Live like you love yourself
Social media seems to be filled with instructions and plans for how to have a glow-up, a plan that seems to focus on how to be more attractive, fit, organized, nicer, and hydrated. I’m a woman of “a certain age,” however, and I need more than 64 ounces of water to glow these days. And the glow I’m really looking for isn’t to be more popular in school, but to enjoy my empty-nester life for years to come.
Without even knowing the term, I’ve been trying to have a glow up for awhile. 2019 was going to be my year. The year I tuned 50 and i was going to rock my middle age. Six months earlier I had hired a personal trainer to work on my fitness to go with the slow-motion strength training I was doing twice a week. I had found a yoga studio that I loved. The morning of my 50th birthday I felt empowered as i headed to class with my husband and one of my daughters in tow. Then we went into the Superman pose and I felt something pull in my back. I continued class, trying desperately to ease that awful feeling in my lower back that anyone who has experienced it will know the quiet desperation that starts to seep in when I realized it wasn’t releasing. I was hosting a birthday celebration at home that night and went home to cook for a dozen family guests, smiling through the pain. The next morning it still hurt and nothing i did brought relief. Then I scheduled my first ever massage and by the end, my back had seized up so tightly I could barely get dressed and drive. Desperate, I texted the occupational therapist who had worked with two of my kids for their sports injuries. She scheduled me for 10pm that night and worked on me for almost two hours. I was able to get around, but still in pain.
The diagnosis of my injury was that I co-contracted my back and neck with every movement, leaving some muscles overstretched and others so short and tight that they could not function. I had to give up strength training and the sessions with the personal trainer while I relearned movement from the ground (or in my case from the hips) up. It took almost 7 months of physical therapy before I felt comfortable to dip back into yoga.
A new year and I was ready to dive back into my fitness journey. I scheduled a trip to Miraval resort in Austin (see https://napacalypse.com/2020/03/29/namaste-athome/) and it was exactly what I needed to continue my journey. By the last day I was stoked, and then the world shut down.
I continued physical therapy in 2020 and even completed the couch to 5K challenge, but everything else was a little bit of a disaster. I cooked constantly and ate it all. It was delicious and maybe just what the pandemic called for, but I had indigestion constantly. I had kitchen Tums, bedroom Tums, and car Tums. Then the hot flashes hit. My husband and kids complained constantly that the house was freezing, but i was spending the day in cropped leggings and tank tops. I told them unless they wanted to see me naked all the time, they could put on a sweater.
Desperate, i turned to the internet and found the Galveston diet. And it worked for me. By the end of the first week, I realized I had not had a single Tums. Within a month, the hot flashes went away. While health isn’t just weight loss, I was losing pounds and feeling great. One healthy changed led to another, and I finally felt like I had a life back, even if it was mostly at home. And this is what I’ve learned and done in the last year.
Eat like you love yourself
I’m not telling you that the Galveston Diet is THE DIET FOR YOU, but it doesn’t take a nutritionist to figure out that a diet centered around whole foods and less processed food is a great start. The Galveston diet has three main tenets: reduce sugar, eat anti-inflammatory food, and intermittent fasting. I found an integrative women’s health provider who also offered nutrition counseling and began to work with her. Her nutrition plan is also based on lower sugar and anti-inflammatory foods with some supplements. She doesn’t use intermitttent fasting in her nutrition plan, but since it worked so well for me, she had no issues with me continuing it.
My diet is full of fresh vegetables, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, grass-fed beef, and omega-3 rich foods. There are lots of recipes on The Galveston Diet website (https://galvestondiet.com) and I also love Nom Nom Paleo, a recipe blog by Michelle Tam, who also has cookbooks and an app. Here’s a post I wrote with a couple of my favorite recipeshttps://napacalypse.com/2021/03/04/never-look-a-pandemic-gift-horse-in-the-mouth/
I love intermittent fasting. I eat 2 meals and 2 snacks in an 8-hour window between noon and 8pm. For someone like me, who hated breakfast, it was perfect. I drink 3 black espressos in the morning, and then break my fast with a whole fat Greek yogurt parfait with blueberries and walnuts or have leftovers from the night before. For snacks, i eat almond butter or hummus with vegetables, deviled eggs, fruit with cream, and lots of nuts and seeds. Part of the Galveston Diet plan is tracking macros on an app, which takes some getting used to, but really shows me the nutritional value of what I am eating. I use Cronometer and there is also CarbManager, among others.
Take care of yourself like you love yourself
Obviously, please get all the annual screenings that are recommended! I switched to an integrative healthcare practitioner which means I get all the conventional women’s healthcare (pap smears, mammograms, etc.) but I also get hormone screening with the Dutch test and nutritional counseling. I work with my practitioner to find the best ways to address my health needs with available options like additional breast health screenings, hormone replacement therapy, supplements, and nutrition.
Don’t forget to make an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin check! I had a million reasons why I had never gone in, none of them were good. My husband had a suspicious spot on his nose that turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma, easily treated type of skin cancer, but he had to start going in for skin checks 4 times a year and while scheduling his next check, he asked and received my permission to make one for me. I had a new scaly mole that had suddenly appeared on the back of my calf and I REALLY wanted a prescription for Retin-A, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. Thirty seconds into my exam, I knew it was bad—a million questions about a mole on my neck that I couldn’t remember NOT having and the dermatologist was taking a photo of the mole with his phone while promising he would delete it immediately after showing me (like, is mole porn a thing?) Right then and there he biopsied the mole on my neck. A few days later, the doctor called with the results–lentigo maligna melanoma—another type of skin cancer. The margins needed to remove the cancer would require an excision larger than my dermatologist was comfortable doing and he referred me to a plastic surgeon.
I had the cancerous mole removed and my dermatologist was not kidding about the size of the incision! Luckily, however, the margins around the mole were clear of cancer. The plastic surgeon recommended Mepiform silicon scar treatment sheets that I cut into strips to put over the scar while it healed. The strips work as physical protection from the sun and help the incision heal flat. So don’t put off a skin screening! Even if, like me, something is already cancerous, catching it early makes all the difference. I saved my life with two doctor visits and I even drove myself after the excision and stopped for groceries on the way home. I’m trying to convince you that there is no excuse! And trust me, I used them all.
Needless to say, I now use sunscreen religiously, don giant sun hats and wear SPF shirts at the beach or when I’m in the sun midday. Far and away, my favorite sunscreen is Unseen sunscreen by Supergoop (https://supergoop.com) for my face because it doesn’t run into my eyes when I sweat—a big reason I ran without sunscreen for decades (yikes! I wish I could go back and undo that sun damage!) I love their Play sunscreen for body and I also love Coola spray sunscreens. My favorite sunhat is a woven cowboy hat with a chin strap so it doesn’t fly off on windy days at the beach. There are all kinds of SPF shirts, but the one I wear the most has a hood so when it’s up, I can protect the back of my neck. So wear your sunscreen and get checked out!
Move like you love yourself
My physical therapy sessions have changed my life. I’ve learned (a little bit) how everything is connected by fascia and I am so much smarter about how I move. I know that I need to turn on certain muscles so that they will do their job instead of my body’s preference to just have my back do it all. It did take a long time for me to get the most of physical therapy, however. I had it in my head that just like the sessions with the therapist, I needed an entire hour to do the exercises, and then workout. I can tell you that did not happen very often, but I next tried a different approach by doing only 5 or 6 exercise for about 15 minutes everyday and I gained so much mobility and strength. It was the consistency that changed my body and how it responded to movement. I now appreciate how much maintaining my mobility will improve my aging experience.
I was very anti-Peloton. Biking hurts my sit bones and I didn’t like it even as a kid, so when my husband got on pandemic bandwagon to get a Peloton bike, I declined his offer of the special shoes that clip in. Then, egged on by one of my kids who wanted to participate in a triathlon and needed an upgrade from our 15 year-old treadmill, he bought the Tread “for me.” I pooh-poohed it until it arrived. It’s like walking on air (although I’m sure any newer treadmill would have been an improvement) and, despite my Gen-X too cool for school swagger, I fell in love with the upbeat and encouraging class banter. I don’t really care about the leaderboard aspect of it, but how could I listen to Selena Samuela or Chase Tucker and not get stoked? I don’t really run anymore, but the walking classes can be challenging or, and I’m finally mature (read:old enough to know better) enough to bring the exertion down if I’m having an off day. I still love walking outside, so I listen to the audio classes on the Peloton app and the cues help me keep up my pace so that I have a good workout instead of a meander. You can follow me on the Peloton app @ Napacalypse.
Dress well to feel good
Dress like you love yourself
Before the hot flashes started, i suffered from night sweats. A quick internet search gave me a lead on breathable sleepwear. I ordered two sets of washable silk Lunya pajamas and slept much more comfortably.
In the same vein of trying to stay comfortable during night sweats and then hot flashes, I discovered merino wool underwear from WoolX. They are freaking expensive and I only started with two pairs, but I find they are worth it and after a couple of birthdays and Christmases, I finally have enough for a week. I’ll also plug their base layer long sleeve t-shirt and leggings. The long-sleeve Merino tee is great alone and is thin enough to go under sweaters and cardigans, but never seems to make me too hot. I wear the leggings under dresses and skirts and tunics. They also work under running tights and pants for chilly walks or on the sidelines for cold games.
Full disclosure, I’m still likely to wear workout clothes all day, especially my Sweaty Betty leggings that hold everything while not making me feel like an overstuffed sausage, but I do find that wearing “real” clothes lift up my mood. Especially during this never-ending pandemic where everything is at home, changing into an outfit gives structure to my day.
One thing I hope never to tell another woman about dressing well is to tell her to “dress her age”. I’ve noticed over the years that women are advised to follow all these rules about age-appropriate style—usually covering “assets” and very traditional, feminine pieces—which is great, if that is your style–but the women who catch my eye are ones who dress to please themselves and look amazing in coveralls and lug-soled boots.
Make a home like you love yourself
I started with my closet. I decided to get rid of everything that didn’t fit. Some of it was fun, because clothes were too big, but I had a lot of clothes that were probably never going to fit again. No amount of self-recrimination was going to magically turn me back into a size 4. And, I’m finally OK with that. To stay that size, I watched every bite I ate plus my metabolism was different then, and I ran endlessly and dealt with knee pain, back pain, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis. I didn’t just get rid of bags of clothes, I got rid of reproach and regret.
I moved on to the rest of the house. I said goodbye to barely surviving plants, books I will never re-read, crafts I will never do, and hardest of all, a bunch of my kids’ artwork and projects. I checked with my kids before I threw things away and not one of them wanted to keep anything. My oldest went to art school so we had A LOT of her stuff and she laughed and told me I had been holding onto her homework all these years.
Next, I looked critically at all the decor in the house and saw things that were clearly decoration missteps or decor I had just outgrown. In the past, I would clear stuff out (by putting it in storage!) because I had bought new stuff—-French country motifs had slowly been replaced by Farmhouse and I fantasized about a mid-century modern refresh or maybe boho modern—this time, I was not redecorating. I was un decorating. I pulled the mistakes and the stuff I no longer loved and boxed it up. It was hard because it was all still “good.” It was no longer good for me, however, and I let it go because it’s ok that my home has changed along with our family.
Look like you love yourself
Do as much or as little as makes you happy. Women, especially, have a tough row to hoe when it comes to an aging and appearance. Don’t do anything and I’ve let myself go; do it all, and I’m desperate. There is so much advice about aging “gracefully” but no one explains what exactly it is. Is it the thirty-five year old face that is the cover for anti-aging products? Or the face that had the most natural “work” done? So, I should look youthful, but not look like I’ve tried too hard. I’m tired of trying to figure it out. So, here is what I’ve tried in my “glow up,” but the the best advice I can give is to do whatever you want.
Botox–the villian/superhero of our midlives. So far I’ve had one injection session to soften lines in my forehead, help lift one of my eyes that is hooded, and the lip flip. The forehead lines mostly disappeared and it still looked like my forehead, but my eyebrows became another story. They started out subtle and then my eyebrows lifted up so high I felt like the Genie in Aladdin, then they slowly relaxed. I don’t know if I’ll do it the eyebrows again. The lip flip was perfect for me. I have a small mouth and lips and didn’t feel like I had the “room” for filler, but the little lift my upper lip got from Botox made me very happy—just make sure they use numbing cream before the lip injections because they really smart!
Aging skin tends to become drier skin, and I think that I’ve tried everything looking for something to lock in moisture. I’ve vacillated from La Mer (nice product, but if it’s $360, it better be six times better than a $60 moisturizer or 30 times better than Cerave! Spoiler, it’s not.) to Vaseline. What is working for me best right now is Oak Essentials, the skincare line from Jenni Kayne (https://oakessentials.com). It’s a four step routine, but only takes a few minutes. If I wear makeup, I do add a swipe of micellar water or eye make up remover before the melting cleanser. For me, the trick is to use a few drops of the Ritual oil and pat it in, and then rub a small amount (like a pea size) of the moisture rich balm onto my face and let it absorb for a few minutes—I brush my teeth and get dressed–before putting on makeup.
Speaking of make up and back to hot flashes, Laura Geller (www.laurageller.com) makes a great powder makeup line. It’s advertised as hot flash-proof, but I was worried about powder makeup on my dry skin. I decided to try it, and sent in a terrible selfie for help matching skin color, and have been very pleased with how the makeup looks on my skin. I do use their Spackle primer first. The foundation doesn’t settle into creases or have a dusty look and it survived the hot flashes. I found that I need two shades of foundation to blend together to get the most natural look, however. I tried the brand’s mascara, but it smudged throughout the day.
Actually, every brand of mascara smudged, even the waterproof ones. I think it is because of how much moisturizer I use under my eyes—very dry, very thin, and very dark shadows. Tired of raccoon eyes and after a terrible experience with eyelash extensions (I pulled them all out, along with some of my lashes within two days because of how irritating the glue was), I scheduled an appointment for a lash lift and tint, like a perm and color for my eyelashes. I found a great licensed esthetician through word of mouth and loved how the lift turned out. It’s like my eyelashes are always curled, and while not as long and full as a double coat of mascara, there are no dark smudges under my eyes!
Never underestimate the difference a professional brow shaping can make! I have my brows tweezed instead of waxed because the wax always gave me tiny blisters. My girls swear by brow threading, but I have mine tweezed while my lash lift is processing.
To grey or not to grey, you’ll probably still need to color your hair. Unlike the brave souls who used the pandemic for their foray into silver sisterhood, I first used drug store color and then met my hairstylist in a Starbucks parking lot to pick up freshly mixed professional color to apply at home. A combination of limits on the number of patrons in the salon, sporadic train schedule, parking garages closing early and everyone and her sister trying to get an appointment finally got to me. I dipped my toes into transitioning into a more grey friendly color. I’m nine months into my transition, and it’s still a pain. My stylist warned me that I’d never realize how much of my hair was still dark until I tried to go silver. So now instead of darkening the grey to brown, I’m trying to lighten the brown to platinum. And sometimes the platinum goes brassy and then I use Olaplex Blond Enhancer toning shampoo and it gets less brassy, but some of it goes purple. So, it’s still a process and I’m still enriching my stylist, but only every six weeks instead of every two weeks.
One of the best things about menopause was my discovery of Lumé deodorant (https://lumedeodorant.com). It was literally worth going through the change just to find this gem. This magical elixir handles odor like nothing else I’ve ever tried, from armpits to feet and everywhere in between. It can even get rid of odor after it has started, like if I need to freshen up after a sweaty walk. I use the deodorant, in cream form, and the tubes. I also use the bar soap. I love the coconut crush and lavender sage scents for me and my husband is a fan of the silver spruce and bay rum.
My final bit of advice for a grown up glow up is just to love yourself, take care of yourself, and enjoy it because you will never be as young as you are right now!