How I got my best ever body at 47…..
This week my phone has been blowing up with pictures of fifty something women looking hot as hell.
There’s Naomi Campbell (51) strutting the Versace catwalk with legs like a gazelle (only, I’m thinking, not so hairy). Helena Christensen (52) on my Instagram wearing scraps of Coco De Mer silk lingerie precipitating a million fire emojis. And let’s not forget Jennifer Lopez (52) cosying up to Ben Affleck sporting an impossibly toned midriff.
I mean. These are women who refuse to allow their bodies to slide into melted candle territory, to accept elasticated waist bands and sensible swimwear. All of them are looking better than ever. Somehow achieving that whole ‘ageless’ thing. And whilst I’m no supermodel, at 47 I have my best body I’ve ever had.
Stronger, fitter, slimmer and more defined than it was in my twenties and thirties.
I feel happier in my skin than I ever have. Why? How?
Before I expand, I am fully aware this piece might have you dry wretching over your pain au chocolate. Might sound a bit show-offy. You might be saying to yourself ‘huh! She’s not all that.’ And I know I’m not. As a stylist I’ve worked with the supermodels so I know what killer bodies and genetically gifted faces look like. But that’s not the point. The point is I am in the best shape I have ever been, comparing myself only to me.
Full disclosure: I haven’t faired too badly in the genetics department.
I was lucky to be born with long limbs and decent proportions and always been slim. Although, caveat, because I worked at fashion magazines for my 20’s and 30’s. I thought of myself at best as curvy and at worst as hefty. I berated myself for my hideousness on a daily basis. And like most young women I had a calorie total ticker taping through my head at all times.
But I guess I’m saying I looked pretty good for what Lz Hurley would call a ‘civilian.’ But I was never toned and honed, I didn’t have abs and a perky butt with those cute indents (not cellulite, the other ones) and gratifying racehorse lines down my thighs.
So how and why did this all change in my mid 40’s? Well I feel it’s sisterly to share.
The truth is some of it is good fortune (I have been a beauty editor for decades and so have tried ALL the tweakments), some of it is privilege (I have a job which allows me to workout) and almost all of it is about a change in mindset (we’ll come to this later). Plus a lot of effort. And a not insignificant amount of pain.
As Miss Grant says in the opening credits of my favourite 80’s show Fame, ‘right here is where you start paying… in sweat.’
So honing your body is 80 % diet, 20% exercise says my personal trainer Jodie Brinson and it must be true, because, well, she has a vested interest in it being the other way round. In my twenties, despite thinking I knew everything, my nutrition advice was mainly gleaned from interviewing models backstage and they said they subsisted on full fat coke and burgers. Funnily enough that meal plan didn’t work out for me. I now know they were either BS-ing, in possession of an extraordinary metabolisms or they only consumed such things once a week and nothing else besides. Back then I think I verged on disordered eating, a ‘back-loader’ who was abstemious all day until my willpower ran out – often napalmed by office drinks at six pm. And then I’d eat a load of kettle chips, canapés or several slices of a Colin The Caterpillar cake. Oh and I drank A LOT. Six or seven drinks in one night. I liked sugary cocktails. Hey, it was the late 90’s – we had Cosmopolitans intravenously. But I didn’t count that as calories because it was, duh, liquid. Oh the irony. It was the era of fat free. Which meant everything was loaded with sugar. Plus sugar was chic. Chuba Chups were handed out like drugs backstage. So whilst I was never overweight, I was always less lean than I wanted to be. And frustrated, because I thought I was eating healthily.
In my 30’s I had kids and was a) totally knackered and b) overwhelmed, so I found it hard to resist the Curly Wurlys. I often ate the kid’s tea and then dinner with my husband. He liked meat and two veg and at 6ft 3 could eat pretty much what he wanted. I joined him and I spent much of the decade feeling doughy. Though I shed the baby weight, my body changed with pregnancy and was less toned with persistent love handles and a layer of fat sitting stubbornly around my middle.
So what’s changed?
Well my marriage ended, and whilst that was bad for my finances and self esteem, it was good news for my diet. My daughter is a vegetarian and so rather than cheffing up sausages, shepherds pie and endless man-friendly meals, we now eat a lot more vegetables and a lot less stodge. (My son occasionally rebels and goes and buys himself a pasty). Plus week night drinking has almost stopped entirely, as now I just drink when I am out. Added to which lockdown means a marked decline in work dinners and events, which would involve consuming canapés, mainlining Champagne and possibly, probably, a snack-ette on the journey home. Oh and I don’t have much rubbish in the house (the kids are constantly threatening to call Childline. “Hello Esther, there are no Wagon Wheels…’).
Plus I’m not flying – and when I used to cross the Atlantic twice a month I would regularly have four meals a day. And the last big change? I don’t have breakfast. I realised one day I didn’t need it. So by default I’m doing that time restricting eating without really knowing I am.
I have always done exercise. Not enormous amounts, but a few jogs a week and some variation of a class – like aerobics/step/spin. I needed to sweat to feel virtuous. But in the last few years I have changed the way I approach exercise. I have two friends that I run with so I am doing that more. Plus I have a dog so I’m walking her. Neither of which feels like hard work.
But the big change is I started doing TRX with a trainer.
And those two things are key. TRX, or to give it it’s generic name, suspended movement, uses your own body weight and some suspect looking straps to build muscle, tone and stability. It also gives you killer abs.
I thought you had to cardio your way to lean, but as Jodie tells me, build muscle and you will burn more calories. It’s weight training that’ll get you tighter and trimmer.
The other big change? I go to a personal trainer. This sounds way more fancy than the reality. My trainer is my friend (Jodie Brinson) and having the date in the diary with her means I get up from my desk and go when I would NEVER work out on my own. Rain or shine, busy or not, sad or happy – I go. I make space for it now. I just do it. I say to myself ‘this is as important as work. I prioritise this.’
And the difference all of this has made? I weigh less, only 10lb’s or so, but that combined with the tone that the TRX has given me, has finally dispatched with the last vestiges of the the child bearing years.
I’ve sussed what works for me and what doesn’t and as a beauty editor I am lucky enough to trial a lot of them on behalf of magazines and newspapers. I realise the cost of these are prohibitive for many, but I’m telling you what has worked for me, so if there is something that’s bothering you at least you know if you part with your cash you’ll get results.
Frizzing hair is ageing so I have Braliz, a keratin treatment at Neville that gives me back my virgin hair texture. And to give it back it’s lushness (lost with age, pregnancy and Covid) I spray on a product called Natucain, which uses stem cell technology to boost hair growth. Oh and I have hair colour with Nicola Clarke, who is such a genius she can use blonde lights to make my hair look thicker (who knew?).
When it comes to the face I’ve realised slow and steady wins the race. I use SPF religiously now (I like SkinCeuticals or Clarins) and use a potent Vitamin C serum in the morning (current favourite is by Paula’s Choice). Then I have Belotero Revive with Dr Alexis Granite at Sarah Chapman (from £250). It’s a called an injectable moisturiser and it’s a hyaluronic based liquid that that works immediately to give the face an all over glow and long term to boost collagen and dial down pigmentation. I have Botox and filler with either Dr Vicky Dondos at Medicetics, Dr Tracy Mountford at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic or Dr Sophie Shotter at Illuminate (illuminateskinclinic.co.uk). I was wary of filler but I realise that, like Botox, it’s about having small amounts more regularly. That way you avoid spam forehead/chipmonk cheeks. Also you need to see a good injector, who has done a gazillion faces before. They know the tricks – like a little filler in the temple will give you back a couple of years. Teeth? I have them ‘jet washed’ by the amazing London Hygienist Anna Middleton at The Chelsea Dental Clinic. It’s pain free and it cleans them so well on my last shoot the photographer needed to adjust the brightness of my pearly whites down.
I have Ultherapy to stop the sag at Cosmetic Skin Clinic. It’s a bit ouchy and uses heat deep down in the skin to boost collagen and lift, firm and tighten. Plus I have been having IPL (intense pulsed light) ‘facials’ at Medicetics to zap both pigmentation and redness. Before I’ve had targeted IPL treatments – to address areas of concern – but this treatment is by far the most satisfying and has really evened out my skin tone.
So, the truth is exercise can only do so much.
To fine tune my body and try and slow the ravages of time I’ve had a few tweakments.
For my persistent love handles and mum tum I had Cool Sculpt at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic. In this treatment your problem area is deep frozen, nuking around twenty percent of the fat cells, which are then flushed out of your body in your pee. Disclaimer: it wasn’t pain free, but boy did it work.
I had an annoying varicose vein, that came with age or pregnancy or both, removed by Mr Tahir Hussian at The Private Clinic. He superglued it at the top of my leg, disrupting it’s blood supply and leading to its disappearance from my calf. Oh and I got my spider veins, the bug bear of anyone over thirty, flushed out with sclerotherapy. Also at the Private clinic. My hands, that alarmingly started to look like my grandmothers, have been restored by A list injector Dr Maryam Zamani. She does a treatment called for glow rehab which starts with PRP micro needling. This entails taking a vial of your blood and separating out the platelet-rich plasma from the red blood cells. The plasma is then injected back into the skin to stimulate new collagen production, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improves skin tone and clarity. After this, Dr Maryam uses a laser treatment to target uneven skin tone and stimulate yet more collagen. The last stage is yet more injections – this time of Profhilo, a super-fine liquid filler that gives skin a pleasing plumpness. It’s agony, but it works.
Just like with exercise, with tweakments, I’ve learnt you have to keep switching it up. Keep modifying and adapting and trying new things.
So… I’ve had a consultation with Mr Adrian Richards at The Private Clinic. He’s a revered breast augmentation surgeon and I want him to restore my boobs, deflated by childbirth, to their former fullness and perkiness. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, but it’s taken divorce to give me the freedom to make the decision. Along with his right hand woman Melissa, they are is experts in explain how to get natural results on a more, ahem, mature patient. To avoid the ‘bolt on’ Love Island type boobs you need the right size (can’t be too wide for your rib cage or make your skin stretch) and the right shape (‘demi’ rather than ‘full’ implant). Watch this space. Or rather chest.
I’m also booked in for Emsculpt Neo to address my flat (pancake) ass and get it higher and rounder. Because squats will only go so far. It uses radio-frequency and electromagnetic technology to lose fat and grow muscle. One session is like doing 20,000 squats.
So you see, it’s not without effort. Or pain. Or investment.
But then no-one said ageless was effortless.