What woman in her 50s wouldn’t love to have the figure she had at 20?
And it’s not just about looking good. Last month, a study revealed that women who throughout their lives stay within a stone and a half (9.5kg) of their weight at 20 are more likely to enjoy good health and to reach the age of 90.
Most of us gain an average of 1lb-2lb (0.9 kg) a year, though, so we’ll have exceeded that increase by the time we’re 40.
While the study found that maintaining a youthful weight increased women’s longevity, there seemed to be no such link for men.
While some may protest that this feeds into society’s obsession with women’s figures, it’s true we’d all be better off keeping a healthy weight. ‘It’s not social commentary, it’s science,’ says Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum.
So what does it take for a woman in her 50s to match her 20-year-old self? Five women tell ALICE SMELLIE how they’ve cracked it…
Dennie Smith, 57, runs a dating agency. She is married to Graham, 56, a printer, and they have four grown-up children.I never go over nine stone. If I reach 8st?13lb, I cut down on snacks for a few days or go for an extra dog walk. I’ve always been extremely controlled in the way I run my life and I treat my weight the same way. Every meal and drink has its exact time.
I have a cup of green tea and a piece of chocolate at the same time every morning and afternoon, and once a year (as we drive to Cornwall for the family holiday) I indulge in a McDonald’s.Even during my four pregnancies I never gained more than 2st. After each birth, I ordered my friends and family not to give me chocolate gifts.
I was back in my size 10 jeans within weeks.I’m only human and I do allow myself the occasional splurge. Some days, I’ll eat a Cadbury’s Creme Egg. But I know I don’t want to be overweight, so I make sure to balance it out. I don’t eat leftovers — the thought of eating reheated food makes me feel nauseous — and I never picked at the children’s food when they were little.
I don’t go to the gym or anything like that, but I love walking the dog and did a long charity walk last year. I rarely get ill, which I’m sure helps in maintaining my weight. And having the same figure as I did in my 20s means that, even 30 years on, I still feel like exactly the same person I was.
Sue Witham, 58, lives in Cornwall. She’s married to Charles and they have two grown-up children. I had a 22in waist in my early 20s and never really had to diet until, at 47, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to undergo months of treatment and, for many reasons (the chemo drugs, tiredness, other people kindly doing everything for me), the weight piled on.
After I was given the all-clear, I wanted to feel my body was my own again. My husband and I went on the 5:2 diet together and I started doing Pilates. It worked a treat.
Karen Ruimy, 53, is a flamenco dancer and author. She lives in London with her husband, Ely Michel, 54, a businessman, and their three children.To stay fit and fab, you need to take care of mind, body and soul. I feel happier than I did in my 20s and I’m fitter, too. At 25, I had a high-powered job in finance and felt insecure, which showed in my attitude to food. I ate the wrong things or deprived myself.My weight fluctuated when I had kids. But aged 35 I started dancing professionally. Flamenco works out the entire body and releases endorphins. If you’re happy you crave healthier food. Every afternoon I give myself a little break. It’s not a siesta, exactly, but it’s time spent meditating or walking. I don’t answer emails or my phone. It means I’m not irritable later, which would see me reach for sugary foods.