'As a woman, I should anticipate I'll be criticized for not putting on a face of makeup that makes other people feel comfortable about my age,' the actress says
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A black-and-white photo on the first page of Cameron Diaz’s The Longevity Book, out now, shows the 43-year old entertainer holding a framed picture of herself taken 15 years ago. The 28-year old woman inside the frame is holding another portrait of the actress’ 22-year old self, who is also holding a snapshot of a 16-year old girl who hadn’t yet starred in films like Charlie’s Angels and The Mask, but had already begun the natural cycle we all go through: aging.

Following the success of her 2013 release, The Body Book, Diaz says her attention shifted toward understanding the science behind getting older (and maturing) as a means to open women’s eyes to embracing the art of aging instead of fearing a judgmental, youth-obsessed society. And thus The Longevity Book was born, a self-help exploration that doesn’t serve as a standard guide to superficial beauty, but rather a science-backed exploration of what propels our bodies into their later years.

Per The Longevity Book‘s opening page, it’s “dedicated to your journey,” though you can read Diaz’s thoughts on her own — and inspiring other women along theirs — in the interview below.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In The Longevity Book, you say you’re not aiming to provide a how-to on anti-aging or looking younger, but rather showing women how to view aging as natural and healthy. Why did you feel so determined to explore the natural decline of the human body in a positive way?

CAMERON DIAZ: It is a natural decline because it’s happening. We do have a certain amount of control over how well we do it, and to understand what that means, that’s empowering. As we grow older, as women age, we’re actually told we failed, that we should be ashamed or hide ourselves because we’re aging, but instead I want women to feel empowered that they can age in a way where they embrace it and be proud of it and do it well.

Ultimately, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to be older a lot longer than we were ever young. If we look at life that way — that you’re only young up until you’re 35 — the rest of your life you’re going to have to start accepting you’re not going to be 25 again. You have to embrace it; it’s a necessity, or the rest of your life is going to be miserable and unhappy, and probably ridden with illness if you’re not paying attention. Does it sound like fun to you?

No, not at all.

[Laughs] It doesn’t sound like fun to me at all. I just want people to live a happy, healthy, strong life. It just matters to me. I don’t know why. I think it’s a cruel thing our society does to women, to tell them they’ve failed for doing something that is perfectly natural.

Do you think you would have been able to write The Longevity Book if you felt 100 percent comfortable with the process of aging? Why do you think that anxiety is there for so many women?

I think it’s because we don’t understand it. People were asking me if I was scared to turn 40, and I thought, “Why? I feel amazing! Why should I be afraid of turning 40?” I realized they weren’t talking about my physical well being, they were talking about my career and whether I would be able to withstand being a 40-year old in society. If people didn’t see me as a 25-year old, who would I be?

All we see [aging] as is wrinkles and sagging and a decline, but something is really happening here. I thought if we could understand what aging actually is, we would not be so afraid of it; we would feel empowered by understanding, by knowledge. Aging is such a new thing — it’s only in the last 150 years we’ve gotten to grow old. Forty used to be the end of the road for women 150 years ago, and now we have another whole lifetime those women didn’t have to live and to celebrate life. Why would we be sad about having another 40-year old life ahead of us? Shouldn’t that be something we celebrate? Isn’t that a mid-life celebration instead of a mid-life crisis?

In the book you trace different anti-aging techniques used throughout history, so the desire for youth has always been there, but do you think we’re reaching a point where a superficial value on aging is disappearing?

I think hopefully, with this book, with people being given permission to not make it a superficial thing, that it doesn’t have to just live on the surface, that we can actually go deeper. I hope people will start to embrace it more in that way, but I think we do live in a society where everywhere you look, every billboard, every magazine, every advertisement that pops up on our computer is telling you where you’re at [in age] is scary and dangerous, and nobody’s going to like you if you look like you [laughs].

I posted a picture of myself [without makeup], and people were like, “Wow, it’s so brave of her to post a picture with no makeup!” I thought, “That’s weird. What does that mean? Why am I brave? I walk out this door every day like this!” And then I thought, “Oh, what they’re saying is I should assume — I should expect — to be made fun of for looking like I do. As a woman, I should anticipate I’ll be criticized for not putting on a face of makeup that makes other people feel comfortable about my age, and I thought that was kind of sad, but interesting at the same time. Of course I was also grateful for the kind notices of people who were grateful I did it, because hopefully it does give other people permission to do it themselves, because a lot of people are afraid to do that because they’re afraid of the criticism they’re going to be met with, and I don’t think that’s fair.

You also talk a bit about health risks and the importance of understanding why certain things are good for women’s bodies. What more should be done to educate women on these types of lifestyle changes?

I think that’s pretty much what led me to write the book; We had to search really hard for all the information in the book in so many different places, and then we had to culminate it and put it together. You’re not going to do that if you just Google something, you’re going to find one little bit at a time and have to piece it together yourself. There isn’t that information; we aren’t educated, we don’t know.

We’re told a lot of different things about one thing or the other, and of course a ton of different fads are going on, like, “Do this! or “Do that!” and “This makes your heart great,” and then two years later it’s like, “Oh, don’t do that! [laughs]. [The science in the book] is the cold, hard science that can’t be disputed, and it is what it is and what it has been, and of course there will be a period of time when there will be new scientific breakthroughs because we’re able to see so much deeper within ourselves at the smallest level than ever before because of the advancements of science. That being said, what we know now and what we’ve proven now is what is helping people do the best they can to age well and healthfully.