Known for her girlish grin and contagious laugh, beloved “triple threat” Paula Abdul is perpetually on the move and constantly making new moves. And after celebrating her 61st birthday on June 19th, the busy Grammy Award-winner is proving that age is nothing but a number.
Indeed, after a scary health diagnosis a decade ago, the “Opposites Attract” singer and former American Idol judge admits that she’s grateful to still be moving at all. “I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic syndrome, a chronic condition characterized by burning pain in the extremities,” Paula shares with First for Women. “It is a painful disorder and had no cure at the time. It was a truly terrible moment, and I didn’t know what the future would hold.”
But thankfully, by switching to an alkaline diet, trying various therapies and staying positive, Paula pushed through. “I’m in remission now, and I count my blessings every day—I’ve learned you’re as young as you feel and, believe me, I try hard to stay feeling young!”
Here, Paula shares her secrets to a healthy mind, body and spirit—at every age.
Paula Abdul Age Defier: “Keep Your Joints Lubricated”
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that if you don’t move it, you lose it,” Paula smiles. “Bodies in motion stay in motion and movement is so important to keep your joints lubricated to keep them from becoming stiff and painful.” It’s a fact that Paula wishes she’d known when she was younger. “I was taking my body for granted and just jumping into everything without warming up properly, it’s important to do that now.”
Her favorite way to stay pain-free: “They say music is the king of all languages, but I think dance is! You don’t have to dance in Italian or Japanese: You just dance!” says Paula, who dances almost every day to stay in shape and retain flexibility. “I don’t consider it exercise even though I’m huffing and puffing, because dance is so enjoyable—even if you’re just doing it in your living room. It’s wonderful for your joints and bone density.”
Paula Abdul Age Defier: “Don’t Be Afraid to Say No”
“I’ve taught a lot of young people to not be afraid to say no,” says Paula, who recalls a time when one of Paula’s dance students was asked by a top choreographer to join a performance at the same time she had a family trip to Hawaii. “She asked me what I would do, and I said you know, you can’t get family memories back.”
Paula advised writing a handwritten letter to the choreographer telling him how grateful she is for the offer, and that she admires their work, but the job falls on a very important trip with family. “I told her to add, ‘I’m humbled, I’m so grateful and I hope you will consider me again.’ And it worked! Sometimes we forget that art of being personal.”
Paula Abdul Age Defier: “Learn New Things”
A self-described whirling “little dervish,” Paula is always getting involved in fun new projects she believes in with her whole heart. “I show up and put my all into it—and I have a good time!” Paula says. Most recently, she has been having a blast in her partnership with IdolEyes Smart Audio Glasses, which launched its first collection in a nod to Paula’s hit song, “Straight Up.”
“The glasses are fashionable and have great sound,” Paula says of the smart glasses, which come in clear lenses, sunglasses or prescription lenses and can be charged to pair to your phone so you can receive calls or listen to music through them. Paula is also a spokesperson for Smash & Tess, an athletic leisurewear line of clothing that she has collaborated with on styles that bear her name.
“I also started cooking a lot and learning new recipes during the pandemic,” she adds. “When you live alone, you don’t usually cook a lot but I started inviting friends over. I’m also always trying to take on-line classes at home of dance techniques that I’m not familiar with. I’m trying to learn to play pickleball…I’m told it’s the new tennis. But it all keeps your mind sharp!”
Paula Abdul Age Defier: “Indulge in Dark Chocolate”
Speaking of cooking, Paula’s eating plan is simple: lots of vegetables, lean protein…and dark chocolate. “I try to eat healthy to nourish my body, especially with snacks.” No-sugar granola, cranberries and raisins are go-to’s, as are bell peppers with hummus.
“I also make fudge balls with 95% melted dark chocolate—they’re a great healthy snack! I put rolled oats in them or goji berries and they’re like eating truffles!” Plus, dark chocolate can tame cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods, as well as improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Paula Abdul Age Defier: “Count to 10”
“I believe that happiness is a decision you make,” Paula says. “No matter what kind of bad day I am having, it’s never as bad as I think it is. And I can change my thoughts in a nanosecond and change the trajectory of the day.”
Paula says she tries to take the good with the bad and find joy in the little things, but if anything makes her stressed or uncomfortable, she’ll do this trick: “I’ll take a deep breath, count to 10 and by the time I hit 10, I’ll realize how grateful I am for that situation. And suddenly, something hard has turned into gratitude!”
Paula adds that she tries to approach each day thinking, I’m going to make this day the best day of my life. “Grounding myself, being present and quieting my mind—that’s what helps me stay balanced,” she says. “It takes nothing out of my day to stop and be present. Even with the little things like being with people. If it’s someone I don’t know, I ask their name, what they do, if they have children. It’s important to let people know they are seen, and being mindful both with people and by myself brings peace.”
Interview and additional reporting by Bonnie Siegler
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.