Can Anti-Aging Ever Be Pro-Aging?
Featuring Star Khechara
If you've been hanging around here for a while you'll know that I seriously dislike the term 'anti-aging'. I'm totally with Jamie Lee Curtis who said 'there are plenty of things to be anti about... aging isn't one of them'.
On any given day I'll see the phrase anti-aging a multitude of times in articles and adverts. And often in ways that are simultaneously claiming to be about empowering women. So, have I got it all wrong? Is the phrase anti-aging now being used differently in some cases? Can anti-aging ever actually be pro-aging?
I talked to Star Khechara, author ofThe Holistic Beauty Book, original founder of Formula Botanica (organic cosmetic science school), creator of The Facelift Diet®, leader of Academy of Beauty Nutrition and a self-styled 'anti-aging' activist, to find out.
How did you got started with The Facelift Diet and what is the aim/mission for it.
'I’m fascinated by the idea of youthful living, and I don’t mean that in a ‘I have to look 20 for the rest of my life’ way. It's more about having adventure, fun, feeling vibrant and making sure you’ve got the energy to do all you want to do in life. I come from a skin care background and that dealt with the outside, but then I realised there was something deeper, that if I really want to stay youthful and have that energy to do all I want to do, then I need to look at it from a cellular level… That’s when I realised that my previous study into nutrition could become the key to providing this other side of things. So I really started investigating over the last 10 years how nutrition and the right foods literally, well ‘anti-age’ us, for want of a better term, from the inside out, at a cellular level. It’s called The Facelift Diet, and in a way I’m appealing to people’s vanity, but what I’m really doing is helping people slowdown that deterioration and aging from within. So that our organs stay healthy, so we’re not so likely to get cancer, diabetes, heart disease and strokes, and all of these things that doctors so often tell us are just a part of aging. And it’s not. We can really build our defences and ‘youthify’ our inside workings as it were. And that’s really the crux of what The Facelift Diet is all about. I’m really on a mission now to share it because in the last 10 years I’ve come up with some very exciting findings.'
I love that you’re talking about the cellular level and not just about how we look on the outside. You’ve chosen to use the phrase 'anti-aging' on your website. Can you talk to me about that choice a bit more? You said you’re appealing to people’s vanity a bit, so is it purely a marketing tool to use this phrase?
'Well, it is to some extent. Mainly because there isn’t another word for it. But what I’m really doing is looking at anti-deterioration, I’m stopping cellular rusting. But, if you put those words into Google, no one is using them. No one is going to be able to find my website and therefore benefit from the knowledge. So, as a business you want to get your message out into the world and reach as many people as possible, which means I have to use the words that people are actually using. And no matter what we think of that term ourselves, the fact is that millions of people are using it, it’s the same phrase being used across the board, not just for pills and potions but for research too, so I kind of have to use it as a Search Engine Optimisation phrase. It is a horrible term, ‘anti-aging’, and of course I’m not anti getting older, that would be ridiculous, but there just isn’t another term that everyone uses. If someone invents one and it gets millions of hits on Google then I will be very happy to use it.'
I tend to stick with pro-aging which is slowly gaining in popularity, but you’re absolutely right, it doesn’t get anywhere near as many hits as ‘anti-aging’ so from a business point of view it does have its downsides. It's hard isn’t it? So, when people come to your site is one of your aims to (for want of a better description) hook them with the anti-aging and then hit them with the pro-aging message?
'Well, my personal mission is really about having a super level of health, so I hit them more with the health message. I believe that if you strip everything away in your life but you still have your health, then you have everything you need. And I think often we put our health so far down on our to-do lists, and it’s really sad. As Jim Rohn said ‘take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live’. Often what we do is we put family, our homes, mortgage payments, above everything else. Sometimes we look after our car better than we look after our body, and then our 40’s is the time when that all starts to show on us, and shows how far up the to do list we’ve put our health. So, my mission is not about aging at all in one sense, it’s about 'let’s dive into super vibrant health so we can do all the things we want to do in life, and live as our highest selves' because health isn’t just about our body, it also helps our mind and brain to work better, and our emotions to be more stable. It effects our entire existence. All kinds of magical stuff happens when we take care of our health.'
I agree, and I think it’s really clever actually what you're doing. As you said it is what people are searching for. As a fellow business woman I know that for me, using the phrase pro-aging can be a bit of a stumbling block because the phrase anti-aging is the one that is everywhere and gets more attention. I’m curious to know if you think there are any negative connotations with the phrase pro-aging?
'I’ve only really seen it on an advert for one particular brand, so for me I would feel as if I might be taking another company's angle a little bit, so I wouldn’t choose to use it because of that. Also, just as anti-aging can have negative issues, as someone who thinks of aging holistically, for me ‘pro-aging’ feels like saying it’s okay to disintegrate, to deteriorate at a cellular level, to not look after ourselves because we’re old now. In my mind that’s what image it conjures up, in the same way that for some people anti-aging conjures up someone in Hollywood having horrendous surgery to look younger. So I think there can be negative connotations on both sides. It is tricky to get right.'
It’s a bit of a minefield isn't it and definitely comes down to our own interpretations. As you said, the negative view of anti-aging is often around the extreme plastic surgery, or that desperate need to be 20 again, or putting women down in some way, which in all honesty is how I tend to think of it. But that’s very clearly not the message you're sharing. So, how do you want women to feel about getting older?
'I feel like the first person who said ‘life begins at 40’ was probably bang on. I really do feel like that. I feel like I’m just starting to get what life is. So the last thing I want is to start feeling tired and achy, and now I feel like I’m really ready to go out and do my epic thing in the world. It’s like an awakening. I finally get it. And I want others to feel that way too.'
Yep, it’s like you start off with who you are as a child, and then go through this crazy rollercoaster of life, and then in your 40’s you rediscover who you were to begin with. You really start to reconnect with yourself and get more inner confidence, which is very different to the confidence and bravado of our teen years and early 20’s.
'Oh yes, that’s usually all totally fake and maybe alcohol related!'
Absolutely. The women I’ve interviewed and talked to in their 40’s all say the same thing, ‘I feel like I can finally start to show up as myself and do something I love to do’. And yet there’s so much in the press telling us that this is the time we feel lost, or need to stop doing things, or if you get ill it’s because of your age etc. It’s all pretty negative.
'Exactly. And there’s no need to start getting aches and pains just because you’re over 40. That’s not normal for anyone.'
What I’m finding so fascinating is that I absolutely love what you're doing, and I’m getting stuck a bit on the phrase ‘anti-aging’, but I TOTALLY get why you use it. And I love that you’re so upfront about it. I find that really refreshing because I think that there are people out there that are using the phrase anti-aging who really are 'anti' aging.
'I agree, and especially with companies who are selling products, or in Hollywood and the media. The way they use it is that women are written off at age 40 and if you don’t look 20 you’re done for so you better get surgery or botox, or use this cream which has made-up science words in. That isn’t something that we want. It’s definitely not something I want.'
What are your top tips for living youthfully?
'First and foremost, true ‘anti-aging’ is about shaking off the shackles of what other people are telling you you should be like at this age. If you want to dye your hair purple and go skateboarding down the street in hot-pants – do it! And equally, if you want to sit in the comfy chair stroking 10 cats and knitting, then that’s equally valid. As long as it’s something you genuinely want to do then go for it. Just don’t fall into the stereotype of ‘now I’m 40 I should be doing this or that’. The people who do amazing things when they’re older do it because they choose to, they follow joy and happiness, no matter what they look like on the outside or how old they are.
And then secondly, choose to honour the physical needs of your body. Our bodies are constantly turning over at a cellular level, we build a new skin every 30 days, a new liver every 7 years, so if we fuel our body with rubbish materials we're going to build a rubbish home for our spirit to live in. It’s going to feel like all those things they tell us – achy, tired and bloated. If on the other hand we choose vibrant healthy foods, as close to natural as possible, lots of fruit, plant foods, and juicy hydrating things, we’re going to feel amazing. Plus, whatever you do on the inside is going to show up on the outside. In fact there’s new science coming out actually linking premature wrinkling to problems with our organs. When we fuel ourselves with the right things we feel amazing and vibrant, and we look glowing and beautiful, because inside is shiny and beautiful.'
I feel that when you use the phrase anti-aging you’re really talking about being anti aging-stereotypes.
'I’m anti-deteriorating. We’re told we should expect to deteriorate after 40 and I disagree. The science even shows it’s not true. If we keep fuelling ourselves with the materials they need to keep going, then we can live long, healthy, and vibrant lives. So yes, it’s really anti the stereotype of aging.'
It’s been great talking to you and having to explore my (almost) prejudice against this phrase. And, it’s been really interesting to look at a different perspective, your take on it is so refreshing. I love that on your website you say ‘beauty and age is an inside job’ and ‘say hello to healthy longevity’ which are absolutely in alignment with the message of Loving Life After Forty.
I love that Star is, in a way, reclaiming the phrase anti-aging and making it about health, vitality, and empowering ourselves to take real care of ourselves and our wellbeing. So perhaps, in the right hands, anti-aging really can be pro-aging!