The image above was no more true for me than on Sunday afternoon, when I was at an actual child’s birthday party with a mild hangover. While 20 little pirates played in the garden, this little mummy made about 20 shameless trips to the food table, scooping handfuls of cheesy balls as she went. That, and a smattering of mini sausage rolls, washed down with coffee. Kids party snacks make the perfect morning after food. Until the point where you overdose on orange chemicals and need to go and lie down in a darkened room.
Urgh. The recovery time for drinking too much and eating crap food is so much longer in your forties. You might think it so in your 30s, but really, you have no idea. And it’s only going to get tougher as we go on, let’s face it. There’s a reason your granny just takes a small sherry. The forties are the clean-up time, if you’re lucky to make it this far. I reckon it’s the decade where you set up your health for the proceeding decades. Sure, the big diseases might get you anyway, but why make it easier for them?
Well…mainly because we like things that are bad for us: wine, cake, cheesy balls. Or at least I do. I know there are super zen happy, healthy, fit people out there, but I struggle to be one of them. I don’t think preferring raw kale and green tea to beer and sausages is an innate quality, so it is technically possible that I could turn into one. Doubtful, but never say never.
The worst bit of it is that is becomes so much harder to lose weight. Not just an excuse but true: our metabolism slows down in the forties and life stuff like kids, ageing parents and stress get in the way. It’s handily summarised in this article which suggests we mid lifers need to eat 100 calories less a day, just to maintain a healthy weight, never mind shift the flab. We also need to be active, but that’s hardly rocket science. And yep, it’s harder for woman, from hormones and the way we store fat cells. If we don’t follow this advice, our weight gradually creeps up, year by year.
Sigh. This is me. My diet isn’t too bad, and I usually manage not to drink during the week – Thursday doesn’t count, right? But I’m not consciously trying to reduce the amount I eat, just eat more healthy things and go to the gym as much as I can. Sadly, this approach is not really working to de-blobify my belly.
And then life gets in the way. Wee boy breaks his arm, so juggling childcare and hospital appointments cuts into gym time. When he’s staying with me, he creeps into my bed in the middle of the night and cuddles me with an arm encased in heavy, scratchy plaster. I am so tired that on the free days, I can’t get up for the gym and instead, huddle in my duvet for as long as possible. I am so tired that I can’t be bothered to cook except for him, instead I eat rubbish late at night.
It’s not a sob story. We all get like this from time to time. Life is tough, so we want to improve our mood, release the happy chemicals, easily taking comfort from a bar of chocolate and a box set. No-one ever got that kind of pleasure from a carrot. At least, not in the way that nature intended.
Sometimes these periods can last longer than we mean them to. In my case, I’ve had the death of my mother and marriage separation in the last two years. These are not excuses, but they are big things. There’s a bit of discombobulation going on. A bit of crazy time. Probably a bit too much of letting the hair down at weekends, acting like an overgrown teenager. Woman, interrupted.
This time last year, I was panicking about the impending Spartan Race, worrying that I wasn’t training enough or eating well enough. But it stopped me from tipping completely over the edge of fat-dom. This year, I don’t have such a goal, except for becoming a much better tango dancer, which is some incentive, particularly when I see other willowy and elegant dancers. Okay, I’m never going to be willowy, but nobody loves a chubby tango dancer. Worst of all, I don’t even have the possibility of anyone seeing me naked to put the diet fear in me. Double sigh…
What’s the point of all this navel gazing? Well, I’m coming to the conclusion that, contrary to popular wisdom, for some of us having a goal to work towards doesn’t really work. After all, I was panicking about the Spartan race, but not panicking so hard that I gave up crisps and went to the gym five times a week.
Right now, at this point in time, I know that I want to lose weight and get healthier, physically and mentally. But it needs to be in a kind way, where I don’t beat myself up about it. I am secretly hoping that by not focusing on it too much, I can lose weight by stealth. For example, I suspect that if I drink a glass of water instead of eating, every time I think I want a snack, I can lose quite a bit. So yes, some mindfulness about food is required, but not cutting out food groups, obsessive calorie counting or weighing food.
It probably won’t work. But I’m not so fussed. I’m not bothered about being a mad ninja in the gym right now, just feeling better. I’m not bothered about being skinny, I just want to fit all my clothes. For people that are a little bit crazy, perhaps the best health goal we can have is to let all the targets go and just aim to feel good. And we won’t get that from vats of sugar laden treats. It’s a temporary high that crashes in the end. We need to learn to get our pleasure elsewhere. It might not be fast, but the tortoise does win the race.
Anyway, I’ve got time. This decade isn’t over yet. Hopefully there won’t be a fat lady singing at the end of it.
Until next time,