People often ask me how I do it – here I am chatting about eating all this good food and I’m married to a French chef who cooks cream sauces and chocolate cakes, and yet I look slender and fit. I decided it was high time I let everyone in on my secret.
The title says it all, but I will explain in more detail.
I am blessed with good genes: I’m 6 feet tall and I have a slender build, coming from both my mom’s Celtic side and my dad’s Scandinavian side. Thankfully, good health has also been a state I have enjoyed so far in life (almost any time I’ve spent in hospital has been to visit someone else). I don’t have any food allergies, and I have lived a largely middle class life.
I was brought up in an environment that encouraged me to be confident, to know that I was special and beautiful and capable – even in my teenage years when I didn’t feel those things were possible (just like most people, especially girls). As a result, I feel pretty good about my body and I like it when I am feeling fit and healthy, and attractive. A healthy dose of vanity is a great motivator against the feelings of wanting to be a couch potato during a Canadian winter or after having been dumped by a boyfriend or on a day when one just feels “blah”.
(This is where you’re going to either chuckle or snigger in disgust…) The occasional cream puff, or scoop of double chocolate Haagen-Daaz, or extra handful of popcorn or Cheezies is not only a reasonable guilt-free indulgence in my book, it’s essential to the balance in one’s life. I am of the opinion that diets do no good at all when undertaken as a sole method of weight loss or fitness improvement. If you want to lose weight, start first by looking at your portion sizes. Exercise and diet need to go hand in hand if you expect to achieve a lifestyle change; crash dieting, like cramming for an exam, very rarely helps you achieve success.
Now that I have given you some background, I will offer my two cents on how I have managed to keep up with a fitness regime in my 50’s.
First, deal with your background:
- if you didn’t get lucky with good genes, give yourself a break – don’t expect to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, and don’t feel bad about it. We aren’t all supposed to look like one vision of “beautiful”.
- SIDE NOTE: if you are supporting someone who is on this journey, remember that compliments have huge impact. Remind them what they are doing is worth it, tell them they are looking good.
- if you aren’t feeling up to be vain, try faking it at first. No really, just trust in yourself and think of your goal (looking and feeling attractive and strong). Consider a bit of vanity as a reward for your work so far – you might not have that six-pack yet, but you will!
- if you’re afraid to break a diet or indulge, find a happy medium. Maybe food isn’t where you indulge, but rather a bit of shopping – new make-up? a night at the movies? a good book? You need to feel that there is a balance between the work you’re doing to improve yourself and the rewards of doing that work.
- SIDE NOTE: cue the support network again! Friends and relatives, you are the cheerleaders that help us keep up the good work. It’s easy to make a resolution and get through that first few sessions at the gym or running or whatever. We need your help to keep going for the long term.
Next, set yourself up for success. You need to find something that will work for you, and you need to remember we are all human – there are times when this will be tough. The secret is this:
Find a reason that makes your self-improvement a priority for the long term in your life – why would you keep doing this, what would make you feel like doing this on a bad day?
Sometimes the reason is dramatic – people can start a fitness regime because they know someone who suffered from not being fit. (It’s like not smoking because you know someone who died of lung cancer.) Other times it is more simple – people can just decide that their own sense of wellness is a top priority. (I think this is easier to justify the older we get.) Basically you need to want to be healthy MORE than wanting to go overboard on any unhealthy habits.
I will leave you with all those thoughts for tonight, and I’ll post my Top Ten Tips for Staying Fit & Healthy tomorrow. Even if you don’t jump on the bandwagon for this kind of lifestyle, perhaps this one idea will inspire you…
Insert a bit of good health each day with seven options (try each one at least once a week):
- Make salad for dinner, with whatever vegetables and/or fruit you want but only one kind of protein as an ingredient.
- Walk the dog or the kids for 30 minutes. (If you don’t have a dog or kids and can’t borrow any, put your earbuds in and play 30 minutes of music while you walk.)
- Eat breakfast sitting down – a meal consisting of a glass of water and a glass of juice or coffee or tea, some protein (peanut butter or yogurt or cheese or eggs or quinoa porridge are all good), and some fibre (from fruits or whole grains).
- Drink 6 -8 glasses of water (8 ounces or 250 mL each). Don’t count any other kind of liquid in this total.
- Eat fruit or veggies with every meal you have.
- Spend 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening doing some light stretches and deep breathing (e.g. roll your head down towards your toes and hang there for a few breaths, stretch side to side, etc.)
- Give yourself a break – have an ice cream, or take a day off your workout regime… it’s okay to just enjoy the day and the company.