ETR 283: Dealing with Aging Body Changes (Body Image Series)

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

Podcast on Dealing with Aging Body Changes
Dealing with Aging Body Changes

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m walking you through different steps you can take to navigate shame you may have about your aging body, as part of the Body Image Series.

I also talk about the importance of being curious about what you’ve attached to your younger body.

In This Episode, I Chat About

  • Where I’m at with my own aging body changes,
  • That many of the principles I use around weight change also apply to aging,
  • How much more pervasive anti-aging pressure is now,
  • That it’s normal to experience weight changes as you age,
  • How we often neglect thinking about aging when doing body image work,
  • How my 3-phase framework for dealing with weight change applies here as well,
  • Some of the things you may find yourself mourning as your body changes with age,
  • That we need to look at what we believe and what’s feeding those beliefs,
  • The importance of normalizing aging through finding variety in aging role models,
  • That aging is looked at differently across cultures,
  • How to reframe this as an opportunity to discover yourself,
  • That looking for community in different social circles is a critical part of the process,
  • Plus so much more!

Listen Now (transcript below)

Watch on YouTube

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Links Mentioned in Show


I remember one day I looked in the mirror and I was like, Oh my God, what has happened to my face I noticed all of these like little wrinkles around my lip and chin area that I hadn’t noticed before. And it can be really distressing if you’re not prepared for it.

This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image, self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen. a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and competence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

This episode of eat the rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire. I’d love to have you in that group.

This is episode 283. And it’s another installment of the body image series. I’m walking you through some different steps to take so that you can navigate the process of aging better and the shame that might come up for you around the aging process and seeing your body change. You can find the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 283. I want to give a shout out to Ro 98. Who left this review. I learned so much from this podcast in every episode, and I especially appreciate the diversity of guests and the frank discussions about fat acceptance privilege. And the problems with mainstream body positivity. Thank you summer. Thank you so much. I’m so glad you find that helpful. I’m so glad that you find those conversations. Enjoyable insightful. If you haven’t done so you can leave a review, just head to Apple podcasts, search for eat the rules, then click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review or give it a rating. You can also subscribe to the show. That’s another great way to support this podcast for free. And don’t forget to grab the free 10 Day body confidence makeover at summer with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. I don’t think I said that link right summer forward slash freebies. That’s where you’re gonna find that link. But as always, you can just go to the body image And you’ll find everything there. If you are a professional or a provider who works with people who may also have body image struggles get the free body image coaching roadmap at summer forward slash roadmap.

All right, just a quick personal update. I’m officially back in school. And it has been a massive learning curve to adjust to academic language, academic reading, as well as citing stuff like using what’s called APA citations, which I didn’t even know what that was. To learn it, I had to learn it all. It’s been a big learning curve. I wrote my first 10 page paper last week. And it’s been a lot, but it’s super enjoyable. And I’m so excited to be able to bring a lot of the lessons and learnings to the clients I work with as well as to this podcast. I also had COVID simultaneously, for the second time definitely wasn’t as bad as the first time. And I’m still struggling a little bit with being able to talk for long periods of time without starting to cough. So we’re going to see what we can do with this episode. I meant to record it two weeks ago, and I’ve had to keep putting it off. But we are here today and we are doing this and we’re talking about aging and what to do. If you notice your body aging, and you start to freak out about it. The reason why I wanted to do this episode is that a few episodes back I talked about what to do when your weight changes. And that’s a really common struggle that people have. And then the other struggle that happens simultaneously with that often, at least with the clients that I work with who are mostly over 40 is that we also have aging changes happening. And so I want to look at the same type of framework that I used in Episode 280 When I talked about what to do when your weight changes, and I want to apply that to what to do when you notice your body changing due to age.

And before I do that, you know I’m 44 at the time of this recording, so I’m still in process with this. And I guess we all are right, because the aging, aging doesn’t stop till you’re dead. So thank goodness we are in process with this. But what I mean is that I’m still in process emotionally with this, and navigating it and wrestling with, you know, the beliefs that come up around this. And the feelings that come up around seeing your face change. And so I want to acknowledge that I hold a lot of privilege, being able bodied, being straight size, being cisgender, being white. But I’m also experiencing this aging process too. And maybe not as far along as maybe some of you are as listeners. But I’m going to speak about it just from my perspective, as a coach and use a lot of the same coaching principles that I would use around weight changes, but apply that to aging, because I think it’s really applicable.

We’re all going to age doesn’t matter how much you spend on anti aging procedures, you’re still you’re still going to look, you’re still going to look older. And I’ve seen this so much with my clients. As I mentioned, a large percentage of my clients are over 40. And even if they’re not, they, they still have aging concerns, because it’s become a big thing with with younger people too. So with like millennials, in particular, even Gen Z, you know, there’s this huge focus on like skincare and stopping the aging process. But I think, you know, a lot of my clients who are over 40 are actually in that process, they’re in the aging process. And we’re conditioned at such a young age to think that aging is something to be avoided. And I think that message has really been amplified over the last decade or two, at least from what I’ve seen, because let me tell you, in my 20s, I was not thinking about using any kind of skincare other than like, maybe I’ll wipe my face down at night, maybe I’ll put a moisturizer on. But there was an I had, like, I didn’t know what the fuck a serum was, you know, and and that stuff is just so pervasive. Now. It’s just like, that’s just what you do as part of us. It’s you have to have a skincare routine when you’re young. And and so I didn’t have that I feel like a lot of you listening probably didn’t have that either. So it’s not something that’s really sort of come to my mind until later when I actually start to see these changes. And it can be particularly distressing. When you start to see like all these wrinkles show up a looser skin show up and you’re having body changes. So maybe you’re gaining weight, which is a normal process that we go through. When we go through perimenopause and menopause, our bodies change as well as just when we age, sometimes our lifestyles change, our hormones change, different things can happen and our bodies can just change. And so it’s normal to experience some weight changes. And then we’re on top of that, we’re noticing that maybe like our skin looks different, our face looks different. And so these two things are happening simultaneously. And what I’ve noticed is that if your self worth has been heavily tied to your appearance, then it might be even more jarring to experience these changes, because you’re getting hit with both anti-fat bias as well as ageism simultaneously, as well as ableism, which intersects with that I talked about that in episode 282 When I talked about the similarities between diet culture and an anti aging culture, so you can check that out there. I’ve also noticed that sometimes we do the work around body image and we neglect the aging piece of it. And then that might show up later if it hasn’t been addressed. And that’s that’s exactly what happened to me personally, I noticed that I started to be a lot more critical, over the wrinkles on my face, like I was like noticing them and feeling like this sense of almost like shame and panic, the same kind of thing that used to happen when I would notice like my body change my body size change. And it took me it took me a little bit of time to recognize that it was the same kind of coping mechanism that I used to do with my weight. So what I mean by that is, I used to feel a lot of shame and stress about my body when other aspects of my life were really stressful and felt out of control. What I noticed is that I stopped doing that once I brought, I brought awareness to that and was able to work through it. But it showed up with aging. Over the last couple years, I noticed I was I would start to become really critical during these times of stress and overwhelm. And it’s been great because now I have this awareness and I haven’t been doing that as much. But I have these moments where I see somebody’s face or I see my own face and I think like oh my god, like what’s happening to me. And when I see somebody else face else’s face, I think like oh, like they, you know their skin is like quote unquote better than mine. So I’m unpacking all these beliefs too. And it’s a process it’s not one and done. Take some time. Much like all the work we do with our body image.

But I wanted to cover similar three phase framework that I talked about in episode 280. About what to do when you experience weight changes. And so as a reminder, the three phases are one is grieve, two is normalize, and three is Kinect. And again, this isn’t like a step by step process, they’re just sort of like categories that seem to fit under the umbrella of the things that would be important within each that would be helpful in order to work through the feelings that you might have about the aging process and seeing your body change as a result of aging. Let’s talk about the mourning process to start, when we notice our body changing due to age, we want to think about what we might be letting go of when our body is changing due to age. So kind of like when we talk about mourning the loss of your ideal body, as it relates to size and appearance. It’s not the body necessarily that we’re letting go of, it’s what we’ve attached to it. So same thing with aging, aging, it’s not like just your younger appearance that you’re letting go of, but what you’ve tied to that. And that could be something like health, you know, when you’re younger, you just don’t seem to worry about health. And I recognize that’s a privilege. But that was a privilege that I certainly had, I just didn’t really worry about health, I didn’t worry about mortality, it seemed like something just so far in the distant future. And I just felt invincible. And so mourning that feeling of being invincible, coming to terms with mortality, and mourning, like this idea that you can just be carefree about it is part of this process, I think that’s the that’s one of the things that perhaps we’ve attached to our younger looking body, it could also be that we’re mourning, just the loss of being more visible, the loss of being more noticeable, could be tight, wrapped up and attractiveness could be wrapped up in identity. And that can be something that we might need to just look at and feel the feelings that come up around that. It might also be that we’re mourning the loss of certain opportunities. Maybe the time to have children has passed or being in a certain relationship might no longer be doable or as easy, although let me tell you, my mom got remarried at the age of 74. So don’t ever think that it’s too late for love. But whatever it is, it might it’s gonna be individual to you, right?

So these are just some ideas, what we have to just look at, like, what am I attached to this younger body? Life doesn’t end when we get older, obviously, in fact, like there’s a lot of benefits to aging, like I really just don’t give a shit if people find me attractive or not anymore. That’s super, super freeing. However, a lot of us are still holding on to these ages, beliefs. And so we want to just be curious about what we’ve attached to that younger body. And just think about it just be like, What am I attached to that? What am I really letting go of? What is it about not looking younger, that is causing me to feel the way I’m feeling? What am I attached to that. And it’s important to go through that process, because if we skip over it, then it’s easy to kind of stay at the surface where we just think that the way we look is the problem. And the only way to change that is to like get a facelift or something like that, you know. And so making space for those feelings of grief is going to allow us to come to a better place of acceptance, and appreciate the stage of life that you’re at. The second part of the mourning process is around unpacking beliefs. It’s really similar to what I was just talking about. And I talked about this a lot in episodes 279 and two ad as it relates to weight. But we want to do the same thing with aging. We have been fed a lot of harmful beliefs about aging, you know, how did your parents talk about aging? I know for for my from my perspective, you know, the way it was talked about was that it was like a really scary thing. And it was a terrible thing. And like oh my god, you’re my face. And those are the messages that I got. And so we want to understand what aging means to us. And unpack those beliefs and look at what’s feeding those beliefs because I will tell you, there are a lot of perimenopause, menopause groups, as well as like, you know, resources, whether that be books or social media pages that have a lot of toxic messaging in them, as well. If we’re only seeing images of people that are aging in one particular way, then that’s also going to feed into the beliefs we have about aging. What I mean by that is I find that there’s really just two narratives that we see about aging. One of them is that You are you age and you’re just like this beast and you’re like lifting weights and you’re dead lifting 200 pounds at the age of 90, and like, your, whatever sort of just like, you know, thwarting the aging process, or just kind of being above average in terms of like, your abilities and things like that. The other storyline that I think we see as it relates to aging is like, you know, really kind of deteriorating like images of people in like nursing homes, that are drooling and stuff. And again, like both of those, those experiences do exist and are completely legit. But I think that if those were the only two storylines that we get about aging, then we’re missing a lot of the diverse stories and the in between there. And a lot of the pro aging content that I follow, still really just fought like shows those people who fit that very narrow, ideal, like they’re thin or conventionally attractive, they’re able bodied, they’ve got like visible muscles, they’re doing these like, really intense type of workouts and achievements and things like that. And that’s great. Like, if that’s helpful for you. I think that’s, that’s great. And if that’s the only storyline that we’re seeing, we have to ask ourselves, what is that making us believe about the aging process and about ourselves in that aging process? So maybe it’s positive for you. And maybe it’s not positive for you, but you’re the only one that can determine that. The point is, we just want to draw out like, what we’re believing about aging, and what the message is that we’re taking in or making us believe about aging? Is it making you feel like your body is a problem? Is it making you feel like you need to change something about you, you’re not good enough, you’re not living up to this like expectation of how aging should be, that might not be the most helpful messaging. And so that’s really easy, we can just change up the messaging, we can change what we’re taking in in order to change those beliefs. But changing the beliefs is really critical, challenging the beliefs that we have around aging is, is super important in terms of being able to come to a greater place of acceptance with it.

And then the last piece of the mourning process is self compassion. I mentioned this in Episode 280. But self compassion shows up in the way that we speak to ourselves as well as our actions and learning to speak to ourselves compassionately in a way that lands and feels authentic to us is really a foundational piece of the work I do with clients, and can go a long way towards making peace with any kind of body change. And it’s about meeting yourself in this process. With kindness and comfort and understanding. The second phase is about normalizing. So we want to normalize aging. When it comes to body size changes, I talked about the importance of normalizing the diversity and with aging, we want to do the same. So as I said, like what aging role models do have, and do, they only represent one narrow standard, because like I said, like we really sort of get like these two very narrow storylines, and expectations of how aging looks. And I think that we’re missing so much variety there, we can look and try to find different aging role models in your community in real life in different cultures. Because aging is looked at differently in different cultures. It’s in our Western culture, and in white culture, specifically that it is seen as like such a terrible and scary thing. One of the participants in my un Fire Program, told me about how she, I think she’s in her late 30s, she went to a Pilates class at our local community center. And most of the people there were in their 70s. And she talked about how it was such a lovely way to be in community with people who are older than her and hear their stories, and really helped her to see aging in a much more positive way. And she allowed me to share this story with permission, because I thought it was like such a great thing to do. I know we often look online to find different role models, but we can find things in our community and finding different places to, you know, talk to people who are older than you and socialize with people who are older than you can really help us to see the aging process differently. And then again, like changing our social media feed is super important. I personally cannot follow accounts where the person uses filters, like face filters. I just can’t do it. I try to avoid accounts where it’s you know, it’s obvious they’ve done like Botox and fillers and stuff and again, like I have nothing against someone doing that. It just does not help me. It doesn’t help my self perception at all. So it’s no offense to them. I’m not anti that if you choose to do that. That’s totally your own freewill, it body autonomy all the way But, again, the question is like, Is this helping you? Is this helping your beliefs about aging? Is it helping yourself perception and for me, it just doesn’t. So that’s a, that’s a decision that I’ve had to make for myself.

The other part of the Normalize process is we want to normalize how our own body looks. So we want to expect changes, we don’t want to expect that we’re going to see our 30 year old self, when we look in the mirror. As I said, in Episode 280, we have this blueprint in our mind of how our body looks. And when we see it, well, like when we see ourselves in the mirror and the photo, and it doesn’t match that sort of blueprint in our mind, it can cause us to have a really distressing experience. And it’s the same thing that with aging. So avoiding really looking at your face, which I think I did, I just didn’t really like, look too closely at my face and may and that might be actually like a positive thing for you. If you tend to fixate on it like body check it. At the same time, if you completely avoid it, you know, might be helpful to do a little work around just normalizing how your face looks so that it’s not this experience that you’re having where you just all of a sudden look at yourself and think oh my god, that’s how I look like I look so tired. I look so rundown. And so, again, doesn’t mean that we’re scrutinizing our appearance, rather, let’s just become familiar with it and use it as a way to create new narratives about the aging process. I wanted to take a minute to read this poem by Ruby car. She’s an amazing poet, and she has this poem called homebody. No, sorry, the book is called homebody. And this is on page 169 of the book homebody. Gives me laugh lines and wrinkles. I want proof of the jokes we shared, engrave the lines into my face, like the roots of a tree that grow deeper with each passing year. I want sunspots as souvenirs for the beaches we laid on. I want to look like I was never afraid to let the world take me by the hand and show me what it’s made of. I want to leave this place knowing I did something with my body, other than trying to make it look perfect. I just love that. I love that. So I wanted to share that with you. Maybe you’ve seen that before. And if you haven’t, I just look it up. Or you know what, I’ll put the link in the show notes. How about that. The last phase is connect. And the connect phase is really about seeing yourself as a whole human versus compartmentalizing yourself into body parts. beauty standards really just make us value ourselves based on how we look. And the more we disconnect our sense of self worth, from how we look, the easier it is to be able to manage any kind of changes we have, whether that be weight changes, or aging changes.

And so part of connecting is really about connecting with who you are. And I mentioned this in Episode 280. But it’s like what are your values? What is your purpose? What brings you fulfillment? What brings you pleasure, and what brings you a sense of identity, because often our body can be our identity. And therefore when we age, it can feel like a loss of identity, or something that we were capable of doing when we were younger. And maybe we can’t do now, because of aging. Like I don’t know, I’m trying to think of an example here. Like maybe you used to be able to like, hike all these really big mountains. And now, maybe you just can’t quite do that anymore. And that’s totally okay. And that’s that relates to me. By the way, there’s no way I could hike what I used to hike, I probably could if I really trained for it again, but I just I just put different life priorities I’m not able to. But anyways, it can feel like a loss of identity. And so doing work around our identity and strengthening our sense of self worth can be really, really helpful towards accepting any kind of aging changes, we might need to find different meaning in our lives. Like if you were super focused on your career, if you were super focused on like raising kids, and maybe you start to get more time back to yourself, you might not really know who you are anymore. You might have like, you might feel like you don’t even know like what you’re passionate about. You might have like regrets too. And that’s a tough thing to sit with. So just instead of seeing this as like a terrible process, really seeing it as like an opportunity to to discover new things about yourself and discover who you are. I do a lot of that work when I’m working with people and in your own fire. The last piece is really about connecting with others and having community I think that making friends and being in community can be harder as you get older. It can take a lot more effort to make new friends and to find community. Especially if maybe you’ve moved around or you’ve been focused on one particular thing, like raising your kids or having a career. It can be hard if you’re an introvert like me, but I think that lacking connection with others can make that aging part As us a lot more difficult because we just feel the sense of isolation and loneliness. And when we intersect that with sort of these feelings around like mortality, it can bring up a lot of emotions is what I’ve noticed. And so looking for community, in different social circles, through hobbies, in your local community, even just online, can be super helpful to just have some other people in your life that share similar views to you. And I think it’s a really critical part of of the process when it comes to just feeling more fulfilled having a greater sense of connection and self worth. It’s one of the reasons I love the group aspect of you on fire so much, because I think that being in community with others is, it’s just like gasoline on the fire, it just makes it so much more powerful. I do a lot of work around these things in you on fire. And I do find it’s really an individual process, and everyone moves through it differently. But if you’re wanting more support around this, then check out you on fire. I know it’s really about body image, but aging is body image, it’s just a different branch of the same tree. You and fire is the online coaching program that I have. It’s really dedicated to helping you build up a solid sense of self worth beyond your gene size, and beyond your wrinkles.

We cover all these different facets in there. You can check out summer forward slash you on fire or just always go to the body image to put your name on the waitlist there. I hope you found this episode helpful. What other questions do you have? I definitely want to create more episodes around this topic have more conversations around it. Personally, to me, it’s really relevant as well. I know to a lot of you listening when I did the poll back in the summer, and I asked about what topics you wanted to hear more about aging was by far one of the topics that you wanted me to speak more about and have more guests on. So that’s what we’re going to do. But I would love to know specifically, if you have any ideas, feel free to message me feel free to send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to hear how this resonated with you today. You can find the show notes for this episode at summer forward slash 283 Thank you so much for listening today. Rock on.

I’m Summer Innanen And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on.

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