There's a whole new generation of women entering their 40s and 50s and we're managing ageing differently to our mothers ... sooooo differently.
There are complex and individual issues around all of this, and many of the women I speak to are hungry to better understand these issues and they ask me what I think and how I feel about ageing.
So I took some time to think more deeply about ageing and decided to put my thoughts down, not as a definitive statement, but a reflection of how I'm managing ageing and what's important to me.
What guided me as I thought about this was an idea that captured my mind when I first started my business and it was, "Imagine ageing and loving every minute of it"?
The 3 areas I'll cover are how we feel and think, and how we function.
How We Feel, Think and Function
I start with how we feel about ourselves, because for me the way I feel about myself has the most significance. It doesn't matter if you're fit and healthy if you're depressed and self-shaming ... we have to get that inner positivity and acceptance working for us.
It's almost a stereotype that as soon as we see that first wrinkle or that first grey hair, that we're supposed to enter a tailspin of despair. Apparently, that's how weak and fragile we are about reality.
I haven't found that to be the case ... at least I wouldn't call it despair or a tailspin.
But I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice I was ageing and that it was a concern and a worry, as I past through the 40 milestone, and now also the 50 milestone ... each time it has 'hit me'.
Have I achieved what I'm supposed to have achieved by this age?
Am I relevant or am I losing relevance?
Am I attractive, or I am now less attractive ... and then why should that matter?
I've grappled with all of these questions, and in the end I had to acknowledge that I am who I am and there's no changing the march of time. At my core, I'm the same Rhoda I was when I was a little girl, a teenager and a mature woman.
In other words, I'm still me and my age doesn't change that.
So, turning 40 and then 50, were both opportunities for me to check in on the health of my inner game ... my self-acceptance. Was I OK or was I starting to lose myself in my appearance, or what I could see was a changing appearance?
Even with all the progress we've made as women in society and culture, it is still so easy to fall for idealised stereotypes of beautiful or successful women.
Media, entertainment and social media apps like Instagram still propagate a narrow definition of beauty and relevance, whereas it's much healthier to adopt a more inclusive, broad aesthetic.
If we're "feeling our age" and we happen to scroll through Instagram and only see a very narrow depiction of young, thin idealised images of women without any context, then it's easy to start comparing ourselves negatively to those external stereotypes.
This is why, for me, the concept of #bodypositivity as part of successful ageing is so important, and I've listed a few ideas below about how I've come to think about this.
Body Gratitude and Appreciation
Gratitude is a great practice, and in that I include gratitude for my body. I have my health. I can do the things I need to do each day. I get to experience nature and dining out and exercise. I am very grateful for my body.
And yet it's more than gratitude. I practice appreciation for my body and all the unique parts about it. Here's what I mean.
I've got a long narrow face and a long nose. I'm grateful I can breathe through my nose, but I also appreciate the fact that no-one else has a nose quite like mine.
I've got an 'ectomorph' body type which means I'm naturally thin, but it's very hard to put on muscle.
Women with an ectomorph body type tend to get very weak and frail when they're old because of just how quickly they lose their muscle.
To counter this I've spent the last decade strength training and have put on 8 kg of muscle in that time (which I talk about below). And so now, not only am I grateful for my muscles, because they enable me to live my life and express myself, but I appreciate the muscles I've built.
My booty was flat for the first half of my life, and now it's full and strong. My shoulders were skin and bone and now they're toned and wide and muscular.
This is my body and I'm thankful for it, and proud of it, and this is a great way to feel about myself as I age.
Body Love and Acceptance
For most of my life there were things about myself I refused to accept. I'd hide myself in a towel at the beach, not because I was 'modest', but because I was 'ashamed'.
And here's why.
1. I didn't like the shape of my bum. It didn't look like the little, toned bums of the teenage models I'd see in swimsuits and so I'd hide mine behind a towel.
2. I had stretch marks and cellulite on my bum and thighs, whereas many of my friends didn't.
This self-rejection is so hurtful and yet I lived with it for years, until I began to re-think everything and build my self-esteem.
By accepting our lumps, bumps and curves we are saying that they are not 'flaws', but they are just a part of our body ... a body that we can love and accept.
As another weird example, my joints are stiffer than most. This means I've always found it hard to walk in any type of high heel because my ankle just doesn't bend. And yet I'm grateful for the movement in my ankles, because without that movement I couldn't walk properly ...
... and I also love and accept the stiffness in my ankles, rather than wishing that they were more 'bendy'.
I've learned over the years that there's more to a "positive attitude" than meets the eye. We've all heard of the "power of positive thinking" and like many people, in my early life I naively thought that meant "only being positive" and "never being negative".
I remember being around friends who would say, "we won't have any of that negative talk around here" whenever someone wanted to share something they were going through.
Daring to share something "negative" that you were going through was a sure fire way to get ostracised from the social group.
So what do I mean by "inner positivity" now?
For me, it's acknowledging and being comfortable with emotions and thoughts that are "negative'. If I feel sad, then I feel sad. If I feel anxiety or fear, then that's what I feel. If I feel anger or disgust, then so be it.
I don't try to suppress those emotions anymore. Instead, I try to understand them. I'm not a failure for feeling negative emotions, I'm a human being.
After sitting with these emotions, I then get to choose how I want to move forward. Do I want to move forward with sadness, or joy? Do I want to move forward with anger, or peace.
Having "inner positivity" for me means that I get to choose how to align myself with my values.
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.
These are the positive characteristics that I want to shine from the inside out, to be reflected on the world, and so of course this applies to how I think and feel about ageing and beauty and our body image as we get older.
Successful ageing means we have to be psychologically well-adapted, and cultivating this inner positivity is how I'm going about it.
They say that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and yet the philosophy of art and aesthetics is more complex than that. In our culture and over the decades, what's attractive, beautiful, stylish or fashionable one decade is different in the next.
Just look at a photo of Kate Moss from the 1990s and Kim Kardashian 20 years later.
Rather than a narrowly defined and commercially driven 'beauty' or 'acceptable appearance', it's time we broaden what we see or feel is 'beautiful' and open ourselves to a broader definition of beauty.
I'm no expert in this at all, but one area of art and aesthetics I've had experience with is the modelling and fitness model industries.
I was a fashion model for a brief time in my early 20s, and at 50 I was signed by Silverfox Management for mature age models and selected to be the face of the Ageless Project here in Australia. At 47 I placed 2nd as a WBFF Fitness Model after also qualifying for the Fitness America World Championships.
it was all hard work, fashion, cameras ... and posing.
I love modelling and being in photoshoots. Everything about it is fun. From the hair and makeup to the outfits, location, the buzz of the team, and then seeing the finished product ... the art.
I post photos of my photoshoots on social media because I love and appreciate my body and because I love expressing the art of it as well.
And when it comes to art, and the portrayal of the female body, I've learned to ask myself two discerning questions.
1. Do I like it, and
2. Is it having a positive impact?
There's a distinction between art that objectifies women and art that is a positive expression of a woman's self acceptance and self-love.
As I've thought about this and talked it over with others, I've come to a really comfortable place where I know within myself ... and my inner positivity ... that I am not 'self-objectifying' in my modelling shoots, and that I am coming from a place of empowerment.
As I wrote above, I've put on 8kg of muscle and my body shape has changed dramatically. The muscle I've put on has made me stronger and healthier and, while you can't see it, my bone density has increased as well and I'm in the top 2% for women my age.
My physical appearance is a direct reflection of my inner health, years of commitment, and determination.
And so I love everything about my photoshoots. I love my body and I'm proud of it. Having the confidence to be in a photoshoot is an expression of my self-acceptance. I have fun and I love art, and the photos are a healthy expression of my own aesthetic.
By posting photos along with messages of love, acceptance, positivity, empowerment, inclusiveness, and determination, I know that I am encouraging other women to feel and think the same.
And so this is where art and beauty become more than something that is in "the eye of the beholder". It also becomes art through the intention of the artist.
In this way, art and aesthetics becomes very broad and can't be narrowly defined in the way it often is.
We can broaden the scope of what we see as beautiful and artistic and by doing so, we can increase the amount of joy and positivity we can bring into our lives.
Beauty isn't just an attribute of young, thin women. Beauty is an attribute of all women. Beauty is something we project from within ourselves. How other people perceive us is up to them.
What I hope to achieve is to broaden the perspective of what beauty is and to make it more about living than about appearance.
Do you ever feel like the last thing you are is "wise"?
I do. I've never felt wise ... and I've always felt like the person seeking advise from wise people.
And yet this self-deprecation was just a habit of mine and a denial of my inner wisdom.
Wisdom isn't about intellectual smarts, especially when it comes to healthy and successful ageing.
Instead, it's about being discerning enough to notice when you're giving up your control to someone else's story for your life.
The moment you feel yourself in judgement by comparing yourself to others ... or even by comparing yourself to your former, younger self ... that's the moment to exercise some wisdom.
To be careful about what thoughts and ideas you let take hold in your mind.
To reject the ideas that diminish you and tell you that you're getting 'old' and that you're 'losing relevance' or that you're 'not as important' or that you can't be 'attractive' or that you're not as 'sexual'.
We have to have the wisdom to guard our minds and be careful what we allow ourselves to dwell on.
And this is why I love the serenity prayer so much. It says,
to know the difference.
THe serenity prayer
Grant me the grace to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can ... and the wisdom to know the difference.
There are many things about ageing that we can't change, and those are the things we need the grace to accept. There are many other things, however, that we can change ... and this is where we need to courage to change them.
What I can do is share my wisdom with you about those things that we can change.
We can change our bodies by wise nutrition.
We can change our bodies through wise activity.
We can change our minds through wise thinking.
By doing each of these things, we can engage in one of the most important and exciting journey's of our lives ... which is the journey of taking care of our body.
By feeling and thinking 'better' we can also learn to function better.
Function and Body Care
Let's shift away from matters of the heart and mind and talk about the physical body.
Your neuro-musculoskeletal system has been described as the primary machinery of life. Without it, you can't move, you can't smile, you can't turn your head or eat.
That is how important your nerves, muscles and bones are.
And yet, as women age ... starting as young as 35 and right through their 40s and 50s ... women start to lose muscle and bone.
On the surface, the reason this happens is simple. Estrogen.
It's estrogen that keeps our muscles health and our bones strong, as as soon as that starts to fluctuate and reduce, then so do our muscles and bones.
If you want to know what the effects of reduced estrogen are, just look at a frail, weak, immobile and bent over old woman and there's your answer.
So, is this loss of muscle function and bone density one of those things we can't change?
Sadly, that's what people used to think, but it is simply no longer the case and I am a living example of this.
All through my 20s I used to diet and do aerobic classes to 'lose weight'. I was trying to fit the narrowly defined 'supermodel' avatar of the decade.
I certainly lost weight, it's just that it was the wrong kind of weight. I lost muscle and by the time I was in my 30s I weight a paltry 52kg (114 lb).
Then, with my pregnancy, I developed what's called 'hyperemesis gravidis' which means vomiting about every 20 minutes. This lasted until week 18 and I ended up hospitalised due to significant weight loss and dehydration.
At week 22 of my pregnancy, I weighed only 48 kg, even though I started out at 52 kg.
I was 34 at the time and then I had another child at 37.
By the time I hit 40 I was still significantly underweight.
And this is so important because at 40 my estrogen was starting to fall along with my chances of putting on muscle and gaining strength. I was on a path that spelled DECLINE unless I did something about it.
But it wasn't until I was 45 that I really started to put in the effort.
It's a long story, but essentially I needed to have thyroid surgery and after that surgery I decided things were going to change.
[I've told this story in detail in my book, Living is Beautiful which I highly recommend you get.]
This is when I started strength training and over the next few years I put on 8 kg of muscle to reach a total body weight of just under 60 kg (132 lb).
I've included a before and after photo below just to show you the transformation. It's completely natural.
No surgical procedures. No hormones.
Just a much improved mental and emotional game combined with "body care".
You can read this post here about all the benefits a woman can expect from gaining some muscle and strength.
And it not just about muscle mass and strength gains. On my last bone density scan, I was ranked in the top 2% of women my age.
So, instead of becoming weaker and losing function ... of becoming more prone to bone fractures ... of sagging skin and a slowing metabolism ... I am now stronger, healthier, faster, and sexier in my 50s than I've ever felt.
This is why I am such an advocate for women to start strength training now. It's an investment you can make in your life now, so that you can reduce the price you'll pay for ageing later.
And it all started with changed on the inside.
I learned to have gratitude and appreciation for myself and my body
I learned to love and accept all the unique parts of myself and my body
I developed a healthy and balanced inner positivity
I expanded my definition of beauty to be broader than appearance and based on living
I developed the wisdom and discernment to cultivate healthy thinking and reject unhealthy thinking
And because of all of this, I learned to love myself as I am ... but to also see who I could become by taking care of my body.
I found that I was able to love and accept myself and also know that I could improve my health at the same time. It wasn't either, or.
In the past, if I wanted to change my body, it also meant that I was dissatisfied with who I was. But now, that just doesn't make any sense to me.
I"m completely satisfied with who I am ... myself and my body ... and I'm also aware of my potential and what I can try and achieve.
And this is the key message I'd like to end on.
My wish for you would be to experience the self-love and acceptance that I've come to experience. It's priceless and valuable beyond words.
At the same time, I'd love to inspire you to understand that some things can be changed for the better. You can improve your health. You can improve your muscle mass and strength. You can improve your bone health. You can improve your gut health.
These are all things you can do ... and I can help you do them ... and at no time do you have to feel dissatisfied with where you are right now.
So those are my thoughts about ageing. I hope you found them useful and if you think anyone else would resonate with this, then please share this post with them.
I base my business primarily on the idea of sharing-the-love ... and so please share this with your friends or family as I believe this message can be of great help.
Everyone of us wants to age successfully. To go through the decades of our lives with elegance and style, fun and joy, strength and power, and inner and outer health and beauty.
We get to do that if we pay attention to how we feel, think and function.
By learning to love, appreciate and accept ourselves. By expanding our definition of beauty from just appearance and toward living. But cultivating inner positivity and the wisdom to know what we can and can't change. And then by changing the things we can change by taking action to improve our health through nutrition and exercise and other practices.
To me ageing is living, and living is beautiful.