Liz Earle: You can be fitter, slimmer and have joyful sex when you’re 60

Liz Earle at her home in Dorset
'I am my own research lab': Liz Earle at her home in Dorset - Andrew Crowley

Ten years ago Liz Earle had lost her way. Having blazed a trail before wellness was even a word in the 1990s – a familiar face on daytime television extolling the benefits of “witchy things” like kombucha – her halo had slipped.

The energy needed to build her brand Liz Earle Beauty, raising five children (her last born when she was nearly 48), running a farm and earning an MBE meant that her time was everyone else’s but her own.

It was after Liz Earle Beauty Co was sold to Avon in 2010, and while still carrying her baby weight, that Earle realised she was facing the prospect of being “Fat and 50”.

“I realised just how far I’d fallen. That I could be doing so much better,” she recalls.

Today, aged 60, she is back doing what she does best; experimenting with her own body to guide the rest of us on what to rub, swallow and expose our bodies to in the pursuit of a healthy life.

And the results speak for themselves; Earle is glowing.

“I am my own research lab. And I think I’ve found over the last five years what really works, especially for midlife women,” she says, at home in north Dorset.

Liz Earle, 60, believes the best is yet to come
Liz Earle, 60, believes the best is yet to come - Andrew Crowley

Since divorcing in 2019, she’s moved to a new house and rediscovered her voice as an authority on all things health and beauty. Her message? That the best is yet to come.

“I want to give that message to other women who might be feeling washed up, past it and invisible in society. And I genuinely feel more joyful, more energetic. I feel I have more to give and I am receiving more as well.”

Her 36th book, A Better Second Half – and what she says is her best – is unashamedly a manifesto for midlife women.

“Talking to girlfriends and other women in my social media community, everyone feels the same. We tend to be the ones bringing up the children, running the house, looking after the elderly parents and our other halves.”

She jokes about how she’s only recently learnt “that when your other half empties the dishwasher or mops the floor, don’t say thank you!”

She’s dating. And someone 17 years her junior, no less.

“Which is all part of having a better second half,” laughs Earle. The pair met online, although not on a swiping app, she adds. “I think us midlife women just need to get over the online dating thing.”

As health hacks go, Earle isn’t advocating that midlife women trade in their husbands.

But the confidence she radiates as a result of having put self-care back at the centre of her world is something other midlife women can be inspired by.

Here are her top nine tips for a better second half.

Start the day right

It is the most frequent thing Earle gets asked on social media by her 140,000 Instagram followers; how does she start the day?

First is gratitude. “I fill my head with positive thoughts and it becomes instinctive. I thank God, the universe, something greater than ourselves.” Filling your body with happy thoughts is key, she believes.

Then she throws open a window so that the first light that hits her eyes is natural daylight rather than the blue light of a phone.

“Even on a cloudy day I’ll throw open the window.”

Earle (pictured here in her shepherd's hut) starts her day with a dip in the pond
Earle (pictured here in her shepherd's hut) starts her day with a dip in the pond - Andrew Crowley

A quick bit of tongue scraping follows, which she uses as a diagnostic of how well she is. White fuzz means she’s probably struggling a bit. “I’m happy to say mine was pink and plump this morning.” Then she drinks two tumblers of filtered water with electrolytes in them. Electrolytes, especially sodium, help us maintain the best fluid balance and correct blood pH levels within the body – crucial for energy and overall cell health.

Earle has a grinder of rock salt by her sink. “That’s instant rehydration. Previously I would have probably woken up and had a cup of tea. Now I have that later. We lose a lot of moisture overnight, and that’s such a simple health hack.”

Then she brushes her teeth while balancing on one leg to practise a bit of balance. “That’s a very good indicator of how well you’re going to age, how well you can balance.”

After that, she dons her swimming costume and Dryrobe and is usually followed by her cats down to the pond.

“Originally it was for wildlife but I very quickly realised I could go and sit in it. In the winter I break the ice with a crowbar. I had to go and buy one,” she laughs. Wellbeing, it turns out, isn’t all candles and incense after all.

Two minutes of cold immersion and she’s out and warming by the stove of her shepherd’s hut; something that used to sit in a field neglected at her previous home but has now become her morning sanctuary.

“Significant research shows that early-morning light getting into the retinal cells sets up our circadian rhythm and that’s controlling hormones, mood emotions and how we feel.”

After finishing her tea, Earle (and her cats) will go back indoors, walking barefoot. Grounding has become a part of her routine. “I used to think it was woo-woo, but then I looked into the science of the negative ions coming from the earth and there are some really interesting studies looking at reduced levels of inflammation when you ground.”

Introduce small healthy habits into your day

As charming as Earle’s routine sounds, is it achievable for your average Liz?

Most midlife women in the throws of family life could only dream of such a measured start to the day. However Earle argues that these are far from indulgences.

“All these things can be done quickly and easily,” she says.

“OK, so you don’t have a pond, have a shower. Don’t get into it cold. Have your regular shower and the last 30 seconds give yourself that little microstress of cortisol which is good first thing in the morning because that’s what gets you going and gives you a bit of a dopamine hit later on.”

Liz Earle
Earle views her routine as 'tiny habits that take two seconds and make a big difference' - Andrew Crowley

Earle adds that obviously if you have a contraindication like very high blood pressure or a metabolic disorder, be careful and talk to your doctor first. “But for most healthy people, it’s absolutely fine to give your body that small shock of cold.”

Hopefully we can all open a window, and drink some salty water. We can all practise some gratitude. Hopefully we can all stand barefoot on a patch of grass or stone for a few minutes. “It doesn’t have to be long,” says Earle.

While she doubts doing one of them by themselves would make a huge difference, when you start to stack them they have an impact.

“Tiny habits that take two seconds and make a big difference. And when I do all of that in the morning I feel like I’ve recharged my batteries.”

Get your hormones right

The starting point for a lot of women is hormones. “Just as we begin to be free of the constraints of childcare and we get to a certain level in our career or job where we can perhaps take a little bit more time for ourselves, that is the time when our hormones conspire against us,” says Earle.

A Better Second Half isn’t a menopause book but it is an indisputable part of the picture.

“We know that a lack of oestrogen during perimenopause changes fat distribution in the body. So the muffin top is very real. We tend to put on much more weight around the middle, which is why women are so much more susceptible to heart disease.”

So unless you’re replacing your hormones, weight gain is inevitable.

“We often think that losing oestrogen is all about having hot flushes. But actually we have oestrogen receptors on every single cell of our bodies. Particularly our brain, which is why so often women become so anxious and nervous that they stop driving and they lose their confidence.”

Earle started taking HRT when she was 51. “And that definitely gave me my mojo back. I got my brain back and when I started testosterone I got my energy back.”

It’s never too late. She helped her mum to start taking it at age 80.

However hormonal balance is also about serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and cortisol. All things that healthy habits and diet can help to boost. “Daylight also triggers hormone activity and has an effect on our trillions of gut microbes too, influencing everything from mental health to the immune system.”

Do a tiny bit of exercise every day

After the birth of her last child, Earle struggled to shift her baby weight. The first time she met her personal trainer, Michael Garry (now the trainer for Liz Earle Wellbeing) she remembers saying: “I don’t run.”

Ten years on and she’s happy to eat her own words. “I don’t run very fast or very far. I can manage a 5k, but it’s actually about doing little and often. It’s about consistency.”

Exercise is now something she does every morning, between 20 and 30 minutes: “But also quite often it will just be five minutes.”

Earle: 'I never thought I'd be someone who lifted weights'
Earle: 'I never thought I'd be someone who lifted weights' - Andrew Crowley

She is not however a “gym bunny”. “I don’t have time for more even if I wanted to.”

Her weight hasn’t changed – muscle, importantly, weighs more than fat – but she is smaller and fitter. “I never thought I’d be someone who lifted weights. My arms are in better shape now than when I was in my 20s,” she says, enviably displaying them in a green sports tank.

That the body loves variation is her main tip. “If you’re a runner, what’s not good for the body is to run every day. The body loves different movements.”

This morning she did some weighted squats, push-ups using her own body weight, bicep curls using 6kg weights, and lateral pulldowns. “I bought myself a little bit of gym equipment as a present to myself,” which she keeps in a converted gym in her garage. A big believer in “exercise snacking”, Earle keeps a set of dumbbells under the bed so she can do bicep curls in her pyjamas. “You can also do squats without weights in your pyjamas. That down-up movement has been shown to increase brain plasticity and is very helpful against neurodegeneration.”

And of course, exercise isn’t just about a firm body, but a healthy brain. “Cognitive decline is a very real thing and it’s a terrifying thing to be facing.”

Put protein first and don’t give up meat or fat

Back in the dim and distant 1980s Earle was a teetotal, macrobiotic vegan who used to take her own food to dinner parties. “I’m lucky I was ever invited,” she laughs.

It’s a trend she left behind long ago – and she hasn’t been tempted back onto the plant-based bandwagon since.

Earle was an early exponent of farming with regenerative principles. Grass-fed beef has long been on her plate. But although she’s always eaten reasonably well, nowadays she prioritises protein even more. “I need to get at least 90 grammes of protein every day,” she says.

A palm-sized piece features at every meal, around which she builds her veggies.

She doesn’t eat much plant protein, as she says it’s not an efficient use of protein. “It’s mostly incomplete and not as easily absorbed by the body and doesn’t give as much bang for your buck as animal protein, which has the fat-soluble vitamins such as the retinol form of vitamin A, vitamin D and E.”

Grass- and pasture-fed meat is her preference (it has a lower saturated fat content, higher levels of important omega-3 fatty acids and a lower, more balanced, healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids) over grain-fed meats such as pork and chicken that are less nutritious. “We used to think we are what we eat. It’s not the case. We are what we eat has eaten.”

Eggs are also a staple, at least two a day. As are cheese, and fermented foods like kefir.

“I wrote one of the first consumer guides to gut health, The Good Gut Guide.”

Earle has long steered clear of low-fat products. “Stripping all fat out of your diet means damage to your brain, your body, your skin, everything. Cholesterol is the mothership for creating healthy hormones. So one of the worst things a midlife woman could do is to start to take fat out of her diet.”

Earle snacks on brazil nuts at points during our shoot and interview. She tends not to eat breakfast, except for a black coffee with creatine (a natural compound made from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine). A protein-focused brunch follows up to two hours after working out. She might have a couple of boiled eggs, some Greek yogurt with berries or make a protein shake. “If I know I’m going out I make it the night before and take it in a flask.”

She does still like the odd drink, just not too much.

“I tend to live by the 80:20 rule, doing the best I can 80 per cent of the time and allowing 20 per cent for cheats.” It’s a rule she’s come to apply to life in general.

Earle prioritises protein and supplements in her diet
Earle prioritises protein and supplements in her diet - Andrew Crowley

Choose health-boosting supplements

Forty years ago Earle was an avid pill-popper. She believed that it was great there were amazing supplements, which meant she didn’t need to worry too much about food.

“I then went completely in the opposite direction. Stopped all my supplements and decided it was all about ancestral eating.”

As she’s got older she admits to swinging slightly back the other way. “We are battling nutritionally-depleted foods because of intensive agricultural crop farming depleting the soils so therefore there’s less uptake of nutrients in our grains and our fruits and our vegetables.”

Our body’s requirements also increase as we age, just as we start making fewer nutrients of our own. Earle uses the example of collagen and calcium, which taper off as we age, just as we need them more.

“So we’re really faced with this double whammy of needing more but producing less.”

Earle takes vitamin D3 with K2 for maximum absorption, omega-3 oils (“either fish oils or krill supplements”) as her everyday basics.

As someone with extreme hay fever who needed steroids for many years, she now takes quercetin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. “I’m totally off my hay fever medication having been on it for years and years.”

She also takes cordyceps mushrooms for their antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties and is a fan of medicinal mushrooms. “Things like lion’s mane I’ve put my parents on.” Lion’s mane has been clinically proven to protect brain cells, guarding against nerve-cell damage and neurodegeneration. Although Earle admits: “I do get a bit of an eye-roll when I go to see my parents.”

Her all-time favourite supplement for strength, though, is creatine. It is present in meat, fish and dairy products, as well as a flavourless powder you add to food and drinks. “The body makes creatine from animal-protein food sources, but its ability to do this declines by around eight per cent every 10 years after the age of 30.”

She also takes a scoop of NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide, in the form of a white powder under the tongue. This gives energy levels a genuine boost. “It’s a bit of a suspicious looking white powder, though. I have to be very careful when I fly with it,” laughs Earle.

Earle with her daughter Lily in 2021
With her daughter Lily in 2021 - Andrew Crowley

Actively prioritise your sleep

The biggest reason that Earle has better sleep now at 60 than at 50 is that she prioritises it as an active process. “It’s not just flopping into bed and switching off. It’s creating the right environment for my brain to clean itself out and my cells to replenish and refurbish themselves.”

Her nighttime routine is again habit-stacked. Although it starts from the first daylight in the morning that helps her circadian rhythms, she also has a pre-bed routine that includes taking 120g magnesium glycinate half an hour or so before bed: “Either as a capsule or in a powdered warm, milky drink mix. If I’m going through an especially stressful time or my ‘monkey brain’ is jumping around, I’ll also take L-theanine and vitamin B6, nicknamed the ‘chill pill’ for its soothing, anti-anxiety properties.”

Her bedroom is always at a cool temperature, with blackout curtains and her phone firmly outside the room.

“Last but not least, I sleep with a bite guard to reduce my stress-related molar grinding, which leads to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues, jaw pain, neck tension and headaches.”

TMJ is more common among midlife women, linked to oestrogen decline during menopause. A bite guard won’t necessarily stop jaw-clenching, but it does help reduce its severity (and protect the teeth).

Always make time for your friends and family

With her eldest daughter about to have a baby, Earle is looking forward to being a grandmother for the first time. “My family gives me a huge amount of joy and I’ve become even more appreciative of my friends,” she says. “I think as you age you really know who your friends are who’ve stood by you during difficult times.”

Despite the fizz of ideas and projects, she now never lets work overtake the joy of living.

“I think we need to create and make time for joy.”

The end of her second marriage was a cause for much soul-searching. “It’s not something that you wish for. You don’t get married in order to get divorced. That was obviously consuming a lot of brain and emotional energy.”

Today though she has found herself in a new relationship. A mystery man who she has been with for a year. The age gap wasn’t something she sought.

“It just happened. It was just the person I met. I did worry about it in the beginning, being so much older. But then I consoled myself with the fact that on a cellular biological level I’m a lot younger than my chronological age.” Earle’s biological age is currently somewhere between 39 and 45. “In fact he’s probably older than I am.”

He was already a bit into biohacking and fitness, otherwise she doubts they would have hit it off. “I think a lot about having a great relationship with somebody is finding those little things that you’re compatible with and on the same wavelength. Age is irrelevant.”

She has successfully persuaded him to take a cold plunge in her pool. Not a euphemism. Although, she thinks sex is also a part of having a better second half and wishes she’d known that it gets better with age. “You get more confident about who you are and what you enjoy and that can bring a lot of joy.”

A Better Second Half: Dial Back Your Age to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier life is published on April 25 (Yellow Kite, £22)


Jo Whiley: The deaths of my close friends made me rethink my health

Read more