Five Secrets to Youth and Beauty

Funny thing happened today when I went to get a pedicure (we’re heading into a 3 day stretch of weather above 70 here in the Seattle area. We’re talking sandal weather, so that means a pedicure was in order).

I always like to pick out the craziest, brightest colors they have, and this time I picked a nice orangey neon pink. Then, as I was sitting there sipping an iced latte and watching my manicurist Tammy do her work, I noticed she had white polka dots painted on her nails. They were super cute, so I asked her to put polka dots on my toes.

While she was doing the dots, the woman in the next chair commented on how cute the dots were coming out, so Tammy asked if she wanted hers done too. And the woman said no, she was too old for polka dots.

I took a good look at her. Were we talking about someone in her 80s? 60s?

No, I could tell by looking at her that she was younger than I am. So I asked her age, and she said 43.

Y’all, I am 46. Tammy (the manicurist with the polka dot nails) is 49.

Age ain’t nothin but a number.

So on that note, here are my secrets for looking young and feeling beautiful, long past the age where I (apparently) should no longer be putting polka dots on my fingers and toes.

1. Stop Giving a Shit
It’s fine if you don’t like polka dots or don’t want to keep up with the latest trends or whatever, but if your reason for feeling that way is that you think others will say you are too old, you need to get over it.

If you are unsure of how to stop giving a shit, then I present to you The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck

The terminology is a bit different, but the idea is the same. Peace and tranquility lies in simply not caring about the opinions of other people, most of whom are barely aware of your existence anyway. This is a truth I wish I had figured out at a much younger age, but since I discovered it, I can say it has been truly freeing.

Not giving a shit will save you a lot of wrinkles and grey hairs.

2. Do What Makes YOU Happy
Life is too short to give up doing the things you love to do because of a number. Yet, a lot of people reach adulthood and stop doing the things they used to love because they are “too old.” And they don’t find new things to love because they don’t have time, money, etc.

Pretty soon, life just becomes about work, work and more work. Or it’s all about raising kids, and you’re living through them instead of having your own accomplishments.

Where is the joy in that?

I fell into this rut myself for a long time, but now that I have my kids I have become very aware of the message it sends. It sends the message that adulthood is a drag and fun is for the young.

I know for me, I gave up some of the things I used to love (such as riding horses – too expensive) but found other things I loved to do instead, such as running, skiing and cycling. But the important thing is not what the activity is, it is how it makes you feel. At the end of a run I feel like I accomplished something (well, usually). I’m not breaking any land speed records, but I love to do it – I love the escape it offers, and how good I feel when I am done.

It’s okay if the thing you love isn’t a physical activity. As long as it puts a smile on your face, that’s what matters. If scrap booking or painting are the things that give you joy, then by all means, do that. But if that’s the case, see rule #5.

3. Make an Effort
You don’t have to dress in the latest fashion, or pile on the makeup, but I do think that one’s happiness and self esteem are really boosted by taking a little care with their appearance.

Myself, I usually go pretty light on the makeup, as I actually don’t think it flatters me very much. But, I do work hard to maintain my fitness and keep my weight at a healthy level. This has the added bonus of keeping my skin reasonably clear and healthy looking as well. I also know it makes me look and feel better than when I don’t.

And while I don’t spend a lot on my wardrobe, I do try to wear things that I think are cute and flattering. No mom jeans. When I found out I would have to have surgery, I set aside some money for a wardrobe refresh afterwards, and I think it has helped me keep from feeling depressed, especially on the days when I wasn’t feeling great. It is kind of amazing how that works.

I also make sure to wear sunscreen. I was a latecomer to the whole sunscreen thing – didn’t start wearing it religiously until my late 20s, but I do think it has helped to stave off the worst of the wrinkles and sun damage. My makeup routine on most days is a color correcting face lotion with 30 SPF, and a tinted lip gloss. If I’m feeling fancy, I might add a cat eye and red lipstick to the mix. But that’s about it. That’s what I need to do to look like I feel – which is pretty good most of the time.

4. Watch Your Intake
Nothing will age you faster than carrying around a lot of extra weight and the dirty fact of the matter is that as a friend of mine told me, you can’t outrun your diet. And I think the biggest culprit for a lot of people is partly WHAT they eat and drink, and also how much.

I have to admit that I am not the greatest with the WHAT part of the equation – but I do keep an eye on how much. My big downfall is sweets. I have to sugar pretty much every day. I try to keep a lid on it – like one sweet thing a day is enough (two if they are small) but it’s basically my one major vice.

As vices go, I am good with it. Most of my other vices are long gone and as long as I watch the quantity, sugar is not SO bad. I’ll run it off anyway.

As for other vices, specifically drinking: personally, as I have gotten older, I’ve mostly stopped drinking. And to be honest, I hardly miss it. I still drink socially, but even then I am a lot more judicious than I once was.

Not drinking means a lot of empty calories I am not ingesting. It’s a choice – if I have to choose between wine and chocolate I’ll choose chocolate. If I have to choose between either of them and looking and feeling good the next day, I usually pick how I will feel the next day.

Also, alcohol is very aging. It is a vasodilator, which means when you drink, your blood vessels swell. That is why people who drink a lot will get red, puffy looking faces. I am one of those people who is really affected by this – I turn beet red, and my face swells like a balloon after two drinks. It’s called the alcohol flush, and it is not pretty.

Anyway, the important thing is to know your your calorie needs and try to stick to them as closely as possible. A little indulgence here and there isn’t usually going to do long term damage,but if it becomes a regular thing, it WILL catch up to you.

And before you know it, even if you only gain a pound or two a year, at that rate, 10 years = 20 pounds. Then you are 10 years older than you are now, 20 (or more) pounds heavier, and feeling like crap.

It’s not just about your intake, though. You also have to consider that…

5. Exercise and Sleep Are Critical
If you are not getting enough exercise, it wreaks havoc on your body. I know this first hand. Before I got back into running last year I was having trouble sleeping, had all kinds of aches and pains. I wasn’t that heavy, but I was unfit and I felt crappy.

But lo and behold, since I started exercising, most of those problems have disappeared, along with about 10 pounds. It is not necessarily true that your metabolism naturally slows down as you get older. But what does happen is that you lose muscle mass unless you are doing something to maintain it.

Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if your muscle mass is going down, the number of calories you are burning is also going down, even if your weight stays the same. If your calorie intake stays the same as it was when you had more muscle, eventually weight gain will start to happen unless something changes.

This is what people refer to when they talk about your metabolism slowing down. But, it’s not something that has to happen or that cannot be controlled, or even reversed. You can reverse it, stop it, or at least slow it down by exercising, especially exercise that helps maintain muscle mass (that means not just piling on the cardio, but some strength/ muscle building activities too). Keep the muscle, burn the fat.

The other benefit is that you maintain the strength to do the activities you enjoy, and stave off the day when even your daily activities and sense of balance (proprioception) start to be come impacted. Lack of core strength is one of the reasons why elderly people have balance problems and are at risk of falls. The good news is you can prevent it or at least put it off as long as possible.

In the even shorter term, getting enough exercise also helps with sleep. Because you are too tired to have insomnia. Nothing makes a better sleep aid than physical exhaustion. And nothing helps you look healthy, happy and pretty like getting enough sleep.

None of this is original advice, and unfortunately none of it includes products that can be bought. But I guarantee that if you try it, it will work and you will look and feel years younger.

And if you don’t?

See Rule #1.

And for Heavens sake – get polka dots if you like them!