In this, my fairly new quest to become fit, I have very serendipitously, come across this book Fit after 40 by Dr. Sheela Nambiar, who is an Ob-Gyn based in Ooty, a fitness consultant, and a practitioner of lifestyle medicine.
Like me, if you have clambered onto the fitness bandwagon only in your 40s, then your natural instinct will have been to take things slow and easy. The last thing you would want is an injury caused by over enthusiasm and ignorance, which ends up derailing your whole fitness plan.
Almost three months after I embarked on this journey, I was at that stage where I knew I had to graduate to the next step, but was not sure in which direction. This book thus made an appearance in my life, when it was exactly what I needed, but had no clue! So my baby steps towards fitness have metamorphosed into toddler steps with Fit after 40. The writer addresses in very practical terms the psychological, physical and emotional changes we undergo once we cross 40. She discusses diets, disease, stretches, flexibility, exercises, weight training, stress, etc.
For me, the biggest challenge has not been the gymming or the walking, both of which I love and look forward to every day. The diet has been the biggest challenge. I have found that any drastic diet is not sustainable. Yet, the unhappy truth is that diet constitutes a significant chunk of any weight loss/fitness programme. Yet, if you are a foodie, how do you reconcile that, to the need to be, if not svelte (a pipe dream, in any case!), but definitely fit?
This book has a wealth of information on these and many diverse topics. The book particularly addresses the challenges of being fit post-40, and that to me is a winner. You must read the book for yourself, but I can’t resist giving some nuggets from the book which specially appealed to me. My main, and most practical takeaways from the book are:
Turn your plate around: Instead of serving yourself a large portion of carbs (rotis, breads, rice) and then ‘dot the plate’ with veggies and proteins, fill your plate with salads and veggies and lean meats, and place the carb/s in a far corner. This sounded eminently doable to me, especially since we all tend to ‘eat’ with our eyes first, before we ever get down to taste it. So a full plate like this, while visually satisfying, will also be a more healthy one.
Intermittent fasting: It’s a much-bandied phrase these days. Indians are already well-aware of the concept of fasting. The author’s brilliantly turned the same concept on its head. She says you can do it your way, with your fast lasting 12 hours or more. Instead of fasting during the day, you can fast at night, which anyway we do, but in a more controlled manner, and for longer hours. So, eat your first meal around 8 am and last meal around 6 pm, which gives you 14 hours of fasting period (6 pm-8 am). Or, delay your first meal till 10 am and that will give you 16 hours of fasting period.
The benefits? It improves over time the ability of the body to handle glucose, enhances brain health, has beneficial effects on genes related to diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, improves heart health, and may even protect us from cancers, says the author. Whoa!
I am trying to implement the 14-hour fast routine, while trying not to stuff myself too much during the 8 am to 6 pm period, which would kind of defeat the whole purpose, right? I do get ravenously hungry by 10 pm, which means I have been trying to sleep relatively early (there goes my Netflix time!). But I hope with time, my system will get used to this radically altered routine. Such a routine is not possible of course, on weekends or if you have a dinner commitment. But doing this even 3-4 days a week should help, is my hope. And boy, what self-control one develops:-)
Stretch to be flexible: The writer emphasises on a good stretch routine of at least 10 minutes in the workout. What’s more, she has illustrations showing the best stretches for you. Again, some of these stretches I had already incorporated, while so many more I have learnt new. According to the author, three of the most common causes of injury and pain during training or working out are overuse, lack of warm-ups, and poor flexibility. Stretches before and after an exercise routine or walking are therefore, mandatory.
Weight training: This is the most significant thing to burn fat, says the writer. As we age, we lose muscle mass, an area where Indians especially, are already deficient. The muscle is a very important tissue when it comes to mobility, and the main utiliser of carbs and fat as fuel for its own functioning. So the more muscle you have, the more the fat and glucose in your body are used up. So building up those muscles, is one of the most vital parts of fitness, post-40.
The author has touched upon many other relevant topics like the importance of sleep, the pros and cons of stress, how to age well while keeping the brain healthy, and so on. Read this book even if you are well on track with your fitness, as it will not only reinforce your healthy habits, but will further clarify your doubts about aspects you may not even have thought of.
To my friends who have hit their 40s, I can’t recommend this book enough. But even to my younger friends, I say this – don’t wait like I did, for wisdom to dawn. Make fitness (yoga/stretches, gymming, walking, swimming), a part and parcel of your daily life. After all, you yourself get to reap the rewards now, don’t you?:-))
P.S: Those who live close to me, around me, do feel free to borrow the book from me!