Lately I've been having the same conversation over and over again with my friends who, like me, are in their 40s. It goes something like this: "I've gained a little bit of weight this year and ohmygod no matter what I do I just. can't. lose. it."
Dear reader, if you are in your 30s or (bless your heart) your 20s, take a moment to appreciate your metabolism and give thanks to your ability to drop a few pounds by drinking one less cocktail on the weekends. Because I'm sorry to report, but things go awry in your 40s.
My husband and I, who now gripe to each other about minor health complaints like cliched curmudgeons, have both taken steps to stop the weight creep. I nixed sweets during the week. He stopped adding sugar to the multiple cups of coffee he drinks daily. He runs three times a week without fail. We've both curtailed evening snacking.
The dramatic result: Nothing.
Sometimes, like when I'm in a dressing room at the mall trying on pants, frustration starts to bubble up. And I begin to catastrophize. If I can't shed the handful of pounds I gained this year and gain more the next year and the next and the next... I'll be up 30 by the time we're dropping our oldest at college!
So I formulate a plan to really buckle down and get serious: I will eat my burgers on lettuce leaves instead of buns, spiralize zucchini in place of pasta, and abstain when we take the boys to the ice cream shop. I will give up cheese. I will stop making homemade bread. And pie. I will strip my diet of all starches and sugar. Maybe I will go Paleo. Or vegan. I'll do that Gwyneth Paltrow cleanse. And start recording every morsel that passes my lips with one of those calorie-tracking apps.
But then I feel sad and exhausted just thinking about this hypothetical life where I'm five pounds lighter but living without blue cheese, strawberry rhubarb pie, and spaghetti. My children are getting older, and I finally have time to talk to my husband, read a book for pleasure, and enjoy a leisurely meal. I don't want to spend this phase of life fighting with every calorie and carb. And for what? To wear the expensive jeans on the top shelf of my closet that I bought after I had the stomach flu and have never been able to fit into again?
So I resolve to be sane and good to myself and I formulate another plan: I will try and make exercise a priority. I will keep eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I will strive to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. I will choose foods that make me feel the best, physically and mentally, and avoid the ones that don't (read: My Number One Trick For Eating Right). I will enjoy the foods that life has to offer, including but not limited to crusty, home baked bread and a scoop of mint chocolate chip on a hot day. I will occasionally overdo it, but won't beat myself up. I'll stop wishing for the metabolism of a 25-year-old and start feeling grateful for the rich, full life of a 43-year-old.
And I will stop trying on any pair of pants that has the word "skinny" in their description. (Seriously, why do I keep torturing myself?)
This post originally appeared on RealMomNutrition.com.
Follow Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RMNutrition.