It's no secret that many women over 50, even if we've been thin all our lives, can easily pack on a few extra post-menopausal pounds, without trying too hard. The weight can sometimes slowly creep up on us over a span of years, taking us by surprise, and before you know it . . . poof! . . . we're an "apple" (or some other fruit to which we are often compared if our bodies aren't perfect).
My body was definitely heading in that direction when I hit 50 -- having gained almost 15 completely unwanted and unnecessary pounds for no good reason except I was eating too much and moving too little -- until I caught sight of myself in a mirror one day and decided that resembling a fruit wasn't going to be in my future.
Luckily I discovered that with simple changes in what I ate and what I did, the pounds came off and while thicker than when I was 20, my waistline is actually visible again. I'm happy about that, because while my smarter lifestyle has made me healthier, more energetic and ready for what's next, I was able to get myself back to my original "shape" and as I soon discovered, it's our shape, not our size, that matters.
Another dimension to my post 50 experience is I started to accept -- even embrace -- my body for what it was now, and wanted to wear clothes that would enhance my shape, not hide it. And while I was aware of my age and, hopefully chose styles that were appropriate, I also didn't want to dress like a frump. However, I still found it hard to figure out exactly what I should be wearing. Every ad and commercial for clothes seemed to be geared to the perfect body.
The challenge also is many of us don't change our style based on our changing bodies. We still wear clothes that worked for us years ago, instead of taking a really long hard look at our bodies now. And I completely understand why: it can be daunting to embrace our bodies when we're surrounded by media messages that tell us thin is best (thin and young, better still), and when we don't always want to accept the fact that perhaps we're a little wider now in certain places. And getting good guidance isn't always easy.
Well, help is on the way.
I discovered a new book -- The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget -- just out this week and written by Jacqui Stafford, the international style expert, QVC queen, beauty and style fashionista for gobs of magazines, and a regular on the Today Show (as well as many other TV shows).
The Wow Factor is a lifesaver, filled with tips on how to dress for your body, budget and age. She asks the reader, "What shape are you?" and suggests five different silhouettes, each one called something infinitely more charming than a fruit. For example, if you have "a little more in the middle" think of yourself as a "Cocktail Ring" (not an apple! Yay!). If you are a little more endowed on top than on bottom, you could be a classic "Heart Pendant." For each one, Jacqui recommends accessible, wearable, and truly flattering styles that will enhance your body without breaking the bank.
One of my favorite tips from the book is "cut out the size label from every piece of clothing you have . . . " because, as Jacqui writes, "who cares about the size? It's the fit that counts." I had the great opportunity to meet with Jacqui (who is, according to her, a "classic Fragrance Bottle" shape) and asked her to please reveal the top secrets for looking fantastic after 50. Here's what she said,
- #1 (THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF ALL!!): "Embrace and love the shape you have." There are five body shapes. And while your weight may go up and down, we're all born with a basic shape, and that's what you must embrace, love and work with. It doesn't matter if you're a size 2 or 20 . . . it's your shape, not your size, that counts.
- #2 "Only wear clothes that flatter your figure." First assess your body and determine your shape. Look at the parts of your body you don't love so much, and focus on those that you adore, because you'll want to look at clothes that enhance those areas. I offer specific recommendations in my book about what to wear and how to wear it, for each shape, so all the frustration and confusion is taken out of the equation. There's no reason for women to ever look awful in an outfit, no matter what size or shape they are. It's all about loving your body and embracing your shape, first and foremost.
- #3 "Ignore what your friends and celebrities are wearing because their body shapes are completely different than yours." Too many of us buy and wear clothes that are wrong, wrong, wrong for us simply because others are wearing them (especially celebrities). Why, I ask women, do you love clothes that don't love you back?
Here's a snippet from the book, which has become my new style mantra:
So, my darlings, figure out your body shape and make that form the basis for everything you wear from now on. If there's only thing you take away from this book it's this: Forget your size--and embrace your shape.
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For more tips on living your best life after 50 visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool! Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out my weekly columns on AARP and FOF, too. My next book, "The Best of Everything Guide to Your Best Body After 50 (and Beyond)" will be out in 2013!