Beauty News

How to lose weight without adding years to your face

According to one expert, the worst thing you can do to your face at this age is to yo-yo diet.

There’s a saying that goes, ‘At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass.’

Often attributed to the French actress Catherine Deneuve, it rings true for us all. Indeed Jane Fonda has admitted she’s 4.5kg heavier than she’d like to be for the sake of her face and, when asked about dieting, Nigella Lawson once said, “If I lost 18kg, I’d age 10 years straight away.”

While I don’t want to lose anywhere near 18kg, I could do with losing six. I’m a health writer, so I know a lot about weight loss. But I’m also a working mum of two young children with a weakness for lattes, kids’ leftovers and sugar fixes when I’m stressed (which is often). 

I’ve always been fairly slim – at 178cm, I hover around a size 12 – and after my first daughter was born in 2010, I dropped to my wedding-day weight, thanks to living in a hilly part of the city where I walked everywhere. But in 2013 I moved to the suburbs, had another baby and ended up with an extra 6kg.

I’ve also started to worry about ageing, as the passing of time and years of night feeds and 5am wake-up calls from small children have begun to take their toll.

My eyes are crinklier than ever, my skin duller and more lined. So, like a lot of women, I find myself approaching 40 wanting to lose weight and look younger. But I was recently chatting to Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh, the cosmetic doctor who works with Cindy Crawford, when he said: “After you have children, find a weight that’s easy to maintain and keep to it. The worst thing you can do to your face at this age is to yo-yo diet.”

With that in mind, here’s how to lose weight without gaining wrinkles as a result…

Cindy Crawford.

Why it happens

“When you lose weight, you can’t ‘spot reduce’ and just lose it from your tummy,” says anti-ageing expert Dr Daniel Sister. “You lose it from everywhere, so it goes from your body and face, and the latter is ageing. You also carry less fat on your face, so if you lose 2 per cent body fat, it will show up more on your face than on your stomach. When older women diet, it shows first in their face, then their body.”

Sister says rapid weight loss at my age would show mainly around the temples, which become hollow (an age giveaway, apparently), the cheeks, which slowly slip down and become jowl-like, deeper nose-to-mouth lines and an overall drawn look to the skin.

Aim to maintain

“The beauty tip that really made me think is ‘pick the weight you can maintain’,” says Sebagh, which is what Cindy Crawford said when asked about ageing. “So it’s not your skinniest weight, it’s your doable weight, and stay there. When you yo-yo – you lose 2kg, you gain 2kg – that’s really bad for your skin because of the elasticity. Your skin stretches and then it goes back and then it stretches.”

Sebagh’s other tip is to take a slow and steady approach to weight loss. This is something nutritional therapist, Amelia Freer, agrees with.

“I have this chat with my clients often,” she says. “As well as being unsustainable (so more likely to lead to yo-yo dieting), rapid weight loss from crash dieting can be very ageing. If you want to lose weight, aim for around 1kg a week.”

Cressida Bonas.

Exercise smarter

After a certain age, excessive exercise can be very ageing, according to trainer Lee Mullins from Workshop Gymnasium, who works with model/actresses Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Cressida Bonas. He explains that activities such as excessive running (when combined with dieting) can cause you to lose lean muscle as well as fat.

“While rapid fat loss is ageing, lean muscle loss is even more so,” he says.

That’s because from our 30s onwards we start to lose muscle mass, which causes our metabolism to slow (muscle burns more calories than fat). Hence, waists get wider and diets get harder.

“Running is a great exercise at any age, but from your 30s onwards, do it alongside things such as yoga and weight training,” advises Mullins.

And if you don’t exercise at all, start now. Scientists from McMaster University in Ontario recently found that all types of regular moderate exercise slow down skin ageing.

You could try treatments

Obviously, there is the more drastic – and expensive – approach, but one taken by thousands of women for a ‘quick-fix’ result.

“Dermal fillers help to replace lost fat in the face and restore lost volume,” says cosmetic doctor Dr Ravi Jain. “Hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers mimic the skin’s production of collagen and help to achieve natural-looking plumping.”

Jain adds that the new filler Profhilo hydrates skin, delivers pure HA and “increases your collagen and elastin production like nothing else I know.” He adds, “Radiofrequency treatments, such as Elixis Elite, are also effective for tightening skin on the neck and jowls.”

Dr Daniel Sister often recommends fillers to clients who have lost weight and look older as a result, and says, “There are lots of very good machines and treatments around that help you lose fat from areas such as your stomach. Which, unlike dieting, can ‘spot reduce’ fat from your figure but spare your face.”

Freer also recommends feeding your face.

“Your skin consists of billions of cells that are constantly regenerating, so it’s vital to eat in a way to protect them,” says Freer. “The best things are fat and water.” Drink plenty of fluids and include good fats such as avocado, oily fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds in your diet.

“Certain foods can also improve the production of collagen – the ‘glue’ that holds skin together and keeps it firm,” adds Freer.

Collagen production declines with age, hastened by smoking, sugar, processed foods and too little sleep. Some foods, however, help to slow this decline, such as dark green vegetables and colourful fruits and vegetables. So it could be that the key to younger skin is the diet-friendly food in your fridge. Win-win.

Words: Maria Lally

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