Too Old For the Internet
A Healthcare Success Story

Elder Body Image – Take 2

category_bug_journal2.gif According to a new study, women who accept their bodies as they are, are probably healthier eaters.

“’The message that women often hear is that some degree of body dissatisfaction is healthy because it could help them strive to take care of their bodies,’ [Tracy Tylka, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Marion campus] said.

“’But it may be just the opposite: an appreciation of your body is needed to really adopt better eating habits.’”

- Medical News Today, 15 August 2006

Ms. Tracy and her colleagues conducted studies based on the concept of “intuitive eating” which includes eating when hungry – that is, relying on internal hunger signals to determine when and how much to eat - and permission to eat anything you want. In the study, those who followed the precepts of intuitive eating had a slightly lower body mass index.

“It seems amazing,” [said Ms. Tylka], but it’s true. If you listen to your body signals in determining what, when and how much to eat, you are not going to binge and you’re going to eat appropriate amounts of nutrient-dense food.”
- Medical News Today, 15 August 2006

As I’ve written here in the past, about ten years ago I gave up life-long dieting and began eating “intuitively,” although I didn't know to name it that. I stopped forcing down breakfast because I’ve wakened every day of my life feeling as though I just finished Thanksgiving dinner. It takes four or five hours before hunger beckons.

My taste leans to fish and chicken over beef and pork, I often crave a giant salad containing a wide variety of vegetables, and fresh fruit, as far as I am concerned, is mother nature’s special blessing. Still, there is that damned sweet tooth. I’ve lost my taste for a daily infusion of chocolate, but pie and certain cookies are irresistible and in my life, ice cream is one of the seven basic food groups.

It wasn’t long after I began eating intuitively that the predictable happened. Fireplug comes to mind in describing my body type. I don’t like it, but if the fit of my clothing is an indication (the bathroom scale has long been ditched), my weight hasn’t changed in many years.

The trick to intuitive eating, according to the study, is to appreciate one’s body:

“[Study participants with high levels of body appreciation] were less likely to spend a lot of time thinking about how their body appears to others, and more time considering how their body feels and functions.”
- Medical News Today, 15 August 2006

Well, isn't that a fine Catch 22. Body appreciation is a key to healthier eating, but healthier eating is required for a body one can appreciate - a difficult trick in a culture which measures attractiveness on a scale of youth and thinness. But Ms. Tylka has some sensible thoughts on that issue:

“’There are going to be a variety of body types. For most people, their ideal body type will hover around the range that doctors say is healthy. But some will be healthy at a higher weight, and others at a lower weight.’”
- Medical News Today, 15 August 2006

The study was conducted with 199 college-age women, so there is no way to know if there is a correlation with elders and with men, and for women, it is notoriously more difficult to maintain a healthy weight after menopause.

So, as I said in the first Body Image piece, I’m sticking with Judi Dench as my elder role model and I’ll keep working on that body satisfaction part.

Comments

I am hoping, one day, to be free of worrying about how my body looks. (I am in my late forties.) My body's OK, so why worry?

I dieted for decades, messing up my metabolism and perhaps moving my setpoint up permanently. Six years ago I gave it up and started eating intuitively. I've worn the same size since. I just wish I'd known to do this years ago, when I only thought I was fat instead of waiting until I really am.
And, although I am much larger than I was when I was younger, I like myself and my body more. I find that the food I want to eat is a lot of produce and lean meat. Some snack food and desert, but mostly all the lovely fruits of the earth.

I figure at the rate I'm going with my weight they will be charging extra for cermation. Now: 188lb 5'8" and shrinking, use to be 5'10 140. If I gain weight and loss height like I have been by the time I'm 70 I will be a round ball and weight 500 lbs :)

I think any study results on college-age women applied to anyone other than more college-age women would be suspect. There are so many factors, or as researchers like to say, "variables," (which they usually say they've managed to rule out or account for) that only the broadest generalizations could be made, then not even with much degree of certainty in my view.

Remember when all the research was done mostly just on men and then applied to women? Well...I was a lot different as a college age young woman than the woman who went back to college at 40 yrs after having had children, much less at 55 yrs when the children had left home, and, now at 70 yrs. You figure it out!

I do hold with the idea of "intuitively eating" though I never knew that term. I just knew my mother told me that my body would send hunger signals, that I should eat slowly, stop eating when I felt full, among other suggestions she made.

The problem I encountered, as I think many of us do, is to eat more on the basis of taste, excessively with foods I like, ultimately frequently ignoring and messing up my recognition system. You'd think since I believe I've identified the problem for me, I'd fix it. What can I say, I'm trying!

I've lost some weight in recent months, but not enough. I still have an hourglass figure (that means I have an identifiable waistline,) but it is a rather warped hourglass with obvious excesses in all areas.

Yeah, I'm pretty much off red meat, too, and can really tell a difference now when I do eat some. Love chicken, fish, other seafood including sushi, some pork, lots of green salads, veggies, fruits.

For whatever the reason, I'm not really caring about eating as many previous weaknesses, including pies, select cookies, some cakes. Ice cream has always been a favorite -- genetically inherited tastes from my mother and grandmother. ;-)

I think I use to "reward" myself with some of those foods. Now, I seem to resist buying them so much, so they're not in the house much of the time ... except for the ice cream! What to do?

I listen to my body, too. It keeps saying chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! ;-)

Intuitive eating? I've done that for years & am sorely criticized that I'm too thin constantly. I eat what I want when I want. The late Duchess of Windsor once said, "One can never be too rich or too thin." If my critics are correct, it's one down; one to go! I wonder what it would be like to be too rich -- heck! I wonder what it would be like to be a little bit rich. I think that would be enough for me.

My baby sister (age 63) is built exactly like my paternal grandmother - skinny legs and arms and, as she like to put it, "A most generous torso." She is one of the most comfortable, relaxed people I know as well as being generous and caring about her siblings. Another younger sister (69) has a similar structure - except when they are side by side, one wonders who conked the elder over the head with a sledge hammer - she's a mere 4' 10" tall.

I weight about four pounds more than I did in college. I was instructed as a child to alays leave the table just a tad hungry. I pretty much do that with few exceptions - holidays mostly. There was a time when I balooned to almost 190 - an unhappy relationship (for too many reasons to discuss). When that ended, I lost weight and remembered the advice. Within a year I was back to the 160 i still carry.

I eat red meat sparingly; lunch is almost always fruit and cheese and some pretzels. I eat some fish, love chicken, ham on occasion, lots of raw vegetables (cauliflower, radishes, scallions, lettuce, cabbage and raw onions with everything - even a peanut butter sandwich!) and don't plan big dinners. A couple of my kids say that I eat like a bird.

I suspect that unlike many people, I don't live to eat; rather I eat to live.

At 71, so far so good.

At 58 yrs old, my body has paid severly for my eating habits. Anorexic since adolescence to binge eating and with a constant losing of weight when under stress, dehydration from IBS; my skin just hangs on me. Was never overweight (tho I thought I was fat most of my life) and was always able to eat anything and as much as I wanted. Am told all the time that I am too thin but the fact is that if I did not have the sagging skin, especially on my legs, I would look thinner yet. For years now my legs have the appearance of a 95 yr old woman or maybe worse. Some would think I was once very overweight and lost a lot too fast but that was not the case. Because of my IBS becoming more and more severe the past few years, I was so desperate That I pretty much know what I can and cannot eat and MUST eat in moderation. At the very least I am now eating healthier than I ever have. Because of so many other health problems and being much less vain than when I was young, I am beginning to embrace my body and just very happy to be alive.

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