEPHANIE S. FAUBION, M.D., is the Director of the Women’s Health Clinic in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. She’s one of the nation’s leading experts on menopause and regularly treats women with menopausal-related conditions.  Visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/faubion-stephanie-s-m-d/bio-20054845

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