How to look amazing in your 40s, according to Farah Ali Khan
Hint: It involves less shopping and more exercise
You’d think crossing the 40 milestone gives you an excuse to slack off on your fitness regimen, but Bollywood’s celebrated jewellery designer, Farah Khan Ali, is here to contradict popular belief. As I sit at my desk in a cushioned chair, she chats with me about the importance of being active and how she gets that enviable beach body.
The enterprising mother of two knows no other way than fit- she’d willingly trade in a shopping spree for a sweaty trek in the Amazonian rainforest. At 47 years of age, she radiates a natural glow that can only be credited to hours of workouts and healthy eating habits. If you don’t believe me, join her 230k strong Instagram following for pictorial proof before you read this.
ELLE: What’s the best way to kick start your day?
Farah: A cup of tea and a session of Pilates
ELLE: Pilates seem to be the latest fad, how has it benefitted you?
Farah: It’s important to feel good and Pilates puts me in a better mood. It releases endorphins and helps me grow stronger, without any pain. You’re using your mind more than your body since it requires so much muscle coordination. It’s important to look after your body when you’re growing old so I plug in a session at least thrice a week.
ELLE: The one workout you’d never give up on is…
Farah: I’d never give up on walking. I’m a very active person so I move around a lot — even getting up to fill a glass of water for yourself counts.
ELLE: Have you followed any diet or fitness fad?
Farah: Fitness isn’t just fitting into a pair of jeans, it’s a way of life. There’s no diet that has helped me get here. I’ve been swimming about 100 laps a day since I was younger, horse-riding and trekking- just being on the move constantly is important.
ELLE: You seem to be quite the beach bum — what are the three things you’d never go to a beach without?
Farah: A sunblock, a bikini and my phone to click some Instagram pictures. Some music would be great as well.
ELLE: The one food item you should cut down if you want a fit body
Farah: Avoid carbs late at night; I finish up all my carb heavy meals before 6 pm.
ELLE: Your favourite travel destination is..
Farah: No cities please! Anywhere adventurous with a lot of activities where I don’t have to meet people. I love Italy and Brazil. I recently took a trip there to trek in the Amazonian forests.
ELLE: The one snack you love munching on between meals
Farah: Chocolate! It’s my vice and I’m going to grab some now that you reminded me.
Baffled by her answer as much as I was? “Well, there’s no harm in a little treat when you stay on your toes all day,” says Farah.
Superfoods that heal the body naturally
The older you grow, the more you need to pay attention to the kind of nutrients you’re feeding your body. If you want Farah’s endless energy and butt-kicking physique, consider adding these naturally healing foods to your diet regimen.
How it heals: Remember learning about fibre as a kid? Well, chia seeds are loaded with it, along with essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. And while the superfood may not treat a specific health ailment, we all know prevention is better than a cure. “Chia seeds are one of only a few plant sources of omega-3 fats, which can help protect the cardiovascular system. Chia seeds are also a dense source of fibre, which can help with digestion and lowering the risk of intestinal cancers. A high-fibre diet can also help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says Chambers. “Chia seeds are [also] great for mood support,” adds Jessica Sepel, clinical nutritionist, author of The Healthy Life and wellness coach.
How to use it: Soak the seeds overnight in nut milk and wake from your slumber to a deliciously gooey chia pudding. “Soaked overnight helps to make some of the nutrients more available to the body,” explains Jeffries. Chia seeds are also a great alternative to eggs in baked treats ranging from cakes to loaves and muffins (hello vegan pancakes), working as a similar binding agent to that of eggs when added to liquid.
How it heals: Honey has been hailed for years as a natural healer–and for good reason. It’s a superhero against the common cold and flu as it strengthens the body’s white blood cells so they can better fight off disease. “Raw honey has wonderful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties to help support the overall health and wellbeing of the body. It is a great way to boost the immune system, and can also promote a restful sleep. A little bit of honey before bedtime can increase the amino acid tryptophan, which then converts to serotonin (happy hormone), and then to melatonin (sleep-promoting hormone),” explains Callaghan. “Manuka honey in particular has been shown to have antibacterial effects, which is thought to be due to its low pH level and high sugar content that hinders the growth of microbes. Raw honey also contains certain phytochemicals which reduce inflammation,” reveals Chambers.
How to use it: Enjoy a teaspoon before bed if you’re a struggling insomniac, drizzle some on your bland-tasting oats if that bout of the flu has killed your tastebuds, or make an immunity-boosting tonic of fresh ginger, lemon and honey to combat said flu.
How it heals: Adaptogens are at the forefront of most conversations on wellness trends, with maca taking the cake. Extracted from the root of the Peruvian lepidium meyenii plant and consumed in powder form, the ancient herb is a great hormone balancer, helping to ease PMS and research has shown it can even regulate common menopause symptoms. I’ll be honest; you have to build a tolerance to its flavour, much like green tea or beer. But hey, if Miranda Kerr swears by it, it’s well and truly worth a (not so tasty) shot. “I treat a lot of women for menopause symptoms and I always recommend dietary changes to help with reducing hot flushes and night sweats. There are quite a few foods that can be eaten at menopause to reduce symptoms: maca powder has been historically used,” explains Jeffries.
How to use it: “The general recommendations are around 1-2 teaspoons per day,” says Chambers. Add a teaspoon (perhaps start with half) to a bliss balls mixture before you pulse and roll, or to other sweet treats like slices. For an AM kickstart when there’s a hot flush on its way, blend some into your smoothie or if you’re riding the crimson wave, mix some maca into your morning oats to help regulate the dreaded symptoms. And if you just can’t tolerate the taste, “maca is also available in capsules,” adds Chambers.
How it heals: Battling chronic inflammation (read: pesky pimples, brain fog, poor memory, digestive issues) or other serious health conditions? Try some of the Ayurvedic-favourite turmeric. “Turmeric has been used for centuries for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and autoimmune conditions,” says Jeffries. Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which is the anti-inflammatory powerhouse that is extracted and put into supplements. “There is good research to support the ability of curcumin to reduce cellular damage and risk of chronic disease; decrease pain and inflammation (effects have been shown to be similar to paracetamol); [and] it may reduce the risk of heart disease. Curcumin intake is also associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer and reduced symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis,” says Callaghan. And the most effective way to take it for medicinal purposes? “Supplementation is best, however consuming it regularly through turmeric is a wonderful way to obtain the healing properties,” continues Callaghan. “It may also help to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” adds Jaime Rose Chambers, accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist.
How to use it: “Turmeric is most commonly used as a powder or fresh (it looks a bit like ginger) in Indian cooking,” explains Chambers. But if curry isn’t your cup of tea, add it to your omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as your roast vegies. Trying to wean off coffee? Next time you need your fix, grab a golden latte (blend of turmeric, nut milk and other spices) instead, which is refreshingly without the energy slump. “Be sure to pair turmeric with black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin within the body,” adds Callaghan. “If you find it hard to get into your diet, it can also be taken in a capsule,” continues Chambers.
How it heals: Now there’s even more reasons to tuck into that tasty garlic naan with your turmeric curry, as according to Sepel, “garlic is an amazing natural antibiotic”. And the humble plant bulb is equally loved by Jeffries. “Garlic is an antimicrobial herb, which means it can kill off the bugs that cause colds and flus. If you feel you are coming down with a cold, garlic is a powerful remedy, especially raw,” says Jeffries.
How to use it: Add a few cloves to your Sunday roast, or use it as a base for soups, stews and sauces. And if you’re brave enough for the strong stuff, raw is best. “Cook up a batch of chicken or vegetable soup and then add a couple of cloves of raw garlic to the soup just before blending and eating. Try broccoli and garlic soup when you’re sick,” advises Jeffries.