Retraining as a Nutritionist, she made a promise to herself to make the most of her golden years, and never again feel the threat of invisibility. Now with three books under her belt, Suzi has created the popular blog Alternative Ageing – a healthy blend of nutrition, style, humour, and adventure.
Suzi, you are a trailblazer for the positive ageing movement. Tell us about your Alternative ageing journey?
I guess it all started with my book Alternative Ageing, written a few years ago. I wrote it for all the women out there who want to age healthily and naturally, but not invisibly. The blog was born from the book so I could share my personal experiences, on a day to day basis, with anyone over 40, to inspire and help them to not fear the journey towards older age.
I like to think of myself as the Nutritionist with a Passion for Fashion, so I can share tips on how to look good and feel great!
You have said that you started to feel invisible when you turned 50. Tell us about your experience?
It’s an extraordinary feeling when you wake up one day and realise that younger women are served ahead of you, that men rarely give you the once over and that you’re barely glanced at walking down the street. It sounds vain, but any women out there over a certain age will know what I mean.
It doesn’t happen now that I have the confidence to style myself with accessories and my own little twist – I look confident and happy. People now stop me in the street to comment on my vintage sunnies or something I am wearing, so just finding my own look has really changed my life.
You retrained to become a naturopath and nutritionist, quite the career change from TV journalism. What was your motivation?
My motivation was my mother dying very suddenly from a massive heart attack at the young age of 63. She was Bulgarian so had brought me up on a much healthier diet than the normal 1950’s diet was in Britain back then.
Sadly, she took no exercise in her latter years, was overweight, drank heavily and was basically not at all happy in herself. I was determined not to go the same way.
And prior to that, you lived pretty hard and fast — a self-proclaimed hard-drinking, chain-smoking TV journalist for many years while working in London?
Yes, everyone did in the ‘80s! London was wild in those days, working hours were so much more relaxed than now. We could go out for lunch for hours and it was just the way things were in those heady days. But it was, and still is, an ageist profession and wrinkles didn’t sit well with women on camera. A move to training as a Nutritionist and writing books was a no-brainer.
Hence, the motivation to move from London to Brighton? How has that transition been?
When I got my second book deal I realised I could work from anywhere. So in 2000, aged 50, with a long-term, dysfunctional relationship behind me, I could finally move to the seaside, breathe fresher air and do the same work from home.
I loved that people in Brighton dress exactly as they like, don’t live in black like Londoners and dye their hair the most extraordinary colours, whatever their age. So yes, off camera and in an eclectic city full of arty individuals, I do feel right at home!
You also went and consulted with a stylist, what was that experience like?
I had my colours done in London before I left and discovered what really suited my skin tone. When you are wearing the right colours, people comment on how well you look. When you’re not, they don’t. It really works.
For example, most women think black is really slimming but for many, like me, it’s a very ageing colour next to your face. Navy suits me so much better and if I fall back on a black top, I make sure to put a brightly coloured necklace around my neck. Or try a scarf.
I also have a good friend who’s a stylist, and she came and de-cluttered my wardrobe with me. So I would recommend seeing one if you’re not really sure what suits your body shape.
The best tip she gave me was to wear v-necks rather than round necks and I can really notice the difference if I don’t conform! My best tip would be to have a really hard look in the mirror before you go out and if you don’t LOVE what you see, and if it doesn’t fill you with confidence and happiness, then don’t wear it.
What also works for me is accessorising – adding chunky necklaces, vintage sunnies, funky shoes and a headscarf tied with a vintage twist. Whereas for others, it could be getting into hats, wearing huge rings and bangles or just wearing colour or just changing your hair. Experimenting doesn’t cost much – markets and op-shops are full of exciting accessories to dress up an outfit and help you find your own positive, alternative ageing look.
Do you think a lot of women succumb to a certain, ‘safe’ look or state of mind over a certain age simply because it is prescribed?
Not so much nowadays. I really do think that 60 is the new 40. We see so many amazing older models in advertising campaigns now, and on social media, strutting their stuff and not giving a damn! Find what suits you and, apart from not looking like mutton dressed as lamb, just go for it. Refuse to be invisible and go out with confidence. Experiment and be brave and when that love comes from complete strangers your confidence will just grow and grow.
You’ve also said that a lot of ageism towards women is just misogyny in disguise. Do you ever see this attitude shifting?
I think it is shifting because so many brands are now realising that their earning potential is huge amongst the over 40’s, so there’s no point bombarding us with images of 19-year olds looking fabulous in a dress that we may want to buy. Unfortunately, especially in newspapers, many are still run by middle-aged men with pot bellies who just love featuring an older celebrity looking rough, usually a woman. But they will retire eventually and the next generation will hopefully concentrate more on the silver-haired goddesses and less on the silver foxes.
I recently did a photo shoot for the Daily Mail here in the UK for a feature on stylish Instagrammers between 54 and 74! Let’s see if it actually goes to print. Times they are a changing. It appears old is now fashionable.
It also depends where you live and what you do as a job. In California no-one, whether in the public eye or not, seems to want to age naturally, apart from Diane Keaton who is doing a great job for us all looking amazing with her style and gorgeous, grey hair. But most women who are in the spotlight are competing with men for jobs and are fearful their looks will hold them back. That is changing this side of the pond and in Australia.
But, sadly, many girls in their 20’s are now already having regular botox treatments, so who knows where it will all end? The only thing I do is have regular facials, use good pro-ageing natural moisturisers, and limit my exposure to the sun. I also exercise plenty, drink lots of water and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
You say there are 12 steps to ageing well. What’s your best piece of advice for somebody that simply doesn’t know where to start?
That’s easy – give up sugar, any form of it. It is now very well documented by health experts and scientists alike that it can cause so many of the problems we are seeing more and more of, from ageing skin to cancer. Just cut down on the naughty stuff, drink more water, and exercise. Also, sitting has become the new smoking. Move more!
I am also a big fan of intermittent fasting, but that’s a whole article in itself. Moderation in everything, but a little of what you fancy does you good. Positive ageing is all about being happy too.
There are so many mixed messages out there that people don’t know who to believe anymore. Bloggers are now a trusted form of media, after friends and family, so qualified people like me are in the perfect place to spread the right messages. Only ever trust reliable sources when it comes to your health, which is so much more important than how you look!
You have met many wonderful women on your Alternative Ageing journey. Who has inspired you the most?
There are too many to mention! The women I saw on the Advanced Style documentary probably influenced me the most, and was one of the main reasons I started my blog two and a half years ago. In Australia, it has to be Sarah Jane Adams. She is now a personal friend and has always dressed in her own, very different style, and doesn’t give a hoot what people think of her. She now has 171k followers on Instagram, so she’s doing something right for both the young and older audience. But you have to find your own inimitable style.
And Suzi, what are you looking forward to in the future? Is there something you have always wanted to try?
Because of the success of my blog, I am now looking forward to growing older for the first time in my life! I want to be like Iris Apfel, still working and having fun in my 80s. I have had the most amazing life so far and have tried most things I have ever wanted to try. I can’t become a ballerina now, but if I am inspired to try something new I certainly will. Maybe a tattoo, maybe a go at being a DJ!
Going grey is probably the biggest thing I have tried in the last year, after decades of bright red or orange hair. I am thrilled with my more natural look and, obviously, don’t feel invisible anymore. We are living in such an unsettled world now I just think we should live each day to the max and do whatever brings us joy, whether that’s running on the beach, dancing our socks off, or wearing a jaunty hat to go out to lunch with a girlfriend, laughing and drinking Prosecco!
Suzi Grant is the nutritionist with a passion for fashion. She started her popular blog Alternative Ageing, in late 2014, to write about and share the things she is passionate about such as health, nutrition, fashion, style, travel, career and lifestyle, for the over 50s. She calls it positive ageing, rather than anti-ageing, and wants to spread the message far and wide. Apart from her blog, you can also follow Suzi’s daily adventures on instagram at @alternativeageing