Many of us have had that moment where we’ve studied the extra layer that’s accumulated around our belly. Or else wiggled the wobbly skin on the underside of our upper arms. Perhaps you’ve traced over the light wrinkles on the sides of your eyes, cruelly referred to as crows feet. Maybe this makes you want to stay healthy in your 40s?
At these times we likely feel a sharp pang at realising age is catching up. Then we usually resolve to fight it. To hit the treadmill, eat more salads, commit to morning yoga. We resort to buying more expensive anti-ageing creams and begin to order the ‘slimline’ tonic to go with our gin.
Admittedly, some of us are better at the ‘healthy lifestyle’ than others. Some of us take ageing with grace, grateful to move into a slower pace of life with fewer people reliant on us and accepting it on our terms, but others fear or even despise getting older, which can make staying healthy in your 40s difficult. We pout, buy shoes (because they always fit) and stare daggers at anyone who dares point a camera phone in our direction.
As we age, staying fit and healthy becomes more difficult. Our bodies are not necessarily the well-oiled machines they once were. We are generally more tired, our metabolism tends to slow and it takes us longer to recover from overexerting ourselves. So, when we commit to pursuing a healthier lifestyle in our 40s, we need some real incentives and they have to be about more than wanting to look 10 years younger or having a bikini body.
As a women’s wellbeing coach I’m often asked by women in their 40s to advise on how they can lose weight and stay looking youthful. Yet, although being slim and attractive is a strong motivation, I’ve found that there are usually far deeper reasons that clients seek my help. Ones that, once realised, really help them build and maintain an improved lifestyle for long term mental and physical health.
Here are some of the real reasons to stay healthy in your 40s:
Very often it relies on women, whether solo or in partnership, to be the anchor of the family. The central point from which strength, comfort and assistance can always be found. Our families, whether they are the ones we are born into or the ones we create, are usually the most important thing to us.
As we age, many women endeavour to stay fit and healthy in their 40s so that they can be in the best shape to be there for their family. Family can be a great reason to take care of ourselves, both in body and mind.
However, it is important to realise that part of being in the best condition to be there to support our family sometimes means putting ourselves first. Women, in general, are not too practised at this. Far too often we burn ourselves out trying to be the fuel that drives everybody else. Trying to be the perfect mothers, partners and daughters.
Yet, there’s a very true saying, ‘secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.’ Meaning, if we are going to be the best mothers, wives and daughters, we need to first show ourselves some care. Perhaps this means denying your teenager a lift to their friend’s house because that will mean missing your pilates class. Or it might mean reclaiming some space in the house for a meditation or reading corner so that you may take some time for yourself each day. It can be as simple as keeping phone conversations with mum to under 10 minutes or you may be asking the whole family to give up Friday night takeaways with you to support you in your quest to eat better.
If you’re going to show up for your family as the very best you, then make sure you get them on board and support you in your healthier lifestyle.
Kate Moss famously once said, ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.’ This I believe to be one of the most dangerous things any so-called-icon has ever said to young girls and women. I’d like to take the opportunity to rephrase this to, ‘no bad habits ever feel as good as feeling good feels.’ or ‘Nothing tastes as good as accepting yourself feels’
If you’ve gotten used to unhealthy habits, such as too many takeaways (see our blog ‘Did You Get Addicted To Lockdown Takeaways?) or evenings on the couch, Netflix and two too many glasses of wine, then maybe it’s time to reset. If there’s any time to look after yourself – eat well and keep physically fit, then your 40s is the time. You are in transition and your body is asking you if it’s time to power up or power down. It’s your choice but consider that those who choose to take care of themselves in their 40s are likely to feel stronger, more energetic and experience fewer health problems later, especially as we transition to menopause.
Feeling great is more than being slim. It is about making nutritious food choices because it fuels our body and elevates our mood. It’s about exercising to work out the kinks and to feel stronger. Ensuring we get out in nature because it helps with perspective. Getting your eight hours of sleep so that you can give more of yourself to the day.
Resolving to rid yourself of unhealthy habits by depriving yourself and calling on willpower, is setting yourself up for failure. How can you expect to feel good when you are testing and battling with yourself? My advice? Love the hell out of yourself! It’s from love that care and nurture grows.
Try to replace bad habits with good ones. For example, try buying fresh vegetables, honey, lemon and soy sauce and spend 20 minutes in the kitchen making a homemade stirfry. Instead of reaching for the sugar-loaded jar of sweet and sour sauce. Put on a favourite album and sing along as you prepare your meal. Don’t make healthy eating a chore, make it the part of your day you look forward to, by making it an experience.
As we age we also lose muscle mass, but we don’t have to necessarily take an hour out of our day to bodybuild at the gym. Invest in some light hand weights and practise repetitions of simple lifts for 10 minutes per day. Attaching a new routine into one you have already is a great way to form lasting habits. So why not do your weight lifting exercises as you watch Good Morning Britain, or the 6 pm news? Include it in something that is already part of your everyday life.
Mostly, don’t focus on what you are going without but instead, what wonderful new things you are introducing into your life. So, if you are attempting a ‘meat free’ day twice a week, don’t call it that. Why not call them ‘plant power days’ and try something new so that it becomes something to look forward to rather than dread.
I bet you’ve seen your fair share of before and after photos. Not in the extreme ones advertising new ‘methods’ of weight loss, but more in the ones people take of themselves after committing to a healthier lifestyle. We know instantly which picture the woman looks better in, not because of her slimmer waist or new definition in her legs, but because of her smile. Looking good on the outside always begins with feeling good on the inside.
Perhaps the generation before us were looking forwards to winding down as they reached middle-age, but not us I’m afraid. In fact, many of us reach our stride at work in our 40s.
Did you know that the average age for female entrepreneurs in the UK is 48? According to The Guardian women in their 40s are likely to succeed in self-employment because they have the benefit of experience, networks and they still have plenty of passion.
Some of us have even taken time off to have children and, by doing so, discover new passions that redirect our careers when the kids get older and we’re ready to reenter the world of work.
Whether you love or hate what you do though, it’s going to take a reasonable amount of energy and we do start to lack this as we hit our 40s. Staying fit and healthy in your 40s can be the difference between middling in your work goals and achieving all your career aspirations.
Living healthy for longer
Ok, so many don’t talk about mortality (although it’s inevitable). What about the kind of life we want to live, though?
Of course, there are many exceptions but in general, a healthy lifestyle gives us a better quality of life. It’s not just about how long we might be around for but will we be able to play with our grandchildren? Will we be able to enjoy the garden into our 70s because we are still fit enough to maintain it? If an older relative falls ill, will we be strong enough mentally and physically to be there for them?
We focus a lot on diet, exercise and mental health, but I must stress the importance of quality sleep. We live in a culture that seems to view ‘sleeping as cheating’ and accepts 2 hours in the evening lying on the couch and scrolling through social media as part of our essential rest time. Those who have been on-call nightly to newborns and those in menopause experiencing night sweats will attest to the importance of a good night’s sleep. No. Not just a good night’s sleep but consistent good sleep. Adults should not only be getting a good 7-8 hours but those hours should be high quality. Ways to achieve this include avoiding alcohol (or at least too much) and eating earlier so that your digestive system may rest while you sleep. Find out my 7 Top Tips For Quality Sleep
Lastly, On Living Healthy In Your 40s…
As we age and our body seems to back out on the deal we made with it to stay young and immediately responsive, it’s tempting to give it the middle finger and walk off in a strop. In actual fact, now is the time to nurture the relationship. To give back a little and serve our bodies the food, exercise, sleep and, most importantly, love that they deserve.
I don’t know about you but I hope to age like Joanna Lumley or Jane Fonda. Apart from still looking great though, they seem genuinely happy and fulfilled. And perhaps that’s the key. Looking after ourselves means taking care of the inside so that the outside may take care of itself. To do this, you need to stay true to the real reasons to be healthy in your 40s – all the wonderful things that make living a full life worthwhile.
If you feel like you’ve lost your zest for life and don’t recognise yourself anymore in your 40’s and beyond and you know it’s important to look after your well-being, but you don’t know where to start. Start here, schedule a call today and let’s chat. I’d love to help you feel sexier, happier and healthy in your 40’s and beyond!