5 Things my 52-year-old self would tell my 20-year-old self about how to BE and STAY WELL.

Look, let’s face it, everyone has a different idea of what successful health looks like and at every age that might look a little different.  If I could tell my younger self the key to success with regard to overall wellness given what I’ve learned in 52 years of life, the last 25 a career fitness pro, it would be these 5 things;

1.The fountain of youth is enhanced with exercise, nutrition and mindset.  If you don’t like what you see or how you feel because you are not practicing healthy habits, then look in the mirror, give yourself a pep talk, and make the necessary changes.  Stop making excuses.  The one thing you can control is how you treat yourself and by that I mean what you eat and drink, if you exercise or not, and your view of who you are and what you’re capable of!  

Each phase of life will bring about different challenges with your physical, mental and emotional well-being.  Learn to embrace your physical appearance during every phase of your life.  Hire a coach/mentor to help you figure out the stuff you don’t know how to accomplish.

At 22, I thought I was “fat.” (insert head slap emoji)!  What I would give now for elasticity in my skin and my “bulging” (truly flat, non-child-bearing) 22-year-old stomach not to mention eyelids without folds!  Get a grip on reality and embrace who you are and look like no matter what your age.  

When I was in my child bearing years, I exercised to keep my pregnancy weight down and mostly ate foods to help my babies grow in the best possible environment.  I didn’t smoke or drink alcohol.  I do remember sitting down and being pretty disgusted feeling my belly on my thighs.  But what an amazing miracle and opportunity pregnancy is!  Embrace a big, round belly!

In my 40’s, when I had a little more time freedom, with kids in school, I was able to get myself in the best shape of my life.  I had amazing energy, because I was actually able to sleep.  Exercise was part of my job (lucky me), which helped with weight management and stress level and eating healthy became a way of life.

Now in my 50’s, it’s more difficult to maintain that flat stomach, and wrinkles and grey hair are plentiful, but I have come to terms with menopause and am definitely more confident.

Whatever phase of life you are in, let go of perfection, but do focus on your health and seek contentment and happiness.

2. Don’t make excuses for lack of exercise.  Put it on your calendar and never miss a Monday!  Work will always be there, but your health may not.  Don’t take your health for granted!  Exercise at least 4-5 days a week and mix it up.  Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.  Lift heavy things, get your heartrate up and keep your joints mobile and stabile!  Get outdoors. It’s good for the soul.  Every workout does not have to be a marathon, or make you feel like you’re going to puke, but even ten minutes of movement is better than nothing.  Lastly, how you exercised at 20, won’t be the same at 50.  Get over it!  Don’t give up though, joints will ache, muscles will tighten, keep plugging away, but train smarter, not harder!

3. When it comes to nutrition, for goodness sake, don’t starve yourself.  Eating bars and shakes is no way to live life!  Deprivation screws with your head and your metabolism. Bagels are not a healthy food to eat when you are trying to lose weight.  If you are going to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.  You’ll sleep better, feel better, and your waistline will be smaller. Eliminate caloric beverages and save the calories for food!  Don’t drink diet soda!  Eat whole foods most of the time.  Choose foods that once crawled, swam or grew from a tree or the ground.  You really don’t need to eat bread, but if you’re at an Italian restaurant and it’s homemade, eat the dang bread, girl, and go ahead and slather it with olive oil or butter.  

4. Sleep is not always a given.  Embrace sleep and lazy Sundays, but don’t sleep your days away. Appreciate a good night’s sleep.  Get in bed earlier than you think you need.  Forget hitting the snooze button.  It sets the pace for the day.  Get up and hit the ground running.  Set everything you need out the night before, so you can catch those extra 5 winks.  If you have trouble sleeping, do a brain dump before bed.  Stop caffeine after 2pm.  Set your phone to turn off at 9pm and not on again until 7am, unless you start work at 5am, like meJ  UGH, remember those days before cell phones and social media?!?!?!?  

5. Stress will kill you…slowly, but over time it will kill you.  Take time for yourself, even if you are a mom, daughter, wife, aunt, or caretaker.  Pray, meditate, exercise, take a walk or just sit still for a couple of minutes and stare at nothing.  And don’t think you are weak because you need to see a therapist.  Therapy is an amazing thing, unfortunately, it is sometimes viewed as a negative.  LET IT OUT! Life sure can be a roller coaster and you have to learn to ride the ups and downs and not let it get you too down. But never feel like you’re in it alone. Ask for help and get help when you need it.  No need to be a superhero!

Living a healthy life is not as hard as you think!  If you don’t know where to start, start by walking and monitoring your nutrition using an app like MyFitnessPal.  Hire yourself a good coach that can teach you how to lift properly and make you accountable.  See a registered dietician, find someone that knows a lot about nutrition and spend some time with them or pick up a book and do some reading about great healthful foods.  Working out with buddies helps you to be more motivated. Find someone with similar goals and do it together!  If you keep your fitness fun, you’ll be more motivated to continue!!

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