She’s done it again! My favorite nutritionist/guest blogger Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LDN, just gets it when it comes to understanding our changing bodies. Today Vicki gives us tips for staving off the belly bulge and health problems associated with mid-life. Vicki is a registered dietitian and author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods (Alpha Books/Penguin, 2011).
As you enter mid-life, the 40s offer a new, exciting season in life – for some it’s a time of limitless opportunities for growth and change; for others it leads to a downward spiral of weight gain, health problems and repeated patterns that lead to unhappiness. Research shows that mid-life is the prime time to forecast future health status and set the prevention wheels in motion before health problems occur.
In a perfect world you’d be able to waltz into your 40’s on the same ticket as the previous decade – especially if you’re healthy and happy. The 40s throw you a couple of reality checks, however. The average 40-something American woman is in the throes of what I call a “midlife metabolic crisis.” With every birthday after age 30, metabolism slows down by 1% – even if your activity level stays the same. Research shows that we burn fewer calories to process the food we eat since our ability to use and transport oxygen decreases with age. Thus, our muscles become more dependent upon daily activity. [So the air you breathe at 40 is used very differently by your body than it was at 30].
So what is a “mid-life metabolic crisis”? Basically, it’s a calorie-burning slow down, in which extra pounds and unhealthy, waistline inches creep up. This may mean the silent beginnings of one or more age-related health problems: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, even cognitive decline!
And just as we should be eating less, our palettes crave richer flavors as taste buds begin to fade. Thus, it takes more “flavor” – translation: more salt, fat and sugar added to foods to get the same level of sensory satisfaction. The outcome is a crisis of overindulgence, expanding waistlines and future health problems – unless you take action now.
Seven Eating Principles to Live By After Age 40
1. Pick “real food” first. Forego the processed foods and choose whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and low-fat dairy products. Real food will fuel your body on high-quality calories.
2. Start the day with breakfast. Never skip your first meal of the day as it really does get your metabolism humming along for the day.
3. Say farewell to all-nighters – your metabolism needs the sleep. Research shows that our bodies and hormones need shut-eye (at least 7 – 9 hours per night) to properly regulate metabolism and keep belly fat at bay.
4. Pair alcohol with food, always. Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach as it will result in eating (and drinking) excess calories, plus slow down your metabolism.
5. Savor special indulgences for more satisfaction. If you like chocolate or cake or cookies, have a small amount and savor it. Eating slowly and really tasting your favorite foods keeps you from feeling deprived and offers you a special time to enjoy these foods.
6. Give away your scale and invest in a tape measure. Weight can fluctuate as you build muscle and lose fat – and it won’t reflect well on the scale. Instead, measuring your waistline is a better indicator of overall health. For women, 35 inches or less is ideal; for men, it’s 40 inches or less. Think about how your clothes fit, too.
7. Build muscle reserves and tap into your fat savings with daily activity. Move regularly. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week – that’s 30 minutes over 5 days or 20 minutes every day. Do both cardio and strength-training to rid your body of excess fat and gain muscle.
So start today by evolving your eating and exercise routines for a healthier YOU tomorrow!