Once upon a time, aging gracefully meant acceptance. A woman simply accepted a few more wrinkles, a few more pounds and little less hair through her 50’s and 60’s. She acquiesced to those changes and she wore them proudly as women had done for centuries, wearing their age as badges of wisdom and experience.
Nowadays, women are fighting back. For some, it’s a no-holds-barred attempt to recapture their youthful beauty armed with cosmetic surgery and skin resurfacing. The downside to that fight, particularly for those going to reputable doctors, is time. There comes a point when even the tools of the plastic surgeon or dermatologist can’t fight aging.
But that doesn’t mean we go on without a fight! Arm yourself with knowledge. Age can be synonymous with beauty even in today’s youth-obsessed culture. Gray hair is in. Women over fifty and their wondrous beauty, even if by fits and starts, are inundating the cultural consciousness. There is change on the horizon and it’s culled by knowledge.
Aging knowledgeably takes aging gracefully to task.
Replacing grace with knowledge is the most sensible way to understand, accept and take action. There are degenerative changes taking place in the skin, bones, heart and other organs. It’s simply a fact of living which means women cannot charge into their 50s without making changes. We need to make these changes in diet, lifestyle and exercise routines. Women over fifty need to evaluate their caloric intake versus energy output because metabolism slows down, muscles slacken, and skin loses radiance.
Weight does not come off as easily in the older years of life as it did in the younger years. A night of restful sleep becomes a memory. Having to exercise can be, for some, like getting a rotten tooth pulled. You’re not looking forward to it but you know you have to do it. So, what is the secret to aging knowledgeably? The secret is learning how to eat right and implementing a new lifestyle for life at 50 and beyond.
I can’t seem to lose any weight!
We are blessed today with so many tools at our fingertips. WomentoWomen offers scads of articles on our changing bodies. There are sites dedicated to jumpstarting good eating/exercising practices like the Whole30 Challenge, and information on low carb diets at Verywell’s Living Well page, or search for group outdoor activities at Meetup. There is a wealth of other info just waiting to be found on the world wide web: gyms, private trainers, yoga studios, nutritionist, and of course our doctors. Remember to ask about what’s happening, change by change, not to acquiesce to it, but to challenge those changes through nutrition and exercise. Even without setting out to join a program or a gym, there are some absolutes about living well and staying energetic well beyond our fifties that play like a broken record. Now’s the time to implement.
Who has time to exercise these days? Exercise to maintain a healthy weight or to slowly lose weight and increase muscle strength. This is not the time to retire and relax. Doing nothing does not mean nothing will happen! And in fact, we probably need to increase whatever it was we were doing just to maintain in the fight against aging. Our muscles weaken, our tummies bulge, and the skin under our upper arms becomes like a pendulum with the slightest movement, hello grandma arms!
A little weight training goes a long way, a vigorous walk is not only good for your heart but good for your soul, and take up a yoga practice. Not one aimed necessarily at advanced poses, but one aimed at strengthening abs and stretching muscles. Think about putting your body to work. In the same way, you would wake up to get your kids off to school, use that empty nest and the found time to walk in the early mornings. Add an after work walk to soothe your mind. Instead of meeting your spouse or special friend after work for a movie and dinner, go to the gym and make dinner together at home afterward. Take a look at your daily habits with an eye towards tweaking so that there’s more room, and priority given, to movement and exercise
Food, we all love it, but does it love us back? Eat better. So easy to say! Begin by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed and packaged foods; especially foods with added salt. Minimize your consumption of pizza, French fries, fried chicken, ice cream, cakes, cookies and popcorn at the movies. Maximize your daily intake of water. Don’t get caught up with the latest health trends in food, or new combinations of odd smelling concoctions guaranteed to make you live longer. Do rely on fresh foods you recognize, think ground to grocer (or farmer’s market) to table. Eat lean protein. Balance your carb against a good source of chicken and you will feel the difference. Stay away from sauces as much as possible.
None of this comes as a surprise, maintaining real change is the challenge. Start slow and stay steady. Pay attention to how you feel after a good day of eating and exercising. You’ll notice something wonderful: you feel energized. And that is truly the secret to beauty! There is no surgical or dermatological procedure that digs down so deep as to turn over a frown line like feeling good from the inside out.
Turning fifty or fifty-three or sixty can bring about mental and emotional changes as well as physical changes. Understandably, there are moments when we feel nostalgic for our youth, the way we felt and the way we once looked. Aging gracefully can be seen as permission to feel something lost. Aging knowledgeably focuses on experience. It tells us we’ve arrived somewhere, and now is the time to adapt. Aging knowledgeably shouts don’t go quietly to the early bird special. But when you do get to dinner, order well!
The art of aging knowledgeably disrupts the long-held assumption that this world caters to the young and a standard trope of beautiful. Armed with knowledge, some fruit, and a little sweat, we can be fit. Ain’t nothing looks better, feels better, does better and makes us more present than a fit body and energetic attitude. Look, no one can stop the march of time, but man, can we give it a tremendous runaround!
Editors note: This article was adapted with permission from Aging Gracefully vs. Aging Knowledgeably by Rachel Joy.