Getting ready for 50

Lately, I find myself surrounded by articles, images and living examples of stylish, fit women in their fifties. I suddenly can't help noticing how many great-looking 50-year-olds there are here in Santa Barbara and elsewhere.

So maybe a lot of them can afford fitness trainers, weekly massages and manicures, facials and personal shoppers, but the fact remains, women in their fifties are looking hot.

Why am I suddenly obsessed with women in their fifties? Because I've got four years to get ready, and I need to get on the ball.

I was never prepared for aging, as most of us aren't, but I was excited to turn 30. I was so tired of everyone thinking I was still a college student, when I had accomplishments and achievements and life under my belt. Finally, I could say, "No, I'm not in college. I'm 30!" I felt I had come of age, a true grownup. I also gained weight for the first time in my life during my 30s, but easily exercised it away.

I was thrilled to turn 40. It was the year I walked away from the nonprofit I had founded and created my perfect career as a public speaking coach. I was coming into my own as a person and an entrepreneur, and feeling optimistic about the possibilities for my future. And I started noticing it was much harder to stay in shape through exercise; for the first time ever, I had to pay attention to my eating habits.

I'm not excited to turn 50. (Yet.) I feel more apprehension than anything else. My forties have been great, but also a wake-up call regarding my mental and physical health and fitness. I just can't screw around any more. I have four years to get my act together: I can either be a frumpy, dumpy 50-year-old who creaks and groans every time she gets up from the couch (and it's just downhill from there), or I can be a stylish and fit 50-year-old with joints and muscles that haven't completely deteriorated.

The grainy, fuzzy picture above of a half-eaten strawberry cake is symbolic of the journey I need to take, starting now. I need to approach my next four years with a new kind of discipline, a more mindful way of eating, exercising, taking care of myself and presenting myself. I don't mean discipline in a harsh or punishing way (and just to be clear, I don't believe in dieting). I mean the kind of discipline where I respect my body and what it's capable of.

That cake: It looked delicious in the case, but on the plate something was off. There was a chemical flavor to it, like artificially flavored jam. But I kept eating, thinking I would get used to it, or grow to like it. I mean, it was there.

It's easy to keep eating the bread in the bread basket, or the french fries that could serve an army, or the tortilla chips that keep coming with a new dish of fresh salsa.

But are they worth it? The question is no longer, "Are they good for me?" but rather, "Are they worth the extra weight, sluggishness and regret I'll experience if I'm not mindful of my eating?" And the answer is NO.

If I had ordered a rich Danish pastry, something that restaurant specializes in, I would not for a minute have hesitated to finish it. Because yes, some things are worth it. It would be a special treat and I would savor it.

But an off-tasting piece of strawberry cake is not worth it. A huge pile of generic french fries is not worth it. The second half of a gigantic burrito is not worth it. This is the lesson of my mid-forties.

1. I don't have to be angry that I can't eat everything I want or as much as I want. I just have to savor and relish the truly delectable foods I do eat, and eat them mindfully and in moderation.

2. I don't have to obsess over getting back the body of my 30s, when I was at the peak of my fitness. I just have to work out enough to keep my heart pumping, my joints flexible, my bones strong and my cholesterol at a reasonable level. Maintaining a healthy weight would be nice, too.

3. I don't have to resent dressing like a grownup (even a fun grownup). I can be comfortable in my clothes, while making a little more effort not to wear t-shirts and shorts every day. And for that matter, why do I always save certain jewelry, accessories and perfumes for special occasions? I need to pull those out, use and enjoy them.

As I've been looking back, I've also been looking forward. I want to carry the younger, feistier, more colorful me into my middle age. I also want to carry the older, wiser, more sensible and confident me forward. I want to live a long, happy, healthy life with my kitties, my husband, my family and friends.

I've made good strides over the years, and I'm on a good path. But the real work starts now. Four years to go... how will I do?


Beverly Mahone said...


I found myself surrounded by 50-something women in my late 40s--and like you, I thought they were FABULOUS! I was so impressed with the factthat these women were on the move and still making a difference! That's why I adopted that motto for Boomer Diva Nation.

When you turn 50 I'll be pushing quickly towards sixty. I'll keep you posted :)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bev. I expect you to keep me updated about the 60s!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bev. I expect you to keep me updated about the 60s!