Lose weight, start an exercise program, stop smoking, read more, do more, save more, spend less ... It seems that as soon as that clock strikes midnight on December 31, we're eager to get started on reinventing ourselves. It's as much of a holiday ritual as trimming the tree or lighting the Menorah.
How about if we try things just a little differently this year: Instead of waiting until January 1 to start beating ourselves up about all the things we didn't do, but should have done, why not accept and love ourselves for who we are, cut ourselves some slack, enjoy this glorious holiday season, and just incorporate these simple, sustainable things into our lives, starting today?
The most important lessons I learned when researching and interviewing experts for my book are these: it's the small, simple changes that can have a big impact and ... It's never too late.
Here are the top 10 things you can do right now:
- Stop Dieting and Start Eating: Eat more, exercise less and going through menopause is a recipe for packing on the pounds. The first thing we normally do when we start to gain weight is go on a diet. But don't, because most of us have a 10 percent chance of being successful. Why? Diets don't work, but eating good food -- and eating often -- do. Eat something healthy (whole grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens like kale, beans, very lean meats) every two to three hours -- in smaller portions -- throughout the day, and you won't be hungry, your blood sugar level will be even, and you will lose weight. Try switching from "white" (flour, pasta, potatoes) to whole grains, sweet potatoes and whole wheat pasta. Don't deny yourself dessert. Just get back on track right after.
- Buy a Pedometer and Start Walking: Walking 10,000 steps (roughly five miles) every day is a highly effective way to lose weight and keep it off. You will burn calories, strengthen your lower body, exercise your heart and it makes you feel really good. For most of us, our daily routine doesn't include 10,000 steps. We have to make a concerted effort to get out there and walk. Need a few ideas? Get a dog, walk around your house when you're on the phone, walk to and from work, park further away from the mall. If you can, add gentle running into your walking. For details on how to get started, click here.
- Get Back to Basics to Strengthen Your Muscles: The other part of the fitness equation is strength training. You need to strengthen your muscles, so that you can do simple things like open a jar, climb the stairs, push yourself up if you fall and keep osteoporosis at bay, for many years to come. The added benefit is that you'll improve the tone and look of your arms, trim your waistline and firm your body. The recommended program consists of push-ups, sit-ups, squats and "the plank," and when done in rotation for less than 15 minutes a day, your body will get a complete and total workout. No gym, no trainer, just you and your yoga mat. For details on the exercises, click here.
- Simple Skin Care Solutions: We're the generation that baked in the sun with baby oil mixed with iodine slathered on our skin, and then held a reflector up to our faces. Many of us are now paying the price with wrinkles, brown spots and, in extreme cases, skin cancer. The good news is, it's not too late to reverse some of the damage, and we don't need to spend a lot of money. The experts I interviewed for The Best of Everything After 50 suggested a simple program: exfoliate (I use a little bit of white sugar on my body and face); moisturize; restore with an antioxidant (a cream that contains coffee berry is very effective); and protect with sunscreen. For every day, use an inexpensive moisturizer that has an SPF of 40 or higher. In the cold winter months, add a tiny bit of olive oil for extra moisture. At night, apply a pea-size of a retinol product to help smooth fine lines and even out skin tone. If you're doing more than this, you're doing too much.
- When It Comes to Makeup, Less is More: Pare down what you put on your face, and you'll look fresher, more modern and prettier. Here's how to look fab in five minutes or less: Apply a little primer, which helps to keep the skin smooth; add a small amount of foundation where needed; blush around the cheekbones; keep eyeliner very thin and follow your natural eyelash line; black mascara on the upper lashes only; use a neutral eye shadow and bring it slightly above your crease; stick with pinkish tones for lips and apply a few dots of pearly highlighter under the brows, above the cheekbones and at the inside corner of eyes. Done.
- Change Your Hair Routine: After years of blow-drying, highlighting, and other forms of abuse, do you even know what your hair is anymore? Throw out the blow-dryer, and get a cut that will enhance your hair's natural texture and shape. Use shampoo only once a week (without sulfates), and just water and conditioner on the other days. If you color your hair, consider highlights/lowlights instead of single process, or letting some gray come in. With time, the health of your hair will improve, and you'll be freeing your hair to be what it was meant to be.
- Own Your Sex Life: Don't think just because you're over 50, it's time to lock this particular door and throw away the key. Sex can be better than ever after 50. For most of our lives we've been having sex for a reason: to procreate. Now, we no longer have a goal, and there's no risk of getting pregnant, so sex is something we can do for sheer pleasure. Don't let physical symptoms associated with menopause stop you from enjoying it. There are over the counter remedies that can help alleviate most of the problems. Check out my chapter on sex for details.
- Get Medically Organized: Don't be in a position where a health crisis arises -- or even just a routine check-up -- and you're searching for your insurance card or your doctor's address. Start a Personal Medical Information file for each person in your home. Include the following: health care providers' names, address, phone and fax numbers; list of medicines you take and the dosage, when it was prescribed and why; list of all known allergies; immunization record going back as far possible; medical conditions for which you are currently being treated; copies of medical tests and reports; insurance policy and a copy of your insurance card. Keep this file in a place that everyone in your house will know where to look for it, and keep a shorter version in your wallet which should include your medications, allergies, insurance card, and doctor's name and phone number, just in case.
- Listen to Your Body: We're very lucky to be living in a time when many diseases and illnesses can be prevented, and some can be caught earlier than ever due to screenings. However, even without a screening, your body will often give you a sign when something is wrong: a nagging cough that won't go away; vaginal bleeding when you haven't had your period in four years; a chronic stomachache no matter what you eat. If you pay attention, your body will tell you a lot. So take the time to listen to what it has to say. And, then share everything you hear with your primary care provider. Together, you'll figure out the best course of action.
- Be Fearless After 50: Love your life, stay as healthy as you can, move your body, be informed, stay engaged, use your mind, keep a handle on your finances, live with style, be bold, be brave, walk with confidence, laugh often, smile always and you will be ready for anything.
Please friend me on Facebook, and tweet me on Twitter. Staying connected is essential to a great life after 50, too!