How to handle your body changing with age

Are you in your 40s and have you started to notice the not-so-subtle changes your body is making? It seems to be misbehaving and not working like it used to.

Sleep; before four hours sleep meant nothing, now it can take you two days to feel semi-human again. Eating; before you could eat anything, now the body complains with bloating, reflux and gut issues. Weight; before you never dreamt of dieting you just stayed the same weight, now you’re trying really hard but the scales are still heading in the wrong direction. 

What should you do?

By making small dietary and lifestyle changes you may see an improvement in your sleep, this would lead to you having more energy and clearer thought. It may also help improve your gut health and help balance your hormones, so you are able to lose weight and your overall fitness levels improve.

Let's take a look at three simple practices you can adopt to help your body changing.

1. Follow a bedtime routine

Go to bed at the same time each evening and wake up at the same time each morning, as it increases the quality of sleep (for example 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.). 

Why is it important to do this? 

As we go through the day, cells within our brain are making connections as a result of any new experiences we may have. When we go to sleep, these important connections are then strengthened, others are filtered out meaning the brain has time to declutter. Having adequate rest helps protect us against many diseases.

We are getting 20% less sleep per night on average than we were 40 years ago!

Why is this? Because we live in a 24/7 world and we expect everything instantly. We all know what it is like when you can’t get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day and find that you are craving large amounts of carbohydrate, processed or sugary foods just to keep you going; long term this could have serious repercussions for a person’s health. 

Woman asleep with duvet covering faceWhat you can do to improve your sleep

  • If you are working from home or in your office all day, this will decrease your melatonin at night by about 50%, so it is extremely important first thing in the morning to expose yourself to natural light and at lunchtime to go outside and have a walk around (exercise), as you want your melatonin (sleep hormone) to start swinging into action late in the afternoon.
  • Stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon as it stops melatonin being released.
  • Eat a carb-rich meal a few hours before going to bed as a number of studies suggest that it can help to induce sleep. 
  • Dim your lights in the evening to reduce lighting exposure. 
  • Switch off or dim lights on your laptop or phone a couple of hours before going to bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom temperature is between 18-22C. 
  • Have a relaxing shower or take a bath to wash away the day before getting into bed.
  • If your mind is always racing around when you go to bed try either writing your thoughts down in a journal or try doing some form of meditation.  

2. Use time-restricted eating (TRE), i.e. eat in an 8–12 hour window 

Have your normal meals within a set time period each day and then have a long fast starting in the early evening until the following day.

There are different ways you can do this, some people do 12:12 this is where you eat in a 12-hour period and then you have a 12-hour overnight period. Others choose a 10-hour window for eating and 14 hours for fasting. Some people prefer 8:16, so the eating window is only eight hours and then the fasting is for 16 hours.

There have been a number of studies that have shown all of these TRE methods help people lose weight; this does depend on which TRE you do and how much weight you have to lose. Because you are eating in a ‘time period’ studies have shown that people are consuming fewer calories overall. It stops the mindless eating of crisps/chocolates or biscuits in the evenings, the same goes for that evening alcoholic drink/drinks or the afternoon piece of cake because you are still full from brunch/lunch and know you are going to eat again very soon.

There are however, other health benefits from doing this such as when you are fasting it can reset your hunger hormones (leptin and ghrelin) so you can register and recognise more easily if you really are hungry or just bored. Also, it may help you to recognise what connection you have with a certain food that may be detrimental to your health such as high sugar content foods or processed foods.

This would also help with sleep too as you would not be eating late in the evening and allowing the digestive system to do its job properly, and so would help reduce the amount of acid reflux, bloating or other digestive issues that people suffer with. 

It's important to note that fasting or time-restricted eating may not be suitable for everyone, so always consult your nutrition professional before trying this out.

Cookbook open on lunch page3. Assess your weight in a healthy practice

Just by following the two steps above would help to start a weight loss journey alongside balancing any hormonal issues.

Keeping a food and symptom diary may help you lose weight. Studies have shown that those who keep a food diary lose more weight than those that don’t. It also allows you to see where you may be overeating and the habits that you have with certain food. Some habits you may wish to keep like having chopped carrots and peppers for an afternoon snack, and some you may wish to stop such as the chocolate bar whilst watching TV.

The symptom part of the diary may show you a pattern of which foods are triggering health issues such as eating pasta and then suffering from bloating or IBS symptoms.  

Why do you want to lose weight and have a healthy lifestyle?

This is a very important step and will take time to write because you need to articulate to yourself the true reasons why you wish to lose weight and why having a healthy lifestyle is important to you. Everyone is different and what it means to one person will not be the same for someone else. 

Menu planning 

  • Menu planning is key so get out your cookbooks and write down what you are going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. That is not to say you will have a snack each day, it is down because if you have written something healthy for your snack you will not be opening the biscuit tin! 
  • Good food is key to your success, it will mean that you do not have to think about what to eat every single day because you have already planned what you will be eating. 
  • Try and add in one or two new recipes, but mainly use recipes you know already; again, keeping it simple is key.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Worcester, Worcestershire, WR2

Written by Karen Swindall MSc, mBANT, CHNC Registered Nutritional Therapist & Health Coach

Worcester, Worcestershire, WR2

My name is Karen Swindall BSc (Hons), PGDip, MSc
Registered Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach
Member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and registered with The Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and Zest4life.

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