It's hard to imagine I've been over 40 for almost a decade! I can't say I feel 49—what does that even feel like, really?
Each of us has a different experience depending on how we cared for ourselves as well as how life has unfolded for us. For me, there are three keys to aging gracefully and living radiantly: maintain a positive mindset, have a healthy lifestyle, and set goals often.
1. Maintain a Positive Mindset
Our minds tell us that we can do it or that we can't. The mind can set us up for success or failure. As we age, the goal should be to become wiser and capable of handling more, and in some cases that's true; however, some people start to second-guess themselves—they talk themselves out of doing something they love or starting something new because of their age.
When I was turning 40, I competed in the WBFF World Championships. I did not consider that many of the girls would be younger than me—some much younger—or that I had not won a professional show in 12 years. I just stepped out with courage knowing that I could achieve a new goal and that my work ethic and dedication would suffice.
I rose to the challenge and ended up winning the 2010 WBFF World Figure Pro Championships. I ended up with five magazine covers.
That's why having the right mindset is key number 1. It's what helps determine our actions, and actions produce clarity. Recently, I had a phone consultation with a 52-year-old competitor who hasn't been onstage in a handful of years. Her first question was, "Do you think I can do it again?"
I loved that question! I was like a cheerleader as I answered, "Yes! Of course, you can!" It's always a blessing when we can encourage someone else toward the positive.
2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Having a healthy lifestyle is like building a house. You need a strong and correct foundation first, then framing, electrical, and plumbing can go in. If the walls went up first or the foundation wasn't finished correctly, the house would start shifting and would be impossible to finish.
When it comes to constructing your lifestyle and health plan, the main elements that keep the house from crumbling are nutrition and hydration, sleep, exercise, and stress management.
Nutrition and Hydration
This is one of the most important factors, but it's also the hardest to maintain. The type of training I did for many years as a full-time professional competitor called for eating lots of calories every day, sometimes up to 2,500. Over the past eight years, since I stopped competing, my lifestyle and training needs have changed, so I have made some adjustments to my nutrition.
Implementing intermittent fasting and a keto-style food plan has helped me maintain my desired weight, muscle balance, energy and clear thinking, and a healthy digestive tract. Intermittent fasting means you don't have any calories for an extended period every day. Depending on my exercise plan for the day, I will skip breakfast and fast for 14-18 hours most days.
Some days I use a keto eating option where I take in only healthy fats and no carbs. For instance, I'll have organic green tea, water, Kerrygold butter, organic coconut oil, avocados, raw or dry roasted nuts and nut butters, whole eggs, and a good, grass-fed ribeye steak. Other days I'll eat more normally, including healthy carbs. I like to mix it up!
These two lifestyle changes have produced a freedom from food for me and my clients that I didn't know I would enjoy as much as I have. I have appreciated being able to reduce my calories or not eat at all if I am in a fasting window. This has allowed me more control over my food rather than my food controlling me, and that is a huge bonus!
By the way, these styles of eating aren't just for 40-plus individuals. Almost anyone can enjoy the benefits (aside from pregnant women and young children).
This is a broad topic and obviously different for everyone. I encourage you to find something you love to do and can do regularly. The key is to increase your heart rate and expand your lungs with heavy breathing from intense exercise. You also want to sweat—and I mean sweat! The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it needs to be able to remove toxins and cleanse itself, which happens when you sweat.
Sleep is almost more important than nutrition, and people over 40 should try to get 6-8 hours of sleep daily. We can survive a little while without food, depending on our body structure and how much stored body fat we carry, but sleep deprivation can have a drastic and immediate effect on bodily functions, besides how terrible we feel!
Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive impairments, irritability, delusions, paranoia, and psychosis, not to mention losing the ability to control hunger due to the hormone leptin. When you don't get enough sleep, you end up with too little leptin, which can result in a constant feeling of hunger, overeating, and a general slowdown of your metabolism.
Keeping stress in check is important to maintaining, well, everything! We develop stress from poor nutrition, dehydration, lack of sleep, too much exercise, negative thinking, and cheap, toxic supplements, which can cause greater stress on the body's tissues.
As I have gotten older, I've discovered that my stress levels remain lower when I keep those factors in check. The best ways for me to lower stress are by limiting the promises I make to others, not overloading my schedule, spending time with family and friends (and my sweet dogs), and building and renewing my spirit through prayer and attending my church regularly.
3. Set a Goal
I find it extremely important to have a goal, even if it's only one per year. The goal should be something that motivates and inspires you. It can be a small goal or a large goal, but it should be relatively realistic and not so farfetched that it's unattainable.
Goals provide strength, especially in your mindset. They allow you to feel satisfied and content when you accomplish them, which in turn fuels your desire for more. Accomplished goals can also inspire and motivate others, and helping others is truly life changing!
Want to know how to set goals and achieve them? Here are the steps:
- Decide what you really want to achieve. Don't be concerned about what others want for you.
- Set specific goals—then write them down.
- Make sure your goal is measurable.
- Make sure it is realistic and grounded in what you can achieve.
- Create a realistic schedule to take you there.
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