A year ago I was rolling in the thick swamp of a mid-life crisis. When I was little I wanted to grow up to be….well….me. But not the me I saw then. The me I wanted to be was beautiful, rich and famous with a loving husband and a handful of perfectly cherubic children. I was on the wrong side of forty and hadn’t quite become that queenly figure I figured I would become! I was turning grey, my eyesight was going and my knees had all but packed it in. I was at the age where women begin grasping for quick fix renovation jobs – sucking out tenacious fat, lifting things that began to slide irrevocably, tightening the seams and pumping Spakfiller into all the deepening facial crevasses. But I was pathologically afraid of knives, syringes and all things pointed (including knitting needles and sharp words). I didn’t want to look like a plastic alien. I wanted to look healthy, vibrant and feel that way too.
After a lifetime of sloth and champagne, I was starting to panic!
This led to a mind-boggling chase for the natural fountain of youth. The sure-fire anti-ageing diet and the most dazzling array of supplements. Here is a run-down of what I tried and what I learned.
There is an old adage that as you age you must choose between the body or the face, the reasoning being that the plumper you are, the more youthful the face. There might be something to that when you compare Nigella Lawson to some vegan marathon junkie. But my research has shown that this is not necessarily so.
Some studies say that a reduced calorie diet and an extremely lean bod are more healthy than carrying some extra weight. Others say the opposite. A diet high in protein or a diet high in carbohydrates? All meat. No meat. Raw. Caveman. They all have their advocates and success stories.
I tested all the diets over the last year, looking for a perfect fit and here are my findings.
Atkins/Dukan – good for fast weightloss, bad breath, constipation and you end up with a guilt complex every time you see an animal.
Raw Food Diet – this one strangely messed up my insides. My stomach was not cow-like enough to process so much fibre. Gas. Bloating. Pain. And the juicer exploded from hard labour.
Vegan – Pleasant enough until I discovered an allergy to legumes and soy. Stomach blew up like a hot air balloon. Good for the soul, though.
The Grapefruit/egg diet – induces heavy despondency when you hate eggs and grapefruit. Torture.
It was actually hard to maintain any fad diet and none had any lasting effect.
Instead I designed my own with the best of all of the above and came up with the Sensible Diet….lots of raw fruits and vegetables, some organic lean chicken and fish. Only occasional low gluten grains like quinoa, millet and brown rice. The occasional sneaky good red wine and a few squares of darkest of dark chocolate.
It was a good idea but my willpower was/is crap. I was fine with the chocolate and wine….not so much with the others, particularly when the family was chowing down on pizza.
I looked into the super supplements that are supposed to reverse the process of ageing. I had handfuls of dehydrated pellets known as Goji berries and tipped Maca powder into my almond milk shakes. I swallowed lots of Co-Enzyme 10, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, African Mango powder, Noni juice (which sounds kind of rude) and many other whacko concoctions. I bought instant eye-fix buzzing wands. Lip plumper. B.B Creams. And I just looked the same every day. No change.
And then I went on a holiday. Weeks and weeks of traipsing about idyllic beaches. Eating whatever I wanted. Walking along the seaside. Lying in the shallows like a seal. My children were suddenly those cherubic creatures I’d dreamed of and my husband and I fell deeper in love like we were on a second honeymoon. I didn’t give a single toss about diet, exercise or supplements. I wore no makeup and never went near a hairdresser or beautician.
After nearly two months of that, I had lost all my excess weight, had more energy, slept better and when I looked in the mirror I realised I had lost about ten years along the way.
That changed my attitude and I realised that there is no magic potion. The key is in me. I just need to love myself as I am, enjoy my life and my family and forget all the bullshit that the diet and beauty industry feed you. You can’t live on a holiday but you can fake it. It’s all in the attitude.
Moderation. Some good exercise, fresh air, some good food, some bad, some wine, some chocolate. Make love. Play with the kids. Take a deep breath. Meditate. Not necessarily ‘om’ deep and meaningful meditation. Just a walking along a bush-track or a water-way does it for me.
When you keep stressing about the food you should be eating, the triathlons you should be sweating in, you give yourself wrinkles and indigestion. Cortisol, the stress hormone, equals stored fat.
It’s not always easy and I’m out of whack a fair bit but I have discovered the secret and when I remind myself of that….the flab melts and the lines smooth….
There is nothing more beautiful than laughter and an inner serenity.