Self-Image for 40+ Guys Should be About Looking YOUR Best

If you’ve read OlderBeast before, you’ve seen the mantra “feel great, look your best, keep getting happier, and live long.” That’s what I want out of fitness, nutrition and wellness. I hope it resonates with you too, man.

“Feel great” and “live long” are self-explanatory. But there are non-obvious aspects of “look your best” and “keep getting happier,” so it’s useful to discuss these. This post is about “look your best.”


If you’ve read OlderBeast before, you’ve seen the mantra “feel great, look your best, keep getting happier, and live long.” That’s what I want out of fitness, nutrition and wellness. I hope it resonates with you too, man.

“Feel great” and “live long” are self-explanatory. But there are non-obvious aspects of “look your best” and “keep getting happier,” so it’s useful to discuss these.

This post is about “look your best.” An upcoming one will start examining “keep getting happier.”

First off: do looks matter for an OlderBeast?

Body-image issues are more often thought of as afflicting women. But unhealthy preoccupation with an (often media-inspired) “ideal” physique is a problem increasingly hitting men, too.

This is chronicled in various places, including a recent Time article entitled “How Hollywood ideals are messing with men’s heads.”

Given the risks from unhealthy focus on appearance, I wrestle with whether “look your best” even belongs as an OlderBeast goal. But though at one level appearance doesn’t matter, at other basic human ones, the reality is that it does. So it’s part of OlderBeast.

Here’s why a healthy focus on appearance is not just realistic, but beneficial. “Healthy” meaning not one that starves or overfeeds you, drives obsessive physical training, or puts unsafe supplements into your body, brother.

⇒ If we feel good about how we look (relative to other times in our lives, or to what we know is possible…NOT relative to others), that helps us feel better in other regards.

⇒ Looking better is a positive symptom of fitness, nutrition and wellness. It gives us positive feedback on what we’re doing…and it’s a motivator to keep doing them.

⇒ Taking care of appearance contributes to getting “wellness” benefits from our relationship with a spouse, partner, or spouse/partner that we seek (OlderBeast isn’t a relationship or sexuality blog, but you get the point).

It’s about looking YOUR best

It’s not “look like that movie star” (who unsustainably buffed up for his role, by the way), nor “look like a totally different person.” Don’t let this be about anyone but you!

For the OlderBeast, one beautiful aspect of this outlook is that YOUR best can keep getting better, relative to your age.

I was a pretty so-so looking guy at age 25 (thankfully, my wife came to see me through some kind of reality distortion field!).

But now, I feel like a better-looking 50-year old than I was a 25-year old…and I aspire to be a great-looking 75-year old! (I’m not sure about 100 yet.  I guess, stay tuned).

Looking YOUR best: what it means and where it comes from

Now let’s run through the aspects of looking your best–and how fitness, nutrition, and wellness-promoting behaviors will help you achieve it.

1. Muscle tone that is discernible in at least a subtle way. I’m talking about legs, arms, chest and shoulders. Sure, more-obvious muscles are great if you get there in a healthy way that works for you. But once you’ve reached the OlderBeast threshold, the more important part is simply having some tone–and not looking skinny, frail or soft.

There’s a lot of great advice on strength exercises out there, and OlderBeast has suggestions for how to include strength work within a balanced program.

2. Good posture. This is a subtle, but huge, contributor to your healthy and vibrant appearance. Regular core strength work is needed here (not just “abs”–I’m talking back and hips/butt area, too). One thing that actively works on posture is yoga (they’re called “poses” for a reason).

By the way, posture is not just a reflection of health, but a contributor to it. Actively focusing on posture even when sitting and standing (not just when working out) has its own major benefits at any point in life, and especially as we age.  Look for a future OlderBeast article on this.

3. Healthy-looking skin. You may remember teenage years when eating sugar caused acne. Well, the “zit” days may be long gone, but our skin still responds a lot to what we put into our bodies…and perceptions of our appearance are materially influenced by how our skin looks.

Remember, skin is actually an organ (the body’s largest), and its only source of sustenance is what we give to it.

4. Outward energy and perceivable happiness. You don’t think these aspects of a person influence how others see them? They absolutely do–and the right approach to fitness and nutrition will really help improve both of these factors for you.

5. Under-control body fat. I listed this last on purpose. While weight-control is often the first thing people think about when they think about getting healthier, it’s really part of an overall “system” of things that make us look and feel better (all the things listed above).

Looking your best doesn’t demand visible abs (thankfully!), or even looking really “thin.” Just get body fat moving in the right direction via an activity and nutrition approach that’s right for you, and it will work alongside all these other factors to move you toward your Best.

Even small progress here will then help reinforce your mind’s internal “rewards” system, motivating you to keep working on reducing fat, if needed.


Some 40+ guys have reached an “I don’t care what I look like anymore” stage. Some obsess on their looks more than they should (and are too-often in “comparison” mode vs. others).

With your thriving in mind, I urge you to take a Goldilocks “just right” approach to how you think about appearance, that cuts down the middle between these extremes.

Always keep in mind that it’s about looking YOUR best, which is a product of multiple components you can control and improve.

“You know you’re semi-good-lookin’, and on the streets again.” (Van Halen, Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love – click to listen)

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So many guys know they need to lose weight, improve cardio health, and/or battle the decline of strength and flexibility. They know all the reasons why and they know reasonably well what to do. But still…time passes. Periods of resolve (especially around New Year’s) are followed by longer periods of less discipline. The body-and-soul health gap grows larger. And the long-term game plan to address it recedes into the fuzzy future.

In truth, do you recognize yourself here? This was me circa 2004 by the way, so please don’t hear this question as criticism or judgment. I’m describing, at least, a sizable minority of 45+ guys. Maybe even a majority.

If you’re one of them, I respectfully believe you need a different kind of 2018 New Year’s resolution, man. Not just to “work out more” or “join a new gym.” These kinds of resolution are easy to make but so hard to keep over time. (So is “eat better,” but nutrition is its own major topic and here I’m sticking to the exercise component of fitness).

Here’s a resolution that may sound harder to start acting on, but which is much more likely to really matter in your life. “In 2018, I’m going to discover and attack the root cause – cognitive or emotional – of my persistent under-attention to fitness and health.”

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I have a few friends who are longtime habitual exercisers, but still look at me like I’m on a different planet when I talk about the finer points of moving from five to six workouts a week.

Why? They currently feel in “survival mode” with seemingly 24/7 work demands, business travel, and school-age kids in the house. The time when they can work out five-plus times a week seems somewhere down the road.

Fair enough. I’ve been there. But no matter what, when survival mode conditions last more than a week, you simply need to figure out how to maintain at least basic fitness.

There’s a minimum threshold below which “postponing fitness” is not the answer, even for short-term productivity, let alone long-term thriving.

So here are a few simple but powerful fitness and Wellness tactics to adopt when life puts you into survival mode.

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Why “men’s fitness” and single-sport “enthusiast” magazines kind of suck

As a 40+ guy seeking balanced fitness, smart nutrition, and the well-being and joy these things contribute to…I’ll take all the help I can get. So, I’m always scouting the media and blog landscape on these topics.

My conclusion: the “media” world (old and new) is failing to truly help 40+ guys seeking a lifelong mix of endurance, strength, flexibility, balance, solid nutrition, tranquility-of-mind, and joy-of-spirit.

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