My final guest in the current Ageing Well, Living Well series is a neighbour of mine although we haven’t yet met in person. I’ve only known Christina from Midlife Stylist for a few short months but we share a passion for healthy living . When I read Christina’s story I was shocked and inspired by her health journey which has been far from easy. In her post, Christina shares her story and how she is trying to live the healthiest version of her life. Be inspired by Christina and don’t forget to connect with her through her website and social media links at the end of her post.
Living the Healthiest Version of your life
I have been asked to contribute a guest post for Sue’s Aging well, Living Well series on what it means to me to age well. I feel very humbled and privileged to be in this position because I have only had my blog online for 4 months. However, health promotion is my passion and my life’s work, having been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years.
When you reach midlife you start to consider what the way you want to retire means to you.
My dad retired at 54 – the same age I am now, and for the same reason that I may need to retire early – degeneration in his spine and hips. I used to caution him against getting immobile because it would lead to more problems like muscle wasting and weight gain. Unfortunately he didn’t listen and he became more and more immobile and disabled over the years. He lived another 30 years past retirement but much of that was with a low quality of life because of all his health problems, and an increase in reliance on other people for his activities of daily living and self care. I knew from an early age that I did not want to become disabled and immobile – even if my longevity is short like my sister (44yrs) or mother (54yrs) or long like my father.
I want my remaining years to be as healthy as possible so I strive to overcome my health issues and live the healthiest version of my life as I can.
After my sister passed away suddenly 8 years ago I went into menopause suddenly, brought on by the shock of her sudden death. I had what laymen would call a mental breakdown – I had severe insomnia and anxiety and my hormones went haywire from the shock of sudden menopause. HRT was a saviour in that regards, and I am still taking medication for my anxiety and insomnia. The side affects of these medications was weight gain – approximately 20kg. Most of it was a rapid gain while my father was in the last 6 months of his life. He already had prostate cancer but he was given a poor prognosis when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He lived in New Zealand so I spent his last few months doing several trips there to see him.
My weight ballooned to 84kg with a waist size of 109cm. I was alarmed by this, knowing that it predisposed me to other conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I had tried many ways to lose weight over the years but as soon as I went off the diet I packed it all back on, and more. I was eligible for a Government-sponsored program called Get Healthy due to my risk of developing diabetes. The program provided me with a dietician to give me support. Together we formed goals – to lose the weight around my abdomen and increase my stamina.
Degeneration and arthritis in my spine limits the type of exercise I can do, but by focusing instead on what my body could cope with, I implemented what I could do – which was walking every day, decreasing my serving sizes of food, eating more vegetables and eating around 1500 Kcal per day. This lead to steady weight loss – a total of 17kg over 4 months.
The best part is that I’ve maintained the weight loss and I’m now in the healthy range for fat percentage and BMI.
By limiting the amount of alcohol and sugar I was consuming, I had more energy and felt amazing. My migraines became less frequent and debilitating and now only occur when I succumb to the temptation of sugary treats.
No matter what your issues are, whether they are physical or mental, a lack of money or support, it is possible to live the healthiest version of yourself.
Do what you can rather than focusing on what you can’t.
If I am going to live another 20 or 30 years after I retire, I want it to be the best years of my life, in a body that is as healthy as it can be.
I met with a good friend recently. We’ve known each other for about 20 years and are around the same age, with our children about the same age as each other as well. We don’t see each other often but when we do we spend the whole time discussing life and our various problems but also sharing positive things as well.
We’re both in the stage of life where our kids are leaving home and we have a lot more time to spend on ourselves. Our discussion around self improvement made us realise that it is common at our age to get more introspective and start working on ourselves. This might involve finally dealing with physical complaints that we’ve had for years – they don’t necessarily have a physical reason for being there so the cause must be from some other reason. Natural therapies, such as massage, hypnotherapy and naturopathy are probably better avenues to explore to deal with these sort of complaints by looking at our body and mind from a holistic viewpoint.
When you have more time on your hands to spend on yourself, it can be daunting. We might have been ignoring things and just scraping by, usually by using work or vices to deal with the issues without actually getting to the root of the problem. That’s when a lot of people find they are regularly going home from work and having a couple of glasses of wine to relax them. They use busy-ness to distract them from the true underlying issues. To get to the root of the problem, you have to look deeply and this can be confronting. What if it’s some issue from childhood, or a trauma from the past – if you have to confront it, it can alter your perception of the event and may even cause family rifts when you finally acknowledge that it is the root cause of physical ailments you have been experiencing.
I told my friend about a therapist I saw who used a type of hypnotism – she would take you back to an event in the past that first gave you an emotion that you were dealing with. For example, I felt a lot of guilt, so she used regression hypnotherapy to take me back in my memory to the first time I felt guilty. It happened to be my birth! My mum had a really difficult time giving birth to me and apparently I was storing this memory of guilt – she was able to clear that for me and other negative emotions that I was experiencing at the time. Using therapy to improve my mental state was vital before I could begin to work on the physical problems I was experiencing.
At this age we know ourselves better and are less likely to put up with people or situations that cause us stress. I find I’m able to be more assertive and won’t put up with things I would have in the past. I’m more in tune with my inner voice. I’ve done a lot of work on myself to get to this point in my life. Part of it was identifying traits in myself that needed work, and part of it was avoiding situations and people that make me feel terrible. I’m much more at peace with myself now. I have fewer friends but they are strong friendships where we both benefit from a mutual love and respect for each other. Our conversations are deep and meaningful where we can both feel heard and supported by each other.
The next few years will be spent preparing for retirement. My husband and I will be downsizing to a smaller house with the aim of reducing our living expenses and the amount of home maintenance required. We’re researching becoming self-sufficient so that we don’t need to rely on the Government and our superannuation for our living expenses.
My focus will be on remaining as healthy as I can, even if my chronic back pain forces me to retire early. I’ve found my passion which is writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle in your midlife and beyond. Being able to create Midlifestylist, my blog, which allows me to connect with other people in the same stage of life as me, has been extremely rewarding and validating. It allows me to inspire other midlifers to live the healthiest version of themselves, and to enjoy their midlife years to the fullest.
Thank you to Sue for giving me the opportunity to contribute to your very worthy website.
Christina Henry is a Registered Nurse who lives on the sunny Gold Coast of Australia. She has a passion for health promotion and writing. Her website Midlifestylist.com combines both passions and aims to inspire other midlifers to live the healthiest version of themselves. Having overcome several health issues herself, she is able to use her knowledge of the issues people may need to overcome to achieve their goals. Christina is married to her second husband, has two adult sons and a house full of pets. She enjoys cooking, gardening and traveling.
Connect with Christina