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With her signature blend of wit, no-nonsense advice, and storytelling flair, Mireille Guiliano returns with a delightful, encouraging take on beauty and aging for our times. For anyone who has ever spent the equivalent of a mortgage payment on anti-aging lotions or procedures, dressed inappropriate for their age, gained a little too much in the ...
With her signature blend of wit, no-nonsense advice, and storytelling flair, Mireille Guiliano returns with a delightful, encouraging take on beauty and aging for our times. For anyone who has ever spent the equivalent of a mortgage payment on anti-aging lotions or procedures, dressed inappropriate for their age, gained a little too much in the middle, or accidentally forgot how to flirt, here is a proactive way to stay looking and feeling great, without resorting to "the knife"-a French woman's most guarded beauty secrets revealed for the benefit of us all!
Like a fabulous friend sharing her secrets, Mireille divulges, encourages and inspires. And she does it with joy." --Pamela Druckerman
Like a fabulous friend sharing her secrets, Mireille divulges, encourages and inspires. And she does it with joy." --Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bebe
My husband has had a blond mustache his entire adult life. Except one day not too long ago he came to me and said, "You know, my mustache is all white." It is, and was, probably for about three years before he noticed.
I don't know what a fly thinks—if it thinks at all—when it sees itself in the mirror. But I know if we are going to manage our aging, when we grow older and look in the mirror we need to see ourselves as we truly are on the inside and the outside. A lot of us are kidding ourselves. We are not seeing the now us. We often are seeing who we were. Or we are blinded by who we want to be or who we think we are.
Truly knowing thyself is integral to aging well, being comfortable in your skin, and possessing a healthy, nondelusional, and uplifting attitude toward your own aging.
An essential element in aging with attitude is taking periodic hard looks at yourself in the mirror.
What should you look for? You cannot pick up a book or magazine or watch or listen to a program about aging without recognizing topics containing the "usual suspects": health, appearance, exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, medical miracles (a subcategory of which is supposedly cosmetic surgery), and relationships.
To which I want to add as a general category for self-assessment and eventually some self-modification:
Some of the specific questions you might ask yourself when looking in the mirror will come later. However, let's recognize from the start the power of attitude. It is a magic pill. And people have searched for magic anti-aging potions probably as long as there have been people.
FRENCH WOMEN'S ATTITUDE
Gravity works just the same in France as in the rest of the world, especially when you hit your sixties and seventies, if not sooner. But French women approach aging with a different mind-set than women from most cultures. With respect to growing old, the biggest difference between French women and most others is not grooming or clothing or nutrition or face and skin care; it is attitude. For starters, French women have a different definition of what constitutes being old. In a recent multinational survey, the French proved to be the least concerned about aging, and a cool third believed "old" starts after eighty.
Certainly in France, a woman in her forties and fifties is still alluring and seen as an object of desire and acts the part. She feels it and acts it, but doesn't pretend she is ageless. She is comfortable in herself. She takes care of herself and for the most part watches her weight and external presence, but she doesn't attempt to look like her twenty-year-old self. America and many other cultures are youth cultures. France is not. Name the top French actresses who come to mind. They probably all emote an air of grace and alluring beauty that is not picture-perfect or reflective of them in their teens or twenties. Juliette Binoche? Born in 1964. The still-iconic Catherine Deneuve? Born 1943. Even those in their late thirties, like Marion Cotillard, come across as "mature," exuding an alluring package of wholeness and experience.
There are a lot of young women in French films, but they are not endless Charlie's Angels, either. Consider good-hearted, flat-chested Amélie (Audrey Tautou). Women in their fifties and beyond are often shown as likely as not to have a lover, sometimes younger. While French women in movies and life may be petty bureaucrats in the office (a characteristic of the French) or objects of discrete desires, in their personal lives outside the silver screen, they revere being "intellectuals," both little and big. French women are able to quote the Rousseau and Descartes from their high school days and are ready to discuss and debate anything and everything, from the food on their plates to the merits of the latest political scandal. Being an adult is being grown up. And being grown up means losing some of life's insecurities, like worrying too much about gravity. There is much living in the moment for French women of a certain age, defiantly so.
You've heard the one that age fifty is the new forty. I have written that fifty- nine is sometimes the new sixty. Alas, there was a cartoon in the New Yorker that suggested, "Seventy-five isn't the new anything." I hope not, but it does suggest not holding back in your seventies ... for what? Or even in your sixties and fifties à la française. Carpe diem.
How often have you heard the maxims "It's mind over matter," or "Stop thinking about it or it will make you sick," or "She lost her will to live"? They surely fall into the nothing-new-under-the-sun category.
What's new, however—if you consider fifty years still new—is we now have the scientific evidence that the magic not only works but is human science. The field even has a fancy name: psychoneuroimmunology. Belief is powerful medicine.
Remember the placebo effect? It's the fact that in many cases, the more a person believes in a treatment or drug, the more likely they will experience improved health or behavior. Placebos have helped reduce anxiety, pain, depression, and a host of disorders. A few decades ago it was scientifically proven that the immune system is connected to the brain, that there are complex communications among hormones and neurotransmitters.
Though hardly an all-in-one anti-aging pill, conscious belief and subliminal conditioning can control bodily processes, such as immune responses and the release of hormones. Put a Band-Aid on a child and somehow the child is soothed and feels better for no clear medical reason. We know a strong social network helps people survive cancer. Perhaps not a strict placebo but clear evidence of the brain's role in physical health and, obviously, associated mental health. Meditation, of course, is a mental means of ridding our minds of delusions and stress toward achieving a form of inner peace. Methods of meditation have enabled people to reduce blood pressure, alleviate pain, and effect changes in various brain and other bodily functions.
The point is, we have the power of making ourselves feel better. Let that sink in. It is a pretty amazing ability.
Realistically projecting, assessing the options, then shaping what we can and should be doing during the various later stages of life's road is the powerful mental medicine that can cure some of our ills and enhance our pleasures through life. Feeling groovy? Well, I do sometimes.
MEET EIGHTY-PLUS YVETTE
Growing up in eastern France, in Lorraine, I had a babysitter who over time practically became part of the family. In the summers, for example, I used to be packed off to my grandmother's country farmhouse in Alsace for a month or two, and Yvette did the packing and unpacking and ran daily interference for me with my stern grandmother ... year after year. Yvette eventually married and had her own son and daughter to look after, and I left home for high school near Boston and college in Paris and a husband in New York, so we kept in touch mostly through my mother and an occasional cup of coffee. Despite that, we stayed close mentally. Eventually when my mother "retired" to the South of France, it was Yvette who could be counted on to check in on her and give reliable reports. And after her husband passed, she, too, "retired" to the South of France, in her case to the city of Toulon on the Riviera (home of the Airbus). It seems she found a wonderful companion and is living life in her eighties to the fullest with him. They even have a deluxe mobile home to go "camping" at a trailer park perhaps a half hour from their apartment. Every year now, they make a trip in summer up to my home in Provence for a much-anticipated visit.
Last summer, her delightful companion and her son, Claude, who lives in the extreme north of France, accompanied her. While we were having coffee with a piece of Tropézienne, the to-die-for cake named by Brigitte Bardot (yes, Yvette and I are both still very gourmandes, but now in moderation), the conversation led to New York as her son had come with his three daughters a few years ago and they had all fallen in love with the United States. Yvette said, "You know, Mireille, I am also here to talk about New York, as I really would love to come and visit you there to see the way you live." Then she added emphatically, "But I would like to do it avant de vieillir [before I age]." Now that was a statement from someone who is aging with attitude.
Right then and there we settled on the first week of November for a weeklong visit, displaying a live-life-with-pleasure-and-in-the-present-tense approach that comes with age. After she left, a thirty-two-year-old woman who was another houseguest said Yvette did not look her age but, more important, did not act her age. And it's true. Yvette has a pleasant way of meeting and looking at you, and her eyes alone project a light and conspiratorial twinkle that tell immediately that she loves life and is enjoying every second of it.
A few months later, I e-mailed her son to get some information in order to organize a visit she would love, and her son confirmed that she is indeed in very good shape, full of life and pep and curiosity, and maintains a good sense of humor. She eats everything, just in smaller portions than she once did, and while she could perhaps lose a few pounds, she is comfortable and healthy in her skin. What did she want to do besides see how I live? See a musical and an opera, he shared. Then a few weeks later she added a professional basketball game to her list. Perhaps there is something to the claim that Madison Square Garden is the world's most famous arena (and here I thought it was the Roman Colosseum). Physical limitations? I asked. She can walk fine, I was told, and the only thing she has problems with are stairs. Hallelujah. I reminded him that we have an elevator that goes to the fifteenth floor!
Jack beat cancer. And he liked to fight gravity. I met Jack early in my public relations career in New York. He was our outside printer and would visit twice a week to work with me on various projects. I never asked his age, but he surely was in his seventies at the time, and acting forty. One day as he was telling me about his love of France, I felt comfortable asking what his "recipe" was for his optimism, energy, and vitality, not to mention his constant nice disposition and sense of humor. I learned then that he had a bout of cancer in his fifties that was life-changing. Things were not going well with his treatments in New York, and he journeyed into alternative medicine and medical treatments outside the United States. I remember Mexico was one of the stops. But what he found was a lifestyle and mental attitude that embraced yoga and holistic healthy eating. It was a long journey for this mostly bald, elfish man from his upbringing in Brooklyn.
What was his recipe? His reply was simple: "I do yoga every morning and particularly a headstand for twenty minutes ... and I eat healthy." He saw my puzzled look, and before I knew it he was doing a headstand in my office to my open-jawed amazement. "Since my mid-fifties," he explained once he was right side up, "I eat less. I eat meat and fish once a week, and eat mostly grains, eggs, fruits and veggies, good bread, which I make every Saturday" (no Wonder Bread for Jack). "Baking relaxes me, and the most important is that I eat a lot of soups with lots of spices and herbs and yogurt" (the French woman's staple par excellence), and which he made himself as he wouldn't buy the supermarket "crap" (his word). Granted, this was before some natural and well-made yogurts we have today. That said, we now have hundreds of yogurts that Jack and I would put in the junk-food category because they contain too much sugar, including in some dreadful corn syrup, often jammy sweet fruit, and preservatives.
I said to him that he was either Buddhist or French in his other life. He claimed a mix of both and claimed that since he had reached his mid-fifties and his cancer did not recur, he had never felt better. I often have the image of him in his business suit and tie doing his headstand, and I imagine what would have happened had someone walked into my office, and I crack up. I loved Jack and always looked forward to his visits.
Placebo effect for Jack? In part probably, but it works, and he had the will, the attitude, to live. And, of course, he hit upon yoga and a healthy diet, both of which were soon to be scientifically proven to facilitate a long life, which he enjoyed.
Admit it: we all know someone who we secretly wonder if they see what they really look like when they look in the mirror.
I have an old school chum, Denise, with whom I spent a lot of time in my twenties and early thirties. Now I see her perhaps once a year. And each time I am troubled and concerned by her appearance. Denise really needs to look objectively in the mirror. Don't we all? When it is not Halloween and we look like we are dressed in our Halloween costume, ah, well, it is time to ring the wake-up bell.
Sometimes I wonder: Should I make a recommendation to her about her hair or makeup? We have lots we can do to challenge our aging bodies and minds toward a healthier and happier march to the inevitable. I'd just have to figure out how to make a suggestion or two to her nicely. Or maybe she's actually happy with her appearance?
But alas, she does not seem happy. In fact, she seems to have "given up" for no reason I can discern.
Perhaps you've seen the signs of what I mean about "giving up." She wears only black, or very dark-colored, frumpy clothes. She has given up the discreet lipstick and eye shadow that were her accent lights. Her hairstyle is dated and not flattering. Seeing her conjures up an image in my mind of an old lady out of some European photo from the 1940s. I don't want to think that way, but I can't help it. And she is not old in the sense that she has decades of life left based upon her family history and genetics.
With each passing year I am saddened that the gulf between our "attitudes" is widening. I choose to approach aging with a positive attitude, with a sense of purpose and self-appreciation. Her attitude seems to be more along the lines of aging with apathy.
Am I being critical? Sure, yet realistic, to illustrate a bad case of not seeing oneself and not aging well with attitude. I've worked hard to create a positive mental approach to aging, and I want to protect that. When the women (and men) we surround ourselves with give up, it's depressing to be with them!
Can my old friend be shaken out of her lethargy? Just a few suggestions taken from chapters of this book would produce miraculous results. Maybe she will learn some secrets. But that would require her to see herself, and sometimes it is difficult for some women to face what's in the mirror.
Our female friendships are essential throughout our lives, but as we get older it's even more imperative to surround ourselves with positive people—people who have a similar outlook on life. Remember that old adage "You're only as old as you feel"? Surround yourself with people who are young at heart and take care of themselves, both body and mind ... and watch what happens. I promise you'll like the results!
FORGET THE SPHINX
How do we help organize our thoughts and actions for aging with attitude? I say, forget the Riddle of the Sphinx, forget crawling, forget walking with a cane, forget classifying old age as the third age of man; it can be depressing and diverting. For the purposes of this book, here is the classification and organizational trilogy around which I approach aging with attitude from inside out: mental, physical, and external (appearance is one of those atypical nouns without an adjective form in English, but here I am thinking externally about the persona, the mask, we put on—the face we put on for the faces we meet). How do we look, appear to ourselves and others? How do we feel physically, our health scan and beyond? How do we think and feel mentally?
Excerpted from French Women Don't Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano. Copyright © 2013 Mireille Guiliano. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted December 31, 2013
I really enjoyed this book. It is full of practical, easy to implement tips. I particularly liked the sections on style, skin-care, and anti-aging foods.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 11, 2014
Very boring, only got halfway through it. Nothing but a plug of different beauty products (author must have gotten quite a commission!). I am a French woman myself and thought the book would be more about the uniqueness of the French woman as compared to the American but it was nothing but "beauty tips" on how we can be an exact clone of the author.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2014
This book gives helpful tips that ALL women everywhere can use to help in their diet battles. Drink more water and watch your portions along with regular exercise seems to be the key.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2014
I read this book as a follow-up to "French Women Don't Get Fat." I found it to be highly enjoyable and informative. The book made me stop and think about what I was putting in my mouth; drink more water; and wish I had some French genes. More please!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2014
About 20 pages in I realized that this book was a memoir. Not what I expected or wanted. If I had wished to read about her life, I would have researched the author. I also found the information to be "nothing new". I should have spent the money on a bottle of french wine instead. Oh well ....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2014
Great storyteller...lots of sound and simple advice and facts packed between the covers of this helpful book. Love the attitude.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 24, 2014
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