How you can forget about age and be an Alpha Goddess
Dr Christiane Northrup is 65. No wonder her books on staying youthful are bestsellers, says Katie Byrne
Dr Christiane Northrup doesn't share her age. It's not that she's coy or determined to look younger. On the contrary, it's because she's outspoken about the societal limitations we put on those who are older.
"One of my rules is don't state your age," she explains. "When you step out of that paradigm, you see the truth, which is that your soul is ageless."
The bestselling author believes that we put ourselves into the "age cage" when we dwell on the date on our passports. Google says she's 65 - if that's the case, her approach is most definitely working.
Christiane is a board-certified obstetrician-gynaecologist. She spent the first half of her career "studying everything that can go wrong with a woman's body and figuring out how to fix it".
These days she wants to teach women everything that can go right.
She's the author of countless books, and her latest offering, Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing, combines science with spirituality and cutting-edge research with ancient wisdom.
Christiane says we're in the era of the "Alpha Goddess" - "the perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman who has come into her own". Alpha Goddesses transcend chronological age; they celebrate the joys of getting older rather than desperately try to look younger.
Alpha Goddess poster women, according to Christiane, are Tina Turner, Diane Keaton, Dame Judi Dench and the late Maya Angelou among others.
"Generally, what's happening is that the creative flow becomes so much more pronounced in the second half of life," she says. "It's a welcome counterbalance to the Invisible Woman Syndrome that some women report after the age of 50.
"Chronological age and biological age are two very different things," she explains. "Unfortunately, we often forget this in the onslaught of ageist cultural messages.
"In medical school, we learnt the developmental landmarks for a child. Because of these timelines and milestones that our culture puts in front of us, women at 29 maybe begin to panic if they haven't found the right man. Our entire culture lives with the time Sword of Damocles dangling over our heads - the message that we're running out of time."
She cites the work of Dr Mario E Martinez, the founder of the Biocognitive Science Institute, who says the cultural milestones we embrace - such as turning 30, 40 or 50 - influence our state of health.
"Dr Martinez says you should never take the senior discount," she adds. "And pay attention to the words you use when you speak about growing older and the meaning you give those words. We say things like 'she should dress appropriately' and 'at my age…'"
"Don't think of yourself as an age," she continues. "The heart itself is governed by timing, so when you are anxious about the passage of time, it begins to produce inflammatory chemicals into your bloodstream and these have an adverse effect on your body.
"We forget that the beliefs of the culture are far more potent than our genes. Most people actually believe that it is natural to deteriorate as we get older."
"Many women, after their husband dies, don't drive at night. Before I got divorced, my husband had done most of the driving into cities. And there was a part of me that would have toned right down, so that I would be living mostly in my house.
"So I forced myself to go into the nearest city at night and learn tango because I noticed the tendency to become afraid."
Dance is a major part of her ageless philosophy.
She says it reconnects the pelvic bowl, which is the place in the body where "all creative energy arises".
"Dance as you're running around the house," she says.
Women need to become pleasure-seekers, she adds. She recommends that they partake in experiences that bring them unbridled joy, just as they should make time for self-nurturing experiences that help them unwind.
Food is another passion. However, it took her years to break free from the guilt cycle, and treat food as a source of nourishment rather than chastisement.
She doesn't like the word exercise. Instead, she advises women to discover the physical activities they find truly satisfying.
"Too many women spend decades feeling guilty that they aren't 'exercising' and unaware that there are forms of movement that feel natural to them."
She also stresses the need for weight-bearing physical activity after the menopause and beauty recommendations include the three-day nutritional facelift by Dr Nicholas Perricone of The Wrinkle Cure ("eat nothing but wild-caught salmon, watercress, blueberries and cantaloupe for three days") and IPL (intense pulsed light, which works on sun damage and spider veins). She has a treatment every six months.
She also has her own beauty line, A-ma-ta - designed specifically for menopausal women. However, she adds "there is no substitute for moving the body." Likewise, no potion can compare to a woman who radiates joy.
Sex and sensuality is another essential part of her beauty routine.
"In the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, we have the figure that 50% of women between the ages of 50-74 have FSD (female sexual dysfunction). I believe that is an utter myth. What they have is the wrong kind of sex: they don't know their bodies. After about four decades of that kind of shame, this particular function doesn't happen."
She quotes a landmark sex study by researcher Gina Ogden. "She found women in their 60s and 70s were having the best sex of their lives, and having the most transcendent experiences, because they finally brought spirituality and sexuality together.
Well-meaning family members can often quell an older woman's flame, she adds. "They say 'Mom, you can't go there alone'.
"My mother climbed to Mount Everest base camp at the age of 84 and people said to us 'Aren't you worried that she'll get high altitude pulmonary edema?'. And we all said, 'If she dies, she dies'. It's something she has wanted to do her whole life. It all comes down to the fear of death - so we don't live."
- Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing (Hay House) is in bookshops now