A recent study found that British women feel they have become invisible to men by the time they reach 46.
I’m not going to speculate here about how much of that is down to the way women think and how much down to the way men think – that would be an article all of its own.
I will only tell you that when I told my friend Lillian Muller this, during the interview we did to commemorate her 60th birthday today, she was incredulous. Lillian is a former Playboy model turned health crusader, and she has been following a high-raw, near-vegan diet since her late 20s.
“At 46 you’re still a baby!” she laughed. “You haven’t even started. But we’ve been so negatively programmed since we were little. And so many women of that age are divorced – maybe because their husband left them for a younger woman – and their kids have flown the nest. They have gained weight and are down on themselves. It’s a hard world and it’s easy to feel insignificant.”
So what is her take on turning 60? “When you’re living a pure lifestyle, 60 can be great – better than 50, 40 or 30. And you can be even better at 70. I’d literally be an old lady now if I’d kept living the way I was raised to, but I’ve lived a detoxifying lifestyle for 30 years. At 60 I feel better than many 30-year-olds.
“I can’t identify with so-called chronological age. I look at my pictures over the years and I think I look younger now! My chronological age says 60 but my body doesn’t look any different from how it did 30 years ago. It would if I ate what the regular woman eats. You can’t stop the aging process but you can slow it down. When you look great in your 20s, 30s or 40s it’s no big deal. It can be done very easily. But in your 50s and 60s you really see the results of healthy eating.
“I look forward to getting older,” she adds. “60 is not real old, and not real young either; it’s right there in between. I think 60 to 70 will be my best decade yet. Now I’m seeing a much bigger picture than when I was younger. I have a wisdom you can’t possibly have at 40. When you get awake and conscious, life becomes very exciting and fear-free. When you’re young, you have procrastination syndrome. ‘I’ll do it next Monday, next month, next year….’ You haven’t faced your own mortality yet so you don’t push the envelope as much; you’re not as hungry.
“At 20 you’re at your peak physically, but I don’t wish I was 20 again. Sure, I have some lines on my face but I’d rather have those and smile than be a flawless/picture-perfect 25-year-old and have no life wisdom. I find lines on a face charming. They show expression and character. They’re like a map of your life. Why would you want to erase that with a facelift?
“Now, every time I wake up, I thank God for that day. To be a human being is such a miraculous and exciting experience. Why are so many people so depressed and negative? Why not think about what you can do to change the planet? If you have another day and your health, everything else is just the strawberry on the shortcake.
“When I wake up, my number one goal is that everything I think and say is positive, complimentary, optimistic and constructive to inspire other people. I love inspiring people. I’m a health preacher, and I’m always doing it. My daughter (Alice, 20) sometimes chastises me, ‘Mom, you’re not lecturing now!’”
I know you’ll join me in wishing Lillian a happy birthday and a fantastic start to her best decade yet. I’m so delighted to be able to share here her unique brand of wisdom and positivity: the perfect antidote to this culture we live in which sends us all, and especially us women, so many subtle and not-so-subtle messages that once we’re past the first flush of youth, it’s all downhill.
“Happiness is a responsibility, and we have to take that responsibility,” she says. “Sometimes when I am trying to uplift people who are down they say to me, ‘Lillian, that’s easy for you to say, you’re always happy,’ and I say, ‘You think I’m happy by accident?’ I work every day on being a happy person and I treat it as a number one objective. That brings success in life. I want my positivity to rule my every day so I tell myself, ‘Lillian, you’re going to achieve your goals. It will all work out.’ I don’t go to a psychologist to lie on a couch – I build myself up.”
Late last year, at 59, Lillian beat out many younger contenders to be voted Peta’s Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 and she tells me that as 60 approached, she started thinking, “‘How can I take advantage of 60?’ ‘How can I make 60 work for me?'” The answer was in making a splash about the milestone and using it to show other women what’s possible with the right mindset, diet and lifestyle.
So this summer, bikini shots of Lillian are gracing magazine covers once again – including one that she appeared on back in her 20s. When she turned 45, Mann magazine, in her native Norway, featured her on the cover as the world’s sexiest 45-year-old; they are now featuring her again, too – this time as the world’s sexiest 60-year-old. “They told me that they’ve never featured anyone as old as me,” she tells me.
She also points to the fact that Helen Mirren (66) was just voted Sexiest Body on the Planet in an LA Fitness poll. “The fact a woman in her 60s is even considered for that shows how times have changed. And I’ve never had as much happening in my career as I do now; never had as many appointments as I have now. I want to be a good role model and a reminder for women of what is possible.
“It’s so weird the way society expects you to look decade by decade. When I’m coming out in a red bikini in Mann magazine looking as good as a 35-year-old in good shape, I’m showing both men and women that you can be sexy at any age. To show people that that is possible at my so-called advanced age is very empowering.
“I feel I have more potential and opportunities than ever now – to be a great example to people. I feel I can achieve much more today than I did when I was in my 20s. When you see the light you’re obligated to share that light. Everyone needs this knowledge and inspiration and wisdom. Women need to learn about this diet and lifestyle and see examples of people doing it long term so they can trust the results. I’m not planning to pass away in my 80s, according to average lifespan. I plan to stick around and be in a bikini in my 90s.”