Category Archives: Health

Book Announcement: Ten Secrets to Losing Weight After 50

Are you over the age of 50 and struggling to lose weight? Have you tried countless diets to no avail? Do diet methods you used in the past no longer work? If so, I’m here to help. My new book, Ten Secrets to Losing Weight After 50, is available on Amazon now – just in time for those New Year’s Resolutions .

It’s not your imagination. As you age, you tend to gain weight and it’s harder to lose than when you were younger.

A year ago, I weighed 174 pounds – more than I’ve ever weighed before. For the first time, I was at the top of the “overweight” category and creeping ever closer to the “obese” level.

Widening hips, a Buddha belly, and other parts of my body that rolled, jiggled, and sagged added to my dismay. Let’s just say, I wasn’t happy. Not only was I getting fat, but my muscles were noticeably weakening. I could no longer stand up from a squatting position.  Painting my toenails was almost impossible as I lost flexibility.

In a panic, I started dieting and exercising. But as an older, post-menopausal woman, methods that succeeded in the past no longer worked. On top of that, I had developed the bad habit of stress eating while caring for my mother and consoled myself with comfort food after her death. Needless to say, my attempts at losing weight failed dismally.

I felt frustrated, hopeless, and ready to give up. Does any of this sound familiar?

Through extensive research and trial and error, I finally unlocked the secret of losing weight after the mid-century mark. I’m ready to spill my secrets. No dangerous surgeries, diet pills, expensive weight loss programs, pricey supplements, crazy fad diets, expensive gym membership fees, or personal trainers involved.

After explaining why it’s so hard to lose weight after 50, I share 10 things I was doing wrong and what I changed to finally succeed. Want a sneak peak? To show my appreciation for readers of my blog, I’m providing an excerpt of the first chapter of my new book below. Enjoy!

EXCERPT FROM TEN SECRETS TO LOSING WEIGHT AFTER 50

SECRET ONE: CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE

What I Was Doing Wrong: Thinking life wasn’t fair and I’d never lose weight after 50.

 What I Changed: Accepted the facts of life and changed my outlook.

Oh, I had a million reasons why I couldn’t lose weight. In fact, if making excuses were an Olympic event, I could have won a medal. I used the standard excuses. I’m too busy. I’m too stressed. I’m too tired. For good measure, I also added some justifications related to my age. Maybe you’ve used some of these reasons:

  • Losing weight is SO hard as you get older – impossible – in fact.
  • I’m eating the same way I did when I was younger and somehow packing on the pounds.
  • When I dieted before, I’d drop four pounds the first week and two to three pounds a week after that. Now? Forget it! I’m lucky to lose half to one pound a week – if anything at all. Sometimes I even gain weight for no reason at all.
  • The methods I used to lose weight when I was younger don’t work anymore.
  • I’m never going to have that flat belly or small waistline again, so why bother? Isn’t it natural to be shaped like an apple as you age? I give up. It’s not fair!

Notice a recurring theme? Losing weight was just too hard and life wasn’t fair, so I was throwing in the towel and accepting my fatter self. Sound familiar? If you’ve been singing this same song, you need a serious attitude adjustment – just like I did.

Let’s face it. Losing weight is mostly a mental struggle. What you think about your ability to lose weight is crucial to your success. So, don’t get stuck in a negative state of mind convinced that it’s impossible to lose weight after 50. If you allow yourself to think this way, you’re doomed before you start.

So, let’s look at those complaints again:

  • Yes, your metabolism slows down and you lose muscle mass as you age, making it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off. That just means losing weight is more challenging and will likely take more time. But, trust me, it’s by no means impossible. And well worth the extra effort!
  • True, you can’t eat the same way you did when you were younger without gaining weight. As a result, you’ll need to change the way you eat and exercise – permanently. The good news is that you’ll feel much better by doing so. Drinking tons of soda and eating tubs of ice cream just makes you feel sick anyway.
  • You aren’t going to drop weight the way you used to. You’ll need to lower your expectations and practice patience. Be happy with losing a pound or two a week. You’re headed in the right direction and more likely to keep the weight off if pounds drop off slowly. What if you go weeks without losing anything? Later, I’ll share a few ways to get past those stubborn plateaus.
  • Your body has changed. You’ll need to change your dieting and exercising strategies to lose weight and keep it off. I’ll share some tips to help you do just that.
  • And no, it isn’t natural to be shaped like an apple at any age! Perhaps you won’t have the perfect perky butt, tiny waist, and a six-pack after you lose weight. So, change your objective. You’re older and wiser now. Losing weight should be about staying healthy so you can travel, chase your grandchildren, and live a longer and happier life. Exercising should be about maintaining muscle mass to stay strong and increase flexibility, balance, and endurance.

So, no pouting allowed. Don’t use aging as an excuse to eat whatever you want or become a couch potato. If you give up now and sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll just keep gaining weight and suffer the accompanying health risks.

Now that you’ve accepted the fact that losing weight is more challenging as you age – but not impossible – here are some encouraging facts to live by:

  • By eating healthy and making a commitment to becoming more active, experts assure that you can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45. Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?
  • Food choices and fitness strategies really do work – even in your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
  • Every day you make choices about what you eat and how active you will be that day. Those decisions make a difference. It’s never too late to adopt new lifestyle habits and make a big difference in your health.

How Many Calories Do You Need?

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s time to accept facts. You burn fewer calories as you age. So, just how many calories should you eat to lose weight?

You can use a complicated math formula to figure it out or try an online calculator. Since math gives me a headache, I’m going to keep things simple and look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines to give you a general idea of how many calories you should eat each day.

As mentioned earlier, according to the guideline, sedentary women over 50 burn about 1,600 calories a day. Sedentary men over 50 burn between 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day.

These calorie breakdowns are just to maintain – not lose – weight. If you’re reading this book, most likely you want to drop some pounds. Experts say that to lose one pound a week, you’ll need about a 500-calorie deficit each day.

Let’s crunch some numbers. As a rule of thumb, that means if you’re a sedentary man over 50, you’ll want to shoot for about 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day and burn at least 100 calories a day with exercise. If you’re a sedentary woman over 50, aim for 1,200 calories a day and burn an extra 100 calories. Keep in mind, these numbers are just an estimate.

Maybe you’re thinking “sedentary” doesn’t describe you. In fact, I considered myself an active person. However, if you sit most the day at work or home – even if you perform normal daily activities like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking your dog for an evening walk – you are considered “sedentary.” Since, as a writer, this described me, I had to reluctantly accept that I was in this category.

A moderately active lifestyle refers to working a job that requires you to be on your feet like a nurse, teacher, waitress, or surveyor plus daily physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour. That leisurely evening stroll around the block doesn’t count. I’m talking about a form of exercise that makes you breathe harder and break a sweat for about 30 minutes each day. If that describes your lifestyle, you can adjust your caloric intake accordingly by adding about 200 calories (or more if you are extremely active) to your diet each day.

Since these numbers can vary, a little experimentation will help you determine the exact number of calories you can consume and still lose weight.

Most experts caution against eating less than 1,200 calories a day for a woman and 1,600 calories for a man. Doing so can decrease muscle mass and lower your metabolic rate as well as cause malnutrition.

Small Changes Can Reduce Calories

Before you get discouraged, eliminating 500 calories a day isn’t as hard as it sounds. The right diet, which I’ll address in the next chapter, can help you do so. However, even making a few small changes in your diet and lifestyle alone can make a big difference.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Drink an iced tea instead of a 12-ounce can of soda and switch a large serving of French fries for a side salad and you’ll save more than 500 calories.
  • Ask your waiter to box up half your meal before it gets to the table and you’ll save 750 calories on average, according to a new study. Or simply share an entrée when eating out. Researchers found that a typical meal at an American, Italian, or Chinese restaurant contains about 1,500 calories—far more than anyone needs at one meal.
  • Switch a large popcorn without butter at the movie theater concession, which packs a whopping 1,030 calories, for a small popcorn without butter for 225 calories and you’ll save 805 calories.

Burning Calories in Record Time

Later, I’ll discuss which type of exercises are most beneficial if you’re 50-plus. I want you to keep in mind, however, that you can burn 100 calories painlessly and, in most cases, in under a half-hour.

Of course, always consult with your physician before starting any activity, but running for just five to seven minutes will do the trick. If you hate running or your lower back and knees can’t take it, walk briskly or cycle for 20 minutes. Try a cardio dance class for just 15 minutes, use an elliptical for 15 minutes, walk up and down stairs for 10 minutes, lift weights for 15 minutes, or do some Pilates for about 20 minutes.

Not happy losing only one pound a week?

Work up to it and burn 500 calories each day for a two-pound-per-week sustainable weight loss. Perform an hour of Zumba, garden for an hour and a half, play an hour of basketball, go horseback riding for an hour and 45 minutes, spring clean your house for three hours, or my favorite – play an hour of competitive racquetball.

There you go. Not so bad. By the way, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn during these activities.

Stay Tuned for More Tips

So, what other tricks do I have up my sleeve? Which diet should you choose? What can you do to avoid feeling hungry? How can you control stress eating? Which kind of exercises produce the best results? How can you get past those stubborn plateaus?

I’ll share all my secrets with you. But remember, the first step is to change your mindset and you too can succeed. You can lose weight and be healthy after 50. I’m living proof it’s possible. Make a lifelong commitment to eat better, exercise more, and live the second half of your life to the fullest.

You Can Do It!

So, there you go. Like many people, my 50s were a time to take stock and I was not going to surrender to middle-age spread and cross the line into obesity without a fight. If I – someone who battled with weight most of my life – can win the weight war, you can too!

Food choices and fitness strategies really do work – even in your 50s, 60s, and beyond. It’s never too late to adopt new healthy lifestyle habits and make a big difference in your health.

Want to lose those stubborn pounds? Click here to purchase your own copy of my latest book.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Super Foods for Baby Boomers Over 50

Eating healthy is important at any age but becomes especially crucial for baby boomers over 50. Why?

Okay, the bad news first. As we get older, our bodies go through some major changes, as nutritional expert Tara Collingwood M.S., RDN points out in an interview for Newsmax. “Men and women alike are susceptible to bone loss, muscle loss, hormonal changes, and the dreaded middle age spread,” the dietitian explains. “We see and feel these changes in our achy joints, vision impairment, heart complications, weight gain, decreased memory retention, and lack of energy — all of which are tied directly to nutrition. “

The good news? Eating the right foods can help prevent diseases, maintain a healthy metabolism, and help you look and feel good.

Win-win!

With that in mind, here are 10 super foods that boast a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio to keep your body performing optimally. You’ll notice that some of these age-defying and disease-fighting super foods are items that you may already love and are sitting inside your refrigerator or pantry.

#1 Wild Salmon

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, particularly fatty fish like salmon. Salmon is packed with vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins, and other important minerals, but that’s not all. Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps fight inflammation, removes triglycerides from the blood, benefits arthritis, and may even help with memory loss and dementia. (By the way, omega-3 can also be found in other fatty, cold-water fish like herring, sardines, rainbow trout, cod, tuna, and mackerel.)

In addition, salmon is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. This is important since protein is what our bodies use for maintenance and repair. No wonder experts often put salmon at the top of their list of healthy foods that promote good health!

#2 Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are tiny, nutritional, energy-boosting dynamos – in fact, they’re the single richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids you can buy. They’re loaded with antioxidants, protein, minerals, plus soluble and insoluble fiber to help digestion.

The seeds are also a “complete protein” – which means they contain all nine essential amino acids, which is incredibly rare for a plant-based source of protein. Another benefit? These little seeds have an unusual property – they swell to more than five times their weight in liquid. That means adding a spoonful or two to meals will help you feel fuller. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, this can be helpful!

So here are a few fun facts about this super food. Although chia seeds have only become a popular health food recently, they’ve been around a long time as a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets.  In fact, “chia” means “strength” in the Mayan language. Aztec warriors were known to use the seeds to give them high energy and endurance, especially during battles. And in case you’re wondering, these seeds are the same ones used for the iconic Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pets that allow you to “grow” garden animals and characters. However, the seeds in these kits aren’t approved for consumption, so head to a grocery or drugstore to reap the health benefits.

These nutritious seeds are virtually tasteless, so you can add them to just about anything including oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, sauces, breakfast cereals, soups, and salads. Or if you’re making pancakes, waffles, muffins, or homemade granola, toss in some seeds. Another popular way to eat the seeds is by making “chia pudding.” Just mix some seeds with one cup of liquid like almond milk. After 15 minutes or so, the seeds “swell” and the pudding is ready to eat. Add some fruit, nuts, or other toppings to add flavor. Just be careful about eating spoonfuls of the seeds by themselves which could pose a choking hazard.

#3 Avocados

This unique and nutritious fruit contains 20 different vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants including carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are important for eye health. Surprisingly, avocados have more potassium than bananas- an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of that can help reduce blood pressure. 

Other bonuses: Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which numerous studies have shown can help lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol while boosting ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. These fruits are also high in omega-3 fatty acids which, as previously mentioned, help remove triglycerides from the blood and lower inflammation. 

#4 Blueberries/Blackberries

These small berries are packed with nutrients including vitamins, potassium, minerals and antioxidants. Blueberries and blackberries contain high levels of soluble fiber which is beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and lowering blood pressure.

The berries rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants including concentrated levels of flavonoids, a natural brain booster that helps reduce age-related declines in motor skills and cognitive activity. 

When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have.  These fruits are also anti-inflammatory.  The good news is that frozen are just as good as fresh and easy to toss on your morning cereal or salad. 

#5 Almonds.

Nuts in general are good for our bodies, but almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut, ranking highest in protein, calcium, vitamin E (which helps skin stay supple), magnesium, and folate. Almonds are also high in manganese and copper which are necessary to form collagen which can help our bodies look and feel younger. 

An added bonus: Dieters who ate almonds daily shed 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more fat than those who didn’t, a study from Loma Linda University in California found. “The fiber in nuts may prevent your body from absorbing some fat, speeding weight loss,” says lead author Michelle Wien, R.D. Almond eaters also lowered their blood pressure, the study noted.

#6 Ginger

Ginger may be best known for its ability to soothe stomach aches and ease nausea. But it has so much more to offer. 

This anti-aging herb is a good source of many nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6; however, the majority of its benefits for anti-aging nutrition come from its special phytonutrients called gingerols. As WebMD points out: “When you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly.” Healthline adds: “Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.”

By the way, other herbs such as garlic and turmeric also contain anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve achy joints and stiff muscles. 

#7 Matcha Green Tea

Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it’s made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.

The good news is that these powerful properties can help us baby boomers as we age. To read all about the anti-aging benefits, check out my previous blog written by an expert guest blogger.

What makes matcha such a super food? Its key component is EGCG, a catechin linked to lowering risks to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. Loaded with antioxidants, matcha is known for its immunity-boosting and disease-fighting properties. According to Healthline.com, “Including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases.”

EGCG is also linked to potential weight loss benefits. Matcha can crank up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories every day and process food more effectively. In fact, researchers conducted a series of studies on dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who didn’t drink it.

The amino acid L-theanine in matcha, which stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin helps improve concentration and memory. According to a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, regular consumption of green tea may even offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

An added benefit: Unlike coffee, the amino acids in Matcha help your body absorb the caffeine gradually which releases energy slowly and sustainably. Matcha promises a four to six hour energy boost that’s just enough to perk you up.

Janie Zeitlin, a registered dietitian in White Plains, NY and New York City, says matcha is a “nutritional powerhouse,” and “a valuable addition to any diet,” but adds that moderation is best because of the potency. Most experts recommend drinking a cup or two a day. 

#8 Beans

Experts recommend adults consume three cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. With good reason.

This often overlooked super food is considered “heart healthy” since beans contain an abundance of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Beans also deliver a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals, including blood-pressure-regulating magnesium, energizing iron, bone-strengthening calcium, potassium, and folate as well as antioxidants. Keep in mind, the darker the bean, the higher its antioxidant levels.

As a bonus, beans help raise levels of the hormone leptin which curbs appetite and thereby can help you maintain a healthy weight. Beans are also metabolized more slowly than other complex carbs, helping you feel fuller longer while delivering an excellent source of energy through much of the day.

A comparatively inexpensive source of protein, beans can be purchased canned, frozen, or dried. To increase your intake, incorporate beans into main dishes like chile or soup, use as a filling side-dish instead of bread or potatoes, toss into a salad, or eat snacks like roasted chick peas or hummus. Have a variety of beans including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, fava beans, and lentils in your pantry and get creative!

#9 Quinoa

The South American grain quinoa is well-known to vegans and vegetarians because it’s a complete protein and filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as B2, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus.

Quinoa is easy to use in place of other grains, pastas, or white rice. An excellent source of protein with sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids, it punches more nutrition than most grains.

In addition, quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These are potent plant antioxidants with numerous health benefits.

#10 Dark Chocolate

Okay, I saved the best for last. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Just so happens that quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a few other minerals.

Dark chocolate also contains organic compounds that function as antioxidants, including  polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, among others. Some studies indicate that consuming small amounts of dark (at least 70 percent cacao) chocolate on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of stroke in women by 20 percent.

The darker the chocolate, the lower the fat and sugar content. However, don’t go too crazy. Unfortunately, there are 170 calories in one piece (1 oz) of dark chocolate and the treat does contain sugar along with all those nutrients, so should be eaten in moderation. Still, I love that dark chocolate can be counted as a health food, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Ways Baby Boomers Can Improve Heart Health

Many people are focused on candy hearts with romantic messages and heart-shaped boxes of candy in February, but this month also happens to be American Heart Month. What better time for baby boomers to think about their hearts in a literal way, focusing on ways to prevent heart disease and develop heart-healthy habits?

Of course, we boomers are already focused on our health to some extent. In fact, nearly four times as many baby boomers worry about health than finances or outliving their money in retirement.

Our worries aren’t unfounded. Consider these sobering facts about heart disease, the most prevalent fatal chronic disease afflicting older Americans, according to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

  • Heart disease accounts for 32 percent of all deaths and is the leading cause of death for both men and women age 65 and older.
  • Although many Americans do not perceive heart disease as a woman’s health issue, estimates indicate that from 40 to 50 percent of postmenopausal women will develop heart disease.
  • The American Heart Association estimates that 81% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years old or older.

The good news is that even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent. Since February happens to be American Heart Month, let’s celebrate by taking a quick look at six ways to improve your heart health:

Here’s how to get started:

Control Your Risk Factors

Be proactive and know your numbers when it comes to your health. Regular check-ups are essential as we age. Type 2 Diabetes is at its highest level for those over 65. And baby boomers are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure than the previous generation. All three of these conditions increase the risk of heart disease. If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about implementing an effective treatment plan.

Break Out Those Sneakers

Step away from the TV and get your heart rate up. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. In other words, aim for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Not so bad, right? Moderate exercise is classified as walking, riding a bike, going for a swim, gardening, a game of basketball, or even washing the car. Pick an activity you love so you’ll stick with it.

Avoid Smoking

The good news is that baby boomers are less likely to smoke than previous generations. However, if you’re an exception to the rule, February is the perfect time to quit. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, and causes one in five deaths each year in the United States. Need help? The American Lung Association offers tips and tools including a counselor-staffed phone line you can call for support. Get started!

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

Ditch the processed and fast foods and eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and healthy fats and oils. We boomers love to eat out, but try and eat more home-cooked meals to have more control over your diet. Make it fun and have a potluck inviting your friends and family to bring a heart-healthy dish and share their recipes. Eat healthier and control portion size. And not just for February. Shoot for the long run. Maintain a healthy body weight and your heart will thank you.

Reduce Stress

Baby boomers often face stressful situations including caring for aging parents, retirement worries, loss of a loved one, and declining health. Nonetheless, as we age, it becomes imperative to find ways to reduce this silent killer that is a leading contributor to heart disease. Find healthy ways to relax whether it’s listening to soothing music, an evening stroll, deep breathing, or watching a funny movie.

Control Drinking

Last year, baby boomers received new warnings about alcohol as people aged 50-plus deaths linked to alcohol soared. Although studies have shown that moderate drinking – one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men – can reduce heart disease risk, those benefits quickly turn into health risks when you drink more than that amount. If you’re over-drinking, cut down the number of days you drink alcohol, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink at one sitting, and avoid people, places, things and activities that may trigger a drinking binge.

By making some small changes in your everyday life, you can make a big difference for your long-term health. Choose to make yourself a priority and ask your friends and family to join you in your efforts to become heart-healthy so you can have a long, fulfilling life – not only during American Heart Month, but every month of the year!

 

 

More Baby Boomers Trying to Find Bliss with Marijuana

Recently, when I’ve attended concerts that tend to attract baby boomers, such as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones, I’ve noticed a lot of boomers lighting up joints.

Turns out that’s no coincidence.

According to a recent report in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more baby boomers are using weed and other cannabis products.

Nine percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they’ve used marijuana in the past year, doubling in the past decade, while three percent of those over 65 have done so, the research found.

Perhaps that’s not a big surprise, since the baby boomer generation has had more experience than other generations with marijuana, which surged in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s. More than half (almost 55%) of middle-age adults have used marijuana at some point in their lives, while over a fifth (about 22%) of older adults have done so, according to the study.

Those who used marijuana as teens were more likely to say they were still fans of the herb, the team at New York University found.

What accounts for marijuana’s big comeback with the older crowd?

Certainly, the stigma of using marijuana has decreased. I never used but, admittedly, weed was considered cool when I was in high school during the 70s. However, we made fun of “potheads” who smoked constantly and came to school fumbling around like fools in a fog bank. That seems to have changed in recent years with some boomers considering it cool to act like teenagers again and claiming the title, pothead, with pride, as if smoking marijuana was some kind of accomplishment.

Access has certainly been made easier with the legalization of marijuana for medical use in 29 states and D.C. and for recreational use in eight states and D.C., including here in California where I live. Pot farms are springing up everywhere including one of the nearby desert towns, Desert Hot Springs, which has been nicknamed Desert Pot Springs.

Some baby boomers use weed to ease aching joints or other ailments or to help them sleep.

Whatever the reasons for boomers lighting up, beware, there are some definite pitfalls. The survey indicated that users think marijuana is harmless. But the researchers were quick to point out that is clearly not the case.

“Acute adverse effects of marijuana use can include anxiety, dry mouth, tachycardia (racing heart rate), high blood pressure, palpitations, wheezing, confusion, and dizziness,” they warned. “Chronic use can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, depression, impaired memory, and reduced bone density.”

Researchers also reported that baby boomers using cannabis were more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs. Marijuana users were also more likely to misuse prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers than their peers.

Mixing substances is particularly dangerous for older adults with chronic diseases, the team advised. Marijuana may intensify symptoms and interact with prescribed medications.

In fact, physicians should ask older patients about whether they use marijuana because it can interact with prescription drugs, the team recommended, and it may point to substance abuse problems.

In other words, baby boomers would do well to find true bliss in healthier ways.

 

 

Spring Allergy Tips for Baby Boomers

It’s been a long, brutal winter and spring has finally arrived. You baby boomers are more than ready to enjoy the glorious weather and ACHOO! Unfortunately, spring allergies are here as well. Suddenly, your nose is constantly running or stuffed up, your eyes are itchy and watery, and the sneezing fits won’t stop.

allergiesAs a matter of fact, it is estimated that more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies each year and we baby boomers are certainly not immune. However, spring allergies and commonly used drugs such as decongestants and antihistamines affect us differently as we age.

Here is what you need to know:

Baby Boomer Allergy Complications 

The bad news first. Maybe you’re mystified because you’re suddenly suffering from allergies when you’ve never had hay fever before in your life. Guess what? Allergies sometimes make their first appearance in our golden years.

Wait, there’s more. The supporting cartilage around the nose often weakens as we age, leading to narrowing airways and a a stuffed nose. This annoying problem has a name, “geriatric rhinitis.” In addition, less blood flow can lead to more nasal dryness. These issues that arise as we get older can make allergies feel even worse.

But there’s plenty of drugs to help us out, right?

Hold on a second. Before you start popping over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, know that these drugs can be hazardous for those with cardiovascular problems or lung disease. In addition, these commonly used medications can have dangerous side effects like raising blood pressure, drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, and urinary tract symptoms. Allergy medications can also interact with drugs commonly prescribed to baby boomers, causing mood swings, changes in behavior, and insomnia. On top of that, decongestants and antihistamines can dry the nasal passages making symptoms worse.

Okay, that’s the bad news, but not all is hopeless. What can we baby boomers suffering from hay fever do?

Try Natural Solutions

Head off spring allergies by starting to treat them before you feel anything, advises Nathanael Horne, MD, of New York Medical College. One step is to spritz a saline rinse into your nose daily to wash away pollen, an article in Reader’s Digest suggests. This method won’t necessarily take the place of medication, but it could reduce your need for drugs. In one study, participants who rinsed their sinuses twice a day for three to six weeks reported less nasal congestion than those who didn’t.

Neti pots, small plastic pots that look like a miniature tea pot or perhaps an enchanted genie lamp, have been used since ancient times in India. I’ll admit, leaning forward and putting the pot in one nostril so a salt and water solution runs through your nasal passages and comes out your other nostril, feels a bit weird – and gross – at first. However, studies show that it thins mucus and helps flush out the nasal passages of pollen. In general, it is recommended you use the nasal irrigation system daily at first, and once symptoms have subsided, three times a week.

Acupuncture may also help relieve hay fever, according to new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, allergy sufferers who were randomly assigned to a dozen acupuncture sessions had more symptom relief and used less antihistamine medication.

Avoid Allergens

Okay, this may be a “no duh” but if you’re allergic to flowers or freshly mowed grass, avoid these allergens. Keep an eye on the pollen count in your area and avoid going outdoors when the numbers are high. Also, on these days, keep windows closed and use air conditioning when possible.

Remember, pollen sticks to you. So, if you can’t resist going outdoors, when you return home, remove your shoes and clothes, take a shower and wash your hair, and put on some fresh clothes. Do not dry your clothes outside on a clothesline this time of year; use a dryer.

Consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your air conditioner or heating system which can help ease allergy symptoms. And also having frequent  to make sure your A/C is working right. Freestanding air purifiers with HEPA filters are also available. If you don’t have a HEPA filter in your cleaner, you may be making your symptoms worse by stirring up pollen that has settled on your floor and furniture, says Selina Gierer, an allergy expert at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

 

If Allergies are Severe Talk to Your Doctor as Soon as Possible

If none of these suggestions help, you may need to nip those allergies in the bud with drugs. If you have other serious health issues, your doctor may not be focused on allergies. But if you’re having problems, it’s better to start treating symptoms before they get out of hand.

Because traditional decongestants and antihistamines have so many side effects, talk with your doctor about alternative treatments like a nasal steroid.

You may also want to consider allergy shots. In a study of people between the ages of 65 and 75 with hay fever published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots reduced symptoms by 55 percent after three years of therapy and decreased the amount of medication needed by 64 percent.

“Hay fever is often ignored in older patients as a less significant health problem because of diseases such as asthma, coronary heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure,” Dr. Ira Finegold, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says in a news release. “Also, some baby boomers might not realize they have allergies, and their physicians might not suggest allergy shots. The research indicated that allergy shots were extremely effective for this group.”

So, there you go my fellow baby boomers. Try these tips so you can curb your spring allergies and enjoy the spring season!

Baby Boomers: Turn Back the Clock on Your Heart 20 Years with Exercise

I’m loving this latest report. According to a small study, even if you’ve been pretty much a couch potato for most your life, it’s not too late. You can still get in shape now in late middle-age and help your heart function as if it were 20 years younger.

exercise late middle ageThe study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, looked at healthy but sedentary people between the ages of 45 and 64.

Individuals were put into two different groups. The first group participated in a program of non-aerobic exercise such as yoga, balance training, and weight training three times a week. The second group, did moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise for four or more days a week.

After two years, the group engaging in the higher-intensity exercise saw a dramatic improvement in the function of their hearts.

“We took these 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30- or 35-year-old hearts,” said Dr. Ben Levine, a sports cardiologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. “Their hearts processed oxygen more efficiently and were notably less stiff.”

Sorry, but walking the dog around the block a couple days a week doesn’t seem to do the trick. Of course, any kind of exercise is better than nothing at all, but if you want to turn the clock back on your heart, a bit more is needed.  A key part of the effective exercise regimen was interval training — short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a few minutes of recovery.

The researchers eased the exercise group into its routine with three, 30-minute, moderate exercise sessions a week for the first three months and built up to a regular set of workouts that peaked at 10 months and included:

  • Two days of high-intensity intervals: four minutes at 95 percent of a person’s maximum ability (for example, running at a brisk pace or pedaling fast against resistance), followed by three minutes of active recovery (jogging slower, walking briskly, or pedaling slower), repeated four times.
  • One day of an hour-long moderate-intensity exercise that raised the heart rate and the participant enjoyed like dancing, tennis, swimming, cycling, or a brisk walk.
  • One or two days of 30-minute sessions of moderate-intensity exercise, meaning the participant would break a sweat, be a little short of breath, but still be able to carry on a conversation.
  • One or two weekly strength training sessions using weights or exercise machines either on a separate day or after an exercise session.

The participants were encouraged to use diversification with lots of different exercise equipment (stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical trainers) and engage in outdoor exercises (jogging and cycling) to keep themselves motivated and interested, Levine said.

The intense workout was important, Levine emphasized, even if it was just once a week. Pushing as hard as you can for four minutes stresses the heart, he explained, and forces it to function more efficiently. Repeating the intervals helps strengthen both the heart and the circulatory system.

Another benefit? “It breaks up the monotony of just the walking,” he said. “Most people really enjoy the high intensity work. You would think that they wouldn’t but they like the fact that it’s short and they like the fact that they feel stronger afterwards.”

The participants tracked their heart rate, which is ideal. But as an alternative, use the simple talk test. During the high-intensity intervals, you should be working hard enough and breathing heavy enough that you can’t talk comfortably in long sentences.

Don’t wait too long, Levine warned. “The sweet spot in life to get off the couch and start exercising is in late middle-age when the heart still has plasticity,” Levine said. You may not be able to reverse the aging of your heart if you wait until after 70 to begin.

But you’ll still see benefits from exercising. A research team at Tufts University found that frail people as old as 89 could tolerate an exercise regime that included walking, leg lifts, and stretching. The participants may not have turned back the clock on their hearts, but they improved in ways that could make a big difference. Exercising helped them maintain their mobility and decreased their chances of becoming physically disabled.

“You are never too old, or never too weak, or never too impaired [to benefit from a physical activity program],” said Roger Fielding of Tufts, who led the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Of course, before starting any strenuous exercise program, be sure and check with your doctor. Then get off that couch and start moving!

Five Anti-Aging Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

photo green teaMaybe you’ve heard all the talk about Matcha Green Tea, the latest “it” beverage that’s on everybody’s lips – literally! What’s all the fuss about? Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it is made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.

The good news is that these powerful properties can help us baby boomers as we age. Guest blogger Erin Young is a health food writer, tea expert, and partners with sustainable tea farms in Japan as owner of Evergreen Matcha in the U.S. and Zen Green Tea Matcha in Australia. She shares five ways this trendy tea can help us stay young. Without further ado, here is her article:

Aches and pains, low energy, forgetfulness – these are just a few of the everyday annoyances and challenges that seem to add up as we get older. And while we can’t stop ourselves from aging, that doesn’t mean we have to accept everything that comes along with it.

If you’re in search of natural solutions, you may want to try matcha, a type of green tea that comes from the whole tea leaf stone ground into fine powder. More than being a delicious drink, it also happens to be packed with numerous anti-aging properties.

Here are five wonderful benefits of Matcha Green Tea:

#1 Matcha helps keep your skin looking young.

Your skin is your largest organ and it’s important to nourish and protect it from damage.

Just one cup of matcha green tea every day can protect your skin from damage because of the high concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent the collagen within your skin from being damaged by the toxins we are exposed to everyday from things like pollution and sunlight.

Additionally, matcha powder can also be applied as a face mask due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Try the following formula once a week for noticeably brighter skin:

photo matcha powderIngredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of matcha powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon moisturizer

Instructions:

  • Mix together in a bowl
  • Apply to the skin and leave on for 20 minutes
  • Wash off

#2 Matcha is a natural energy-booster.

If you feel tired throughout the day, it might be because of the coffee you drink. Coffee contains high levels of caffeine, which can initially boost energy levels and then cause them to crash afterwards. This leaves you feeling fatigued and often reaching for sugary snacks – which causes energy levels to spike and crash, yet again!

Unlike coffee, matcha releases energy slowly and sustainably. It contains amino acids which help your body absorb the caffeine, gradually. That means you won’t have jitters at the onset, nor an afternoon slump. It’s really been a game-changer for those looking for a sugar-free coffee replacement.

Matcha promises a four to six hour energy boost that’s just enough to perk you up. If you often feel tired by afternoon, try swapping your coffee for a matcha.

#3 Matcha improves mood and combats memory-loss.

If you find yourself forgetting where you left your keys or even the most important appointments, Matcha Green Tea has properties that can help in this department.

How? It’s the amino acid L-theanine in matcha, which stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin and improves concentration and memory. According to a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, regular consumption of green tea may even offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

As an added benefit, matcha has been known to reduce stress levels and even used to treat people with anxiety.

#4  Matcha detoxifies your body and can help you lose weight.

Matcha’s vibrant green color comes from a high level of chlorophyll, making it a detoxifier that helps your body get rid of heavy metals and toxins.

Apart from being a natural cleanser, matcha may also help you lose a few pounds. The major antioxidant in green tea – EGCG – is linked to potential weight loss benefits. Matcha can crank up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories every day and process food more effectively. In fact, researchers conducted a series of studies on dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who didn’t drink it.

Since matcha has more of EGCG than regular green tea, that makes it a unique, antioxidant-rich beverage you may want to incorporate into your weight loss plan and fitness goals.

#5 Matcha helps fend off diseases.

Matcha, loaded with antioxidants, is also known for its immunity-boosting and disease-fighting properties. According to Healthline.com, “including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases.”

What makes matcha such a super food? Once again, its key component is EGCG, a catechin linked to lowering risks to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease, among others.

Janie Zeitlin, a registered dietitian in White Plains, NY and New York City, says matcha is a “nutritional powerhouse,” and “a valuable addition to any diet,” but adds that moderation is best because of the potency. Most experts recommend drinking a cup or two a day. Since one cup of matcha contains the equivalent of multiple cups of green tea in terms of antioxidants, you’ll still reap all the health benefits.

PHOTO erinErin Young’s company, Evergreen Matcha, ensures buyers that they source 100% authentic, high quality Matcha Green Tea grown from sustainable family-owned farms in Kyoto, Japan. If you’re interested in trying matcha, she is offering  readers 10% off their first purchase and free state-wide shipping.

To take advantage of this special offer, visit Evergreen’s website and use coupon “1MATCHA” at checkout. If you’d like a free Matcha Recipe book with over 30 healthy recipes delivered to your inbox, click here.

 

 

Baby Boomers Warned About Over-Drinking as Alcohol-Related Deaths Soar

Wine Glass

Don’t shoot the messenger, but baby boomers are hitting the bottle at alarming levels.

Just this week, baby boomers received new warnings about alcohol as people aged 50-plus deaths linked to alcohol soared. The number of deaths attributed solely to alcohol has increased 45% since 2001, according to a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.

While this study was based on patients in Europe, baby boomers in America don’t fare any better. One out of every eight Americans has an alcohol disorder, according to a study published in August 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry. While the survey showed alcohol disorders increased for the US population in general, some of the sharpest increases were among baby boomers. For example, high risk alcohol use increased 65.2 percent  and alcoholism rose 106.7 percent for the over 65 crowd during the last decade.

By 2020 the number of people receiving treatment for substance misuse problems is expected to double in Europe, and treble in the US, among those aged over 50.

This is bad news for baby boomers since alcohol is linked to more than 60 illnesses and diseases including heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and dementia.

Why Are Baby Boomers Drinking Too Much?

We were the generation famous for drinking a martini or Manhattan after work as often shown on the TV show Madmen. But is there more to this growing problem of alcohol misuse? Probably.

This blog was inspired by reports that baby boomers, especially those in their 50s and 60s, are statistically the unhappiest age group. Many boomers face stressful events such as declining health, raising teenagers, looming college tuitions, adult children moving back home, caring for aging parents, menopause, the loss of a loved one, and social isolation.

Add to that financial stress. According to a poll by AARP, baby boomers are more worried than any other age group about retirement security. Many boomers confess they didn’t put enough money aside for retirement and find themselves heading toward their golden years with mortgage and credit card debt.

All of this worry, stress, and depression can easily trigger the misuse of alcohol if not kept in check.

Another factor may go back to the disappointment of our generation that expected a better world. “What does alcohol mean to our generation?” asks Christina Fraser, a relationship counselor with Coupleworks and herself a baby boomer. “We drink to fill a void. Our parents had a job, retired and dropped dead two years later. They worked hard and had fewer opportunities. The baby boomers were given the promise of a world that was full of possibilities. Instead, we are seeing that world close in.”

What is Considered Over-Drinking?

Baby boomers who love wine o’clock may be shocked to hear what is considered over-drinking.  Moderate drinking is one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men. So maybe you’re thinking you don’t drink everyday, mostly just on weekends.

Do the math. Women are considered “heavy drinkers” if they have eight or more drinks a week. Men can have 14.

A standard “drink,” by the way, is not that big wine glass filled to the tippy top, a huge frosty mug, or giant Hurricane glass. The CDC says a drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. If you pour more than these standard serving sizes, it counts for more than one drink.

While studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people, those benefits quickly turn into health risks. These dangers include an increased risk of cancer, heart, and liver disease.

In fact, on the heels of the new study warning baby boomers to stop over-drinking, comes another statement from representatives the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that “even light drinking increases your risk of cancer.” ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, said that alcohol has been a known human carcinogen, or known to cause cancer, for a long time within the medical community.

Moderate drinkers nearly double their risk for mouth and throat cancer and more than double the risk of esophagus cancer compared to nondrinkers. They also face elevated risks for cancer o the voice box, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

The risk for heavy drinkers is much higher and downright sobering (excuse the pun). Heavy drinkers face roughly five times the risk of mouth and throat cancers and squamous cell esophageal cancers than nondrinkers, nearly three times the risk of cancers of the voice box, double the risk of liver cancer, as well as increased risks for breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Ways to Cut Back

So we baby boomers have been put on notice. How can we scale back on alcohol use?

  • Cut down the number of days you drink alcohol. In fact, you may want to abstain for a week or a month to see how you feel physically and emotionally without alcohol in your life.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink at one sitting. If you normally drink two glasses of wine, make it one instead.
  • If you are drinking too much, avoid people, places, things and certain activities that trigger an urge to drink. For example, baby boomers love to splurge on dining out, but this luxury often prompts people to drink more. If this is the case, consider going out to dinner less often.
  • Find healthy alternatives for coping with stress, loneliness, or anger. For example, if you’re tempted to reach for a drink take a walk, garden, or take a long bubble bath.

Experts say that alcohol misuse among older people isn’t a problem that will simply disappear on its own. This new data should serve as a wake-up call to all baby boomers to examine their drinking habits.

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ten Ways to Manage Baby Boomer Back Pain

As a famous Aunty Acid cartoon says: “It’s bad news when you get to the age where your back goes out more than you do.”

Back PainThat’s for sure. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of back issues during my lifetime, but recently that’s changed. My lower back pain has become chronic and can’t be ignored any longer.

Of course, I’m far from alone. According to statistics, four-fifths of Americans have back pain.

My back problems probably have something to do with my age. But I don’t want to accept that. Isn’t it cooler to think my lower back hurts because of my vicious racquetball games with hubby? Yeah, that’s it! (I swear, old age creeps up on you like underwear.)

If you’re in the same boat, what should you do?

According to research, people who don’t pursue extreme treatment have fewer complications. So before you rush out to get an MRI or x-ray, ask for epidural or cortisone shots, start popping pain pills, or thinking about surgery, try the following recommendations:

Be Patient

At this point, I’m not hopeful my back pain will resolve itself without taking some kind of action – like get the NJNBI consultation at least, and I’m not very good at being patient. However, according to Prevention’s website, as many as 90% of back-pain episodes resolve within six weeks, whether they’re the result of an injury or due to a structural or nerve problem. It doesn’t hurt to give it some time to see if the back pain gets better on its own.

Use Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Oh, I hate to admit it, but me and hubby are both popping Aleve pills like Pez candy lately. We keep a huge bottle in our nightstand. But the fact is, ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or a naproxen (like Aleve) can help ease the pain. Research shows these types of drugs usually give you better relief than acetaminophen (Tylenol). The downside: Over long periods, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, so don’t take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.

Stay Active

You may just want to give in to the pain and lie down, but the general advice is to keep moving. Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who use bed rest to try and solve the problem may feel even more pain. Simple, low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming can be helpful. If you sit for long periods of time at a desk like me, experts suggest getting up every 20 minutes or so to walk around and stretch a bit. I just started trying some exercises I found on Mayo Clinic’s website to help gently stretch and strengthen my back and supporting muscles. I’ll let you know if it helps.

Improve Your Posture

Research shows that most people with poor posture put unnecessary strain on their backs. That means no slumping at your desk (guilty as charged) which makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Makes sense. I should have listened to my mother when she told me to stand up straight. Never too late to change, right? Also, be careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Use Ice and Heating Pads

You probably already know this, but it’s a good reminder. If your back hurts due to an injury or strain, use ice the first 48 hours for 20 minute sessions several times a day. This can reduce swelling and relieve pain. Then switch to 20 minutes with a heating pad which loosens tight muscles and increases circulation.

Focus On Your Feet

This was interesting to me. Women whose feet roll inward when they walk might be particularly susceptible to lower-back pain, according to a recent study in the journal Rheumatology. Inserts may help if this is a problem. Hey, honey, watch me walk. Am I strolling a bit wonky?

Get a Massage

See, it’s not all bad news. You now have a great excuse to get that relaxing massage. One study showed that people who had regular messages had substantially less pain and disability after 10 weeks. Osteopathic and chiropractic therapies have been shown to work too.

Try Acupuncture

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about the needles, but studies have shown many patients with low back pain found more pain relief with acupuncture than those receiving conventional care. I’ve heard from several people that this can help. Maybe one day I’ll get desperate enough to brave the needles!

Watch Your Weight

Oh, it had to be said. We all know it’s true. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine and joints. So, try and keep your weight within a healthy range for your age and height. Okay, lecture over.

Stay Calm

Back pain becomes worse if you start stressing about it. Accept that you have pain and try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined above to help manage it. Deep breathing may help calm you. Resist delving into a sea of negativity and hopelessness. To make the pain more tolerable, try doing three things that make you feel good each day. In other words, find a bit of baby boomer bliss! Enjoy a soothing cup of tea or coffee, write in a journal, call an old friend, or enjoy a candlelit bath.

And take some comfort from a quote I saw from Joe Morgan: “If you don’t have a bad back by the time you’re 60, then you haven’t done anything in your life.”

Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

How Baby Boomers Can Control Stress Eating

As I’ve shared with you before in my blog, the last few years were stressful ones for me. I’m not alone. Many baby boomers are facing various trials in their “golden years.”

As a result, for the first time in my life, I got into the habit of stress eating.

junk-foodI’m referring to the routine of emotional, mindless eating and snacking. Stuffing myself with junk food, not to fill my stomach, but because I’m bored, stressed from everyday life, overwhelmed, or exhausted.

To make matters worse, sometimes I’m eating without paying attention to the food or really enjoying it. Suddenly, I crave chocolate or chips or pizza and nothing else sounds good. So, I woof it down while watching TV, reading a book, or playing on my iPad. The need to eat isn’t coming from my stomach but from inside my head. I don’t eat until I’m full but until I’m uncomfortable.

Sometimes I start off with good intentions and eat something healthy like veggies but I still can’t get those darn chips off my brain. Not satisfied, I eat a huge bowl of popcorn thinking that will do the trick. I’m full, but I can’t quit thinking about those nachos I wanted in the first place. So I end up eating the veggies, popcorn, AND the nachos. My stomach is so full and bloated, I end up feeling downright miserable. In my twisted mind, I convince myself I should just go for the nachos next time instead of all those extra calories I ate before eating what I really craved. So that’s what I do.

Briefly, I feel better, but then I feel disgusted with myself.

Sound familiar?

If you’re 50-plus like me, you’re particularly susceptible to emotional eating since during this time of life we’re often facing stressful events and changes in our lives. Empty nest syndrome, aging parents, death of a loved one, menopause, worrying about retirement, or declining health may be troubling us. Since weight gain is often related to aging and menopause, stress eating is the last thing we need!

As I’ve shared with you in a previous blog, I found a diet that works for me and lost seven out of the 10 pounds I needed to lose. But because of stress eating, I’ve already gained a few pounds back.

So what can we all do to stop stress eating and avoid the dreaded unwanted weight gain that usually results? Here are some simple tips I plan on using:

Identify Emotions and Triggers

junk-food-pizzaTake comfort, stress eating isn’t all your fault and actually has a logical reason behind it.

When you feel stressed out, your body produces high levels of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases your appetite and triggers cravings for salty, high-carb, sweet, and high-fat foods. These foods give you a burst of energy and pleasure by increasing the brain’s feel-good dopamine response. Over time, your brain may start to rely on these comfort foods to calm down and feel better.

In addition, if you’re not sleeping at night because you’re anxious, that only makes the problem worse. And if your life feels unfulfilled and empty, food may fill a void.

So, the first step is to figure out what is making you reach for that bag of chips. Does your life feel out of control? Are you frustrated? Overwhelmed? Mad? Anxious?

Focus on the real issues at hand and you’ll be ready for the next step.

Learn to Accept Your Feelings

Often we eat to avoid feelings that make us uncomfortable. Food is a nice distraction sometimes.

If you’re stressed out about your job or financial pressures, worried about an upcoming event, or stewing over an argument you had with a loved one, it’s usually easier to focus on eating comfort foods instead of dealing with the painful situation.

The emotions won’t go away, however. If you stress eat, you’ll also add the burden of guilt for sabotaging your weight loss goals. This starts a whole cycle – and not a good one. Your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for ruining your diet , you gain weight, feel even more guilty, and then overeat again to try and make yourself feel better.

So, give yourself permission to feel angry, fearful, anxious, guilty, or exhausted. Invite those negative feelings in and accept them with kindness. Eventually, your body will come to understand that it no longer needs to comfort itself with food to protect you from your own emotions.

The truth is when you don’t try and suppress your feelings – even if they are painful – it will help you quit obsessing over your negative emotions. Your feelings will lose their power over you. You’ll learn to control your anxiety and deal with emotional problems in more constructive ways.

When you listen to and accept your feelings, you’ll discover what it is you truly need and then make necessary changes in your life.

Pause for a Moment

Take a moment to stop and reflect on why you want to eat. Tell yourself that you’ll put off eating for just five minutes. During that time, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to make a different choice than reaching for that bowl of ice cream.

Ask yourself how you’re feeling emotionally. Understand what is driving your need to eat and see if there is a better way to address your feelings. (See the section below for some ideas on positive ways to deal with negative emotions.)

However, if you still really, really want that bowl of ice cream, it may be better to indulge in moderation. As I learned from my experience as related in the beginning of this article, eating a bunch of veggies and rice cakes when you really want some chips or chocolate won’t work in the long run.

“Reach for something you don’t really want, and you’re likely to eat more of it because it isn’t satisfying,” explains Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. So, go ahead and indulge, but step away from that laptop, TV, or iPad, so you can focus fully on the treat you want to eat. Why? If you don’t take a moment to enjoy everything about it, “then the real reason you’re eating it won’t be served,” she says, and you’ll be more likely to give in to other high-calorie foods—not to mention more of them.

Even if you give into temptation and eat more than you should, you’ll understand better why you are turning to food and perhaps can respond differently the next time cravings hit.

Find Alternatives

junk-food-refuseOnce you understand the cycle of stress eating and some of your triggers, find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally.

If you’re stressed out, turn on some favorite music and dance around the house. Take a brisk walk. Write in a journal. Do something creative like painting or scrapbooking. Practice deep breathing until you feel calm. Get outside and enjoy nature.

If you’re feeling depressed or lonely, call a good friend or family member, pet your dog or cat, or look through an old photo album. If you’re angry, practice the healing art of forgiveness. If you’re bored, plan your next trip or start filling your calendar with exciting events. If you’re exhausted, treat yourself to a soothing cup of tea or a long bath with scented candles.

It also helps to take positive steps to tackle issues that may be bothering you. For example, if financial problems are weighing you down, start implementing constructive strategies toward paying down debt or saving for retirement.

Keep in mind, negative emotions don’t typically last forever. Just because you are unhappy today doesn’t mean you’ll be unhappy tomorrow. But in the meantime, find alternative healthy and positive ways to deal with your feelings.

Pay Attention to What You Eat

Stay away from mindless eating and really appreciate your food.

In the grocery store, keep in mind the nutritional value of the food you’re buying and how it can help your body. Try some new healthy recipes. On Facebook, I discovered Skinnytaste and have been admiring all the great looking videos this woman posts. I definitely plan on trying out some of her recipes.

When you’re cooking, use all your senses to appreciate the aroma, texture, color, and even different sounds of the food as you cook them.

And when it’s time to eat, take time to enjoy your food fully. Take small bites, chew slowly and thoroughly, and appreciate all the ingredients and seasonings. You’ll be surprised at all the flavors that are released when you do so.

Start Each Day Anew

Finally, be kind to yourself. If you have a setback and indulge in emotional eating, start fresh the next day. Learn from your experience and plan on how you can prevent it from happening again. Focus on the constructive changes you’re making in your eating habits that will lead to better health.

And go ahead and indulge every once in a while. Just take the time to truly savor it.

So, there you go. Next time, I get the urge to stress eat, I’m following the steps I’ve outlined above. I’ll let you know how it goes. Today, I’m cleaning out my refrigerator and going to the grocery store for some satisfying healthy foods as a first step.

How about you? Join me and we can combat stress eating together!

Images courtesy of (in order of appearance) stockimages, Witthaya Phonsawat, and iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.