The road to 40 and what no one really says about growing older

I am laid up sick on a gorgeous Sunday, for the first time in months it’s not a million degrees outside, talk about unfair! But hey, my misfortune is your good fortune since at least today I am well enough to sit up and do some writing. I probably should be writing a grant or something, but a blog post is far more fun.

Anyway it’s been about a month since I wrote about my journey to be fit for 40. January will be here before I know it and I really want to start my 4th decade off with some good habits which means unlearning 3 decades worth of shit. Really what that means is I have to learn to like exercise and physical activity, now I am not a complete slacker, I do love me some sex and that burns off calories. However unless I want to have sex for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it seems I might need something a little more than sex to keep this body healthy. I have also learned this month that while yoga has worked wonders for my mental state, it might not be nearly as wonderful for my waistline. Unless one has a crazy high metabolism, there is a school of thought that yoga can slow down one’s metabolism. At first glance I laughed but as I just finished reading William Broad’s The Science of Yoga, I can say that my own experience is that yoga has indeed slowed down my metabolism. For the past several months as I have increased my weekly sessions to keep myself calm, I have had a rather strange weight gain, nothing big but enough to wonder what the hell is happening? Turns out that since I wasn’t doing anything other than yoga, my body slowed down so much that it decided “Hey, we can’t be bothered to lose any weight and oh those sweets and wine you were having a few nights a week, we decided to sit on your midsection because we are chill!”

I am ramping up my walking game and contemplating joining a gym, while I will admit to a certain level of desire to look good, in the end it’s really about feeling good and being healthy. No matter how much I tell myself a mini spare tire isn’t bad, I know it’s not true for me.

So I am working my plan for fit at 40 but what I really want to talk about is the shit no one tells you about aging. Can we get real for a moment? For years now there has been all this talk that 40 is the new 20 or the new 30 but the truth is 40 is 40. Now I know I am still 39 but using the logic that 40 is the new 20 or 30, that would mean 39 is like the new 19 or 29 and I am sorry but my body no longer resembles the one I had at either 19 or 29.

For starters I never had the hair issues I currently have when I was 19 or 29. Now before I share, let me just say I have talked with offline friends, online gals and women in between and there is consensus that ladies as we age, we get more hair. When you are a pretty young thing, sure there is the hair on your head, eyebrows, legs and underarms that you worry about if you are one to worry about such things. I must confess when it comes to leg hair; I only worry about that shit in warm weather months. Now of course we have pubic hair removal if that’s your thing, but ladies the hair that happens as we age is scary shit.

It seems for many of us that somewhere between our mid and late 30’s, we start seeing that stray chin hair. No worries, you pluck it and go on about your business. Oh no, that’s not good enough, that one singular stray hair somehow starts procreating and one day you are looking in the mirror on your way out the door and what do you see? A fucking family of chin hairs, and if that is not bad enough, they have started visiting your neck. Then to really fuck with you, that area above your lip now has enough hair present that if you do nothing, you will look like your brother. If you are really special, you get the side face hair. Let me tell you all of a sudden, you find yourself with enough hair that you cannot ignore that shit and suddenly you are BFF’s with the waxing lady. Now if you haven’t reached this stage in your aging process, pat yourself on the back, something is headed your way. If none of it happens to you, please tell us your secrets.  The cost of keeping yourself from looking like Sasquatch’s lady love if annualized is the price of a vacation. Granted you can be one of the bold and brave and let the hair live but I am going to be honest, I am not there yet.

Which brings me to hair on your head, when the first gray strands pops up it’s cool but when a family of gray pushes out your original in my case dark brown hair, you decide to color. Well when you color it’s a commitment. Sure I could do nothing, but gray at 39 is not where I am and oh those later gray hairs are evil bitches, hard to color and even with a fabulous colorist, the color jobs don’t last as they did in your 20’s. Grays are evil!

Lastly, why is it that no one tells you that in your late 30’s and early 40’s that all the hormones sloshing around in your body will at times make you feel as if you have reprised the role of yourself at 15. Complete with pimples and a tire around the middle because unless you’re are a fitness nut, or have a kick ass metabolism, weight generally likes the middle. To add insult to injury, you have are extra hairy, you have pimples and you are graying. Never mind you might have grown up shit like kids, a partner, bills and all that jazz.

So if this shit is so common, why are we all running around saying and believing that 40 is the new 20 or 30? No it isn’t! Better yet why don’t we share this shit with each other? Why aren’t the ladies in their 50’s and 60’s telling us younger women what the real deal is? I figure the real reason sex is better for most of us as we age and that we find our true selves is that it takes some amazing inner strength to navigate our teen selves in grown up bodies, so we get confidence and great sex as a prize.

Fabulously fit for 40 and beyond…a journey in progress

Once upon a time in a life far away, I used to care a lot about both my looks and my weight. Then life smacked me upside the head and there was little time to care about such things. I eventually gained weight, took it off, kept it off and gained some of it back. Pretty much that shitty struggle many of us have. For the past several months I have been on the fence about actively doing anything about the weight, instead committing to just finding balance in my life with regards to what I eat and how I move my ass.

Yet as I slowly edge closer to 40 (less than 6 months away now) I have been in serious talks with myself about how I want to treat this temple known as my body. Frankly it depresses me to think about ever returning to Weight Watchers or any diet program. While the idea of just living a life compatible with the health at every size ideology resonates with me, after a few months of playing around with it, I must confess it simply isn’t working.

I figured this out recently when after a few months of not limiting myself in what I ate but also realizing my clothes aren’t fitting and that I feel like shit physically. Turns out carbs hate me and my daily carb fest is packing on the pounds. Also when left to my own devices and not being intentional I hate exercising, then again I was the kid who managed to fail gym in high school multiple times. I love yoga but yoga is a mental thing for me and while I am flexible as hell these days and can do all sorts of silly party tricks with my body, my body is like move me lady!

At first all this body shit was coming from a place of vanity but now it’s about living well and living long. My gene pool to be frank sucks ass. On both my mom and dad’s sides of the family, people don’t live long and it’s not just a few people. Neither of my dad’s parents lived to a ripe old age, my mom’s dad checked out at 54, and then my own mom kicked the bucket 4 days after turning 50.  None of which is exactly a winning endorsement for any expectation of a long life for me.

One common thread in my family is that none of my relatives took care of themselves. Most were overweight and affected with ailments such as diabetes and hypertension and problems that eventually morphed and claimed their lives. Looking at all the women in my family with the exception of my mom, we all share a certain build, one that predisposes us to carrying weight smack in the middle. Apparently carrying extra weight around the middle is bad.

I am going to be honest I had been mulling all this over and making some baby steps which have me seeing some results but a call last night has me now fully committed to changing my lifestyle. My aunt, my mom’s remaining sister (another sister died at 34, collapsed and died) is barely in her 50’s and suffering from congestive heart failure and it’s not looking too good. My aunt much like my mom and many other relatives who are gone now, enjoyed life, ate, drank, smoked and got merry. Now like her 2 sisters before her and a brother she is facing a premature death.

Maintaining optimal health for me is unfortunately tied to my weight, and I admit that is a hard pill to swallow. But I don’t want to end up swallowing pills on a daily basis to stay alive like most of my family so the alternative is a shift in mindset, so as I wrap up my 30’s, I am kicking off my personal quest to be fabulously fit at 40 and beyond because I want to make sure my 40’s aren’t my last full decade of life. I want to do everything possible to ensure that my kids don’t know the pain of losing me when I am still relatively young. I want to live to see my kids grow up (okay I am technically halfway there with the 20 year old) and I want to see grandbabies. I want to be the fabulous Grammy in her 70’s and beyond. So while I am not quite ready to run back to Weight Watchers or anything like that I am getting serious about this maintaining health thing.

To keep myself honest I will periodically share my journey in this space which I expect will have its ups and downs but that’s the thing about a journey. It’s a process and while in my case the end goal is important, so are the lessons I learn along the way.

For readers 40 and beyond, I would love to know if you made any lifestyle changes as you got older that you never would have considered when you were younger?