‘I’m banning body talk with my girlfriends, and you should too’

Angela Mollard vows to stop talking about appearances and start talking about the things that actually matter.

Of all the original supermodels, Linda Evangelista was my favourite. Elfin-faced, cat-eyed, crop-haired, she was as funny as she was stunning, memorably announcing that she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.

She said to my generation that whether or not you had the looks, you could certainly have the chutzpah.

Which is why I was upset to learn that she’s now a self-disclosed “recluse” after a cosmetic procedure, while her peers such as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen still enjoy thriving careers.

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If Evangelista’s experience has taught me anything, it’s that even the most alluring among us are victims of insecurity.

But if I feel empathy for Evangelista, I feel ever more determined that we must make peace with our bodies. Crucially, we mustn’t just say it; we must live it.

As the mother of two daughters, I rarely discuss my body with my children other than to enthuse about all the things I’ve done with it, whether that’s climbing mountains, walking multiple Coastreks or battling the waves during an ocean swim.

But with my girlfriends? Honestly, there isn’t a single occasion that doesn’t start with a rapid-fire “Have you lost weight?”, “Your skin looks amazing” or “Sorry, I’m looking so exhausted.”

I realised recently how conditioned we are to this body commentary when a group of us met for lunch and happened to be seated next to a group of men, some of whom were my dining companions’ husbands.

They were discussing a planned motorbike trip and business opportunities – a far more uplifting subject than lockdown weight gain, hair growth and wrinkles.

We complain archly about the male gaze, yet fail to see that it’s our own self-gaze that can often be more insidious.

I’m over it. Just as I don’t speak “car”, I’m going to resist speaking “bodies”. Of course, I’ll always endeavour to feel healthy and look my best, but how can we encourage teenage girls not to obsess over their looks if their middle-aged mothers are constantly critiquing their own bodies?

But it’s more than just words. Making peace with your body effectively requires you to adopt a different outlook that’s applied everywhere from changing rooms to barbecues to hikes.

For me, it means focusing on what our bodies do, not what they look like, so I might inquire on a friend’s golf lessons, ocean swimming or new-found passion for sketching.

Further, I try to bring something interesting or anecdotal to a conversation – something I’ve read, heard or wondered about.

The older I get, the more I’m interested in ideas, and I figure that if I avoid body conversations in my 50s, I’ll be trained not to focus on the inevitable disintegration and ailments as my body deteriorates.

The world is too fascinating to lament an expanding waistline or a dodgy knee. What’s more, if I want to improve my body by making it stronger or nourishing it better, I’ll simply get on with it.

There’s no dialogue required.

Finally, I’ll continue to seek out positive role models who celebrate ageing by being playful and adventurous.

Several of the ’90s supermodels are worth a follow, with their Instagram feeds showcasing lives far more amusing than the catwalks they once inhabited.

Turlington, for instance, ran her ninth marathon last month, while Paulina Porizkova is a force to be reckoned with as she campaigns for older women not to be erased from the media.

In response to one male detractor who suggested that she look after her grandkids rather than “travelling all over the world” and “parading half naked and acting like a 16-year-old”, she promptly posted a nude image and stated that she was entitled to enjoy her sensuality.

But it’s Christensen – who, like me, loves boxing and midwinter swims – who I find most inspiring, with her images of lake dips surrounded by snow, and her boredom with doing lengths of the swimming pool that matches my own.

As she said recently: “I want to be in the ocean fighting waves.”

A nutritionist’s guide to getting older

Sarah Di Lorenzo, a nutritionist on Weekend Sunrise and author of The 10:01 Diet, has these tips for maintaining your health as you age.

  • Focus on really good sleep: This is paramount to staying healthy as we enter middle age because it underpins everything else.
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for four times a week and try to do it in the morning for a healthy mindset.
  • Reassess your diet: Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and have dinner like a pauper. Remind yourself by using a bowl, a dinner plate and a bread-and-butter plate for each respective meal. We’re quite resistant to insulin at night – so what we eat at night, we store.
  • Don’t cut out carbs: Just know the right ones to have: brown rice, quinoa, pulse pastas, oats, good-quality sourdough and legumes. But remember, a portion is half a cup cooked. For post-menopausal women, who don’t have oestrogen coverage anymore, looking after their heart with fibre is important.
  • Stay hydrated: I shout from the rooftops: “Water, water, water and more water.” It supports our mood, our mental health, our liver and our joints, and it eliminates waste. You need 30ml per kilo of your body weight.
  • Limit alcohol: My mantra is: “Never at home, never alone.”

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