I turn 51 on the 5th day of January 2024.
As I sat down to write this blog post, I started pondering why women are reluctant to speak about and reveal their true age. I think it’s a combination of external and internal factors. External being shaming of women’s signs of aging, preference for younger-looking women, and menopause making us hyper-visible and subject to many stereotypes; from jokes to shaming.
Then there is the internal factor; how we see ourselves. We can’t change the external factors and how the world chooses to see us, but we can change how we see ourselves.
I’ve never been shy about revealing my age; in fact, I enjoy sharing it because I know I look and feel strong and healthy as a 51-year-old. This is what I want to impart in today’s post. I will share with you what has worked for me and let you see that I’m far from perfect and have my own struggles to stay on track.
On most days, I choose progress over perfection.
If I screw up, I go back to taking care of myself the best way I can.
When I fail, I forgive myself and move forward.
The non-negotiables and things I still struggle with
Here are things that are non-negotiable in my life which I largely attribute to feeling and looking good as a 51-year-old. Here’s the list of things that have worked and I’ve done them well, for the most part.
- Clean diet
- Sleep and rest
And, here is the list of things I’ve struggled with
- Strength training
- Alcohol – no more
And, what I’m still working on
- Mold toxicity (candida and oxalates)
More on each below.
My 4 non-negotiables
1. Clean diet
I live the life I advocate (90% of the time) and it’s gotten easier to be on auto-pilot and not look back. But, it took me a few years to get there.
People often ask me “But don’t you miss a cannoli or a croissant? What life is it without ‘some joys’?”
First of all, this question implies that these foods are the only source of joy which is a limiting belief in itself – I get tremendous joy from eating healthy, at times decadent, foods that don’t make me sick and therefore I don’t miss much of anything. I think it’s key to find these deeply pleasing “healthified” foods so they replace the old comfort foods. For me, that would be a miso soup (I grew up in Asia and a bowl of soup is what mac-n-cheese might be to you) or gluten-free buckwheat bread or apple muffins.
Secondly, when I have a moment of weakness (ie I debate if I should have something that doesn’t serve me), I think about how the 2 minutes of pleasure will feel later on. Dairy makes me constipated for days and frequent consumption gives me full-on IBS. Gluten suppresses my immune system, causes headaches, and makes me bloated. So why eat them? Is the 2-minute pleasure worth the 2-day aftermath? For me, it’s not.
I eat organic as much as I can. There is enough troubling research about “conventionally grown” food (I find this term awful in itself because it normalizes food sprayed with poisons) for me to justify spending more money on organic produce now, rather than paying for medical bills later on, to treat preventable diseases.
I try to eat as much at home as I can (probably 90%). Not only is it kinder on the wallet but it’s much healthier, too. I also don’t order in unless I have to. After covid, it’s become exorbitantly expensive to order in. Instead, I’ve learned to make simple meals that are also tasty, satisfying, and healthy.
Sugar is a big contributor to “inflammaging” (inflammation + aging) and I, therefore, pay attention to it, especially in packaged goods. I mean, Odwalla’s green juice contains 36 grams of sugar (making it 9 teaspoons of sugar). I typically don’t eat more than 20 grams of sugar per day (including sugar found in food) and recommend that for anyone who wants to keep inflammation at bay.
I’m a strong believer that diet alone isn’t good enough these days. When in herbal school, what shook me were charts showing the decline of the nutritional value of all fruit and vegetables – it was heart-breaking (and still is) and it also shed the light on why, in spite of such a clean and varied diet, most of us don’t feel at our optimal. It took me a while to arrive at this conclusion as for the longest time I was opposed to taking supplements and believed that a good diet can fix it all. It can’t.
Having said that, it works the other way too. Taking heaps of supplements without a clean, varied, and nutrient-dense diet isn’t a guarantee of good health either. If a person is creating inflammation in the body by eating gluten, dairy, excessive sugar, processed foods, and eating outside most of the time, supplements won’t combat that. Instead, I see a clean diet + supplements working together to give you a 1 + 1 = 5 result.
I often get asked what supplements I take on a daily basis. Here is the list:
- Magnesium Replenish – Our magnesium glycinate that I just can’t live without. It helps me sleep, go to the bathroom, and stay calm and composed. As a cofactor, it binds many toxins and is therefore one of the prime stars of the detoxification process.
- Mag Energy – The second type of magnesium I can’t start the day without. For me, it’s slightly energizing and helps me recover from exercise (weight training is what I do now, not cardio).
- D3 + K2 – Enough has been said about D3 so I don’t think I need to elaborate. I have the VDR receptor genetic variant which means I don’t absorb vitamin D well. That means I need to take more of it – between 5,000 and 10,000 IUs per day. I test my D level each year to be sure I’m in the 60-80 ng/mL range. I need to be in this bracket since I have a history of Hashimoto’s disease (I’m in remission now).
- Zinc – I’ve tried not taking it and would get white spots on my nails quickly (a sign of deficiency). If I have access to fresh oysters I stop taking zinc, but that’s often not the case (or they’re just too expensive!), and then I rely on zinc supplementation – primarily for a robust immune system and strong gut integrity.
- B Complex – This is another one I can’t live without and my body would let me know when I’m deficient – symptoms would start with canker sores. Taking vitamin B gives me energy and a sharp mind. It could be psychosomatic because I know so much about B vitamins and liver health. It makes me feel well-supported.
To celebrate my 51st birthday, we’ve put the above supplements together the in the Thriving 50s Kit. You can save $50 on the entire kit with MAG50 coupon code, which is valid until February 15th, 2024.
What I also take and use on a regular basis
- Progesterone (I use our topical, bio-identical ProgestPure Cream) – To balance the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio as progesterone drops quickly after 45. I sleep deeper and feel calmer when using progesterone; typically 25 days out of a month, skipping it during my period.
- Sulforaphane (found in our Brocco Power) – I first came across sulforaphane when reading a study on how this magical substance found in broccoli sprouts (up to 300x than in mature broccoli) can kill cancer stem cells. There is more to it; as an NRF2 activator, it lowers inflammation, reduces cardiovascular risks, and lowers the viral load. (I sometimes wonder if this is why I still have not developed covid).
- Calcium d-glucarate – A wonderful binder of toxins originating from drugs (both prescription and recreational), non-organic food, as well as “dirty” estrogens which I always have to keep at bay. (Based on my genetics, I’m a very slow estrogen metabolizer).
- Vitamin C – I’ve personally developed more affinity for food-derived C vitamin and this is what I’m taking; not only for a robust immune system but to also support native progesterone production.
- Digestive bitters – many people hate them, and this is why we developed ones that actually taste good and still work well – for before and after a meal. I carry them with me and they’re a fixture on my dining table. They help break the food down so I don’t feel full; they ease digestion, balance blood sugar levels, and aid constipation.
3. Sleep and rest
Sleep and day rest have become my non-negotiable. It wasn’t always this way – in my 30s, I used to say that “I will sleep when I die” and now you would hear me say: “Can we meet for dinner at 5 pm because I want to be in bed by 9 pm.”
I’ve written extensively about the many things I researched about sleep over an 8-month period using the Oura Ring to partly guide my research and observations.
Another indispensable tool was Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep which gave me so much appreciation for Deep and REM sleep (which the Oura ring shows) that I’m very protective over it now.
I’ve summed up what my sleep killers are in the Fixing Sleep After 45 article and the short of it is alcohol (especially close to bed), a late and rich meal (I sleep best when I eat complex carbohydrates 4 hours before bed), blue light (from phone, computer, iPad), and magnesium deficiency.
I always feel like I’ve aged 5 years after a lousy night’s sleep – and then come the cravings for sugar and caffeine to get some energy boost – all big inflamm-agers.
I am alone, but I’m not lonely.
With a community of smart, spirited, gifted, worldly girlfriends who are not only high in EQ but who care about this world’s affairs, and their own health, I can’t feel lonely.
The Blue Zone experts often argue what makes these pockets of people live so long. Diets are often used to make an argument. What is often forgotten is the community and support system that exists in these communities and can’t be overlooked as one to gracefully carry a person into her next decade.
I will never forget reading about a pact women in Okinawa make – four of them get together at a young age and pledge to support each other, for life.
I have a secret plan that we buy a house with six other girlfriends and share our lives as a unit of seven, all the way to our late years.
As I write this, I realize there are lots of things I’m doing right and due credit needs to be given. And, by no means do I want to portray my life as being with no faults and weaknesses. There are many and here are some of them.
What I improved on tremendously from last year
One of the powerful things about journaling or blogging is the ability to get reminded where we were in the past – and reflect what has changed, or where we’re stuck.
1. Strength Training
Ever since my hips started giving me a lot of problems (I suffered from congenital hip dysplasia and had a bilateral hip replacement in 2017 – I wrote a blog post about my pre- and post-surgery preparations), I developed an unhealthy relationship with exercise and movement. Running was out of the question; yoga wasn’t giving me the much needed cardio kick; weight training was something for top-heavy men with skinny legs, who scream a lot at a gym.
It was my deep intention to change my relationship with exercise nevertheless because, for an [former] athlete to do nothing, it’s simply exhausting.
Finding a form of exercise that works is key – otherwise we won’t stick with it. After trying a few things, I landed on Steph Gaudreau’s strength training programs – I first did the Dynamic Dumbbells and later committed to a monthly membership program called “Strong with Steph.”
What’s different this time? Why did it stick this time?
I think it’s a combination of things: picking a program that resonates, putting it on my calendar (so there are no excuses not to do it), having a guided program led by someone I respect and who understands how to build a progressive workout. The classes are different each time and offer variations depending on the available equipment and personal limitations.
Another thing that helped was setting up my own mini-gym at home – so I don’t have to travel 3x a week to a gym. I live in the mountains and winter driving can be dangerous – having a home gym eliminates creating excuses.
I even brought the adjustable dumbbells and a kettlebell on the road with me to Mexico.
The end result is: I’m feeling deeply motivated, started seeing great results in my body composition (yes, I can see my muscles again), I feel strong (picking up heavy items while loading my camper van seems to be a breeze) and I don’t get injured like I used to.
So, all in all, I’m really happy and proud of myself for having overcome my resistance to exercise. I hope you find your groove as well – and it can be movement as well (like dancing, rebounding, etc).
2. Alcohol – no more
I wrote last year about my strange and unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I won’t categorize it as alcoholism (I never got to a point of being drunk or having more than 2 drinks at a time) but rather a pull towards it on a frequent basis – in spite of my body sending me all the signals that it wasn’t OK.
The revelation came when I got very sick with an onset of strange symptoms over this and last summer. Symptoms included swollen legs, cellulitis, severe muscular pain, low-grade fever, fatigue, and brain fog. They all happened after having a few beers over the course of a few days. It was clear that it was the beer that was the trigger. I now know that it was most likely the yeast in the beer that activated candida and mold – more on that below.
Bottom line is that I started a strict anti-mold protocol which requires total elimination of alcohol, sugar, and even grains, and beans. In the process of doing that, I developed enough self-care and a desire not to touch alcohol so much that I don’t even think about it now.
Giving up alcohol and sugar have also let me tone down a lot and lose a bunch of pounds.
What I’m Still Working On
Mold toxicity (candida and oxalates)
I was found to have very high mold markers. Using the right lab is key – Mosaic didn’t show the severity of the issue until I tested with Real Time Labs (a practitioner needs to order it). If you’ve been exposed to mold or are having mysterious symptoms that can’t be resolved, it may be a good idea to test for mold.
I will update this blog, the protocol I’m doing and the results as I go but as of December 2023, I re-tested after 3 months of following the anti-mold protocol and the results are very encouraging – most markers have come down and my symptoms have largely resolved.
If you need a practitioner support, I highly recommend Dr Beth O’Hara who has deep personal and practice experience with mold toxicity.
Health isn’t linear – but I’m grateful
As you can see, health isn’t linear and I have to remind myself of the same.
Someone like me, who not only takes care of herself but has dedicated my professional and largely personal life to helping women balance hormones in the most natural ways, can also experience serious setbacks.
Just like in 2008 when diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, it led to changing my profession (from an advertising strategist) to a women’s hormone advocate. Who knows where the recent health challenges will take me?
I’m entering the next decade of my life with excitement and optimism. As my dear friend Dani Williamson said (when I was complaining of hot flashes): “Shut up and be grateful. Many women have not made it that far to even experience a hot flash.”
Learn more with Overcoming Estrogen Dominance
“The body has an amazing ability to heal. We just need to give it the right resources.”
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More than 70% of women experience estrogen dominance. The symptoms range from lumpy and fibrocystic breasts to thyroid nodules, hot flashes, fibroids, uterine polyps, painful, heavy or irregular periods to infertility and miscarriages, from mood swings to insomnia, weight gain to fatigue.
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