Over Fifty Makeover looking Fabulous over Fifty Life in Small Town America

Looking Fabulous After Fifty In Small Town America

While visiting Los Angeles I realized that there were more people at the Cineplex than lived in my whole town. With my children grown, graduated and happily married I turned my attention to my own reflection in the mirror. What I saw led to some harsh realizations. I may have felt over fifty and fabulous but I sure didn’t look it! How does a grandmother of two, happily abiding in small town America achieve that polished, prime of life look promised in the magazines? I wasn’t rich or famous. I couldn’t afford the complete makeovers I saw on television. Even if I could how would I access these services from the middle of the boondocks? The closest major city was over 300 miles away. The closest mall was 70 miles away. If I was looking for a gym to join it was 45 minutes of driving, one way. Was I suppose to give up my dream of physical reinvention because I didn’t live in the big city?

I didn’t want to look 20 again, but I did want my outside to match how I felt about myself inside. Years of too many cookies, too much sun, and not enough exercise showed everywhere on my body in wrinkles and 60 pounds of extra fat. My sweet husband’s assurances that he loved me, “just the way you are,” didn’t make me feel any better. So, where do I start? Research the voices of experience, and make a list of my priorities. I read everything I could get my hands on until I was completely confused and discouraged. Yikes! Seems like the experts agreed on only a few points, very few. I decided to concentrate on the experts around me, the women who had succeeded with the same issues as I had. Women I could see and talk to in my everyday, small town life.

What were my issues? Number one, my clothes didn’t fit. I spent too much time in the mornings changing clothes because only a few things in my closet fit me. Why did I think that green blouse that didn’t fit yesterday would suddenly fit me today? Delusional? Wishful thinking? Why didn’t I get rid of that green blouse? All together now, “Because I might lose weight someday!” Maybe I should buy some clothes that fit. Did I mention I’m not rich? Besides, I already had a closet full of clothes in every size, except larger. Most were out-dated, some with the price tags still on them, just waiting for me to lose that five pounds (yeah right) that would make them oh so cute. So my clothes didn’t fit, what to do? Echoes of a thousand voice choir, “lose weight!” No brainer, duh! The conscience among the experts, doctors and glam-mags, was definitely lose weight. How? I had been dieting for years and look where it got me. As all women know, the choices at this junction are overwhelming. Weight Watchers, low carb, high protein, South Beach, mail order meals, Jenny Craig, gastric bypass, liposuction, too many choices. My research showed the bottom line for all diets was calories in, calories out. It doesn’t matter where the calories came from, whether carbs, proteins, sugars, or fats, if you take in more calories than you use in a day you gain weight. Sad but true. Also sad but true, you can’t diet for the rest of your life. Sooner or later you will get sick and tired of deprivation. You have to LEARN to eat what you love. Who could teach me this? I picked two sources. The first expert I chose was my lovely daughter. She lost forty pounds, didn’t starve, and kept it off. She did it with five inexpensive tools. A pencil, paper, a calorie counting book (available at almost any grocery check-out counter), the easily found knowledge of how many calories a day she should eat to lose weight (this is usually found in the front of the calorie count book), and a scale. Then you keep a food diary. Write down every single thing you put in your mouth. Then write down the calories next to it, gum, mints and water included. This is the most life changing and easiest thing you will ever do for yourself. Once you see where the calories are coming from, we know where they are going (hello hips!), you can change what you are putting in your body. In about two weeks you will know, without looking it up, the calorie count of most of the foods you will be eating. The most important thing is portion size. This will become second nature too. What you want to substitute, give up, or add is now totally up to you and your taste buds. Weigh yourself every morning. This is called a reality check. You want to lose one to three pounds a week. No, I’m not nuts. Remember that crash is an ugly word in cars and food plans. I have lost twenty pounds in a month, and gained it back almost as fast. I lost four pounds a month and haven’t seen them since. In fact it took me 18 months to lose 60 pounds. That includes holiday slip-ups and regional foods on vacations.

A few cautions here. Don’t use food as a reward, that is just common sense. Don’t give up your favorite foods. Do I want to live my life without lasagna or donuts? No! Moderation is the key. You’ll figure it out. Always remember that less calories doesn’t always mean more weight lose. Too few calories a day and your body goes into starvation mode. Where have you read this before? Everywhere! Who doesn’t know this well known fact of dieting? Don’t forget it.

The second expert I chose took me completely out, out of the box, out of my comfort zone, and out of town. I found a hypnotist-nutritionist in the yellow pages only 70 miles away. Okay, you can stop laughing now, and never say never. No, he didn’t make me cluck like a chicken. I did develop a craving for colorful veggies like red bell peppers and purple cabbage. Yum! I learned some new habits. Never skip meals, always eat breakfast and drink plenty of water. Your water taste yucky? Buy a Brita, hydration is important to wash out your body. I got rid of some bad habits like sugary snacks. Not all snacks are evil. You’ll recognize the evil ones, they show up on your body in the shape of lumps and bumps. I also quit waiting until I was starving to eat. Hunger is of the body, appetite is of the mind. Feed your body, not your head. Please, before you write this off, research it. Hypnotism is used for many medical purposes these days and it worked for me. In case you’re worried, it didn’t conflict with my deep religious beliefs.

So now that I was 60 pounds lighter you’d think I would be happy. I was happier, except I looked like a Sharpei without my clothes. I know, too much information. Plus, my clothes still didn’t fit right with all this loose, sagging skin. Enter issue number two, my looks. I used a triple approach to this problem, skincare, exercise, and plastic surgery.

First on the list, skincare. I researched three things. What works for my friends, what Consumer Reports said, and what works for me. A few things to keep in mind when choosing the right skincare. Don’t take advice from someone who has a vested interest in your choice, i.e. the woman at the make-up counter, your Avon or Mary Kay ladies, etc. Do try different products until you find one that provides the results you are looking for. Just because it works for your best friend doesn’t mean it will work for you. Don’t expect miracles from topical creams. The women in the magazine ads do look great. It’s called air brushing, not a miracle face cream. Really! If you are comparing your 50 year old skin to a 20 year old model’s you are sure to feel deficient. If you are looking for a magazine with models in our age group, give up. You won’t find them. More Magazine comes the closest, but really, if the shoes advertised in a magazine cost $350 and the face creams cost $150 for three ounces you’re not getting what most of us consider real life. Important reminder, read, really read the ads in these magazines. The ad says, ” 85% of women saw smoother, more defined contours, 89% saw fuller, younger LOOKING skin. The fine print says it was based on an evaluation of 50 women after 5 weeks. The ad says, “improvement in the APPEARANCE of fine lines”. The operative word is appearance. Those wrinkles may look better but they are not going to disappear. Don’t go into debt because of skin cream either. Just because it is endorsed by a famous beauty or a doctor doesn’t mean it works better. It may cost that much because the company had to pay Miss Air Brushed, Not Old Enough To Have Wrinkles, big bucks to be in that ad. Miracle is just a word unless God is using it, and He doesn’t waste miracles on cream for crows feet. Lastly, quit smoking. I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s true. Every cigarette adds wrinkles and wrecks your skin tone. Lung cancer may not scare you but wrinkles should if you care about your skin.

Exercise! No matter what shape you’re in everyone can do something. I saw a 1000 pound woman on television who couldn’t do anything at first except clap her hands. It burned calories, and isn’t that your goal too? You don’t need a gym or a personal trainer. Equipment is cheap, cheap, cheap! Walking- 10 minutes, three times a day. Can’t afford those Nike tennis shoes you say? Walmart will sell you a perfectly adequate pair for around $15. Bad knees? Lame excuse. You walk to the bathroom and the refrigerator don’t you? Yeah, jogging can be joint jarring, but I said WALK. Make the most of it, go uphill. No hills? Use stairs. Our town is so small we only have three two-story buildings in the whole town! Lucky me, I live in the mountains. You have no excuse, hills or stairs, you must have one of them. Jump rope- you can buy one at any dollar store. Price? $1.00. Start with one minute jumping, one minute resting. Then two minutes jumping, one minute resting. Then three minutes jumping, one minute resting. You get the idea. Strength training- No weights? Use soup cans or recycle soda or water bottles and fill them with sand. Lift your toddler to shoulder height ten times, rest, then repeat. Walk the dog. Take your kids to the park and play with them. Swings are good for the thighs, pump those legs honey! Push your kids on those swings. You’ll wear out long before they will. No kids? Borrow some! Your friends will bless you as a saint. Not brave enough for that? Go with your friend and her kids to the park. Tennis anyone? Racquets are a buck apiece at Goodwill. You’re not training for the Olympics sweetie, no need for top of the line equipment or a $50 tennis skirt. Not ready for volleyball yet? Play it with a beach ball instead. The point is you don’t have to be an athlete to exercise, just get your butt moving. Park on the far side of the parking lot, walk the cart back into the store. You move, you burn calories. You burn more calories than you eat in a day, you lose weight. Honestly, you can’t come up with any excuse I haven’t employed in the past. They are all totally lame. The truth is you have no excuse. Deal with it!

Last but not least we come to plastic surgery. After 18 months of a food diary, hypnosis, and tons of research, only to end up where I started was very disappointing. Sure, I lost 60 pounds but my clothes still didn’t fit right! One reason and one word answered it all. The reason? A roll of fat and a roll of wrinkly skin look the same under my clothes. A roll is a roll. The one word? Elasticity. During my whole reinvention the only time I thought of elastic was when I dreamed of trading in my elastic waist pants I’d worn for years for real blue jeans. Did you know after a certain age your skin will never shrink back to its original shape? It never occurred to me. So imagine my surprise when my now ex-double chin turned into a wrinkly, droopy sack of skin hanging under my thinner, supposedly younger looking face. Then horror of horrors I now had a permanently attached, human skin, fanny pack hanging under my belly button. I was not totally nave. After two kids and considerable weight gain and loss I expected the girls (aka, my breasts) to travel south. Heah, that was why we had Victoria’s Secret. Not a problem a good bra couldn’t fix, right? The same couldn’t be said of chin drapes and tummy sacks. I had loose skin under my arms, on my thighs, all over. Somehow I found the chin and stomach skin intolerable. I did mention I’m not rich, didn’t I? Suddenly I found money was no object. I would sacrifice, save, even get another job to make my dream come true. Incredible results would cost incredible (at least to me) amounts of money. This is from a woman who has never owned a new car because she refuses to make payments. Hello again to research. Why so expensive? If you have done your research correctly you will be hiring a board certified, very talented, exquisitely competent, highly qualified doctor. That kind of training and experience doesn’t come cheap to the doctor. Be expected to shoulder your share of his excellence. The doctor’s reputation and skill should be very important to you at this point. Your research should include at least two consultations, each with a different doctor. At this consultation you will meet the doctor personally, be examined by him or her, talk about expectations (yours) and costs (theirs). If you only meet their staff cross this one off your list. Next, be prepared to lose your weight before the surgery. Television doctors may lipo all the fat out, hand out flat stomachs and perky breasts but real life, competent doctors expect more from you than money. They will want you at height and bone structure appropriate weight before committing to surgery. If you go in at 200 pounds and the doctor says you will be a svelte 140 pounds afterwards cross this one off your list. Does your doctor offer recommendations? Have you Googled them yet? Will they do two surgeries at once? These are lengthy operations and you don’t want to be under anesthesia for too long, it’s dangerous. Not to mention you don’t want the doctor to rush. Are they board certified? This will be important. You wouldn’t believe who is doing cosmetic surgery these days! They don’t do television programs on plastic surgery horror stories for nothing. They really do happen. You can’t reverse nerve damage. You might be able to hide a bad tummy tuck but a bad face lift is. Well, ask Michael Jackson how it feels to end up with a nose you don’t like and can’t fix. You need to know and understand every step of your surgery, and your doctor better be ready, willing, and able to explain it to you in detail. If not, cross them off your list. Stunning results are not all that should concern you. You need to know about recovery time, pain management (don’t even delude yourself that this isn’t painful),and side effects like possible desensitization or numbness resulting from this operation. You also need to know about the COMPLETE cost. Where will this be done, in the hospital or his on site operating room? Is the anesthesiologist included in the cost? How about follow up visits? What about medications, painkillers, vitamins, and antibiotics? The little extras add up quickly.

As I said, I live in a small town, with small town salaries. I thought long and hard about what I wanted and what I could afford. I considered the extra hours I would put in at my job, the part time job I would have to take, and how long it would take me to pay it off and how I would do that. My total reinvention has cost me about $17,000. I saved half of it while I was losing the weight and financed the other half. I was lucky to have a credit card that gave cash back on my purchases. I charged my second surgery on that and paid the bill the next month using my low interest line of credit from my bank. Every penny counts. Most doctors expect to be paid before the surgery. It’s not like they can repossess your face lift or give you back your fat if you don’t pay.

So am I happy now? You bet! I did my part, took the weight off and did the research. I ended up not only with the most wonderful plastic surgeon alive, but I learned something else I didn’t know. Great doctors hire great staff. His support staff is also MY support staff. I have never met a kinder, more considerate, and caring group of people. From the office to the operating room and afterwards I felt true concern and consideration for my fears and feelings. When it comes down to it, even if you choose to go under the knife it’s still pretty scary. Worth it? Oh goodness, YES! I won’t lie, I do stop and admire my flat tummy and lovely jaw line in the mirror sometimes. Best of all, my clothes fit me now!