Middle Age Flip or Flop

I follow a bunch of lifestyle influencers on Instagram — celebrities who turn their skinny bods and wrinkle-free faces into a profitable side hustle. People like Reese Witherspoon and Gweynth Paltrow have books, products, and massive social media empires that are capitalize on their ability to look nice in yoga pants at age 50.

In a recent post, Reese gave some tips for healthy living. Ina Garten, the cookbook author, responded by that Reese’s tips sounded like too much work.

I swing both ways; sometimes I’m eating cake by the fire. Other times, I’m running and counting my calories on a diet app.

Yesterday, I saw an unfortunate picture of myself chowing down on a burger and slurping down a big beer on our vacation. Ugh. Now, no booze or sugar for me for two weeks. I’m googling recipes for cleanses and detoxification.

It’s hard being middle aged. We can either turn off the selfies on the iPhone and enjoy life. Or we must go into militant mode with rigid food and exercise regimens to keep things from drooping.

22 thoughts on “Middle Age Flip or Flop

  1. Mind you, Witherspoon & Paltrow are also academy award winning actresses (in addition to having skinny bodies and well maintained skin).

    I am Ina Garten in this exchange except I don’t drink and I am too lazy to prepare either food or drink for myself, though I would love to have a mini Ina Garten who did that for me.

    I thought Witherspoon’s goals were chosen to be reachable by the average middle age mom (hey, I already drink a cup of water every morning and get to bed by 10 and get 8 hours sleep, I think, though its broken up; I think I can add 10 minutes of natural light, maybe, but for the rain, and I do want to read without distraction). I bet she doesn’t reach them, though. I simply can’t imagine that she can read 30-60 minutes a day without distraction and get to bed by 10 PM everyday, while I might be able to. I think she’s chosen them for folks like me and not for her.

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  2. I’m approaching deep middle age the same way you are – half trying all the new things in healthy living (including stuff from the Huberman podcast, sigh!) and investing hard in my old frenemy, exercise. And half going straight self-indulgence, which is a damned good counter-balance.

    Now that I don’t have teenagers at home, I’m channeling one and staying up too many nights with wine and a good Netflix series, and pissing away a random Saturday with girlfriends. And now that I don’t have small children, I find myself responding to proposals I don’t like with the patience of one.

    So between lack of sleep, being exhausted from my overly-ambitious workout, and channeling my inner pissed off preschooler, I’m annoyed with people like Reese posting pretty much the same damn thing we’ve been talking about since the late 80s.

    So, count me as team Ina, sugar and booze.

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    1. Depends on how much work it is, I guess and whether there’s any value beyond the fellowship for the material she wants to assess.

      Kid agreed to do a artwork for the congressional art contest, saying that our rep, Jayapal, was unlikely to pick his work. She just released the work she picked, and indeed, I think he was right. But, he did have a peaceful experience producing the art (an elephant done with quill art).

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  3. Those are things I already do. Early in the pandemic, my one glass of wine started turning into half a bottle, so now I drink rarely. Exercise and cleaning is my stress relief so that gets done and I get plenty of sunshine walking the dogs. Grad school screwed up my sleep for a long time, so I’ve done the early bed now for years.

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    1. I was always a good sleeper until menopause. Now, I have to seriously work for a good night sleep with routines and rituals, but I’m getting better at it.

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  4. I’m trying to focus on eating more vegetables. I love vegetables but I get tired of the chopping etc. Other than that I avoid “no this or that” diets. I’m aware that my overall calorie intake is probably higher than I need and hope to gradually get better at avoiding emotional eating.
    I’m trying to stay away from dieting and accept the weight my body has. It’s hard though because I was very thin in the past and current photos of me (only slightly overweight) look shocking to me. My doctor told me that at my age and weight level she is more concerned about exercise, which I do get a good amount each day (3-4 miles of walking and running). But my vanity!!

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  5. What I found really difficult in middle age is my body doing a 180 on many things. I had always been a skinny person who could eat anything and not gain an ounce. A lifelong vegetarian who doesn’t like sweets much, my Achilles heel is fried savory snacks – could and did eat a bag of Lays for dinner many times! And then 40 hit and the weight just started creeping up. I finally gave up on started exercising and eating right – my usual meals, but with portion control and no friend snacks!
    And the sleep! I was notorious in my family for falling asleep in any and all positions – if I was still and not reading I could sleep. Even fell asleep standing in crowded public transport a few times! Then menopause hit and with it the insomnia! I find it so hard to sleep now and it’s been a steep learning curve to get to some level of routine for this.

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  6. I find celebrities self-congratulatory healthy living routines profoundly irritating.

    Yeah – when you have someone to cook, and clean, and manage kids and do all of the routine life-admin stuff that women (especially Mums) do for the whole family, *before* they take any time for self-care – you, too, can have an awesome healthy, fit and motivated life.

    It’s like all the air-brushed photos in the magazines. Profoundly fake, and very de-motivating for ‘ordinary’ people.

    I know that my day often has me falling into bed after 11 – leaving behind stuff still undone (and, no, I don’t need any more guilt over it, thank you very much).

    Also: Menopause. No issue with sleeping (well, not when the temperature is below 80F and the humidity under 80% – which is what we’re suffering here, right now).
    But packing the pounds on.
    I’ve never been svelte – and have struggled with being fat (not to mince words) for large parts of my life. But now, even tried and true strategies are failing.

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    1. Yeah – when you have someone to cook, and clean, and manage kids and do all of the routine life-admin stuff that women (especially Mums) do for the whole family, *before* they take any time for self-care – you, too, can have an awesome healthy, fit and motivated life.

      Hear, hear!

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      1. The greatest gift my parents gave me is saying and modeling “it’s ok to say no” and taking time for themselves. So much of this idea that women cannot care for themselves is self imposed. The world doesn’t end if you take time to go for a run, or if you serve boring meals that are easy for you or you make the kids clean the kitchen.

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      2. I hope I’m modelling “saying no” for my kids, but wasn’t sure before the pandemic. They seem better at thinking about what they really want to do now.

        I think some people really have a hard time not letting others expectations shape their choices. Had a funny conversation, at a cookie swap, this holiday, where a lot of us really didn’t want to make cookies, but most managed to do it anyway. We did celebrate the person who just didn’t bring cookies and the one who bought them. I spent the morning looking for cookies to buy and didn’t succeed and made chocolate bark instead, and had a lot of fun doing it.

        I think not doing things when I don’t want to is one of my super powers (aided by the resources that let me make that choice)

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  7. I can’t get worked up about celebrity Twitter babble. I do wonder how much of this twaddle is posted by assistants whose parents sent them to college dreaming of an Important Career.

    If one goal is 10 minutes outside, that’s an embarrassingly low bar. Outside is free and omnipresent. There’s no need for a late night streaming binge, as, well, you can stream at your convenience. Alcohol is an enemy on multiple fronts. Don’t mistake me–I’m not against drinking alcohol. It’s just the easiest thing to drop, if you (and your wallet) are looking to be fit and healthy.

    More important is to examine how much of “Mum’s duties” are necessary. Be like a snail; slough off the extraneous, or the things you’ve outgrown.

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    1. Cranberry said “More important is to examine how much of “Mum’s duties” are necessary. Be like a snail; slough off the extraneous, or the things you’ve outgrown.”

      I do agree that this is a necessary review to carry out periodically.

      I would, however, point out that the process of getting the rest of the household to pick up the slack is neither quick nor easy. And, if you’re already time poor, it’s an awfully easy thing to do to say to yourself: “Honestly, it will be quicker and less stressful if I do it myself, rather than pass it on to a child, and then supervise, remind and issue consequences if it’s not done.”

      It’s an easy task to say: “I no longer need to walk my 8-year-old to the bus stop” (because he can now do it safely on his own – so no one needs to) – yay! 10 minutes back in my life (though that might have been your 10 minutes outside!)

      It’s much harder to say: “My 12-year-old needs to put his dirty clothes in the hamper to be washed – I won’t pick up after him any more”. Which means that you are doing the laundry at his convenience, not yours; you are still dealing with the mess around the house, when clothes are dropped and left; that you are constantly reminding him to pick up his washing; you are dealing with the temper tantrums resulting from ‘nothing to wear’; and you have low-level stress in the house most of the week. [Can you tell that this is an issue ongoing in our house – it is improving, 18 months in, but nowhere near automatic]
      You haven’t saved yourself a lot of time – in fact, it’s probably taking longer – and you’ve added significantly to your stress levels. It’s only worth doing as a teaching exercise (one among many – your teen needs to be able to look after themselves – when they are no longer living at home)

      Also – 10 minutes outside a day, in winter (when you probably need it most) and if you’re doing a low-wage level job in a big box outlet – is *not* easy to achieve. You’ll be leaving home and arriving home in the dark. And, during your (legally mandated in NZ 30-minute lunch break) you’ll probably just be grateful to be off your feet – and have the chance to eat something and have a bit of a chat with your co-workers (or catch up with the outside world on the phone you’re not even allowed to have on you during your work shift).

      Dealing with the “mum stuff” is a constant trade-off – unless you have the advantage of huge amounts of money and consequent paid help. [Or, I suppose, if you’re one of the mums who always puts her interests ahead of her kids – and appears in the news for child neglect]

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      1. [Or, I suppose, if you’re one of the mums who always puts her interests ahead of her kids – and appears in the news for child neglect]

        *Takes deep breath and counts to ten*

        Behold the joy of Steak-umms Twitter account: https://mobile.twitter.com/steak_umm

        They even use epistemology correctly. I suspect a philosophy grad student in need of a job.

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  8. “It’s much harder to say: “My 12-year-old needs to put his dirty clothes in the hamper to be washed – I won’t pick up after him any more”. Which means that you are doing the laundry at his convenience, not yours; you are still dealing with the mess around the house, . . . .”

    This is an example of our choices are circumscribed by our circumstances and the characteristics of our children. My kids have been doing their laundry since they were ten or so (though we drove them to school every day until they were old enough to drive themselves, which was a huge time sink). And, though I think spouses who you have to supervise are a choice, we don’t get to pick our children.

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