May is National Tennis Month, which means it’s a good time to talk about this wonderful game and how marvelous it is for all aspects of the Beauty-Brain Loop: Inner Beauty, Outer Beauty, Health and Environment. Eva, in particular, has a special interest in this, being an admitted tennis junkie, but we are both big fans of the game and love the fact that it fosters professional female athletes who are as strong, fierce and exciting to watch as men.
The United States Tennis Association is sponsoring the special month to increase participation in tennis at all levels, from community tennis clubs to the professional circuit. All around the country, USTA chapters will be hosting festivals, clinics and tournaments to teach young people the game and encourage adults to get reacquainted with a game they may not have played in years. But to us, tennis is one of the most beauty-friendly of sports. We’ll tell you why, starting with the most obvious stage of the Loop:
Health—Take a look at pro tennis players and it’s obvious that the sport is fantastic for fitness and cardiovascular health. To play tennis for an extended period of time, you have to be fit. You also need to be strong, flexible and quick. Regular tennis encourages physical fitness and delivers an amazing workout. Health as it relates to complete beauty is about vitality and maximizing one’s physical potential. It isn’t about being model-slim, but about being the best you can be. Venus and Serena Williams aren’t built like models; they are powerful athletes. But because tennis has helped them make the most of their physical gifts, they are two of the most stunning female athletes in any sport. Tennis is a wonderful activity for improving the health of the whole body, and health is beautiful.
Inner Beauty—The most important aspects of Inner Beauty are qualities like confidence and self-esteem, and tennis brings these out in abundance. Playing regularly and improving one’s game requires enough discipline and commitment that people who achieve a high level of proficiency usually also gain greatly in self-confidence and a sense of their own ability to overcome obstacles to achieve a goal—the greatest source of self-esteem. Tennis isn’t easy; it’s a blindingly fast game that demands great concentration and skill. Mastering it even at low levels is something that men and woman should be proud of. Regular tennis players that we know tend to be fit and happy with themselves, which makes them more appealing to others.
Outer Beauty—The health-promoting effects of tennis are wonderful for the skin and exterior beauty as a whole. The sport is fantastic for weight control; the average person burns more than 500 calories during one hour of singles tennis. The exercise tightens and tones the muscles, which improves overall appearance. One caveat: you should always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen when playing tennis, because the extended time in the sun can damage your skin.
Environment—Tennis is a communal game that’s played in the social environment of tennis clubs, where people teach each other, engage in good-natured rivalries, and in many cases help their local communities. The environmental aspect of beauty is about relationships in great part, and tennis is the door to many wonderful relationships for many people.
If you don’t play, May is a great time to learn. If you already play, it’s a perfect time to teach someone else how to play and bring a little more activity and health to your world. Find out more information at the USTA website.
We’ve said all along that aging wasn’t strictly a biological issue. Now there’s some proof that we’re right. A new study (read the story about it here) by Dr. Bahman Guyuron, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University, has revealed that identical twins, who are genetically programmed to age in the same way, can actually show different facial signs of aging depending on their lifestyles and life experiences. We find this especially interesting because it suggests that your choices on how to view the world and your relationships with others can have a tangible effect on your Outer Beauty, and indeed can affect the entire Beauty-Brain Loop.
The researchers recruited nearly 200 sets of identical female twins who were attending an annual twin festival in the aptly-named Twinsburg, Ohio. They collected photos of each set of twins and asked an independent panel to review each pair and assess whether one twin looked older than another.
They found several factors influenced facial aging, including sun exposure and smoking. Based on the assessment, 10 years of smoking added about 2.5 additional years of aging to a twin’s face, compared to a twin who didn’t smoke. Sun exposure, particularly among those who spent a lot of time outside playing golf or tennis, also increased the appearance of aging.
Stress also appeared to be a factor in aging. Divorced twins appeared, on average, at least two years older than a twin who was married or widowed.
The study also found that users of antidepressants such as Prozac also appeared older, raising speculation that perhaps the chemical components of the drugs affected facial muscles or tissues in some way. Interestingly, weight loss was both white and black hat in terms of aging. Women who lost weight before age 40 looked younger, but women who were heavier after 40 actually appeared more youthful than their slimmer siblings, suggesting that fat loss may somehow affect collagen and the skin’s natural moisture content.
What’s really interesting about this is that it puts responsibility for how your face looks as you age squarely on the shoulders of nurture, not nature. Sure, genetics play a role in everything from your odds of developing skin cancer to your propensity for developing bags under your eyes. But overall, the choices you make for your diet, your recreation, your relationships and your attitude toward living are what really determine how well you age and how your face shows the years.
It makes sense that stress is a major factor: the release of powerful stress hormones like cortisol can cause the body to release oils, provoke breakouts and damage skin in the long-term. And there’s nothing worse than smoking, which produces an oxidative reaction that damages the skin and collagen at the cellular level. What’s positive about this news is that it means you can control, to a remarkable extent, how your face ages with the choices you make. It means that your Inner Beauty—your self-esteem, love and ability to see beauty in others—directly impacts your exterior.
So to give yourself the best odds of aging gracefully, stick to the basics first. Eat well. Exercise. Protect yourself from the sun. Don’t smoke. Breathe. Live with joy and find healthy ways to manage stress. Find a doctor you trust and maintain your overall health. Anything else you do on top of those choices, from spending on cosmetics and skin care products to choosing dermatological procedures, is only going to be effective if you’ve given yourself a great foundation for lifelong beauty.
Back in 2007, Dawn Vandehey was six months pregnant with their second child. Dawn was running errands and walking through a parking lot to her bank when a woman she had never seen before stuck her head out of her car window and said to Dawn, “I just want to tell you that you look beautiful.” As you can imagine, Dawn was walking on air the rest of the day because of that unsolicited and very sweet compliment, especially at a time when she, as she says, “Had a belly like the Buddha.”
Now, Dawn is a tall, athletic-looking, beautiful redhead with bright green eyes. Men notice her when she walks down the street. But this wasn’t a man. It was a woman and a stranger, and people as a rule in our society don’t pay others compliments out of the clear blue sky. Also, Dawn didn’t have her usual sleek figure; she was sporting what’s commonly called “the waddle”: that very pregnant walk where women in their third trimester jut their hips out in front of the rest of them in order to reduce some of the pressure on their back. It’s functional, but lacking in the come-hither department. Yet in spite of this, someone was moved to favor her with a spontaneous bit of recognition of her unique beauty. Why?
In great part, it was because Dawn loved being pregnant. She handled it with incredible poise and grace and joy. She enjoyed every aspect of it as much as she had enjoyed carrying their first daughter. She was serene and happy and felt the most beautiful she had ever felt. In other words, the Inner Beauty stage of Dawn’s Beauty-Brain Loop was in overdrive. Her self-esteem and contentment shone from her like a beacon, encouraging her to take care of her body and dress well and look as great as she could in spite of her pregnancy. Inner Beauty also gave her a radiant self-confidence, and it was this that we believe the unknown woman in the parking lot responded to.
Inner Beauty has the power to do that for all of us. It’s the place where true, lasting beauty begins, beauty that transcends time and trends and the inevitable changes that come with aging. Some women, regardless of their age or station in life, are always beautiful and magnetic: Catherine Deneuve, Jane Seymour, Tina Turner, Bette Midler. What do they have in common? They are carrying on a passionate love affair with themselves and their lives; they adore who and what they are and enjoy lives filled with meaning, purpose and challenge. Because of this they are driven to stay fit and healthy and care for their skin. Most importantly, they give off a contagious energy and fire, a hunger for living that makes us feel better about being part of the human race. Because if they can be so amazing at 50 or 60 or 70, maybe we can, too.
This might be the secret behind Inner Beauty’s power to make others see us as beautiful. When we feel that we’re the best we can be, others look at us and think, “Maybe I can be that fabulous someday, too.” Try some of these to capture that beauty:
Reflecting on the good you have done for other people
Looking at what you have achieved in your life rather than where you have failed
Giving yourself one moment each day to think about your blessings
Setting aside some time each week for quiet contemplation
Finding ways to improve the lives of others, especially those less fortunate
Taking optimal care of your health through diet and exercise
Finding healthy ways to release stress—mediation, walking, prayer
Making the physical space you inhabit the most beautiful it can be
Inner Beauty inspires and elevates. And you don’t have to be pregnant to have it. You just have to be happy.