“Face or body” Can you have it both ways?

Closeup portrait of young woman with natural facial beauty treat

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.


  • I enjoyed reading this article. Hurray for Tonya!! This is a fascinating area and she is right at the cusp, showing that things we’re taught to think are inevitable and normal, aren’t. I’ve been 50% raw and only had great results from it. Time to step it up and get started on the facial exercises!!

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  • I love Tonya’s work! I never came across your site until now, great article. I used to believe this “theory” as well but not anymore 🙂

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  • Hi Sarah,

    I am a subscriber to Tonya’s e-letter and I developed an interest in raw foods to gain a better understanding of raw vs. vegan and vegetarian.

    Tonya is unquestionably her own greatest advertisement for what she teaches and advocates.

    However, the “Face or Body” article was of particular significance and interest, because in December of last year, due to a minor health issue, I made the decision to transition to a meat-free, oil/fat-free, no dairy, no fish, no salt way of life. I was about 15 lbs overweight when I started.

    Thiis was a commitment to live a heart healthy, whole foods lifestyle – incorporating whole grains, fruit, leafy green veggies, purified water, and exercise.

    As a result, I lost 25 lbs (an excedssive amount for my petite frame); my energy level took a nose dive and I looked as though I had aged 15 years – my face was sullen and had the same emaciated look of a famine victim.

    I am now struggling to gain 8 lbs back by supplementing my diet with a sugar-free vegan weight-gain product. I also had to incorporate olive oil, nuts and avocados back in order to rev up my energy.

    I have no doubt that a raw lifestyle has huge health benefits, but who wants to look as though they’ve been on a 60-day hunger strike with a shrivelled and unhealthy-looking face and body?

    That was my personal experience and results. In an effort to unload toxins and commit to health and wholeness…is that the price we must pay?!

    Who wants to look and feel depleted and ill?

    Certainly not I!

    I am over 40 and I have always been in good physical condition – taking great care of myself and skin…but all of that was erased after starting this new lifestyle journey.

    I am very interested in hearing your, Tonya’s, and the response of your audience to what I feel is a legitimate concern and one that cannot be remedied with celery sticks and facial exercise alone.

    Thank you!

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    • The raw food diet/lifestyle has its rules and techniques. One must learn them all before jumping on the raw food wagon.

      After 40 we should never lose 25 lbs in such a short period of time – however in some cases when our health is at risk we might not have a choice.

      I do believe that “celery sticks” in a daily juice can solve many issues. But in might take longer than 6 months.

      For example, at 39, when I started my raw food journey, I remember being very upset about my upper lids forming a awning over my eyes.

      At 53 I don’t have even a hint of this condition. “Celery sticks and facial exercises” resolved it for me.

      It took dedication, time and understanding that with achieving real health, things might get worse before they get better.

      However, Phyllis is absolutely right that there is no quick and easy solution.

      I guess I must be grateful that life taught me patience. To resolve my hip disability…it took 50 years!

      Here is what I know and teach: go for health and never give up!

      Tonya Zavasta

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  • Thank you Tonya for taking the time to respond with such sincere and profound wisdom.

    I cannot thank Sarah enough for providing this forum and the opportunity to grow, learn and live healthy!

    I thank you both for your gifts of dedication in helping us heal our bodies.

    I will be forever grateful to your guidance that you’ve so generously given during this difficult period, and will keep you posted on my progress!

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  • Excellent article.

    SO many excuses, so much encouragement given to people to take the wrong road!

    At (almost) 53, I’ve found the biggest aid to looking instantly ten years younger, to make any ‘jowls’ disappear, is a big, wide smile! (And that of course has associated health benefits, as, even if you do feel down, a big smile will trick your body into feeling good!)

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  • Dear Tonya and Sarah,

    Thank you soooo very much for being so generous in sharing all the good, well-researched info with us! For 16 years, I have been reading research on health from various organizations such as Hallelujah Acres, Dr. T. Campbell, Hippocrates Institute, Dr. Fuhrman, Tonya Zavasta, etc… and most recently from Sarah!

    It has been such a JOY to learn how to eat well via an (at least 85%) raw plant-based diet thus enjoy such GREAT HEALTH–with neither a cold nor a flu for 9 years (especially after having been SO VERY sick literally all my life due to poor immunity from not receiving mother milk at all when I was born).

    I am 62 young at heart and body, it has been SO wonderful not having to count on doctors or medications to give me excellent health :). Neither do I need any extra “cover up” cosmetic products to have a wonderful glowing smooth complexion :). Thank you, Sarah and Tonya, for working together to give us such good resources so that we can make wise choices daily regarding health.

    I do lead a very active and full life, plus traveling and working a lot overseas in difficult/poor areas of the world, so I haven’t taken the time to master your Facial Exercise program so that I can do the needed exercise for my face daily, but hopefully to get on it soon.

    Thank YOU to both of you, Tonya and Sarah!!!

    Please keep up your good work!

    With Appreciation and Best Regards!


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  • What an interesting article! The idea of having to choose between face or body got me thinking. As a nutrition/weight loss coach, I’ve never considered the idea of also incorporating facial exercises into a weight loss regime. Thanks! I’ll need to look into this in more detail.

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