Photo: Getty Images
“I smoke, I drink, I like wine, I love sun tanning, I drink coffee. I am doing all sorts of things I shouldn’t do,” Jerry Hall just told Good Housekeeping UK. And it made me nearly jump for joy. Unlike actresses who swear they eat all day every day and never work out, I actually believe the 58-year-old model. She looks like someone who has lived an awesome, full life and is the kind of woman my friends and I look up to — one who ditches rules in favor of doing whatever she wants.
Unfortunately Hall’s attitude is anything but the norm these days. While interviewing esthetician Renée Rouleau the other day, she told me that in her almost 30 years of working in skin care, she’s never seen the obsession with finding a magic cure-all reach quite so feverish a pitch. That same obsession carries over into all aspects of life these days: Everyone seems to be searching for the one food to cut out of their diets to score the body they’ve always wanted or the one makeup trick that will give them instant cheekbones. Readers want to know which easy workout will get them bikini-ready in less than 10 minutes a day. Hall’s answer to staying fit? Sex, gardening, and housework. That’s right in line with a recent study in The New York Times reporting that “People’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds.” Meaning counting down the minutes on a treadmill isn’t doing as much for you as say splashing around in a lake with your friends. As my friend Leah, an editor, says of the insanity, “Life is too short and we work too much as it is.”
Sure, I have a few friends who do detox cleanses, go through crazy bootcamp phases, and obsess over every calorie (and I love them!), but I’ve realized that for the most part, I’ve surrounded myself with women who share my same laissez-faire attitude. “Ultimately my desire to eat the tastiest thing possible — whether that’s McDonald’s or sautéed kale — and do the most relaxing, feel-good thing possible — could be watching hours of So You Think You Can Dance or taking a dance class — always wins out,” says Leah. “I won’t say the pressure to look fit and be healthy doesn’t creep up on me at all — I feel it, and as I get older I think about it more — but it never overwhelms me.”
I used to be pretty determined to lose 10 pounds; a flat stomach was always just out of reach until I went through a breakup that left me so depressed I lost more like 15 pounds. I was the skinniest I’d ever been — and the most miserable. If that’s what it takes, I realized, forget it. I always order dessert and my fair share of bread, and then I run or box in the morning because I love the rush — not because I feel guilty about last night’s meal. On the weekends, you can find me in the sun, wearing plenty of SPF but no hat—and definitely no umbrella.
Ignoring all of the noise about what you’re supposed to do in favor of the things you want to do frees up time to focus on more important issues, whether that’s books or boys. My friend Kate, who’s in grad school at Columbia, says it’s easier to care less about the superficial things in New York in particular. “There’s something about the variety and diversity of people in this city that makes you feel more comfortable being natural,” she says. “You’re forced to see so many different kinds of people from all walks of life that you realize, ‘Maybe I’m OK as I am,’ and that’s something you don’t get in a car culture.”
I’m not suggesting anyone pick up smoking, but I do think that just doing what makes you happy and whatever feels good instead of wondering what you’re supposed to be doing is part of the key to being content. "The worst thing you can do in terms of your health is to stress," says my friend Hayley, a fashion editor. "When it comes to weight loss, stressing about every calorie and killing yourself at the gym is going to wreak more havoc on your system than letting yourself sleep in or pig out. Also, no matter how good you look, it’s always going to fade, so I’d much rather work really hard at being creative or building relationships or building my career—something that’s going to actively give back to me."
To Hayley’s point, not obsessing over the superficial frees up a lot of energy to focus on things that really matter, which is probably why Hall looks so fantastic and sounds so happy with her life. Looks like we all found a new role model.