Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

The Key to Health North of 40 & 50-plus: The Mind, Body, and Spirit Connection

How are you?

When asked those three little words, we have a choice to make. If the person asking the question is a loved one, family member, or a good friend, we might tell them how we’re really feeling. It’s more likely we’ll say fine or good. However, for most women, the person we should ask is in the mirror. There are a plethora of articles in magazines, books, websites, and shows devoted to talking about women’s issues. Now that it’s March and Women’s History Month, the volume is already getting turned up. There are PSAs on television and online touting women’s accomplishments in areas like astronomy, writing, exploration, education, and more. So, it seems like this is the perfect month to look inward to see what is happening inside of our heads and hearts, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

First, it’s important to note that there is a difference between health and wellness. Health is a state of being/ Whereas wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle. Health refers to physical, mental, and social well-being; wellness aims to enhance well-being. According Status of Women Data (2018), in the United States overall, women’s health status has improved in some areas and declined in others. Women’s mortality rates from heart disease, lung cancer, and breast cancer have decreased since the publication of IWPR’s 2004 Status of Women in the States report, as has the incidence of AIDS among female adolescents and adults. Women’s incidence of chlamydia and diabetes, however, have increased. In addition, the average number of poor mental health days per month, suicide mortality rate, and average number of days per month of limited activities have also gone up for women. In 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that one in four women in the United States dies from heart disease. Coronary heart disease—which is the most common form—is the leading cause of death among both women and men. In addition, women are at higher risk than men for other forms of heart disease, such as coronary microvascular disease (in which the walls of the heart’s tiny arteries are damaged or diseased) and stress-induced cardiomyopathy (in which emotional stress leads to severe—but often temporary—heart muscle failure. Women have higher incidences than men of certain mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders Multiple factors may contribute to women’s greater likelihood of experiencing such conditions, including higher rates of poverty, greater responsibility in caring for disabled or ill family members, and trauma from gender-based violence.


For women north of forty and fifty-plus, their second-act looks different than what many of us planned. With the cost of living increasing and wages that aren’t high enough to allow for an easy retirement, a lot of women are finding themselves working past the age they planned on retiring. On the other hand, with fewer young adults being able to afford to move out of mom and dad’s house, life as a retiree isn’t what they expected when adult children move home with spouses and grandchildren in tow. On the plus side, they get to spend more time with and develop deeper connections to grandchildren, but they are also taking on the responsibilities of babysitting, helping with homework, preparing meals, and getting the kids around to activities. All of this, and we still have to block out time to spend on our relationship and ourselves so both remain whole, happy, and on track.

Keeping it All Together

It would take a lot more than one post to talk about the importance of the mind, body, and spirit connection. Nevertheless, it’s a subject worth talking and posting about regularly. The world is under stress and as women we suffer from it acutely,

. In order to handle both everyday and unexpected stresses, we must develop ways to deal with life’s little issues so we’re prepared to be able to deal with bigger challenges. This means dealing with every aspect of health head-on. We can do it by being in proactive in our doctor’s office, work lives, and at home. Clear communication is the key.

First, it’s critical comes to speak up in the doctor’s office. It seems odd to state something that seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many women don’t pipe up. Doctors are generally thought of as being on a higher level. They’ve had a lot of education and training. Moreover, it’s something that was ingrained by previous generations that looked up to medical professionals.

However, they only assist you with your health. You’re still the pilot. Doctors are copilots. When there’s an issue, they help treat it, but you’re still in charge. They work with and for you. It might seem radical to point it out, but it’s true and important to keep in mind. Look at it this way, business owners want to employ the best people to help make them successful. However, savvy businesspeople continue to evaluate their team to make sure they’re performing. Those who are doing well are rewarded, and the people who aren’t are let go. Dead weight impedes progress. Why we don’t do that with doctors is beyond me. By the way, you should include their office staff in your evaluation. A staff says as much about a doctors practice as the physician. If communication isn’t great in the front office, it’s generally not good in the back. There’s nothing wrong with changing doctors if you’re not getting what you need. It’s imperative to your overall health to have a good doctor you can talk to.

If you have a doctor you love and you’re happy with him or her, that’s terrific. The only thing I’d advise is to keep talking. In almost all relationships there comes a time when we expect the other person to know what we are thinking. They never do. The only way the doctor will know anything is happening is you have to tell him or her.

If you are looking for a new doctor, it’s good to get referrals and read online reviews. Still, there’s more to do.

  • Set up interviews with potential doctors. After all, he or she is under consideration to be your doctor. Conduct a lot of interviews. I know people who have put potential several wedding/event planners through their paces in order to decide if they’d be hired. Just like making sure you have the best people watching your children, you need the best doctors so you can stay healthy and present in their lives.
  • Do a background check of their credentials. Most doctors don’t have a problem with you looking into their education, medical license, etc. This is essential for every specialty, but if you’re looking for a good cardiologist or plastic surgeon, do your due-diligence
  • Trust your gut. A physician might have a wall full of diplomas and is the top in his or her field, but it you don’t feel like you’re vibing with them, move on. It’s in your best interest to see a doctor that you’re comfortable with.

Women are well aware of what stress can do to your health. What must be addressed is making time for yourself. Add artistic outlets to your routine as a way of approaching stress relief in a well-rounded manner. Baking, cooking, painting, drawing, knitting, embroidering, and sewing are great hobbies. Moreover, if you’re the type of woman who likes to be in the garage, add car enthusiast, woodworker, or playing music. According to the New York Times and Wicked Local, whether you learn a new computer program, start scrapbooking or just start reading a good book, the act of engaging in a hobby has been found to increase your serotonin levels (the feel-good chemical that is made in your brain) and exercises your brain in a healthy way.

Finding a way to maintain our health and reduce stress levels is an ongoing fight. There are only so many hours in the day, and everyone you know want to lay claim to your time. But, as nice as it is to feel indispensable, our most important resource is ourselves. If we let other people’s needs come before ours constantly, we will wear out. Then what good would we be to anyone. Focusing inward regularly will allow us to be on top of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When these needs are addressed, life feels lighter, brighter, and more fulfilling. It’s everything you could want in your second act as a north of forty and fifty-plus woman.

I still love to laminate dough when I feel stressed. I tried this recipe for rough puff pastry on My Recipe.

How to make your own rough puff

1. Prep the butter.

Start with a chilled, European-style butter  if possible. You can use Plugra or Kerrygold  which many bakeries use for their laminated doughs. It has a higher butterfat content than American butters, which will give you both a richer flavor and a more controlled puff, since there is less water in it.

To prepare, decide if you are going to grate or slice the butter. If you have a food processor with a thin slicing blade, I find that gives a really good result, but a large grating blade or the large side of your box grater will also work.

Take your chilled butter from the fridge and put it into your freezer for 20-30 minutes. This will firm it up but not freeze it solid. I use one 8-ounce brick of unsalted Plugra, but you can use 2 sticks of regular unsalted butter.

Put the butter through your slicer blade or grater blade, or grate by hand. The little chunk that will be left either on top of the blade or at the end of the sticks can be used for another purpose; you’ll end up with between 7-7½ ounces of sliced or grated butter.

Put the butter on a plate or in a bowl and return to the fridge while you make the dough.

2. Make the dough.

If you used the food processor, you don’t need to clean it; just swap out the slicer or grater blade for the regular blade. (Or you can mix by hand in a large bowl.)

Measure ½ cup super-cold water in a measuring cup. Set aside.

Put 1 1/3 cups of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt) in the processor, and pulse to combine. With the processor running, drizzle in the water until it just barely comes together in a ball.

Sprinkle more flour on your work surface, and remove the dough ball, and knead it just until it comes together and feels smooth and pliable, maybe 15-30 seconds. You don’t want to build up too much gluten or it will have trouble rolling.

3. Roll the dough.

Roll your dough on a floured surface to ¼-inch thick and about 8-10 inches wide. This will give you a long rectangle somewhere around 18 inches long. Using a soft brush, brush any excess flour off the surface of the dough. You want the short end of the dough facing you.

4. Layer the butter.

Get your chilled butter, and put it in an even layer, either shingling the slices so that their edges are barely touching or making an even layer of the grated butter. Leave about a 3-inch unbuttered section at the end closest to you.

5. Fold up.

Starting at the end closest to you, fold the 3-inch unbuttered section up over the butter. Brush any excess flour off the dough. Fold this up again and brush off. Keep folding up and over, brushing the excess flour off after each fold, until you have a flat rectangle. Place the seam side down.

6. Do one turn.

Turn the dough so that the short side is facing you and roll out again to about ¼ inch thickness. Repeat the same folding process as before, obviously this time with no butter, but still brushing off excess flour between each fold. Once it is folded up, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes just to rechill the butter. If your kitchen is warm, you might want to chill for 20-30 minutes before continuing.

7. Do two more turns.

Remove from fridge and repeat the process, rolling to ¼ inch thick, folding up while brushing off excess flour, then turn again and fold up. After the third turn you will have a piece of laminated rough puff pastry!

If you want to use it for a recipe within a couple of days, wrap it well in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. If you want to freeze it, wrap it well in plastic wrap then put into a zip-top bag and freeze: It will store for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

Sources: Status of Women Data Org. Wicked Deal, New York Times, My Recipes

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

North of Forty & Fifty-plus Body Positivity and Health

The face of aging has changed in so many ways. Not only are people living longer, they are looking younger and more fit than ever. In the last decade, the top of the box office, Nielsen’s, and streaming music and television shows starred actors who were north of forty and fifty plus. Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Angela Bassett, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lopez were just a few of the names lighting the marquees. By the same token, the pressure was on for women who are north of forty and fifty to follow their footsteps with their own body beautiful.

All of the names in Hollywood have the big advantage that staying fit is a part of their job. They have access to personal trainers, gyms, chefs, and child care that the average working mother doesn’t have. Halle Berry deserves every accolade she receives for looking as wonderful as she does, she worked hard for it. Most of us are working hard to provide for our families while trying to carve out time to get a workout in.

Then came 2020. It was the year it seemed that Murphy’s Law came to life. Whatever could go wrong, or went left in a hurry. The pandemic changed our lives in an instant. As sections of industries around the country closed, those of us who were deemed non-essential workers found ourselves either working from home or furloughed and on unemployment through no fault of our own. Conversely, essential workers in healthcare, grocery stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, and communication/media company workers were put under enormous pressure. It wasn’t easy for anyone.

Life/work/school

With little known about the Covid-19 in the beginning, it became clear that we had to do all we could to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Many of us had a daily routine that included working out at a gym or in local parks. When those places weren’t available, we had to make a change to working out at home. Only now, not only did we have to try to get a workout in at home, those of us who were able to were now working from home. Moreover, if you were a parent, grandparent, or guardian of children in daycare, elementary, or secondary school, the kids were home. Schools were closed and you were faced with trying to figure out how to work from home, keep young kids busy, while trying to keep elementary and secondary school age children on task with remote learning.  It was going to be a long spring.

Then I noticed something I am sure you did too, people discovered their kitchens. I don’t think I have ever so many pictures of banana bread online in my life. I’m a lifelong baker and foodie, I can go through twenty-five pounds of flour and sugar like most people go through a five-pound bag. When I found myself finding staples like all-purpose flour, sugar, and yeast sold out in grocery stores and online, people were getting jiggy in the kitchen in record numbers.

There is definitely something calming about being in the kitchen that bakers and cooks have known all long. When life seems like it’s out of control, going into the kitchen and making something from a recipe or freestyling, it gives you a sense of control over something and it’s straightforward.  Personally, I enjoy knowing what is going into what I eat. I can adjust or adapt recipes to accommodate low-sugar, low-sodium, or gluten-free diets.  However, I suspect that many of the kitchens weren’t turning out diet food.  People turned to comfort food.

Soon not only did we have binge-worthy food, there was binge-worthy series on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max and more. There was a bit of cache in being a couch potato and it beat watching the news with endless reports or cases increasing, and uncertainty as the virus began to spread beyond the two coasts to the rest of the country. No one had seen anything like this in over one hundred years. So, if you needed a moment and some chips, that’s what you did.

Now, it’s 2021 and things are beginning to slowly get better. Many states have allowed gyms to open for socially distanced workouts. Some schools are back to in-person learning, and others seem to have gotten in the swing with hybrid and fully remote learning too.  All of that notwithstanding, many of us are still working from home and it’s time to figure out how we can carve out the time to take care of ourselves and like what we see in the mirror.

Make your workout personally

There’s no reason that you can’t maintain your curves, while eating properly, and trying an at-home exercise plan. If you didn’t belong to a gym, don’t fret. You don’t have to run out and join a gym. You have a choice.

These are just a few of the most popular workout apps according to Techradar

  • Peloton. They are best known for its spin and sessions, led live by professional coaches, and these are all present and correct in the app. There’s also a lot more on offer though, including plenty of workouts you follow with minimal equipment or none at all. If you have a Peloton bike or any of their equipment, the app subscription comes with it.  You can take part in their workouts without the equipment, just check on the site to determine the price range and if it fits in your budget.
  • Fitbit: Workouts in Fitbit Coach are led by professional, enthusiastic instructors (you choose yours before beginning the fitness test), who guide you through each movement with clear video instructions. The first time you launch the app, you’ll be prompted to sign up for a Fitbit account (or log in with your existing one), then run through an eight-minute fitness test. After that, you’ll be able to get stuck in properly, and take your pick from a range of programs designed with different goals in mind. You can sign up for Fitbit Coach Premium, which offers more workouts.

If these types of workouts aren’t your style, there are a number of workouts that can be done from home anytime. There’s Beach Body, Jillian Michael’s and more. Check out the gallery for these apps on Prevention https://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/g25357974/best-workout-apps/?slide=1

The next thing is something I am not going to push super hard. I know it’s better for us to weigh less to reduce our risk with Covid-19 and many other conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and more. It’s easier to approach healthy eating day-by-day. Personally, I’ve always managed to fake myself out when I add planners and notebooks to the mix, which is sort of funny since I use both for my professional life as an agent and author. However, if it works for you, use whatever tools you need to stay on track.

As important as taking care of your physical body is, your emotional and spiritual health is also an essential part of being healthy and body positive.  Here’s a few easy things you can do

  • Stay in touch with family and friends, through Facetime, Zoom, or just go analog and give them a call. Talking, laughing, and even crying, helps to relieve stress and has even been shown to aid in lowering blood press pressure.
  • Enjoy a little me time. Go to a salon, get a massage or a mani-pedi. Check the guidelines at your favorite place, mask up, and get pampered.
Taking time for you

Do all you can to maintain a positive and healthy outlook on life. Aging is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be rote, boring, or even too exciting for words. It just has to be authentic for you. If you’re the type who likes to sky dive and live on the edge, there are ways to keep your day exciting. If you prefer a laid-back life of reading, writing, and watching your favorite programs, then do that. There’s no right or wrong way. Enjoy your life.

It goes without saying that healthy eating is important, but taste is important, and so are occasional treats. As a bonus, I have included a recipe that I found from Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan that I adapted for different dietary requirements. You will see the substitutions in parentheses for:

  • Vegan/Vegetarian
  • Gluten-free
  • Low sugar
  • Sugar-free

Lemon Blueberry Scones with Lemon poppy seed glaze by Tieghan adapted by me

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour, sorghum, sweet rice, or brown rice flour) (For more fiber 2 cups all-purpose flour plus ½ cup white whole wheat flour) 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, finely pulsed) 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, grated on a box grater just like cheese 1 stick (vegan butter)

1 egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)

3/4 cup buttermilk + more for brushing ( ¾ cup soy, rice, almond plus 2 teaspoons apple cider or lemon juice, let stand for 5 minutes)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

zest of 1/2 a lemon

LEMON POPPY SEED GLAZE

1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more if needed (Organic confectioner’s sugar or Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

2 tablespoons butter, melted (vegan butter)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice + reserve the zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and toss with the flour. Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the blueberries and lemon zest.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and then pat into 1-inch-thick square. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Place pieces, about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Brush each piece with buttermilk.

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let the scones cool slightly and then drizzle with the lemon poppy seed glaze (see below). Serve warm with butter.

LEMON POPPY SEED GLAZE

In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, butter, lemon juice, and vanilla, adding water if needed to thin slightly or more sugar if needed to thicken. Stir in the zest of 1/2 a lemon and the poppy seeds. Drizzle the glaze over the scones.