You know you are a woman in your 40s if you have developed a relationship with kale.
The ultimate “sandwich generation”, women at this age are engaged in a never-ending cycle of caring for children, while trying to balance the needs of elderly parents.
In your infinite wisdom, you decided to have a career and start your family late so you are at the school gate plucking out grey hairs, while juggling work demands with family life.
Which brings us back to kale. Somewhere in the back of your exhausted mind you are aware you are getting older. You know you should be fighting the ravages of time, doing abdominal exercises to rival Jennifer Lopez, 46, but you haven’t the energy to go to the gym.
So you throw kale in the shopping basket as it is a superfood full of anti-ageing antioxidants. You sporadically eat the kale in between devouring jaffa cakes with your coffee and pray that this whole getting older business will stop.
Meanwhile, actress Cameron Diaz, 43, has published a tome about ageing well. However, she says The Longevity Book is not about anti- ageing or living in fear of ageing.
Instead she wants to reframe the way that women talk about ageing. She says, that while we may feel that turning 40 means we’re getting old, the truth is that 40 used to actually be old.
“We are among the first generations to lay claim to our forties as an extension of our 30s instead of a preamble to our 70s. Many of my friends in their 40s make jokes about getting old, but they will be the first to admit that they feel, overall, pretty damn young.”
Life coach Susan Fitzgerald, on the other hand, says women in their forties are completely burned out.
“Ageing is a big thing. People are cracking under the pressure. We are being fed invincibility. Woman in their 40s are highly stressed looking after kids and their parents at the same time. The stress is phenomenal. They are trying to be over-achievers. The pressure they put on themselves?
“Nobody goes for a walk. They go for a run. Then the run isn’t good enough and they’re doing the 10K, and after that they are flinging themselves around assault courses with mud. It is madness.”
Ms Fitzgerald says women of a certain age are under pressure to have “top of the range lives”. Not visibly ageing is just another facet in having the perfect life. “Everyone is caught up in the chaos. Ageing is a huge issue. It is about being brave enough to save being consumed by it — saying it’s not for me. It is about individualism. There is very little individualism any more. There seems to be little moderation anymore.
“People are either doing their 10K or they are slugging back the wine. What is it all about? There is a lot to be said for saying “Yeah I have flaws. Yes I am human. I couldn’t be arsed trying to be perfect.”
Diaz, in her book, says midlife crises should actually be midlife celebrations. She stresses that the fact that we can grow old enough to look old is far from a failure.
“It happens to be the end product of arguably the biggest success story in human history. I think it’s so sad that instead of applauding our birthdays, instead of appreciating them, instead of being grateful for this extra time, so many of us lie about our age.
“As women we are routinely shamed for ageing. We are made to feel that getting older — and especially, looking older is somehow a personal failure.”
Diaz says fearing ageing, stressing over the symptoms of ageing, and worrying about the downsides of age can actually make the process more challenging. She argues that beauty appreciates, not depreciates. “It grows, not fades. With age, I have developed a more nuanced understanding of what beauty really is. Beauty is not just something you are born into — beauty is something you grow into.”
Nutritionist Mary Carmody says women in their 40s need to be mindful of their food intake. Short on time and rich on convenience foods they often snack on unhealthy foods.
“I’d be saying to women in their 40s to snack on seeds and to get out the Nutribullet for healthy smoothies. Plan your diet the way you plan every other aspect of life.
“I see people who come in to me in their 40s and they look like thirty-somethings and then you have thirty-somethings who look a lot older.
“It’s not about appearance. When you hit forty, there is a big change in your body. You have to look after yourself more. It’s as simple as that.”
The Longevity Book : Live Stronger; Live Better; The Art of Ageing Well — Cameron Diaz
Diaz says the signal is broadcast to women loud and clear — act fast, buy now; change who you are so you don’t succumb to the ravages of age.
“Do not under any circumstances let yourself get older,” she says.
“Women of all ages are bombarded with ideas about a standard of beauty that makes them feel lousy, or as though they have to be different.
“But with age it gets even more challenging, because these messages begin to suggest that we should actually be younger than we are — which is impossible.”