Our 40s were some of our most difficult years. My girlfriends and I, most of which are in our sixties, agreed on this one epiphany.
I had a partial hysterectomy at the age of 43, and within a few years, I went through some major problems. I thought it was the surgery, but I found out it was much more. There were night sweats, hot flashes, loss of hair, loss of sleep, fatigue, aching joints, constipation, and weight gain.
Some of my friends who hadn’t had a hysterectomy were going through the same thing.
I knew I was getting older, but I just wasn’t ready for this. My body changed in my 40s, and I didn’t realize that I had to make some big changes in my life to feel good again.
Good News & Bad News
I visited my general practitioner, who checked my hormones. He said he had good news and bad news. I said, “Let’s do the bad news first”. He said, “You are in menopause”. I asked if 46 was a little early, and he said yes but sometimes after a hysterectomy things just give up.
“So what is the good news,” I said. He said, “You are finished. Menopause is over.” I remember going home and telling my family. They all said that they already knew this. I hadn’t been very easy to live with.
Time to go on a Diet
I weighed almost 150 pounds in my 40s. I began to get really serious about my diet, and so I tried anything I could find. I tried the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, some sort of a carb diet, and even a diet where you could eat anything you wanted as long as you ate it in an hour. The last one was Chuck’s favorite–not. I just about ripped the face off a waitress one night, when she didn’t bring our dessert within the one-hour time limit.
You name it, and I’m pretty sure I tried it. I even tried the pills, but not more than a couple of weeks. They made me jittery as heck. I think I can safely say that my 40s will be remembered as the decade when I was always hungry.
In the meantime, my health in my 40s was going downhill fast. My cholesterol kept inching up, along with my weight. I was in an extremely stressful job, and my waist line was quickly catching up with my hips. I learned about cortisol. I read everything I could get my hands on. “Prevention” magazine replaced “Self”.
Then that Pain in my Back
Finally, I really messed up when I threw out my back. I found myself incapacitated in a world that stops for nothing. With my kids gone, my work had become my life; and now it was costing me my life. I loved what I did, but it was getting harder to do it.
So what did I finally do? I decided that I didn’t want to have back surgery, and I got really lucky because I found a doctor that didn’t believe in back surgery, unless absolutely necessary. He was a surgeon himself, but he also ran a rehab unit.
He ordered an MRI. We could see exactly where the problem was, and then he ordered physical therapy, work with a chiropractor, and a message therapist. The physical therapy was designed to rebuild the muscles I needed in my frame, and he had me work with weights.
I truly had trouble. It was very painful at first, but I got through it. It took me an entire year. In the meantime, my doctor moved away to another city, but he had given me a good head start– information and techniques that I continued to use.
Quite by accident, I found a great little book, “Treat Your Own Back” by Robin McKenzie. It is my little “back bible”. I have thrown my back out several times in the past fifteen years, but I always go back to the guidance in this book to pull me through. And each time my recovery was shorter. (By the way, it has been many years since I last threw my back out. Yoga keeps me in shape, now.)
Speaking of relapses, if I knew then in my 40s what I know now, I would have never injured my back as badly as that first time. I know exactly what to do at the first twinge of back pain. I know what that little sensation means, and I quickly moderate my movements and lifestyle. I’ve learned how to better take care of myself.
Usually, they occur because I didn’t move enough during a long trip or I had been sitting at my computer too much. I get lazy, and I forget about my problem until it bites me again.
Major Changes were Needed
Speaking of changes in lifestyle, I resigned from my job and began working in one that required less travel and offered a less stressful atmosphere. I guess I’m blessed, because the new job paid better, too. It took me over a year to make the change, but it was worth it.
In my 40s I learned to sit better, have better posture, to not lean on the arm rests, and to maintain good alignment at all times. I try not to cross my legs now. In other words, I can no longer slouch like a young person. My body doesn’t heal itself as fast, so I have to be more careful.
I hardly ever sit through a full television program. I use the commercials to get up and do something, even if it is only to wash five dishes. The point is not to get something done, but to get up and move. I try not to sit in the same chair all the time.
My chiropractor helped in the beginning, but I’ve learned what not to do to help me stay in alignment. I bet I haven’t seen my chiropractor five times in the past ten years.
I rely on yoga for my exercise and weight work. I go for a one-hour session twice a week. Core work is vital to my overall health now.
I learned that if I pull something or if something is aching, I ice it down. Most likely, it is inflammation; and ice works best. I do like warm to hot baths, though; but I now only use them to relieve stress or when I ache.
By my 50s I was Back to Normal
I got my weight back to a good 135 lbs using Jenny Craig. They taught me portion control mostly. I have some dishes from my mother’s everyday set of dishes, and her dinner dish is the size of today’s salad plate. So I eat on a salad plate, the size of a plate that my Dad used for most of his adult life.
Plus, it is amazing how much food is pushed at us every day. I can make three meals out of the portions many restaurants currently serve.
I can eat almost anything as long as I always watch my portions, but I don’t eat anything I want. Again, I had to realize that my body changed. I learned about fiber, and I started eating a lot of vegetables and fruit (at least five a day). I really developed a taste for vegetables. I love them! And a piece of fruit is like eating candy. Everything is sweeter since I learned to limit my sugar intake.
Speaking of sugar I gave up two loves of my life: Coca-Cola and Sweet Iced Tea. I transitioned to Diet Coke and unsweetened tea with lemon and Splenda. Honestly, that was the first change I made, and I lost 8 pounds.
I try to eat protein at every meal. I eat mostly chicken, fish, and seafood, but every once in a while I love a good steak (about the size of a deck of cards). I try to keep it under 6 oz.
I love bread, but I save my bread calories for whole grain bread. If it isn’t whole grain, I don’t eat it (this one is still really hard for me.) I also try to eat one carb at every meal. It always keeps me from getting hungry. My carb portion is always meager and is a whole food (a small potato, brown rice, etc.) I try to stay away from creamy sauces.
I transitioned to whole foods. I went back to whole milk and full fat cheeses. My doctor explained that our bodies need fat and to steer away from no fat or very low fat. I do not have heart disease. I sincerely believe that if I cannot eat breakfast, I can at least drink a glass of whole milk. Milk is full of nutrients and has enough fat content to give me the protein and fat I need to keep me from getting hungry. Skim or even 1% doesn’t give me that.
I try to eat an egg every morning with a piece of whole grain toast, a small glass of whole milk and some fruit. I never skip a meal, but if I did it certainly wouldn’t be breakfast. It gets my metabolism going for a good calorie burn all day long. I believe it is vital to maintaining a good weight.
I take some supplements for what I lack. I worry about Vitamin D and calcium, though I get most of my calcium from my foods now. (I later learned that I was Vitamin D deficient, and my doctor prescribed 10,000 iu a day). You can read about what my doctor prescribes here.
What If I Fail
Do I fall off the wagon? Oh dear, yes; but I always try to climb right back up on it, if not the next meal, the beginning of the next day. I went on a cruise last fall and it took me until spring to get back to normal. It was hard to do during the holidays.
I almost never step on the scales, but I let my clothes give me guidance. I never buy a larger size; and when my slacks are too tight or my bra cuts into me, I get real serious.
Usually, that means, no bread, no alcohol, and no dessert. Otherwise, I stay to one alcholic drink a day in keeping with current instructions from the medical establishment.
By the way, dessert is a thin slice or about a half cup portion. It is really just a taste; but once you get used to it, it works. Another way is to allow yourself just one good dessert a week. I save mine for a really yummy one, made from scratch. And no cheating with a frappecino from Starbucks.
At 60 I was 5’4″ and weighed 135 pds. I wore a size 8, and I have for about fifteen years now. My measurements are 38, 30, 39. Not exactly 36, 26, 36; but hey, I’m 60. If I go below 133, I don’t look good. My face is gaunt, and I don’t exactly feel good either. I got down to 128 with Jenny Craig, but that was way too low.
I seldom ache now. I have no trouble with constipation. I feel good, and that is the best barometer of all.
My 40s were full of bad moments, but the good news is that you finally figure it out and your 50s get much, much better.
Even better? Several of my friends in their late 60s tell me that their 60s are the best of all. I’m just now 60, so another chapter begins! Wish me luck!
How were your 40s compared to your earlier or later decades? What changes did you have to make? What did you find that worked for you?