Empty “Next-er”: Look and Feel Amazing After 40

By Carrie Perrien Smith

After 40, we’re just trying to defy gravity and survive the day without a nap. Looking put together most days is hard enough. I’m like everyone else. I struggle with my weight, have no time to exercise, and feel like a truck hit me too many mornings. I have more to do than I will accomplish in a lifetime. However, I’m always learning ways to improve the quality of the hours that slip through my hands faster each day. Here are five basics that will help you look amazing and extend your quality time:

Look polished on the outside

It doesn’t take much to put a spark in our external appearance. An updated, flattering, lifestyle-appropriate hairstyle can improve our self-esteem. And just investing in one or two quality pieces of clothing perfect for your personal style and body type freshens up your wardrobe.

You must own a copy of How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp. I made the investment at the recommendation of Mary Bourland, MD, FACS of Mercy Health System. Mary’s a rock-star heart surgeon, but she is also all about helping people prevent a visit to her office and feel better about themselves. You can buy the book through whatever bookseller is still in business. It provides options for everyone, whether they want to invest a lot of time and money or just a little.

Get enough sleep

I finally reached that age where I can no longer wait to sleep until I’m dead. When I hit the wall, I learned that I invited adrenal fatigue into my life. I bet my life looked like yours: deadlines, late nights, early mornings, and three times more to-do items than I could realistically handle. I lived for that final burst of adrenalin I got at 10 p.m. so I could accomplish a little more.

Like our cave girl ancestors, we are programmed with “fight or flight,” but it doesn’t mean we should abuse it. We need to conserve our ability to activate our adrenal glands’ super powers to help us leap tall buildings in a single bound at a moment’s notice.

Push your body to the limit for too long, and it will eventually push back. Unfortunately, you can’t rebuild it overnight once you hit the wall. Our bodies need rest. Expert opinions vary, but here are the basics: get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, and go to bed before 10 p.m.

Nurture your muscles and bones

At this age, your body devours the bone and muscle mass you built during your youth. Unless you have an active job like working in a restaurant, you probably aren’t getting enough exercise to rebuild what you lose. Michael Maline, DO, an orthopedic surgeon with Northwest Health System says, “Women over 60 need two hours a day of weight-training and weight-bearing exercise.” Whatever that number is for women ages 40 to 60, I’m sure we struggle to do enough.

Besides building muscle and bone mass, moving around causes your body to release chemicals that increase energy, heal itself, and improve your mood. Move around outside for at least 15 minutes in the sunshine, and you’ll get the dose of Vitamin D you need to make your calcium intake work better. Never mind the fact that looking better, standing taller, and feeling stronger will improve your self-image. I used to feel sorry for my mom standing on her feet for hours as a Walmart cashier, but now I realize she is getting exercise she needs to stay active and healthy.

Feed yourself right

When you eat right, your skin is radiant and your body functions and feels better. By the time you stare 40 in the face, your body is slowing down and performing differently. Feel free to blame it on anything, but here’s the truth: our body becomes less able as we age to adapt to all the crud we put in it. It is like an aquarium. If the chemistry is wrong, fish become diseased. Sick, weak fish can’t handle the stress so they die.

We are designed to run on water and unrefined foods that occur in nature. Most of us can’t pronounce the chemicals in today’s typical diet. I started experiencing symptoms that doctors typically write a prescription for during their seven-minute patient contact visit. I sought a doctor who could find the cause. I wanted more than a prescription that could cause a side effect that required another prescription. He listened and suspected food allergies or sensitivities.

He was right. We learned I shouldn’t eat foods like beef, chicken, gluten, corn, and some food additives. When I behave myself and avoid those foods, I don’t struggle with things like exhaustion, constant hunger pains, gastrointestinal discomfort, erratic emotions, or those pesky night sweats that plague women of a certain age. If you have symptoms that you could live without, empower yourself and do some research before you ask the doctor. The more you know before you go, the better the doctor can help you.

Stop whining and making excuses

Whining and excuses waste your energy. No matter how miserable a situation is, someone else is probably dealing with adversity that makes yours look like a walk in the park. Sure, I feel like posting on Facebook about my backache. Then I remember a high school friend whose spine is disintegrating due to an early onset of osteoporosis. I suddenly feel grateful my back is as healthy as it is. Make a list of five things you are grateful for each day, and you’ll find yourself smiling more and looking more radiant. People will want what you’ve got.

You are influential

When we abuse our body, we lose it. You influence your family, friends, and community. You have wisdom to share. Someday there will be young people in your life who wish they had a little more quality time with you. Take care of yourself so that you look and feel amazing. We need you to influence the world for as long as possible. And don’t worry; I’ll be nagging you more in upcoming posts just to remind you.

Carrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Speckles, Snappy, Jazmin, and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, community activist, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.