How to Turn 40 on Your Own Terms

Today is my 40th birthday. If you ask people their thoughts on turning 40, you’re sure to get a lot of strong and varied reactions. Of them all, I think I was the most surprised to hear how much fear and disappointment my own friends expressed when they talked about 40. I heard it in deep conversations about our lives, and I read it in seriousness and in jest when I asked my Facebook friends their thoughts about turning 40. I collected those feelings here, both to honor the struggles of my friends in turning 40, and to find some commonality among us all. I hope that by realizing we’re all in this together, my friends and I can conquer 40, on our own terms, regardless of where we are in our journey.

One of the most common fears people expressed to me about turning 40 was the physical reality of getting older, their bodies falling apart. Some are battling cancer, while others worry more seriously that it’s coming. We are increasingly losing our parents, friends, and the icons of our youth. We still feel young on the inside, but our skin, hair, and bodies look and feel a little older on the outside. We don’t have the time or energy we once had, and it scares us.

With the fear, many expressed disappointment at the realization that they weren’t where they thought they’d be, or that things hadn’t turned out the way they thought they would. Some friends are working at a job that isn’t making the most of their skills or dreams. Others thought they’d be married or have kids by now. Changes have happened that they don’t know how to bounce back from. They don’t know who they are or where they’re going, when they thought they would by now.

The things I loved hearing, though, were people fighting through the fear and disappointment to start living at 40! Some of the most inspiring stories involved people really putting themselves out there when they realized their story wasn’t playing out the way they thought it would.  One friend started practicing law at 40, while another became a nurse. A single, professional gay friend, expecting that he’d have already settled down, found the courage to publicly enter the gay dating scene and met the love of his life. One friend found herself feeling lost as her daughter grew up and neared leaving home. She reinvented herself, starting with her hair, and went back to school. I have friends running their first marathon, or finally losing the weight they’ve been trying to shed for years. People are finding the courage to get pregnant, adopt, or bring “fur babies” into their home, when they thought 40 would look very different than this. Perhaps because they thought 40 would look very different than this.

So, why such different reactions to 40? Having talked to many people, it’s definitely not the absence of fear or disappointment. I think we all have the same fears and disappointments, just about different things. We’ve all loved and lost, gotten some of the things we wanted and sorely missed on others. So from what I’ve seen, the people who are crushing it at 40 are just choosing to do something different about their fears and disappointments.

What does this look like for me? Well, when I was in elementary school, I decided I was going to write a book. I’ve always loved to write. I thought by 40 I’d have that book written. But somewhere along the way, I lost the habit of writing for fun. In college, writing poems turned into writing papers. As a new lawyer, I only wrote legal briefs. In my 30’s, I still wanted to write something else, but I was out of practice, struggling to find the right place or voice to express myself meaningfully about things other than the law. Approaching 40, I feared that I wasn’t devoting enough of myself to following my passions and making an impact. I was disappointed that I hadn’t done more with my personal potential. Writing came to back to my mind. I realized that in blogging, I could do something I loved, that would also help me grow personally. I could share what I was learning along the way with others who might benefit or just enjoy reading. As a result, my blog was my birthday gift to myself! Best. Gift. Ever.

What can this look like for you? It depends. Assess your current base. What fears, troubles, items on your bucket list, or goals are gnawing at the back of your mind? And more importantly, what is holding you back?!  Once you know what direction you want to go, here are ways to get there:

Take Care of Yourself

One of the funny, sad realities of 40 is that we’re generally at home in bed by 10:00, even on the weekend nights. We can view that as yet another indicator that we’re getting old, or we can recognize that that we’re taking care of ourselves! 40 is a great time to get serious about our bodies. We have enough life experience and wisdom to know how to tackle it. We have enough fear of our mortality to have the real motivation to do it. Hopefully, we have more resources and ability.

Love Others

One great lesson people are learning at 40 is gratitude and appreciation for their loved ones. We love our family more fiercely because we’ve learned how important family is. We’ve loved and lost, so we hold on and enjoy the moment. We cry with each other because we know how it feels. Our friendships have weathered the tests of time and the changes of circumstance, so our friends are like family. Really like family. If you worry about losing people or not being around for them, do yourself the favor of giving them your best now.

Be Yourself

So many people expressed to me how old 40 sounds to them, and how they just can’t believe they are turning 40. The people who are making the best of it are wearing that number 40 like a badge of pride. We can take what we’ve learned in these years and allow ourselves to just. be. ourselves. We can let our awareness of time cause us to smell the roses and let go of the bad. To know when to say no and when to say yes. The beauty of finding yourself truly manifests when you find the courage to be yourself and do the things you’ve always wanted to do.

Let your Path Change

The one thing I hope more than all the others, is that we’ll be kind enough to grant ourselves the grace to change our path.  To simply rewrite our story when we realize things aren’t the way we thought they would be. And to write it with love and forgiveness for ourselves and others. We can incorporate the wisdom, humility, gratitude and self-trust we have collected over these years into our new goals. We can abandon the needling opinions of others, or the judgey voices in our heads, for something more compatible with our 40 year old reality. As a result, our new direction will be meaningful, realistic, and kind.

I’m excited about turning 40. For me, each decade has been better than the last. Since 30, my career has grown to include personal and professional freedom. I’ve started a family, so the loneliness I often felt as a young professional has been replaced with busy love. I’ve taken a more active role in my health, and am feeling better than I have in a long time. I’m in a generally good place, but I’m also really ready to grow! Share your thoughts – what did 40 bring for you, or what are you most anticipating about it?

This post also appears on Huffington Post.

How Quitting Sugar Changed My Life

Disclosure: My posts contain affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you click a link or buy a product. I only endorse products or brands which I have used and enjoy!

You hear people talk about getting older and how your body starts to fall apart, like it’s inevitable. For me, the falling apart really started when I had my daughter at age 36. I put on a whopping 65 pounds during my pregnancy. Though I took care myself otherwise and felt pretty decent during those 9 months, the aftermath was another thing. Lack of sleep, body deprived of nutrients, and hormones out of whack was a recipe for disaster. I spend the next 3 years never feeling great, struggling with fatigue, carrying around an extra 5-15 pounds, and constantly battling the nagging notion that I felt down. I felt more irrational and a little more emotionally volatile than ever before. My medical tests said I was healthy, but I just didn’t feel good.

So, right after Christmas when my mom suggested that I read the book The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity and do the diet with her for 90 days, I figured what the heck? What do I possibly have to lose at this point? I can’t feel much worse than I do now. This diet sounds strict and hard to follow, but it’s not easy feeling this way, either.

I won’t go into all the details about the diet itself, but the main premise that the diet focuses on is building up the health of your digestive system, since all your health originates in your gut. You cut out foods that take a toll on your digestive system, like wheat and sugar, and eat whole foods and foods that promote healthy digestion, like fermented foods. You can read more about it here: About Body Ecology

The kicker for me was giving up sugar! I have the worst sweet tooth in the world. I crave sugar like nobody’s business. But reading through the book and seeing some of the symptoms sugar addiction can cause in our bodies, I realized that I was definitely addicted to sugar, and it might be the reason for many of the negative symptoms I was experiencing that I mentioned above.

I’ve made dietary changes a few times over my life, and have found several things that work, so long as you are ready to commit to them and follow through. However, that commitment is often tested, so you have to have support in place to help you through the weak moments. My motivation for this round was simple: I wasn’t focused on losing weight, looking a certain way, or being a certain size, I was only focused on how I would feel. I read somewhere that focusing on how you feel provides much stronger motivation to stick with a dietary change than focusing on how you look or how much you weigh. I found that to be very true in starting out this journey.

So, how did I feel?

I’m not going to lie, the first few days, I felt like I was detoxing off drugs! (Or so I would imagine, having no actual experience there.) I had a headache, craved sugar like my life depended on it, and even came home from work and went to bed early. But then, on the third day, I felt glorious! I felt like I had enough energy to conquer the world! My sugar cravings decreased so dramatically that when I would cheat and have a taste of something sweet, I often found it too rich to finish. This was a true first for me! What’s more, without sugar in the mix, I found that my cravings for all foods diminished. I could eat a meal to satisfy my body’s nutritional needs and stop eating easily as soon as I started to feel satisfied, rather than constantly giving in to some craving or always still feeling a little “hungry.”

Over the next month or so my energy level had waves of good and just ok. So, I watched some of the podcasts in Body Ecology’s free 30-Day Detox Challenge to get other ideas of things I could do to boost my health along with the diet. One in particular that resonated with me, was the use of the supplement Taurine (I used this particular brand) for its potential to increase the energy level and help regulate calm moods.

Into the second month of the diet, I found myself feeling consistently energetic and good! My moods completely stabilized, to the point that I was no longer feeling the huge emotional waves and nagging bouts of sadness. I felt very even keeled and level headed. The fog had truly lifted. On top of that, I lost 15 pounds without using any portion control, counting any calories, or even exercising very religiously. (Although, I do have to say, when I’ve worked exercise into the mix, it has always made me feel even better.)

So what now?

It’s hard to make a permanent lifestyle of a diet that cuts out sugar, wheat, and dairy. But, because of the great results I’ve seen, I’ve put a lot of effort into incorporating these changes into my lifestyle as consistently as I’m able. Here are some of the tools I’ve found to help make this a lasting change:

  • Know that it’s ok to cheat sometimes. If you’re going to a party, you can have a piece of cake. Just observe how that cake makes you drag and feel not quite your best, and remember that so you don’t make a regular habit of it. If you’re really just struggling with temptation, ask yourself how eating this thing will make you feel afterward, really think through that, and try to find a healthy alternative. If you slip up, just get back to doing what makes you feel best right away.
  • Speaking of healthy alternatives, the one product I couldn’t have made it through this diet without is Stevia. (It comes in many forms, liquid, powder, or tablets for hot drinks, but this is my favorite every day version.) Unlike sugar, Stevia won’t raise your glycemic index. It is calorie free, and it is not an artificial sweetener. It comes from the Stevia plant, which is naturally much sweeter than sugar. So, I find that I use much less of it. Stevia works perfectly for curbing sugar cravings without any of the adverse side effects of sugary foods or artificial sweeteners. I carry it in my purse at all times so that I can have a “sweet” iced tea anytime a sugar craving hits. (Another similar product that I like for baking is Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener, which you can use like sugar in measured quantity.)
  • When you’re used to eating bad on the go, or even just eating like you always have, finding and preparing healthy foods can be a real challenge. You will also likely find that eating whole, organic foods can get really expensive, really fast, if you’re not careful. I’ve tempered both challenges by finding go-to foods that I can find easily, keep on hand, and afford. This process will likely involve trial and error for you. The first few weeks involve a lot of label reading and maybe going through the grocery stores or restaurants with fresh eyes. Looking the options over like you’ve never seen them before, so you can see what options might fit the new lifestyle. A great resource Body Ecology makes for recipes is the Body Ecology Living Cookbook (free with Kindle Unlimited, which you can try free for 30 days with this link).
  • Have an accountability buddy. For me, this was my mom since we decided to do the diet together. My husband was interested in the diet, too, though not fully willing to commit, so he was able to offer support and help with the aspects of the diet he was interested in. He helped shop for more fruits and vegetables and was willing to join me in eating healthier dinners. Your buddy can help talk the cookies out of your hand when you’re feeling weak, but more importantly, can help you navigate the nuances of a completely new diet. My mom and I exchange recipe ideas, let each other know anytime we find a new product that meshes well with the diet, pick up necessities for each other at the specialty stores, and encourage each other to try new things, like fermenting foods. Having someone to do the diet with has really kept me going, and reinforced my belief in what I’m doing, as we’ve seen the same results.

Quitting sugar has been a game changer for me. I feel better turning 40 than I have in the several years leading up to it. If you’re struggling with not feeling your best, I encourage to you to do some research and see if making some of these changes might work for you! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

feeling victorious