As I set out on my latest speaking tour (I give talks about finding meaning in our work), I'm thinking ahead to what I'll need to bring. Not just my speech and copies of my new book ("Ripe: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50"), but the food I'll have to pack, too.
My relationship to food was once relatively straightforward. As a child, it was meat, potatoes, and two vegetables (thanks, mum!). As my palette matured, I tried all kinds of things. Spicy? Bring it on! Octopus, rabbit, smelly cheese? Why not? And I even swerved a few times into the "ism" of the day, like vegetarianism, when my first husband and I lived on a farm in the 1970s -- though our friends did have a cow they called "Hamburger."
But when I crossed into my 50s, my body started demanding an entirely new regimen. We're not talking preferences but essentials. If I don't eat in this new way, my brain doesn't work, I get mood swings, and rapidly gain weight (thanks, Michael Pollan, for trying to simplify things, but your approach doesn't work for me. Bread? Yikes!).
What do I eat? When the rest of my friends are devouring oatmeal for breakfast, I'm diving into fish and blueberries (yep, just like a bear). When my friends order take-out pizza for movie night (so healthy with thin crust and just a little cheese!), I arrive with baked chicken and steamed vegetable in a cute little container. When others have a martini, I ask for still water (the expensive, fancy bottled stuff!). When they're having dessert, I'm eating a square of 90 percent chocolate that I brought in my handbag.
Though it feels like it sometimes, I know I'm not the only one who now eats outside the norm. For us, it's not about deprivation or ideology, but about giving our bodies and brains what they need to thrive.
Wondering what I'll take on the road? Nuts, raw vegetables and a brand of snack bar that works for me (I won't plug it, but it's taken me years of trial and error to find one that gets me through when the only airport options are muffins, pretzels and dill pickles.)
Sometimes, lying in bed late at night, I make a mental list of all the things I once loved and can no longer consume -- like champagne, frites and blueberry pie. In "I Feel Bad About My Neck," humorist Nora Ephron advised young women -- who have no idea how great they look and how short-lived their youthful beauty will be -- to immediately put on their bikinis. My advice to everyone under 50 is to eat all the hot sauce and tortilla chips you can get your hands on... because it may be your last chance.
OK, HuffPost-ers, what do you eat now that you're over 50? Do you have food habits others consider strange? Does your new way of eating make life difficult when you're eating with others or traveling? And what about you, restaurateurs and innkeepers? Is it more complicated than ever to meet the needs of your clientele?
Julia Moulden is an author, speaker, and columnist.
The "Ripe" countdown begins today! My new book will be launched in just a few weeks. Watch for the first column about "Ripe: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50" -- a 12-week course in discovering passion, purpose, and possibility at midlife.
Follow Julia Moulden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juliamoulden