I have been asked to speak to a group of women about one of my favorite topics. . . NUTRITION. I know some of you may not get that, but I love the topic! I read, research and re-read any fitness, nutrition, and well-being material that comes my way. I have said it before, and I preface here, I am NOT a nutritionist . . . I just play one at home. (Shhh, don't tell my children). I have a secret desire to go back to school to obtain the credentials so I can say that I truly AM a nutritionist, but with a journalism degree and a law degree I think my family would hit the road if I were to begin classes now. And, while my husband is most generous, if we had one more tuition payment coming from this household, he might just flip.
That being said, I go back to this topic and as I am no degreed expert, I do have 20 plus years reading, studying and experimenting on myself. Hopefully, thata counts for something. As I put together my thoughts on where to go with this huge topic, I know it's all been said. There are more books, magazines, websites, blogs, etc. out there than ever. (I know because I am a sucker for all of them!). I think we all know WHAT to do to be healthy and HOW to remain healthy. I am merely offering reinforcement (like the nagging voice in your head) on making healthy choices and habits.
I have looked at some of the fitness blogs out there (and WOW are there a lot of them!) and noticed that many are written by those young women who have not yet reached that all-empowering age of 40. This post is specifically for all of the 40's out there. However, if you are a youngster and have happened upon this post, don't let it frighten you away! It's advice we all need, and you can store for later! So, while I might not be sharing anything earth-shatteringly new with you, maybe even just one nugget will resonate with you and will be that nagging voice in your head prodding you to make the healthy, nutritious choice. . .
First of all, I look at nutrition as NURTURING your body. I warn you, I tend to get a bit "preachy" here so bear with me. I feel so strongly about this it might just come off a bit fanatical. I have said before that I come from really bad genes. Therefore, I am at a health disadvantage just by being born! So, I have to climb up the ladder to even begin where most of you are naturally. Our bodies truly are our temples. We have one chance with them and they are such gifts. Each physical act we can accomplish is a gift to be appreciated, acknowledged and NOT taken for granted. As women and mothers we are used to nurturing all of those around and putting ourselves in the backseat. This is not the time to take a backseat by ignoring health. This is the time to take charge, nurture your body by filling it with good, healthy foodstuffs. Unhealthy eating habits are not an option - not for a healthy, happy, quality life.
(I will get off of the soap box now, but I know you get it.)
MAKE HEALTHY HABITS. Some folks say it takes two weeks to form a habit. Based on my experience, or maybe it's based on being over 40, I say it takes three weeks to form a good habit. That is not a long time for the reward of feeling good, feeling strong and energized and receiving "good marks" at your yearly check-up. For me, eating right has been a lifelong journey. Growing up I don't think I ever saw my mother sit down and eat a breakfast or a lunch. She was a constant snacker. Therefore, guess what I became? A constant snacker. Bad. I have to make a choice each morning to eat something healthy for breakfast and to prepare a balanced lunch (or snack big enough to pass as lunch). It is very easy for me to not plan ahead, become starving and want to grab a snack here and there to get me through. If, and when, that happens, who knows how many calories I consume? It is extremely important to plan meals and snacks so you are prepared and can have a healthy choice on hand at the appropriate time. (ie, eat breakfast!) Plan what you will eat, make it with real food, and sit down to enjoy it as often as you can. That is a good healthy habit worth making.
FOCUS ON WHOLE, PLANT-BASED FOODS. I tell my boys that if it doesn't have a mother it is not a whole food. (i.e. Spicy Cheetoes do NOT have a mama!) Fill your plate with fruits and leafy green vegetables, the more colorful the better. Also, include fiber filling WHOLE grains, beans and legumes that will keep you feeling full and away from the pantry for snacks. Eat PROTEIN, but not too much! Too much animal-based protein will store as fat - eek! Not what we 40ish ladies want. Get your CALCIUM. Women are recommended 400 -1200 mg/day. I am not a milk drinker so I take a calcium supplement daily and eat Salmon weekly. Beans, broccoli, kale, and collard greens also do the trick. (When I have my Green Smoothie made with Kale I feel really Calciumed). VITAMIN D is also essential. In the South I feel as if I get 15 minutes of sunlight daily, but if not a supplement might be helpful.
CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE. Did I really say that? Say it isn't so! Studies show that women who have more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk for osteoporosis and breast cancer. Caffeine also increases the loss of calcium. Also, if you are experiencing the dreaded menopause, both of these can contribute to hot flashes, as does SUGAR and WHITE FLOUR products. So, there goes the sugar cookies and white rice and pastas. That's okay, though, as those things really bring on bloating and that's not pretty either. In following this tip, I try to avoid alcohol during the week and by then all I can handle is a couple of glasses of wine anyway, so the low tolerance makes it pretty easy. As for the caffeine, I must admit that I LOVE that first cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes it is the only thing that gets me out of bed. I have given up coffee in the past, but have come to realize that it just makes me too happy, and if that is my only vice then so be it. It is usually my only caffeine of the day as I don't drink soft drinks. One to two cups of coffee is a good thing - but let's try to keep it at that. If the alcohol, caffeine or sugar (or ALL three) are your downfall, then I have good news for you. Here is where the three week rule comes in! If you can cut back for three weeks you will have developed a nice, healthy habit! Just thinking about how much better you will feel makes me happy!
HYDRATE. Need I say more? You all know this! Drink lots of water every day! In fact, drink half of your body weight (in ounces) every day. For more on this refer to "Thirsty Thursday" in an earlier non-blog. For every diet drink, (which actually makes you crave more sugar), iced tea (especially here in the South) or other carbonated or sugar laden drink you consume, replace it with water. I carry a bottle of water with me wherever I go. Of course, I have to scope out the nearest restroom in all places, but that's okay, too. If you don't like water or are sick of it that's just no excuse. Add sliced lemon, lime or orange to your water. There are also lots of zero and low calorie mixes that you can add to give the water some spark. Your wallet, waistline, heart, and sugar levels will all thank you!
Remember, we aren't in our 20's or 30's any longer. We cannot get away with the same old unhealthy or even half-hearted attempts at being healthy anymore. I know I cannot eat the way I did in the 20's or even in my 30's. My body is not as forgiving of empty calories, alcohol, processed foods, heavy meals and sleep deprivation. I know to feel my best and be my best I have to eat clean, real food (preferably those with Mamas), watch portions, drink lots of water and get enough sleep. Every day. I have to nurture my body. As do you.
Have I told you anything you didn't already know? Probably not. Has this been a reminder of those things you know you should be doing? I hope so. Do I sound like that annoying little voice in your head? Let's not answer that one.