Monday, April 25, 2011

Life After 50: When you look in the Mirror what do you see?

I came across this article on AOL today and LOVED it so I had to share! This is such a powerful message and I'm so glad I found it! Be sure to watch the clip that goes along with it! Enjoy!

Barbara Hannah Grufferman

Barbara Hannah Grufferman

An article in the U.K. Daily Mail stopped me in my tracks recently. New research, it reported, shows that more than 90 percent of women in their 40s and 50s are deeply unhappy with how they look and are suffering from what experts have dubbed "Midlife Mirror Angst Syndrome."

Curious and apprehensive, I read the article. Not surprisingly, the women who were interviewed for the story were quite down on themselves:

"Ever since I turned 40, my reflection has upset me. I loathe what's happening to my body, I am riddled with hang-ups -- and I hate the fact I can't control the changes I see."

"Before the ageing process kicked in, I used to take all those sideways glances from men for granted. I've had to accept that I simply don't turn heads any more."

"I'm going through the menopause and it's a shock every time I catch sight of myself in the mirror: I expect to see the woman I was in my 20s, but there's a 50-something woman staring back at me."

I used to feel that way -- but no more.

A few years ago when I turned 50, this is what was staring back at me when I looked into the mirror:

A woman who:

  • was starting to feel invisible and ignored
  • hadn't exercised regularly in many years
  • had very little energy
  • had hair that looked like road kill because she had been blow-drying it to death for decades, trying to make it something it wasn't (straight)
  • assumed that the 15 pounds she packed on after going through menopause was normal and would never come off
  • believed that she was no longer attractive
  • focused on her wrinkles
  • was feeling insecure about her place in the world

Need I go on?

I looked in the mirror and thought, "Okay, this is it. This is what being middle aged is all about, and I'd better just accept it." Then, I mentally tucked myself under the proverbial blanket and was getting ready to stay there -- until I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, declaring, "Giving up is not an option."

Deciding that drastic action was required, I took it upon myself to get the best information from the best experts on nutrition, fitness, style, hair, makeup, health, finances, careers after 50 and everything else you could possibly think of to feel good and look good so that I could stare at that person in the mirror with a renewed sense of pride and confidence.

Armed with my new "look" and new attitude, I appeared on the Today Show to talk about how I learned to embrace my age instead of fighting it. During the interview with Ann Curry (see video below), I shared what I believe is the simple key to being fearless after 50: "Embrace your age, whatever it is. Love your life, get as healthy as you can, move your body every day, be informed, stay engaged, connect with others, use your mind, live with style, be bold, be brave and walk with confidence."

The message has resonated with men and women around the country because we're tired of being told that we are invisible and no longer relevant. I meet people over 50 every day who are engaged with life in ways they never thought they could be.

I can honestly say that turning 50 changed my life for the better. Instead of giving up and giving in, I did a bit of "tough love" on myself and took action. But more than that: I also realized that I didn't want to just be alive; I wanted to have a life, a great, big, wonderful life after 50.

Before sitting down to write this piece, I looked in the mirror, and this is what I saw:

A woman who:

  • just came back from running nine miles (with walk breaks and quite slowly)
  • will run in the New York City Marathon this year to celebrate her 55th birthday and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (see the "NYC Marathon Training Weekly Update" at the end of this article)
    • can do 20 push-ups (just a few years ago she couldn't even do one)

  • is starting a new business and has outlines for two other books
  • has come to truly understand and appreciate the power of connecting with other women who are, or have been, going through similar midlife experiences (take a look at a few of the comments from Facebook friends who were asked this question, "What do you see when you look in the mirror?" below)
  • can see the pride in her daughters' faces when they look at this confident, happy and unstoppable woman their mother has become
  • smiles more often than not
  • is the happiest she has ever been

That is what I see. Oh, about those wrinkles. Yes, they are still there. I love them, and I hope you come to love yours, too. They are the most empowering things I possess.

I put this question, "When you look in the mirror, what do you see?" on Facebook, and here are a few of the responses, reprinted with their permission. If you're on Facebook, join me and these wonderful women so we can all learn from each other about living our best lives after 50:

I see a different face every day. The face may change, but the reflection remains the same. There's always a smart, loving, talented woman looking back at me. (Karen Hanley Taylor)
I see wisdom in the lines around my eyes, happiness in the lines around my mouth and joy reflecting in my eyes. (Denise Taylor Tremaine)
I see a youthful spirit with a new wisdom that can only come with life experience. I take care of myself and do the best that I can with my looks, and have accepted the physical change as part of growing older. I feel very blessed. (Marsha Silver-Kessler)
I see a woman who believes that dreams can come true again and again! (Amy Wise)
I see an older version of myself, but a much more serene and confident version. I see a woman who can handle just about anything with a little time to get used to whatever it is. I see a truly happy woman who has found contentment, has lost her judgementalism, has found her groove and who can find common ground with anyone and who can enjoy herself in any situation....take that you 20 year olds! ;) (Maureen Ardron)

Tell us: what do you see?

Staying connected is a powerful tool. "Friend" me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. For more information on "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," please visit my website, Stay well, and stay in touch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Scary Reality of a Real Life Barbie Doll

This article was taken from this link on the Huffington Post. I personally never compared myself to Barbie or looked to her for my own Body Image but rather to my peers and mother. What are your thoughts on this? Is Barbie to blame for the body image issues young girls face?

Some people have skeletons in their closet. I have an enormous Barbie in mine.

She stands about six feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips. These are the supposed measurements of Barbie if she were a real person. I built her as a part of the first National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) at my high school, later introducing her to Hamilton College during its first NEDAW in 2011.

When I was a little girl, I played with my Barbie in her playhouse, sending her and Ken on dates that always ended with a goodnight kiss. I had fond times with my Barbie, and I admired her perfect blonde locks and slim figure. Barbie represented beauty, perfection and the ideal for young girls around the world. At least, as a seven-year-old, that is what she was to me.

In January 2007, I was looking for a way to make my peers realize the importance of eating disorders and body image issues. I was frustrated after quitting the cheerleading squad, frustrated with pressures to look and act a certain way and most of all frustrated with the eating disorder controlling my life. I wanted to do something that would turn others' apathy into action. That evening, my neighbor and I found two long pieces of wood and started measuring. With a little math, nails and hammering, we built a stick figure that stood about six feet tall.

The chicken wire came next. Surrounding her wooden frame, we created a body that wasn't much thicker than a stick figure, but had the womanly and unattainable curves and proportions that impressionable young girls idealize. We stuffed the chicken wire with newspaper and created a body that creepily leaned against the wall in my neighbor's basement. She now needed some skin, so I brought her back to my apartment and employed the masterful art of papier maché.

Taking stacks of newspaper, glue and water, I skipped my high school semi-formal dance to give my girl some skin. Oddly, I started to feel my fondness for Barbie return, now not as a plaything but as a tool to reveal the negative body image that she promotes. As I papier machéd, I couldn't forget Barbie's impressive bust and blew up balloons over and over again to achieve a perfect 39" measurement. Once her chest was secured, I spent hours dipping and smoothing the paper, and later mixed paints to replicate her seemingly perfect white skin tone. With a little hard work and a lot of time, a headless, footless and handless body soon stood in my apartment.

But it was then I became stumped. I couldn't figure out how to recreate the recognizable face of the Barbie we all know and love. With NEDAW just around the corner, I was panicked. On my way to get office supplies, I drove by a Toys 'R' Us, and that's when it hit me. Remember that Barbie with just shoulders and a head, meant for you to practice brushing her hair? I confidently walked into the toy store for the first time since I was a kid. I found the Barbie head, found a friend to assemble that head, and clothed Barbie for her first debut.

I dressed Barbie in my old clothes. The skirt she still has on today is a reminder of who I once was. That skirt, a size double zero, used to slip off my waist when I was struggling with anorexia. I put it on Barbie to serve as a reminder that the way Barbie looks, the way I once looked, is not healthy and is not "normal," whatever normal might mean. My Barbie's role is simple. She grabs the attention of apathetic onlookers and makes them think and talk about an issue that thrives in silence. In the last four years, Barbie has surpassed my expectations, attracting attention and sparking conversation among listeners and readers across the nation.

Once a year, at the end of February, Barbie comes out of the closet to meet my friends, strangers, and those apathetic onlookers. During NEDAW, she reminds people that eating disorders and body image issues are serious and prevalent. Holding an awareness week in high school or college is just one way to get students to discuss these important issues. However, constant discussion and education is key to dealing with and overcoming eating disorders.

Despite her bizarre appearance, Barbie provides something that many advocacy efforts lack. She reminds of something we once loved, while showing us the absurdity of our obsession with perfection.

More "Get Real, Barbie" statistics:*

• There are two Barbie dolls sold every second in the world.
• The target market for Barbie doll sales is young girls ages 3-12 years of age.
• A girl usually has her first Barbie by age 3, and collects a total of seven dolls during her childhood.
• Over a billion dollars worth of Barbie dolls and accessories were sold in 1993, making this doll big business and one of the top 10 toys sold.
• If Barbie were an actual women, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe.
• Barbie calls this a "full figure" and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
• At 5'9" tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.
• If Barbie was a real woman, she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
• Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled "How to Lose Weight" with directions inside stating simply "Don't eat."

For more information, call the South Shore Eating Disorders Collaborative at 508-230-1732 or visit the National Eating Disorders Association at
* Source: Body Wars, Margo Maine, Ph.D., Gurze Books, 2000.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Beauty is NOT EVERYTHING.... it just is something!"

I came across this post through an acquaintance of mine on facebook and I thought I'd share. You can find more of her writing at

"Beauty is NOT EVERYTHING.... it just is something!"
Isn't that true?? Someone told me today that I was beautiful and I got thinking about that. We put soo much on beauty that sometimes we forget to develop what is inside of each one of us which is absolute brilliance. How often do you find yourself drawn to the better looking people in your life and tend to disregard those around you who may not be as attractive. What is it in us that filters how we see or even judge each other? I know for me, I have to be conscious of the fact that we are all equal in our own right. There is no better than or worse than. As I look back just on the last couple of weeks, there was an example of how much things have changed for me since losing all the weight.

I was rushing to catch a flight in the airport and had to cut through all the security.Wow.. at first people didn't respond but then when they saw that I was serious they started to push me through. I am not sure that would have happened so easily if I was at my beginning weight. I hate to say that but that's how people are. I wish so badly that we could all see the brilliance in each other regardless of the number on the scale. I fall prey to this as well sadly to say. I have thought about going and volunteering at an obese clinic to work on seeing past the weight and into their souls. There is no need for judgement.. no need for disregarding them as anything less than who they really are. Many of times, when I was obese I just needed someone to tell me I was ok just the way I was. Well, thinking back now I am not sure even if people would tell me that .. I wasn't open to receiving it because of all the negative thoughts I had about myself. So .. I get thinking of what I can do. Who knows who I may be able to affect if I spent the time getting to truly know and care for those hurting so badly inside. I know how much it meant to me one time when a guy told me he saw me for who I was and not what I looked like. It made all the difference in the world.

So.. yes, I am more beautiful on the outside these days.. but beauty is just beauty.. it doesn't make who I truly am. The great thing about me now is that I never really had the beauty to carry me through life so I learned to connect with people in other more authentic ways. People are people.... no matter what they look like... as for me I will accept them as such to the best of my ability.