5 Books for the Modern Middle-Aged Woman
What if we decide to reject society’s disapproval of older women and instead choose to become an Ageless Goddess? These five books will provide you with the inspiration and guidelines on how to embrace your third act and live a life filled with energy, fitness, beauty and joy.
I love to watch and read biographies about famous celebrities from the midcentury. But, one thing that makes me sad is that so many of them felt the need to “disappear” when they got older and their looks faded.
Bettie Page, famous 1950s pinup model, was rediscovered in the 1990s by pop-culture artists. James l. Swanson and Karen Essex were determined to find Bettie Page and write her biography. After months of correspondence, Bettie finally allowed them to come and visit her in Los Angeles. They conducted a week of interviews that became Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend. However, Bettie had one condition, no photos.
“She said she was old now, and no longer beautiful. If we came looking for the woman in the photos we would not find her…She didn’t want to disappoint.”James Swanson
Heddy Lamarr, a breathtakingly beautiful star of the midcentury became obsessed with plastic surgery as she grew older. She had a scientific mind, and calculated the best places for the surgeon to cut to hide the scars and maximize the results. According to the film, Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story, her ideas revolutionized plastic surgery techniques. Even with surgery, she eventually couldn’t hide her age.
Lamarr chose to become a recluse. She spent the last decade of her life communicating with people only by telephone. What a waste. She was such an intelligent and bold woman who still had so much to offer society. She died at the age of 85.
You’ve Come a Long Way Baby…Or Have You?
Even today, in an era of reemerging feminism, older women are still encouraged to disappear. Madonna has fought a battle since her 30s against the notion that pop stars have a ten year shelf life. Her battle against ageism was documented in Madonna Turns 60! How Pop Superstar is Challenging Age Conventions on Good Morning America, (16 Aug 2018).
“Once you reach a certain age you’re not allowed to be adventurous. You’re not allowed to be sexual.”Madonna
Look at the news anchors, on any channel, to see another example of ageism against women. The female anchors are nearly always younger than their male co hosts. In the rare instances that older women are given important reporting roles, they are beautiful and thin. Now compare this to how pot-bellied (easily hidden in a suit) and gray the male anchors are. Male news anchors are allowed to age before the camera. Only women who age well are allowed to stay in front of it.
A Better Goal for the Modern Woman: Live a Healthy Lifestyle
So what should a middle aged woman strive for today? Deciding to let yourself go and flaunt it may show self confidence, but you may lose relevance or visibility in your field. In her book, How to Not Look Old,
“Until age becomes a nonissue, I don’t think it’s particularly smart for women to advertise their age. We have always had to work harder and be smarter than our male counterparts–and look better while doing it.”Charla Krupp
However, plastic surgery is not something that many of us desire–either because of cost or uneven results. Instead, we can seek health.
Keys to Looking Young and Healthy: Mindset, Fitness and Healthy Eating
A healthy woman feels confident and optimistic. This attitude is attractive at any age. Exercise keeps us toned and reasonably slim. Our skin will have a healthy glow and our eyes will sparkle. Healthy eating gives us energy and puts a youthful spring in our step.
“You can mimic a younger woman in her prime–exercising, interacting, making love–and your body will go along. If you are active and engaged every day, you can resist and even swim against the tide into very old age.”Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
Develop an Ageless Goddess Mindset
One of the most inspiring books a woman can read is Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being, by Christiane Northrup, M.D. The book encourages you to challenge the assumption that ageing means deterioration.
Reframe retirement as not the end of something, but instead the beginning of our third act. Once we’ve done the career and child rearing, we have this big chunk of time to use as we want. Ageless women use this time to develop creative passions, take up activities, like dancing, and seek friendships with like-minded people.
“The reality is that our bodies are not separate from our thoughts or emotions. The number-one thing you can do for your health is to live joyously, indulging in sustainable pleasures.”Christine Northrup, M.D.
Mindfulness, dealing with buried emotions, expressing our sexuality, and loving without losing ourselves will all create a joyful spirit. Close cultural portals and refuse to dress or act your age. Empower your true spirit to select your clothes and activities.
Keep Moving and Embrace Fitness
To find the motivation to exercise every day read Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy–Until You’re 80 and Beyond, by Chris Crwley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. This book uses science and a conversational tone to convince you to quit your rationalizations and excuses and commit to daily fitness.
“The biggest change for most people–is exercise. It is the golden key to great health. You should exercise hard almost every day of your life. And do strength training, lift weights, two or three of those six days.”Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
Exercise sends a signal to your brain that it is time to live, to hunt and forage. Lodge compares this to “springtime on the savanna.” But, when we give in to the modern lifestyle of junk food, too much stress, artificial light and noise, and lack of exercise, we send the wrong signals to our bodies. Lack of exercise tells your body you are headed into a long winter and your body begins to decay. What we consider aging, is actually decaying, and it is largely up to our lifestyle choices.
Clean and Healthy Eating
Everyone knows in their heart that eating junk food, sugar and alcohol isn’t good for them. Yet, many of us continue to do so because of convenience, stress, and emotional needs.
“Do you really want sugar, or a sweeter life? Are you seeking spirits in a bottle of vodka, or do you want to find Spirit?”Christiane Northrump, M.D.
There are hundreds of books out there to help you change your eating habits. I find Tosca Reno’s books motivational. Resist fad diets and focus on clean eating and reducing processed foods. If all the information on diets confuses you, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan will help you cut through the noise to hear the simple truth.
“Eat Real Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.”Michael Pollan
Eat whole foods or those that are minimally processed. Make plants the centerpiece of the meal. Be mindful of sugar and carbohydrates like grains, which turn into sugar as they metabolize. Yes, alcohol is a type of sugar. Consumption of sugar causes spikes in blood sugar. Over time, uneven blood sugar levels cause inflammation and insulin resistance, and those lead to diabetes, cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
Develop New Habits to Live a Healthy Life
I’ve never needed convincing that attitude, exercise and diet are the keys for a healthy lifestyle. It feels intuitive and obvious to me. My problems have always revolved around finding the motivation to adopt these new habits. Let’s face it, there is a reason we eat garbage and sit on the couch–it provides some kind of reward for us. Changing feels hard so we rationalize and procrastinate.
“Habits seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”James Clear
The best habit forming book I’ve come across–and I’ve read a million of them is Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. It lays out a habit-forming strategy with four simple steps. He begins the book by inspiring the reader with the power of small changes creating big results. This is important because exercising and dieting are not “all or nothing” events. Make small changes, try and stick with them. If you fail, try again.
Life is stressful now and it seems that everything is out of our control. But, we can control our actions and this will help us weather these hard times. Commit to mindfulness, exercise and healthy eating and, together, we can be ageless.