Editorial note: Having good health in our middle and later stages in life means changing our mindset around how we approach physical and mental health when we are young. This two-part series explores how we can set ourselves up for success by talking with Transformative Coach & Advisor Danielle LoDuca.
Who doesn’t want to be healthy in their middle and later years in life? But how many of us have the time and fortitude to put healthy practices in place when we are young to help us facilitate strong health as we age?
Transitioning into middle age and progressing into the golden years can be a journey that is as harrowing as it is empowering; the perspective one adopts and the preparatory steps one takes are what shape this pivotal chapter of life. When I embraced the age of fifty, it initially struck me hard, but I chose to seize control, prioritizing my health and mental well-being.
As I’m nearing my third year in this fascinating decade, reflections surface on things I wish I had embraced in my forties and even younger to brace for the inevitable physical and emotional shifts that have come in my fifth decade of life, such as the aches, pains and profound changes of experiencing an empty nest and the loss of older family members.
This revelation led to a poignant and enlightening conversation with Transformative Coach & Trusted Advisor, Danielle LoDuca, focusing on the proactive steps my Muslim sisters can undertake in their “youth” to gear up for middle age and beyond. Danielle offered rich insights and advice on embracing this stage with vigor, ensuring optimal health and mental well-being.
Danielle had so many wonderful things to share that we’re going to break this up into two posts, with this focusing on empowering women to navigate through middle age with resilience and fostering a holistic approach to well-being.
Holistically Transitioning into Middle Age
Layla: Addressing the transition into middle age requires a holistic approach to health and wellness, especially for women in their 40s who might face unique health challenges and transformations. A paramount concern revolves around discerning and emphasizing the most crucial aspects of health and wellness that can aid women in navigating this significant life phase with grace and vigor. The physical, emotional and mental alterations during this period necessitate a heightened focus on specific elements, such as maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, mental health, hormonal balance, and regular health check-ups.
Danielle explains how these components are pivotal in fortifying the body’s resilience and maintaining optimal well-being.
Danielle: Entering into our 40’s and beyond often includes some fear, uncertainty and even a bit of sadness or grief. So much value is placed on youth in our society. We’re sold anti-aging creams, hair dye and even surgical options to combat the visibility of aging. This way we are conditioned to believe that growing older and becoming a middle-aged woman makes us less beautiful, less valuable. Unless you live in a culture that celebrates older age and reveres the elderly, you’ve most likely succumbed to this belief on some level.
That’s why the most critical aspect of health and wellness as we transition into middle age is the way we think about it. A major reason so many people suffer ailments, disease, weakness, weight gain and more actually starts with how we think about ourselves and what’s possible for us as we age.
It’s important to look for all the ways you’ve grown as a person, to value the awareness and wisdom you’ve cultivated. It’s also incredibly important that we understand that our lives aren't over and that so much more can be awaiting us.
*A study done in 1981 showed that physiological markers such as height, weight, gait, flexibility, cognition, memory, physical strength and more can improve by merely thinking of oneself as younger – even within a short five-day period. This demonstrates the power of our thoughts and expectations.
So the first step to caring for yourself and prioritizing your wellness as you age is to become aware of your own thoughts and beliefs, then trade the ones that aren’t serving you and the healthy, vital life you desire for thoughts and beliefs that do.
This isn’t always easy to do on your own, so I always recommend hiring a coach or other advocate who can help you unravel the limiting beliefs and habitual thoughts that are sneakily holding you back from living your best life. I’ve worked with women who lost inches from their waists and were able to do things they didn’t imagine were possible purely by working on their thinking.
*Reference for the study mentioned: 1. E. J. Langer, Mindfulness (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1989); E. J. Langer, Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility (New York: Ballantine Books, 2009).
How Our Thoughts Fuel Physiological Changes
Layla: As women approach their 50s, they experience a myriad of physiological changes, such as menopause, which necessitates a reevaluation and modification of their nutritional needs. Danielle emphasizes the significance of nutrition and diet in supporting women’s health during this transitional phase and how it cannot be overstated as it plays a crucial role in managing age-related diseases, maintaining hormonal balance, and enhancing overall quality of life.
We've always heard "you are what you eat," but we still don't understand the full reality of this statement. - Danielle LoDuca; image source : Pexels.
Danielle: Thoughts are the fuel for your emotions and resulting actions, and one of those actions must be taking care of the vehicle [in which] you reside and experience the world in: your body.
We grow up hearing “you are what you eat,” but the reality of this statement isn’t always fully understood. I find it helpful to remember that every cell of your body, which forms each organ, neuron, bone, hair, hormone and neurotransmitter, are built with the ingredients you provide through what you eat.
As a kid, I remember getting excited to eat colorful candy, snacks and fun treats. The idea that my body was going to try to use that brownie to build itself was completely lost on me. A significant part of nutrition is giving your body the ingredients or building blocks it needs to create and replenish healthy cells and to maintain optimal function.
This means including lots of whole foods in your diet is critical. Colorful vegetables, fruits, meats and fish, grains and legumes provide everything you need to build a healthy body.
Many women struggle with eating or drinking things that aren’t supportive of health, and it’s true that giving up unhealthy foods entirely isn’t always sustainable. There is a psychological component that can be challenging to overcome when you try to give up everything ‘bad’ and only eat healthy, nutritious foods.
I like to think of it like this: focus on providing all the building materials your body needs for optimal health by incorporating plenty of vegetables into your diet and taking in adequate protein. You’ll naturally feel more satisfied because your body won’t be seeking missing nutritional building blocks, which will reduce cravings dramatically.
The most critical aspect of health and wellness as we transition into middle age is the way we think about it. A major reason so many people suffer ailments, disease, weakness, weight gain and more actually starts with how we think about ourselves and what’s possible for us as we age.
So rather than focusing on elimination, reduction and avoidance of ‘junk’ or unhealthy items, put your attention more on including, prioritizing and adding in healthy foods into your diet.
As you age, your body will naturally produce less collagen and your hormones may begin to change. Pay attention to how food makes you feel and don’t ignore it! If drinking coffee makes you feel awful - you can opt for something else that doesn’t. Some women will do well starting their day off with carbohydrates, others will feel much better taking in carbs later in the day instead. Each body is different.
We tend to stick with habits and routines even when they no longer work for us. It’s empowering to choose what to feed your body with and to make decisions that support and prioritize your wellbeing and vitality. What you eat most certainly plays a role in how you feel, mentally, emotionally and physically. If you want to live a long life and feel amazing into old age - you can’t neglect nutrition.
Thankfully it’s not rocket science - so if you're getting confused by all the conflicting information out there, the miracle diets and advice, keep it simple and focus on giving your body what it needs and paying attention to how you feel. It’s your body and you're most capable of taking care of it.
I can’t talk about nutrition without mentioning hydration. Your cells – the building blocks of your entire body and brain - are made up of more than 60 percent water. Without adequate hydration, your cells will struggle to function. Overweight women who aren’t hydrating adequately can shed excess fat simply by improving hydration, because of improved cell function. So drink enough water ladies!! Don’t underestimate the power of water especially as you transition into middle age and beyond.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Layla's interview with Transformative Coach Danielle LoDuca in which they discuss strategies for exercise and stress management to help set ourselves up for better health as we age.