Keeping healthy and active through regular exercise and eating sensibly is important at any age. But let’s be real — health in your 40s is even more important than your 30s. If you didn’t lay a good foundation in your 30s, you will most likely be paying for it later on in life — or maybe feeling it now… hello, bloat and acid reflux. As we hit our 40s and beyond, it becomes vital to our well-being to eat nutrient-dense foods and move daily. A combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition increases the risk of premature aging, illness and disease — ultimately shortening life expectancy. The good news is, we can reverse the signs of aging through small dietary changes!
There are numerous physiological changes associated with aging. These include a decrease in heart efficiency and bone density, and cholesterol and blood pressure may start to increase, as does your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. No matter how you slice it, none of the above symptoms are good for longevity at any age. So, here are five tips to be fabulous over 40 (or at any age).
1. Ditch the diet
Diets wreck your metabolism and result in yo-yo weight gain and loss. The key to successful weight management is adopting a healthy eating plan and sticking with it — for life. A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, calcium and water. Eat fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible, since most processed foods will contain calorie-laden, unhealthy ingredients, like saturated fats and sugar. Reduce saturated fat in your diet and include more calcium-rich foods — such as low-fat dairy, spinach and white beans to stay healthy. Stick to low-glycemic foods — nonstarch vegetables and minimal sugar — to ensure long-lasting satiety and minimize the likelihood of hunger pangs or sudden drops in energy levels.
2. Eat for energy
Eating for energy, rather than pleasure, is key to any successful dietary plan. Being fabulous over 40 doesn’t just happen — we have to make it happen! Pleasure eating happens when foods are available to you, rather than out of real need. Would you really take the time to make and eat those bacon wrapped tater tots if they weren’t staring you in the face on the buffet table? You crave those chips in your pantry because they are there and readily available. You may have kids and may not be able to get rid of all temptations, but why not buy yourself some veggie chips (low salt) so you can snack smartly? Once you begin to think of all food as energy, rather than as cravings, you will be on the cornerstone of health success.
3. Satisfy your sweet tooth
Satisfying your sweet tooth is another great obstacle for many of us. We all have cravings, but it is how we manage and respond to those cravings that keep us healthy. Have an occasional sweet treat, but be mindful and keep your health goals intact. So, choose the pear over the piece of cake. For those times when a piece of fruit simply won’t do (talking to you, PMS), studies show that after three bites our cravings are satisfied. If you must have the refined sugar treat, make it the treat you actually want and have three bites. Test this theory and let me know your results. You will be amazed at how well it works to satisfy your sweet tooth.
4. Hormone havoc
Hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies — and never is that truer than in our 40s. Most women hit perimenopause (the time four to five years prior to menopause) and start experiencing hormonal fluctuations and symptoms, such as mood swings, low libido, hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness and cognitive problems. Listen to your body. Take note of and avoid your triggers, such as heat, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Track your emotions and your periods to help determine if the two are connected — there are great phone apps that can help you keep track. Studies show excess weight, stress and smoking can increase the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Listen to your body and your hormones will wreak less havoc on you.
More: Why you can blame hormones for the dreaded belly bloat
5. Plan and prepare
The best laid plans are forgotten if you’re not prepared. Has this ever happened to you: It is 4 o’clock and you ate a decent lunch at about noon, but you find yourself starving and know you won’t make it until dinner. You go to the pantry, only to find your kids’ Rice Krispies Treats or other processed treats, and you’re so hungry, you gobble it down in record time. You’re hungry again 20 minutes later. So frustrating, right? The truth is, those empty calories have no nutritional value, so they can’t possibly fill you up. If you have fruit with fiber on hand with a smear of natural nut butter (protein), that will get you through those hunger periods much better. Plan ahead and be prepared for those times when hunger strikes.
The body’s ability to heal and recover can take longer as we age and stress, and lack of sleep can result in faster aging and an inability to fight infection or disease — your body’s way of saying it is at “dis-ease.” Don’t ignore a pain or problem that persists beyond a few days. As always, if in doubt, seek medical advice.
Starting today, you can make small changes so you can live your best life possible and be fabulous over 40. After all, age is just a number, right? We can turn back our body clocks by taking control of our health and making small changes each and every day that make a big impact on our health for our 40s and beyond.
Therese Patterson is a culinary explorer, certified nutrition coach, entrepreneurial maven and enthusiastic lover of life. Therese has been helping women in their 40s get fit and fabulous since 2011. Connect with Therese on her website and blog where she teaches people simple ways to create vibrant and abundant health and live their best life possible. Grab her free guide: Easy, Healthy Breakfast Recipes for Energy