Time for change… where to start
When our health is compromised we tend to consider the food we eat first and foremost because it’s an obvious place to start. Also because there is so much information about it; it’s in our face all the time, what’s good, what’s not, the latest research. I also think it is because it can be harder to contemplate some of the other factors that might be impacting our good health, such as stress levels or emotional issues, general unhappiness, loneliness, grief or depression.
It’s certainly not a bad place to start. What we put into our bodies every day has a tremendous effect on how we function through the day, how we react and interact, how energised or lethargic we are, how enthused or flat lining we are about the job we are doing or the tasks at hand. It affects how much we have to give to ourselves and to others. The wrong combination of foods at the wrong times during the day can bring us home at night in a moody state, a couch potato funk or an exhausted heap, just dragging our bodies through the evening rituals without being ‘in the moment’ with family/loved ones. Then, despite the level of exhaustion, sleep does not come easily.
How great is it when you have those periods in life where your energy levels allow you to do what you want, your eyes are white and shining, you smile often, you’re happy with your feminine curves and the respect you are showing your body through your food and exercise choices. You are enjoying the company of others, feeling sociable and inspired, and looking forward to what life will bring tomorrow or next week or next year. It’s a balance isn’t it?
In mid-life, the balance can become harder to find or maintain, due to our bodies beginning to function differently to the way they did in our youth. However, in saying that, putting the time and effort in at mid-life could also see you with the best body you’ve ever had. The best body from the perspective of how it is functioning and how you are feeling about it – perhaps with a kinder, more compassionate, realistic and respectful attitude. We can be extreme when we are younger, ignoring or taking for granted our bodies to a large degree, or overly obsessing over weight and food to the point of not getting enough nutrition. The swings and roundabouts can give way to a wonderful, consistent, mindful approach, where you understand not only what good food is but also what good food is for you. Figuring out how to work in harmony with your body and find the balance that allows you to be healthy and enjoying life. You just need the knowledge, the will power and the vision of a wholesome and fulfilling mid-life 🙂
Through my years of health ups and downs since fertility treatment, I have trialled and tested many different eating patterns. Nothing majorly extreme or controversial, I’ve always been conscious of the common sense in moderation and variety. Plus I like my food! I think about what I will eat in advance…. when the eating is done for the day, I think about what I can eat tomorrow and, during the week when I am being ‘good’, I think about what treats I can have in the weekend. I think about flavours to put together, I think about new recipes I want to try. I have days when I grab a heap of recipe books out of my cupboard and just flick through them for inspiration and enjoyment. Hours can be lost! I would sooner exercise more (or differently) than reduce my food intake. But when menopause caused a real change in my body – I put on weight around the hips, thighs and butt, I felt sluggish, I was craving sugar and I was battling with fatigue and stomach issues – I began to feel that I would need to be so incredibly vigilant and I would need to cut out so many foods, as well as just accept that my shape was different now. I was miserable about the prospect of needing to go hard core; no chocolate, no ice cream, no yoghurt, no muffins, no bread, no cereal, no wine, no champagne, no desserts….. The thought was depressing. I remember thinking that life was not worth living if entire treat categories needed to be eliminated.
I fought the changes, I fought menopause, and I fought with myself. I tried to alter the way I did my eating but each way left me exasperated to the point of breaking the restrictive regime with a total blow out. I was feeling so bad about myself, and so annoyed at another health challenge (grumpy at even having menopause at all considering my body had not done the womanly activities like child birth that it ought to have done) that I actually felt personally affronted that I could not just eat whatever I wanted because boy, I deserved some treats right now! It was a roller coaster ride for a couple of years. I would get frustrated with myself just knowing that I already knew what to do to be healthy. I stopped looking at over half the clothes in my wardrobe, stopped feeling inspired or excited about what to wear, stopped looking in the mirror as much as possible, kept the lights off (ok, that’s a hangover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a sensitivity to light and noise) but you get the picture…. I shut down, I went internal and I focused only on work). To be honest, it was really tough; not having the support of a loving partner, nor family in the same country, not having the distraction of children to care for and not being ‘comfortable’ from a financial perspective. I had the fear of an illness that might come back if I didn’t get on top of the menopause symptoms real quick. It was like going back to the start of the CFS again, when so much time was spent researching and trialling. At the heart of it, I didn’t feel like I could just throw in the towel – eat the sugar if that’s what my body was screaming for, lie on the couch at night if that’s all the energy I had, hide away in bed when the moods hit – because doing those things would jeopardise having ever got back from the CFS at all. Being on my own meant there was a lot of pressure on me to resolve this, so that doggie and I didn’t need to move to the caravan park lol.
I am pleased to say that perseverance paid off and I’ve found a new regime for mid-life, based around changes I have made to my diet, ongoing from the changes I was forced to make during CFS. Re-assessing the food you eat can not only be a good place to start to feel benefits across a variety of menopause symptoms but it can also be a great place to start to spark changes in all areas of your life, making you feel better about yourself and about your future.
Here’s a summary of the things I have learnt:
» It is vital to get your metabolism working hard for you, to burn fat simply by the foods you are eating (and to a degree by the combinations and timings of the foods you are eating).
» There is life without sugar – a good life, a better life and there are still wonderful treats to be had.
» You can eat a fabulous breakfast without cereal or bread (and it will sustain you longer).
» Forget fat-free. Instead eat the good, natural fats every day because they spark weight loss, brain function and happiness.
» A ratio type diet allows you to maintain healthy eating habits by having days when you can do as you please. The ratio can be whatever works for you; low carbs/high protein for 6 days and then a carb day, or intermittent fasting where you don’t eat until lunch time 2 days a week, or a green juice and smoothie only day once a week or fortnight. There is great merit in giving your body a rest from digestion activities, as this allows it to get to the other maintenance functions it also needs to perform, which helps in the ageing stakes!
» Exercise plays an important role in getting your metabolism working at its best, not just while you are exercising but for hours/days afterwards. For maximum affect you need to combine the right foods with the right exercise. I already knew how to exercise and I had particular exercises I had done for years. But now I’ve added to that with a regime I am really enjoying and that I feel is ‘honest’ and on-point. I’m very impressed with how the workouts are presented and with the support and information I’m receiving via email. Check out my post about the Metabolic Aftershock challenge.
» Exercise doesn’t have to be pounding the pavement, toughing it out in the gym or spending hours doing cardio in the hope that more time spent equals more weight loss. More can actually mean damage to your body. You should certainly think twice about doing endurance type sports in mid-life. The smart new trend is to do less; to go for high impact muscle toning exercises (such as squats, lunges, push-ups and weight bearing exercises) in short, sharp bursts at high intensity, then rest. Having rest intervals during your workout means that you maintain correct form and posture, rather than going so fast that your limbs (and joints) are flailing around in all the wrong positions. And rest also means exercising in this way only every second day…. go for a nice walk, swim, bike ride or dance class in between.
» Believing in what you do, having faith that you are doing the right things, allowing yourself to feel good, not getting discouraged by a ‘bad’ day, calmly adjusting to the menopause changes and viewing it as an opportunity to better yourself are also vital, along with the food and exercises choices. Your frame of mind is paramount to change. Being organised is paramount to your frame of mind (and ability to stay on track). Any time of change is better navigated if you find the balance between being in control and also allowing the change to occur. Don’t fight it, don’t force it, ride with it…. but also know, encourage and work towards the change that you would like to see and the mid-life that you envisage for yourself. Use the time to take stock, plot a new path if need be, do the work with regards to letting go of anything that has been holding you back. Give yourself permission to be wiser (and more confident, sexier, more adventurous, more at peace).
Once I figured all of this out, I got a tattoo on my wrist of birds in flight and the words ‘Let it be’. I love it. I look at it and smile every day 🙂
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