Aging changes us. As we trade our youth for maturity, we may have a few more wrinkles, but we often have greater self-acceptance — which brings its own special beauty, especially in our 50s and 60s. At the same time, maintaining healthy habits not only helps us feel young, but also to look our best.
Aging is a double-edged sword when it comes to body image, says psychologist Leslie Heinberg, PhD, Section Head for Psychology in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director of Behavioral Services for the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.
“On the one hand, we live in a society that values youth, fitness, thinness and muscularity. But as we age, we inevitably move away from that ideal,” she says. “On the other hand, most people become less invested in their appearance as they age. So they feel less pressure to meet that ideal.”
Here are five tips to live a good life, looking and feeling your best:
1. Keep moving (and swing a few barbells around too)
Dr. Heinberg says exercise is the No. 1 way to improve your body and body image as you age. And it’s not just cardiovascular exercise that’s important. You also need weight training.
Working your muscles will not only improve your muscle-to-fat ratio, but will also increase your metabolic rate so your body will burn more calories, even while at rest.
2. Enjoy good food, good sleep and good friends
People who feel healthy tend to have better body images. One thing you can do to improve your overall health is to eat a healthy diet. Eating right plays a key role in helping you maintain a healthy weight — which is another thing that helps boost your body image.
Other key healthy habits include getting a good night’s sleep, drinking plenty of water and maintaining an active social life.
3. Explore hormone therapy options
A lot of the body changes that happen as you age relate to a decrease in certain hormones (e.g., estrogen, testosterone). Hormone replacement therapy can help. But Dr. Heinberg warns that you and your doctor need to weigh the potential risks against the benefits.
If you’re wondering if hormone therapy might be an option for you, talk to your doctor.
4. Consider cosmetic treatments if you like
If you’re struggling with wrinkles and think you’d feel better with some help from a dermatologist, there are wrinkle fillers (e.g., Botox®, Juvederm®) or other dermatologic interventions). Plastic surgery is also an option, but all these are very individual decisions. Realistic expectations are important predictors of satisfaction with these procedures.
5. Give yourself a break
There’s more unnecessary pressure than ever for people in their 50s and 60s to look younger in today’s world. Almost everywhere you look, you’ll see celebrities gracing the covers of magazines to show off how well they’ve aged and you’ll hear how “60 is the new 40.”
While you do things to be healthy that make you feel good, embrace your age. It’s OK to love yourself just as you are.