I’m Phyllis Lerner and I am the founder of followPhyllis, an online community that aims to motivate, teach and encourage middle-aged women to be the best versions of themselves through exercise, nutrition, and fashion. I’m almost 68 and have had a hell of a ride so far! I use my life experiences to connect with, inspire and motivate other women.
I grew up as an overweight kid in Brooklyn, New York. Food was always the centre of our family life. Both of my parents were obese and had many of the complications that went along with being overweight. My father was able to find a path to wellness around the age of forty but unfortunately, my mother was unable to follow suit. Along with being morbidly obese, she also suffered from Diabetes. She tried to keep her health in control, but she didn’t have the resources to combat her medical issues and she sadly died at the age of 53 on a plane taking her first trip in years. I was just about to turn twenty-three. Although I was at a healthy weight during the time of her passing, I knew that I needed to have a life health plan to avoid the same destiny.
I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1972 (yikes!) from Pratt Institute. After graduation I was working as an art director in NYC. One day, I wandered into a large bookstore and randomly picked up a book about women’s bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the time I finished reading the preface, I was hooked. The next week, I was taking a walk at lunch and stumbled upon the MidCity First All Women’s Bodybuilding Gym. It was as if the universe was speaking to me. I signed up immediately and it was love at first lift. I have been an avid weight lifter for over forty years and I don’t see myself ever giving it up! Bodybuilding is my true passion.
After the birth of my second child in 1992, I moved to the suburbs. Within the year, I found my way to a local gym and started training with a competitive body builder. It was at this time that I ventured into power lifting. The squat was my event, and I was squatting over 300 pounds in my late forties. Around the age of fifty, I got a double certification in personal training and weight management and the rest is history!
What is your approach to diet and exercise?
I believe in personal responsibility – it has been the key to my success. I am accountable to me and only me. It is my job alone to take care of my wellness. Feeling so in control of my own life makes me feel empowered. I think taking ownership of one’s health is fundamental in designing, and more importantly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Also, I think that what sets me apart is the way I approach diet and exercise. I don’t see it as a sacrifice or a challenge – for me, it’s what I need to do in order to be the best version of myself – it’s that simple! I view my healthy diet and exercise as my playbook for a happy life.
Describe your health and beauty philosophy?
I like to keep things simple. With so much going on these days, there’s no need to over complicate your beauty and health routines. What works for me is setting an end goal and then planning a list of small, attainable steps that will get me where I want to go.
Understanding your end goal is critical in constructing an individualized wellness plan. So many women want to lose weight, but don’t always know exactly why. Is the end goal better health or fitting into a dress for an event? Different goals have different paths.
The one constant in all my life philosophies is commitment. It is not possible to achieve any goal unless you work it. But even with a good plan, it’s important to be flexible. If you’ve structured a schedule that’s not working for you, don’t quit! Recommit with changes that will work! Fight for your happiness!
Have you made any big changes to yourself to help you feel good, e.g hair, weight, surgery, treatments.
With no apologies, I don’t buy into the new “going natural” trend. I want to look and feel my best, and there’s no shame in that! I dye, bleach, and straighten my hair. I love Botox and fillers and use sparingly. I get deep tissue massages (which are incredibly painful) when I can fit them in. I love waxing for hair removal. And I always have a fresh manicure and pedicure. I’m a proud, super-feminine–type of woman. These things make me feel like me, and because of that, they have a permanent spot in my life.
Do you find any part of maturing tough?
I honestly never gave aging much thought until I reached my early sixties. That’s when I first started to feel a difference in my body. In 2015, I needed my first hip replacement, followed by a second replacement last June 2018. In between these two hip surgeries, I also had surgery on my entire mouth. Regardless of how much I exercise, eat well, manage stress and sleep, ageing is inevitable. Although I do everything in my power to fend it off, I do find maturing tough. What keeps me going is my strong mindset – I take everything in stride and power through with positivity.
What are your favourite beauty products on your bathroom shelf?
Somaderm HGH Gel: This gel has completely changed my life! It is a homeopathic, transdermal, over-the-counter product that promises to slowly elevate human growth hormone levels in the body, which has huge anti-aging properties. My sleep cycle, energy level, and skin appearance have changed dramatically since starting this product. I use this 2x every day.
Consult Beaute Volumagen: I’ve been using this system for a little over a year now. It has powerful antioxidants that help support the body’s own natural collagen production. It also physically deposits dehydrated marine filling spheres across the skin’s surface, temporarily filling-in and plumping-up the look of the complexion. I’ve noticed such a difference in the appearance of my skin, especially on any fine lines. I use this in the morning and evening every day.
Is there any area of your beauty and well being you would like to improve?
One of my main resolutions for 2019 is to pay attention to my mental state and reduce my stress levels in new ways. I am particularly interested in methods like Tai Chi and meditation. I’ve also dedicated my efforts to creating a relaxing sleep routine. Each night, I take the time to unwind and relax my mind to ensure that I get a night of restful sleep.
Another fun goal of mine has been to increase my flexibility. A woman’s body is incredible, and there’s nothing better than being able to move and bend with ease. This is the year that I focus on the deep connection between mind, body and soul!
How do you feel about your age now v your youth?
I know what many would expect me to say here – and while I LOVE the confidence that I have at my current age, I have no shame in admitting that I’d love to have my forty-year-old body once again! I am beyond grateful for the life experiences I’ve had. I’ve fought for my successes and I’ve overcome obstacles that have made me into the warrior that I am, but as I mentioned earlier, you can’t escape the ageing process. It’s at my age now that I’ve come to fully appreciate my body and all that it was capable of in my youth. If you can honestly say that your sixties and seventies are the best years of your life, then you didn’t live well enough!
What lifestyle habits are most important to you?
My most important habit or quality that I’ve leveraged throughout my entire life is my willpower. I am committed to living the healthiest life that I can. My strong willpower has enabled me to make the choices that have led me to where I am today. I do everything with full, genuine intent, and because of this, the results are off the charts – in my personal and professional life!
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could, I would tell my younger self, “yes, I know! I know it feels fabulous to sun bathe in your bikini without a care in the world. And while your tan will look fantastic over the next few days, you’ll pay the price! You could better preserve your beautiful, youthful skin if you took the time to protect yourself. At the very least, wear a hat, Phyllis!”
What’s your best tip for ageing well?
It’s all in the attitude! Know this – you’ve earned your age. Every wrinkle and fine line, all your aches and pains are a result of your life experiences and they make you who you are. You can’t defy the ageing process – but you can age gracefully.
Ladies, there’s no harm in doing whatever you need to do to look and feel your best. Work out and eat right. If you want Botox and a new haircut, go for it! You have one life to live, and you’ve earned your right to live it the way you please. Remember this – there’s a unique beauty that comes with age, and no one can take that from you.