A few weeks ago, I wrote an article, "Feeling Invisible? Readers Weigh in and Speak Out," and hundreds of women responded by leaving comments and sharing. So many felt invisible after turning 50, but an equal number said, like me, that they've never felt better. Without fail, those who were writing their own futures were physically active, eating healthy foods, engaged with the world and were confident and proud of their age. Follow their lead: Embrace your age and your life, and your future will be yours to write.
Full disclosure: This is not another one of those articles listing all the ways we can make ourselves look younger. Nor is it one that will help us confront and psychologically "deal with" the natural process of aging. It's about taking the bull by the horns.
In fact, this is what I have to say about those articles and books: Enough already!
Here's the simple truth: We are all aging.
Every one of us is getting older -- starting at birth. Depending upon our age, we're each at a different point in our own personal timeline. This is the reality, and it's unchangeable.
Not for a single second do I propose, however, to just give up and give in. In my book, "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," this philosophy is clear: Giving up on life as we age is not an option. But, by accepting that this natural progression is a part of being alive, we will be more open to the many new experiences in which we can engage as we get older. Once we've embraced that fundamental truth, we can move forward with confidence and without fear.
I want to share a very simple -- but powerful -- concept that has become my personal compass, guiding me in everything I do: We can't control getting older, but we can control how we do it.
A few years ago when I turned 50, I started to feel as though society had already written my future, and it looked something like this: I would grow older, fade into the background, become invisible, pack on post-menopausal pounds and decide that this was probably going to be how it was going to be.
That's where I was headed until I came to a screeching halt and said "no." Instead of giving up and giving in, I retreated, revised and re-emerged: I took control and wrote a new future for myself, which includes exercise, healthy eating, smart skincare, easy makeup and hair, simple style and a cheeky new attitude.
It is never too late (or too early) to make simple changes that will benefit our current -- and future -- selves. It is not too late to shed those extra pounds, or wear sunscreen, to look for a new way to style your hair, to think about adding a few simple pieces to update your wardrobe, to find new love or to find a new career.
The most important lesson I learned when researching and interviewing experts for my book is this: It's the small, simple changes that can have a big impact, now and in the future. Start writing your future right now with these five tools from the experts:
Stop Dieting and Start Eating. Eating more, exercising less and going through menopause is a recipe for packing on the pounds. The first thing we normally do when we start to gain weight is go on a diet. Don't, because diets don't work, but eating good food -- and eating often -- does. Eat something healthy (whole grains; fruit; nuts; vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens, like kale; beans; very lean meats) every two to three hours in smaller portions throughout the day. You won't be hungry, and you will lose weight. Try switching from "white" (flour, pasta, potatoes) to whole grains, sweet potatoes and whole-wheat pasta. Don't deny yourself dessert. Just get back on track right after.
Move Your Body. Buy an expensive pedometer and walk 10,000 steps (roughly five miles) every day. You will burn calories, strengthen your lower body, exercise your heart, activate your endorphins, sleep better and have a lot more energy. For most of us, our daily routine doesn't include 10,000 steps. We have to make a concerted effort to get out there and walk. Need a few ideas? Get a dog; walk around your house when you're on the phone; walk to and from work; park further away from the mall. If you can, add gentle running into your walking.
Strengthen Your Muscles. You need to strengthen your muscles so that you can do simple things like open a jar, climb the stairs, push yourself up if you fall and keep osteoporosis at bay. The added benefit is that you'll improve the tone and look of your arms, trim your waistline and firm your body. The recommended program consists of push-ups, sit-ups, squats and "the plank." When done in rotation for less than 15 minutes a day, your body will get a complete and total workout. No gym, no trainer, just you and your yoga mat.
Take Care of Your Skin. We're the generation that baked in the sun with baby oil mixed with iodine slathered on our skin, and then held a reflector up to our faces. Many of us are now paying the price with wrinkles, brown spots and, in extreme cases, skin cancer. It's not too late, though, to reverse some of the damage, and we don't need to spend a lot of money. The experts I interviewed for "The Best of Everything After 50" suggested a simple program: exfoliate (I use a little bit of white sugar on my body and face); moisturize; restore with an antioxidant (a cream that contains coffee berry is very effective); and protect with sunscreen. For every day, use an inexpensive moisturizer that has an SPF of 40 or higher. In the cold winter months, add a tiny bit of olive oil for extra moisture. At night, apply a pea-size of a retinol product to help smooth fine lines and even out skin tone. If you're doing more than this, you're doing too much.
The most important thing you can do to make sure that you are the one controlling your future:
Embrace Your Age. Whatever age you are, follow these simple guidelines: Love your life, stay as healthy as you can, move your body, be informed, stay engaged, use your mind, keep a handle on your finances, live with style, be bold, be fearless, walk with confidence and smile -- your future is waiting.
If you would like more information about "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," please visit my website: www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool, so please "friend" me on Facebook. Interested in having a "The Best of Everything After 50 Book Club"? Email me at Barbara@bestofeverythingafter50.com, and I'll help you get started
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman