French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude

By on February 28, 2014
French Women Don't Get Facelifts book cover

Excerpt by Mireille Guiliano –

We are what we eat, and in the aging phase of  40 and up it is one of the most important aspects for aging with style and attitude and feeding  our body what is best in the “less is more” and “quality over quantity”  mode.

The Waltz through the Decades

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One of women’s biggest delusions seems to be that we can keep eating throughout our lives the way we did when we were young. The truth is a simple but nonnegotiable no, we can’t. I know that I cannot eat or drink the way I could in my twenties and thirties, though sometimes my head forgets that.

For most of us, fifty is the age where we reassess how we live and eat, but it is even better to take measures to change our eating and exercise habits early on—small and intelligent ones that still allow for plenty of pleasures. We know and learn to juggle a few self-management issues.

Women in their forties should prepare themselves for menopause and the changes in metabolism the second half of their lives will bring.

Here’s my wining-and-dining log: In my forties, I reduced meat consumption to no more than twice a week, and as a result increased my consumption of fish, which has become more widely available as fresh, non-frozen. I appreciate that not everyone has easy access to fresh fish, but I always have had fish stores or fishmongers at hand in France and America, and I see them increasingly available wherever my travels take me. And while I was always a big fruit and vegetable consumer, with the advent of more farmers’ markets in America, I was able to increase my intake of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I used to joke in my professional days working at Veuve Clicquot that it was a tough job, but someone had to drink all that champagne. In my forties, however, I could no longer tolerate champagne or other wines with both lunch and dinner, so I picked my battle: lunch was better, but more often than not my evening guests were more important, so I waited till dinner to drink, but watched carefully my intake, doing the old trick, which is to pretend to drink but merely sip…so when the restaurant staff comes around your glass is still too full for a refill. This is a good and easy technique, as your guests or hosts will most likely not notice. I have practiced the technique successfully hundreds of times. For some women in their forties, cutting out alcohol all together around menopause is in order and comes with no effort simply because drinking makes them feel ill.

By my fifties, I appreciated that I could no longer tolerate wine well at all, and gone were the days when I could share a bottle of wine with my husband or a friend over happy hour and dinner. Reduce became the key word. Three glasses on some days became two or one, and I had wine at only one meal (again, I entertained in restaurants for business reasons in those days, so was always obliged to have a glass of champagne. I cut back sharply at that time, and today don’t have any wine obligations at all. On the contrary, wine is not a writer’s friend). At home, my husband and I adopted the “half bottle with dinner” rule. We’d open a bottle, decant half of it into a half bottle, cork it, and set it aside for another night. Sharing a half bottle with our dinner seemed the right and healthy amount. And wine in moderation, as we have come to know, is healthy and anti-aging. But I practice consuming wine only when I am consuming food.

My food intake in my fifties remained balanced, though with my travel experiences and greater availability in markets, I added to the variety of what I ate. Embracing new foods and dishes is fun. However, the big change was in my attention to portion control. I had to watch my offenders: bread and dessert. There was a time when I could enjoy these in abundance…but not in my fifties. The food and wine challenge is at its hardest when we are out with friends, or at holidays, or when we are on vacation. At times, during vacation or prolonged visits from relatives or friends, I’d notice the differences and how mixing white and red wine, for example, was no longer a good option for me. On the rare occasion when a fancy meal meant that possible combination, I’d just pick one and felt much better. And, for the first time in my life, I learned to split a dessert! One for two.

The sixties are more telling and less forgiving, I have found. We just don’t need to eat the way our developed and commercial world seemingly wants us to, and we all know that most of us eat 10 to 30 percent more than what we need anyway. My portions are now smaller, and at restaurants I’ve learned to say “No dessert” without a pang of regret. Sometimes I order two appetizers rather than a large main course. I can live without drinking wine for a week or more with no problem, particularly if I am alone or with someone who does not drink either. Perhaps the most noticeable change since I “retired” from corporate life and responsibilities, and have much more control of my time and meals, is that I eat more vegetables than ever. I can live on steamed vegetables.

Last week, I had lunch in Paris with my friend Jeanine, age eighty. Single, a breast cancer survivor, she is, as always, slim and energetic, and something of a role model. She literally eats like a bird, that is, if birds liked soup. Every day she takes an hour-long walk (it helps to live in Paris). Whenever I see her, I feel like I am taking a refresher course on healthy habits for those of advanced years.


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French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude