Helen and Debra from Advanced Style. These ladies sum up everything that I think matters about aging, and I doubt they wake up thinking “if only I didn’t have that wrinkle.”
I spend every day in a gym with people, trying to get them out of their heads and into their bodies. Over the last several years, I’ve come to trust that there is a handful of questions – or misguided statements – that I will get asked every day. EVERY. DAMNED. DAY.
“Will I get bulky?” “I don’t know if I can do that.” “Will I lose weight?”And, of course, “I just want to be able to do the things I could do when I was younger.”
Ummmmm, sorry. Reversing time: It’s not a thing.
We are a culture obsessed with youth. We’re obsessed with smooth and tight and skinny and bright and… We’re obsessed with things that don’t exist. Santa. The Easter Bunny. Boobs that point to the sun from any position. We need to switch our focus, to an obsession with wisdom, joy and embarrassing our children with tales of the raucous (and occasionally raunchy) stories of our youth as a way to remind them to go out and live a little. You live once. The goal is to collect as many stories as you can, until the day you die.
Look, I cannot help you go back in time. What I can help you do is completely rock the age that you are. I can help you live your life longer, and filled with strength, power and joy.
So, I have good news and bad news:
BAD NEWS: Aging is inevitable. GOOD NEWS: It’s better than the alternative. In fact, it can be awesome.
How well you age isn’t a function of how skinny and wrinkle-free you stay, it’s a function of how well your mind and body work until the end. So let’s look at some practical ways to deal with your age with flare, if not grace. Grace is totally overrated.
Sweat and Build Muscles. We’ve all seen those older people who are stooped over with weak muscles and osteoporosis. While genetics certainly play a part, how you treat your body now can change how it works in the future. Numerous studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise – which means more than just walking – play a key role in fighting of osteoporosis. That same weakness and brittleness is what often leads to people losing their balance, falling and suffering injuries that limit their mobility.
So, what’s the sweet spot? Two recent studies have finally answered that. First, How much? Previous recommendations have said that 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is what we should be shooting for. But the first of these major studies showed, very clearly, that people who exercised 450 minutes a week (about 7-1/2 hours) decreased their risk of death by 39% compared to those who didn’t exercise at all, and nearly 10% more than those who met the previous 150-minute standard.
But, you can just go for lots of walks, right? Nope. Turns out, at least some of it has to be vigorous exercise. Get your sweat on. Those who spent at least 30% of their exercise time engaged in vigorous exercise reduced mortality risk by 9%. If more than 30% of your time is spent going for the gusto, you score a 13% reduction in your mortality risk.
Now, let me reiterate that reversing aging is not a thing. But there is lots of evidence that muscles burn energy (you know, calories) at a higher rate than anything else. So building muscle will effectively increase metabolism. It will not, however, make you younger or keep you from getting soft in the middle, unless you go to an extreme that most of us will never go to.
So no, yoga and long walks on the beach an sunset aren’t enough. Think singles tennis rather than doubles. Running rather than walking. Zumba rather than sultry slow-dancing. (Though sultry time also keeps your heart beating in all the good ways.)
Eat Good Food. Remember when you could eat and drink anything you wanted? Ya, that’s not the case anymore. When you were growing, and being all active, your body needed all those calories. Now, your energy needs, even if you’re active, require less fuel because – as everyone already knows and complains about – your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories) is slower.
But the food we eat has a more profound impact on us. I get food hangovers now in the same way that I used to get booze hangovers. (And I get booze hangovers with half as much booze.)
Now is the time to think about nutrient density. (Actually, it’s always the time for that.) Think about foods that are high in protein, contain healthy fats, and will do more than just make you full.
In particular, aging bodies tend to need calcium, Vitamin B and Vitamin D. Those are all most easily obtained through meat, eggs and dark leafy greens. You also need plenty of whole, natural fats. Not Crisco and Oreos, but avocados, eggs, coconut oil.
Sadly, no one’s body needs excess sugar. The sugar that comes naturally in fruits and carby veggies is plenty for you. The excess added sugar is nothing but bad for you. So make a deal with yourself. Don’t restrict it 100%, because life without ice cream is my idea of a living hell. But cut it down to 3 days a week, or special occasions. Same goes for alcohol.
Bottom line, you need to eat nourishing food, and enough of it. The temptation to restrict calories is counter-productive, unless you are actively trying to lose a great deal of weight. If you do not put in enough nourishment (which means quality food, not junk food) then your body will think it’s starving and will hold on to everything you give it. Effectively, slowing down your metabolism.
Get rid of old clothes. Admit it, you’re hanging on to old clothes that used to fit you because you think that some day you’ll be small enough to fit them again. You probably won’t. And that’s okay. Our bodies change as we age, and trying to stop that is a recipe for constant frustration and disappointment. And looking at those clothes all the time is like being constantly reminded of things you can’t have. Get rid of them. Give them to someone who can rock them. Find new clothes that fit you and make you feel awesome. Stop hanging on the past, and embrace this moment in time, right now.
Don’t “Act Your Age.” You are the boss of you. You are old enough to make up your own mind about what you want to do. Period. You want to wear a miniskirt? Wear it. You want to dance like a maniac at a music festival? Do it. You’re reaching the long tail of your long life, and now is the time to shed all the rules that held you back and kept you small and contained. You will be a lot less worried about what you look like if you’re out having fun and doing things.
Surround Yourself With OldSpo Fuck the FitSpo, we need more OldSpo. Have a go-to set of old people that you admire. For me, I LOVE the women of Advanced Style. They are just rocking life with a kind of pizzazz I aspire to. (Seriously, I want to be them when I grow up.) I also have a special love for stories of “old” people setting athletic records, and living their dreams….. These are my go-to inspirations. I have a ways to go, but I’ll get there, and I’m excited about it. That way, aging isn’t a case of losing youth, but a case of working towards something even more awesome.
Map Your Wrinkles and Fat Rolls I try to look at my wrinkles and fat rolls as proof that I’ve lived. I use them like a scrap book. Each time I want to criticize them, I remember the laughter that gave them to me, or the long days in the sun, or the pregnancy, or the awesome food I’ve eaten. I look at them as a living bouquet of the bounty that has been my life. When I’m feeling down about them, I pay extra attention to them and reclaim them in the same way that people reclaimed the word “slut.”
Rock Your Look It’s always okay to want to feel beautiful, whatever that means to you. But remember, you’re not trying to hide yourself, just enhance yourself a bit. (Hiding, after all, is what we do with things we’re ashamed of. You are nothing to be ashamed of!)
When I need a new look or some input so that my makeup doesn’t make me look like a clown, I turn to my friend Luce Cousineau. Luce is a Seattle based makeup artist who has worked with Keira Knightley, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and more. When she is not working in film and TV – she helps “women of a certain age” look and feel great.
Luce always reminds me that beauty comes from inside – which means healthy living, reducing stress and inviting joy in our lives. Makeup, however, can be an awesome accessory, like your jewelry or clothes. It should reflect who you are. Enhance it, not hide it. If you are 65 and love heavy black eyeliner – get a magnifying mirror, sharpen your eye pencil, and rock it! Like me, she’d never tell you to “act your age,” she’d remind you to Rock Your You.
But here are her 3 tips for a great face at any age!
Good skin care. Mature skin doesn’t replenish its natural moisture as quickly, so treat it gently and use a moisturizer meant for your skin type. Most people need lotion or cream that contains water and oil.
Eyebrows! We can start to lose them as we age and they help shape our face. Get to a brow specialist if you need help.
Give yourself color! We lose our natural color as we age…add it back to your lips and cheeks! Cream blush looks natural and is easy to apply. A little foundation or concealer outside the lip line can help with feathering lipstick. Skip the nude and brown lipstick and pump up the pinks and corals for spring!
Look, I struggle with change as much as the next person. But that’s all this is: change. Aging is accepting that the “you” that you knew isn’t who you are anymore. It’s accepting new patterns, new possibilities, new limitations. It’s a new adventure into uncharted territory, which can feel scary. Or like loss. But let’s learn to look at it as travel and meeting a great new friend. A friend that happens to be you. A new you.
I want to model that in a healthy way for our daughters, so I pretend to be brave, even when I don’t feel it. For them. And eventually, it becomes real. It becomes true. As they say, “fake it ’til you make it.”
Because if you’re lucky, you’re gonna make it to old age.
And you should make it awesome.