7 Ways to Celebrate Your Body During Menopause

By Amanda Bergman
May 20, 2024

If we only listened to the media, menopause would sound like a complete drag—hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, memory loss, and other unpleasant symptoms. Although these less-than-desirable elements are experienced by many women, they aren’t the only truths about the end of our reproductive years.

“Yes, you may have symptoms, but most women tolerate menopause pretty well,” says Nichole Butler, M.D., a gynecologist at Weiss Memorial Hospital's Women's Health Center, in Chicago. “Symptoms are usually manageable.”

Regardless of whether you're going through medical treatment, such as hormone therapy, your body is changing. And that's completely natural.

“The advice a lot of women get about menopause is how to keep their bodies the same as they were,” says Darcey Steinke, 59, the New York City–based author of Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life. “‘Take hormones so you’ll have the same kind of sex,’ and things like that. But your body is changing, and there’s a reason for that. Menopause is not an illness—it’s a life change that should be embraced.”

Here are seven creative ways to celebrate and empower your body and mind while embracing menopause.

1. Book a Boudoir Photo Shoot

Whether it’s for your eyes only or to share with a partner, this deeply intimate art form is a “beautiful act of radical self-love,” says Cheyenne Gil, a body-affirming photographer in Philadelphia. “Boudoir photography is such an incredible experience, especially for those of us who've been told we're too big, too loud, too much, too old, too this, too that.”

Gil’s work is as much about unlearning negative messages as embracing the positive ones. “We've been taught to be quiet, to hide, to shrink, to be and act and look as young and as small as possible,” she says, “but boudoir photography is a powerful way to allow ourselves to be seen fully, and to be celebrated and honored no matter our age or size.”

Shannon G., 48, of Phoenix, agrees. "The photos from my boudoir shoot serve as a continual reminder that I am beautiful," she says. "And someday, when I'm gone, I hope it'll show my descendants that their great-grandma was a hottie."

2. Take Up Yoga

“It amazes me how a bit of calm on a mat can reignite me,” says Elaine J., 50, of Wantagh, New York. “I wish I’d learned this earlier in life. I am constantly surprised at how even the tiniest bit of stretching or just ‘being’ can change my entire mood. I often go to yoga just to get some peace and quiet, and quite frankly, I’d be fine with lying in the fetal position for an hour.”

Beth E., 49, of San Francisco, loves how empowering her yoga practice is, especially because it also helps ease her anxiety.

“Anxiety really separates you from your body in many ways because it feels as though you've lost control of yourself,” she says. “It can't be fixed by thinking harder or trying harder, and it doesn't discriminate. With yoga, I connect to my breath and to a pose, which returns me to my body and helps calm whatever I've been holding. I think for women in particular, yoga can be reclaiming ourselves, literally taking back our control.”

3. Learn a New Skill or Start a New Hobby

Keeping our minds and bodies engaged in midlife can provide measurable benefits. In one study, for instance, knitting was associated with higher levels of self-reported happiness. Gardening can also offer mental and emotional health perks in terms of lessening anger, stress, and fear, in addition to more obvious physical benefits, like building strength and muscle.

This was the experience of Barbara B., 70, of East Brunswick, New Jersey. She took up gardening in midlife as a way to reduce stress, and discovered that the physical benefits were just as rewarding.

“I get such pleasure from planning and planting it all, and looking out at the changing flowers and plants gives me such a feeling of peace,” Barbara says. “It’s great exercise, too! At my last scan, even my bone density was normal, which my doctor said was astonishing for someone my age.”

Another option to consider? A dance class, which offers the health benefits of exercise— including helping manage weight and cholesterol levels—with the added perk of social interaction and, often, a confidence boost.

“Before the pandemic, I took a [dance] class with some friends, which was so fun,” says Heather S., 46, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. “We all felt more free about how our bodies looked. And I appreciate my own strength much more now.”

4. Get a Tattoo

You’re never too old for ink. And if you’ve waited, one possible silver lining is that women who are in postmenopause may have a higher pain tolerance than they did before menopause, according to a small study.

Choose a tattoo design that’s symbolic, personally meaningful, or just plain beautiful. A midlife tattoo can honor your wisdom and confidence in a bold new way.

"In the shadow of my 50th birthday, I decided—somewhat on a whim—to get a tattoo on my inner forearm,” says Amanda S., 49, of Merrick, New York.

“I have one on my back and a small one on my wrist, both from many years back, and both are easily hidden,” she says. “When I was in college, a friend got a large tattoo on her inner forearm, and I wanted to be confident enough to do that. I didn't feel like I was until I was almost 50."

5. Explore Your Sexuality

Although some physical changes can lower libido and make it harder to orgasm, there’s still plenty you and your partner can do to enjoy a healthy sex life—starting with keeping the lines of communication open.

“Menopause is the perfect time to think about whether or not you want to keep having the same kind of sex you had when you were fertile,” says Steinke. “Does your body want different things now that it’s changing? Talk to your partner and experiment.”

Keep in mind, too, that a partner’s body and limitations—including erectile dysfunction (ED)—can also affect intimacy.

“When my patients come to me with concerns about their sex lives, they’re usually focused on their own bodies, even when arousal and lubrication aren’t an issue,” Butler says. “One patient said sex with her husband was painful and she doesn’t have an orgasm. I had to ask more questions to understand why. Turns out her husband’s health issues make it difficult for him to penetrate well, so there’s a lot of uncomfortable thrust and pressure.”

If your partner’s health issues make sustained penetration difficult, don’t be shy about changing things up a little and asking to have your orgasm first.

“Maybe sex will take a bit more work, but that’s normal—it’s not going to always be like when you were 38,” Butler says. “Embrace that shift and change your mindset to work with it.

6. Try a Plant-Based Diet

Cutting most—or all—animal-based foods from your diet might seem drastic if you’ve gotten to this point of your life as an omnivore, but it may offer some health benefits and help ease menopause-related symptoms. A study published in Maturitas in 2018 suggests that a vegan diet may reduce physical menopausal symptoms in addition to offering general health benefits, like weight loss and better blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“Even I’ve turned the corner now and am eating a more plant-based diet,” says Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., an ob-gyn with Stanford Healthcare in Oakland, California. “I personally believe it’s the best for menopause. My patients always ask what they can do, and this is one of the first things I recommend, to cut out the hormones and saturated fat from animal-based foods.”

7. Connect with the Outdoors

Menopause is, after all, a natural shift—so what better way to celebrate it than by immersing yourself in nature? For Steinke, who was a confident pool swimmer, that meant switching to open-water swimming.

“I swim at a lake in upstate New York, and it’s amazing to be inside nature rather than just looking at it,” she says. “It’s such a powerful feeling. Find a local spot where you can connect with nature in whatever way you’re most comfortable.” As a bonus, a study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that spending time outdoors can reduce stress and improve overall health.

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