Keeping in shape was fairly simple in my 20’s and early 30’s. Eat what I want, exercise, (while wearing sunscreen everyday of course) & drink plenty of water.
But now that I’m 40, I feel like certain parts of my body (bum, tum, those wing-things under my arms) all wanna make more of a connection with the floor than my spine as gravity takes over!
The most frightening part is that my tummy is way more sensitive to changes in my routine. If I eat a little too much or don’t exercise for a week everything starts to go soft and the whole thing begins a glacial-like descent towards the floor!
Basically, I need to re-learn what fuel this 40 year old body is going to respond to and the best way to feed it! There is no magic solution – it’s the balance of nutrition & exercise. That’s it (& I know you know it too!).
Here are my main problems:
- Food: I love what I love and I don’t feel like I should have to give up all that is good!
- My body doesn’t accept #1 anymore!
- If I look at food and think about not exercising, my body automatically adds 1kg to the scales (& my tummy)!
After competing in two Olympic Campaigns and studying Post-Graduate nutrition, I feel like I have a fairly good understanding on the basic concepts of nutrition and I try to keep up with certain (authenticated) research and advice. But my body has definitely graduated into new territory now and I don’t feel like those concepts are as relevant to this non-athlete-child-bearing-40-year-old vessel.
I have tried many different types of ‘diets‘ over the years. None of them really worked for me. Possibly because I never really needed them to or maybe it was just that I was never disciplined enough to continue them. Which is a valid point; if it’s not easily sustainable then how do they expect me to stick to it?!
Here is what I knew for sure when I started looking into why I needed to make changes:
- Both my parents died young of cancer (57 & 60). So I have a responsibility (to myself, my children & husband) to look after my body and do everything I can to minimise any cancer-carrying genetic traits that may have been passed on.
- I still wanted to enjoy the good things in life while looking after my health. It shouldn’t have to be one or the other – moderation is the key.
Knowing what I know about myself, it is important that any changes I make are going to be sustainable and I need to start small. So the first thing I did was set some goals around what I wanted to achieve:
- Reduce sugar cravings: If I can reduce the cravings then I will reduce the intake, so, win-win!
- Be Realistic: avoid having to buy a million pills and powders and restocking my pantry completely. That is not sustainable when I also have 3 kids and a husband to feed on a budget!
- Food Freedom: I don’t want to feel like a slave to an unrealistic food regime.
Fighting the Flab: Plan of Attack
I started by making changes with my food choices and portion sizes – nothing outrageous or new, but sustainable for me. After all, the best diet for optimal health is the one that is manageable.
I drink 1.5L – 2L every day…Full Stop. No excuses.
I sometimes replace my afternoon sugar craving with a protein shake (no you won’t get fat with a protein shake if you put the right stuff in it!). I use coconut water, avocado (the good fat in the avocado helps the body breakdown any sugar from the added fruit and also adds a creamy texture), frozen blueberries, (never bananas because they are way too high in sugar), spinach, cucumber, lime, whatever is green and in my fridge.
(& sometimes I just eat chocolate biscuits, it’s all about balance!)
Probably my smallest meal of the day and always consists of a salad with the superfoods broccoli & cauliflower. It usually doesn’t take much to fill me up by dinner time.
I aim to have eaten dinner by no later than 7pm (unless we’re going out or having friends over).
The real game changer for me?
Overnight fasting for 14 hours:
I try and fast most nights for 14 hours, or longer if I can. For example, if I finish dinner at 7pm I won’t eat again before 9am and I’ll try and push it to 10am if I’m not too hungry. This is not usually difficult because my mornings are spent waking up too late and then rushing to get the kids organised and off to school!
Some weeks I’ll only do it 3-4 times a week but I am trying to do 5-6 nights every week. If we go out for dinner or invite people over then all bets are off and I eat what I want until whatever time I want!
Like I said in the beginning, I want an enjoyable lifestyle not a restricted one where I feel like I’m being punished for sins I committed on my body in my 20’s!!
I’m not going to launch into a full-on scientific literature review on all the benefits of fasting but here are the main reasons I choose to do it – from my own experience and research.
- For me, intermittent fasting helps with my cravings, mood, and (my husband thinks this one is debatable!) memory.
- Research also shows it improves blood sugar levels, decreases inflammation in the body, decreases risk of cancer and heart disease, and may help with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Obviously it helps with my weight management too! After you eat, your body starts and then stays in its fed state while absorbing and digesting the food. This can last four to five hours after you begin eating. During that time your insulin levels are high and so your body does not burn fat. When your body is done processing the the food, it can now begin to burn fat because insulin levels are low. This is when the body enters a fasting state, after 12-14 hours, which is the ideal for fat burning.
I’m not perfect, far from it!
I have good days, bad days and horrendous days. But I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. I figure that as long as I am winning more than I’m losing then the flab will stay away.
I don’t need to look like a ripped fitness buff – I just want to be comfortable in my clothes and feel good.
In addition, exercise is obviously an important part of maintaining a healthy body too. That’s not rocket science, I know, that you already know that! You can check out my exercise post here on A Real Mum’s Guide to Exercise for a relaxed approach to this.
Remember, every day that you open your eyes and wake up, is a new beginning – thankfully!
Please leave a comment and let me know if this has been helpful or if you have some ideas to add from your experience!
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Note: I encourage you to do your own research before starting any kind of new diet, including fasting. I haven’t mentioned supplements / health tonics because thats personal – I research everything like that before it goes into my body because good marketers do not make for good scientists & that takes energy! So unless I know I am deficient in something, I try and get what I need from my diet.