Life Extension Magazine®
Meditating woman following Gillean McLeod role modeling

Issue: Jul 2018

Gillean McLeod This Fashion Model is a Baby-Boomer Role Model

At 62, model and fashion stylist Gillean McLeod exemplifies how baby boomers can embody radiant health, beauty, and happiness without spending a fortune on personal gyms or cosmetic surgery.

By Kyle Roderick.

Gillean McLeod
Gillean McLeod

Having modeled in swimsuit and clothing campaigns for global fashion giants such as H & M, Uniqlo and Carolina Herrera, 62-year-old Gillean McLeod also works in the advertising industry as a fashion stylist for leading international brands like Adidas, Virgin America and Honda. One of the world’s fittest fashionistas at any age, the statuesque McLeod stands 5 feet, 10 inches, and is distinguished by her waist-length mane of long, lush silver hair.

Based in Los Angeles where she hikes and swims outdoors year-round, McLeod is living proof that it’s possible for baby boomers to embody radiant health, and happiness without spending a fortune on personal gyms, nutritionists, or cosmetic surgery. What’s more, the fact that she’s figured out a free and effective formula for optimal health and wellness after 60 makes her a role model for people of all ages.

“Staying strong, fit, and energetic is a multitasking, part-time job that I work at every day,” McLeod says with a laugh. “But it’s one that gets easier every year.”

What you need to know

Gillean McLeod inspires baby boomers by keeping herself looking young and vibrant in her own unique way.

Having lived in Los Angeles for more than three decades, she says, “It seems perfectly natural to pursue a healthy lifestyle, because there are endless free and enjoyable opportunities for doing so. My main goal in taking care of myself is to feel energized and strong rather than conforming to some media-induced beauty ideal.”

McLeod exemplifies how easy it can be to stay in shape at any age.

“As I live near a city park that’s equipped with a full circuit of strength-training machines, I can get in a workout any time I want, plus do a little bird watching,” she explains.

“Sometimes, there are hawks and green parrots flying nearby while I’m working on the parallel bars pulling my knees up to my chest. It’s such a blast to work out in a free outdoor gym where exercising feels playful and fun, as opposed to the typical indoor fitness center where it’s noisy, hot and crowded, and people are waiting impatiently for you to get off the machines.”

Gillean’s Favored Supplements

On a daily basis, Gillean McLeod takes a multivitamin, vitamin D, prebiotics, probiotics, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and extra zinc during autumn and winter.

When she models or does fashion styling in other cities, McLeod Googles public parks and adult playgrounds and then heads off to the great outdoors.

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“Check out your city’s parks and adult-scaled playgrounds,” she suggests. “Some of them even have heated swimming pools.”

Fortunately for her, McLeod’s local park has a pool where she does lap swimming.

“I’ve always been a swimmer,” she says. “I was born in Indonesia and grew up in the tropics swimming every day, loving the backstroke and competing on teams and essentially living in my bathing suit.” Now she swims a mile and a half, four times a week and occasionally takes swimming lessons through the park’s master’s program.

“At the age of 50, I learned how to do the butterfly, a stroke that I never imagined mastering. It feels so exhilarating to finally be doing that butterfly kick. I’m not a fast swimmer,” McLeod confesses, “but I pride myself on my endurance.”

McLeod’s lifelong love of swimming made her the star of H & M’s global swimsuit ad campaign for 2016.

“The photographer chose to shoot me before I even had a chance to get my hair and make-up done,” she recalls.

When H & M posted the image of McLeod suited up and smiling on Instagram, the portrait generated 200,000 likes in one week plus hundreds of comments thanking the company for choosing a fit and mature woman rather than the typical teenage, super-skinny swimsuit model. As McLeod says, “That image went viral and became a news story around the world. Everyone from Time magazine to The Hollywood Reporter to the British newspaper The Telegraph interviewed me about how this breakthrough ad campaign was showing how older women can still be strong, confident and fit in later life.”

Another key reason why McLeod feels so comfortable in her swimsuit is that she has been toning and strengthening her body in Pilates classes for the past ten years. When her work schedule permits, she takes four advanced classes a week at The Moving Joint in West Los Angeles. Extolling the virtues and holistic benefits of this form of exercise, she says, “Pilates is more than just a physical regimen, it’s also a mind-body and breathing discipline. All the focused breathing helps calm down your nervous system.”

McLeod loves this form of fitness so much that she even has her own Pilates Reformer machine.

“I work out on it after a long day of shooting in a concrete-floored photo studio or after unavoidably long car commutes, and it dissolves the stresses of the day and renews my energy.

“I put my legs in the Reformer straps and do leg circles for 25 minutes along with stretching exercises, and all the time I’m breathing rhythmically. The coordinated exercises and mindful breathing helps improve blood circulation, while activating my heart rate and rejuvenating my spine after a long drive.”

Thanks to hiking trails in nearby canyons, McLeod gets plenty of heart-pumping exercise with panoramic views.

“If I have a free afternoon,” she says, “I love to hike 2,600 feet up into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains so that I can see the Pacific Ocean and all the way to Catalina Island. I typically do a six-mile round-trip hike and take time to enjoy the lovely views.”

For rejuvenation closer to home, McLeod heads to her backyard garden and pond, which abounds with aloes and other succulents, lime trees and native flowers.

“I grow a dozen different kitchen herbs, including three types of basil,” she says. “I also typically plant tomatoes, peppers, kale and other vegetables in raised beds. I love to cook with the vegetables from my garden as well as share them with my neighbors.”

McLeod’s diet became vegetable-focused 30 years ago, after her toddler son ate some E. coli-tainted beef and ended up in the hospital fighting for his life.

“After my son recovered from that frightening and unforgettable experience, I stopped eating meat in restaurants and switched to cooking all organic foods for me and my family. Since then, I have only been eating organically raised chicken, organic bison and occasionally, wild caught fish.”

Staples of her diet include green leafy vegetables such as kale, beans, lentils, and organic quinoa, as well as fresh-squeezed organic vegetable juice and bison bone broth.

“Bone broth feels very soothing and nourishing to me,” she says. “I feel like it gives me energy and I drink this as often as possible, especially in winter.”

Anything that saps energy, such as sugar, alcohol, and fried foods are absent from McLeod’s diet.

“I felt that alcohol was tiring me out even only after a few drinks, so I gave it up entirely several years ago,” McLeod says. “It is a poison, after all. I drink mineral water when I’m socializing and never miss it.”

Just as food nourishes the body and mind, “So does sleep,” she says. “Getting a good night’s rest is absolutely essential because I often travel for work and thus experience jet lag, nighttime hotel noise and early morning start times.”

McLeod always carries clothespins for her styling work, since they come in handy for closing gaps in room curtains to create a darker bedroom. Another tip: “To muffle hallway noise and block light that may enter through gaps between the door and the floor, roll up towels and wedge them against the room door.”

One hour or more before bedtime, McLeod switches off her electronic devices and takes a warm shower or bath to downshift into relaxation mode.

“iPhones, e-readers, computers and iPads emit, among other things, blue daylight spectrum light,” she explains. “This is artificial light that convinces the body it’s still daytime rather than bedtime. Working on e-devices before bedtime deceives the body into staying awake by blocking the hormone melatonin, which causes delays in sleep onset.”

To ease into sleep at home, on an airplane or in a hotel room, McLeod does a variety of relaxation exercises featured on various relaxation response apps, which are available online.

“I like the 20-minute ones that slow you down and help you focus on breathing so that you drift off to sleep fully relaxed,” she says. “Meditation has numerous clinically proven benefits that have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. It’s another form of nourishment, a potential source of healing and a lifelong, free and life-enhancing tool that we can use anytime, anywhere.”

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Whenever we practice mindfulness and meditation and downshift into deep, relaxed breaths, McLeod says, “We turn off the automatic and hyper-reactive sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight-or-flight stress response, and activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This is the body system which soothes and helps us to relax.”

When the PNS is activated through meditation or other means, heart rate and blood pressure drop, breathing slows down and deepens and the muscles relax.

“It’s a fact that meditation promotes good digestion, supports immune function, enhances feelings of well-being and sends you off to sleep,” McLeod says. “We’re very lucky to live in an age when there are so many scientifically proven self-help health and fitness methods that we can learn about and practice.”

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.