Is it really true that women have to choose between their face or their figure after 40? Tonya Zavasta presents the raw perspective on a modern media myth.
I’m reminded of a common motif in Russian fairy tales. A knight comes to a fork in the road, where stands a pillar. Written on the pillar: foretellings of what will happen depending on which road he takes.
The messages we receive – like the knight’s – don’t necessarily make the right choice clearer. Now in the Western mythos, the choices always come in pairs. Health, sickness…joy, tragedy…happiness, grief. How will we choose when we’re forced to make the choice?
A recent article in England’s Daily Mail, written by Ollie Picton-Jones, proclaims chef extraordinaire Nigella Lawson’s pitch for keeping curves and ditching diets. Says Nigella, “If I lost forty pounds, I would age ten years straight away.” Picton-Jones, a fashion maven and admitted glutton, recommends abandoning all dietary efforts for the sake of keeping a young-looking face. The fact is, she says,
“When you get to 40 you have to choose between your face and your body. If you pare down the body too much, the quid pro quo is that you acquire the turkey neck and sunken cheekbones of a wizened old crone.”
She backs up her claim with photos of celebrities who’ve done just that. The selection of photos does look alarming. However, at least one of the sets of before-and-after pics (Nigella’s father Nigel Lawson) looks to have been taken 30 years apart. I’m guessing decades and gravity have more to do with the decline than does weight loss.
But let’s grant the author her due. The fact remains: with weight loss, we do lose volume in the face as a result of fat’s “melting away,” which does contribute to the aging effect. Fat is, in its way, a “cosmetic filler.” And bulging bodies do bring with them full faces. Picton-Jones made her choice: “I opted for the entirely natural face filler that comes from eating heartily.” Let’s take a look at this “entirely natural face filler” and decide whether we want to follow her example.
Consider a landfill site – the newfangled name for the town dump. We’ve all visited the dump at least once. This is the oldest form of waste disposal – archaeologists know it across the world, across millennia. Yuk! Your body stores waste products pretty much the same way. Now, after a while, a landfill looks okay: they plough the trash under, smooth it over, plant grass and trees. The result can look nice. Even pretty. But underneath: a toxic mess.
Same with the body. If we simply eat what we want indiscriminately and carry the extra weight, we’ve got a human landfill. Smooth it over. Lay on some make-up. Result: okay. Maybe even pretty or handsome. But underneath: a mess of toxins. This overflowing landfill of a body will betray you with disease sooner or later. That analogy made, ask yourself: is that excess weight even an option?
Should you, like the author suggests, just eat what you like, keep the weight on and, as she recommends, simply “disguise bulges with clever corsetry”? Have we learned nothing from the bad old days? Do you want to keep your landfill full? At what price?
Here’s what the article doesn’t disclose… Fighting the effects of a poor diet, however you may look in the short run, is at least as much work as, if not more than, simply eating right and exercising. What the author omits to mention: that the full face she praises is nothing like the slick, smooth face that you had in your youth.
Indiscriminating eating habits give you a lumpy, puffy face with sallow, dull, uneven complexion. It’s often plagued by pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. Just as in a literal landfill, all those toxins will be coming out somewhere.
So chow down, if you want, on beef wellington, with smoked oysters for appetisers and petit-fours for dessert, and keep your face “full.” But the fact remains: excess weight is a killer. The toxic overload of cooked, rich foods over the years leads to disease, to uncomfortable menopause, and to high blood pressure, diabetes and a host of other diseases.
But Nigella is right about one thing: if you’re eating lots of cooked foods and you lose weight fast, you’ll most likely experience some degree of sagging, drooping and wrinkling, which will conspire to make you look like you’re playing dress-up in your grandmother’s skin.
But back to our Russian fairy tale. Our knight had three choices, not two. There’s a third road for us as well, about which the author of the article is entirely unaware. A sound raw food diet is definitely the healthiest way to lose weight. If you are under 40, most likely you’ll be delighted with the results and find the process fairly straightforward.
One catch: the lion’s share of my readership is over 40. Weight loss after mid-life is problematic. Raw foods are still the way to go, but it’s a fast – sometimes, frightfully fast – method. It’s the steep ski-hill, for sure. Go too fast, and you’ll find the truth in Nigella Lawson’s admonition, via hanging skin and turkey wattles. The point: you’ve got to move slowly. With deliberate restraint. Don’t come out of that chute full throttle.
Lose your weight at a safe, sane rate – good advice anytime. But there’s more – especially for us over-40s. Simultaneously, incorporate daily exercise of body and face, building good muscle tone as you go. This way, by the time your weight’s off, all of you looks toned and healthy.
Exercise does the same for your face as it does for your body. Ever gone to a yoga or aerobics class, a gym or a 5K run and seen people there with toned, fit bodies but faces that betray their age? It’s a matter of focus. Popular wisdom says: climb on the treadmill…bang a hundred lat-pulldowns…do some squats and bench presses and leg stretches.
But popular wisdom says nothing about exercising anything above your shoulders. For many, thanks to the persuasive power of the lucrative cosmetics and cosmetic surgery industries, what focus the face does get is all about covering it or getting it nipped and tucked and tweaked.
Facial exercises are essential if you want to arrive at your healthiest weight looking ten years younger, not older! Combine your weight loss diet with exercise – facial exercise in particular – so that when the weight comes off, you don’t end up with that droopy, “sunken-cheeked” look.
Skin care is a vital part of keeping your face looking young and healthy. It takes a combination of the FEAR factor – Facial Exercise And Raw – and smart, customised skin care in order to keep young and healthy facial features and a healthy skin to cover them. Things you used to get away with leave you no leeway now. Your daily cleansing, exfoliation and moisturising need to become as important as eating healthy foods.
When we’re younger – twenties, thirties – we mostly don’t worry, and don’t need to worry, about our faces. We can squeak by more easily when we’re young. After forty, though, we have to work harder. And after fifty, we face a tough choice: do something…or age – perhaps rapidly. After fifty, a certain acceleration takes place, and you have to get and stay on top of it. Some faces are prone to aging faster – thin faces, especially – and need extra work.
To some it may seem that keeping the extra pounds and having a full face is the easy way. The author of the article likes her curves, she says, but admits to laborious work of hiding them through “judiciously cut garments” and corsets. To the cost and trouble of creative couture, add in the burden of fighting skin problems, and frequent visits to doctors and aestheticians.
Face or body? These two choices don’t have to be yours. The third road, the best road, may not be clear as you approach the crossroads. But it’s there. Choose it. The third way is fundamentally simple. By eating raw foods and exercising my whole body (face included) I, at age 53, get to have it both ways. So can you!
The third road – having it both ways – does take some work. But you’re in control. You choose. You manage. You decide. It might take time, but in the end you can have it all. Youthful face. Youthful body. Plus health and longevity, too. When you do what’s right, you can’t go wrong!
Tonya Zavasta is the author of the books Your Right to Be Beautiful, Beautiful on Raw, Quantum Eating, Raw Food and Hot Yoga and Rawsome Flex. Visit her website, BeautifulonRaw.com, to find out more.