I was asked to contribute a guest post by Sue Loncaric for her Website Sizzling toward sixty. Sue’s passion is “helping and encouraging women in midlife to reach their full potential living a healthy & active lifestyle”. I encourage my readers to have a look at her website because it has so many resources for women in their midlife to inspire and guide them to live a healthy life. Sue lives on the Gold Coast and we’ve never met in person but I look forward to having a coffee and a chat with her when we are no longer social distancing.
This was my first guest post and I feel very honoured to have been invited to take part in her series Aging Well Living Well. I talked about some of the challenges I have faced in my life and how I overcame them to arrive at this point in my life. Here is an excerpt:
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… 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.
I have been thinking of my parents a lot lately, especially when I was writing my last two blog posts. Reflecting on what skills I learned from my parents, I realised that I didn’t appreciate it at that age. I was a bit of a handful for my parents, rebelling against their strict rules. I was able to rebuild my relationship with them in time, but I really wish I’d listened to their advice more.
This isn’t an original idea – I have seen other people write letters to their younger selves. Oprah wrote a powerful one and asked 17 well-known people to write letters as well – they’re on her website. There’s even a Grammy-award winning song by Brad Paisley:
If I could write a letter to me And send it back in time to myself at seventeen …
After reflecting on the things I wish I knew when I was 17, I decided to write a similar letter:
I am writing to tell you that you need to appreciate your parents more. They really love you and only want what’s best for you. Their rules are there to protect you, even if they are strict and old-fashioned.
Learn as much as you can from your mum. She’s a beautiful person who gives her whole life to you – appreciate her, because she won’t be there when you really need her. She’ll be at your wedding, but 4 months later she’ll pass away from cancer. You will miss her for the rest of your life but you’ll be so grateful that you learnt a lot about cooking and homemaking from her. You’ll draw on your memories of your mother when you have your own children, and you’ll appreciate the advice she give you in her last few weeks about bringing up children. Memories like that will be treasures.
You will grow to appreciate your father, but not until you have your own children. Then you’ll realise how hard it is to give them a private education, holidays overseas and a nice house. You’ll come to terms with the type of man he is and that he was very much a product of the times when men were chauvinistic and had little to do with child rearing. You’ll never want to rely on a man, and you’ll always be strong willed and independent. You’ll eventually be on much better terms with him, but it’s not until his deathbed that he’ll tell you you’re a good daughter.
Don’t drink too much alcohol. It doesn’t agree with your body, and will play havoc with your mood and mental state. It won’t help at all when you’re grieving. You’ll make some pretty awful decisions under the influence, for which you’ll be regretful. Definitely don’t take drugs because the affect they have on family members will be devastating. Keep an eye on your sister – her spiral downwards in mental health will eventually have a diagnosis but not for 10 years. Step in and get her help when she has her first psychotic episode – she needs medical attention so don’t hold back from seeking it.
Learn to walk away from people and situations before they start affecting your mental and physical health. You will try to help so many people who will hate you for it, and it won’t be until years later that you learn boundaries. Find help with being assertive and only let people into your life who are authentic and care for your well-being. Even if that means having fewer friends – quality is better than quantity.
Don’t try to be a people pleaser. People will walk all over you until you learn to listen to your own inner voice and stand up for what is right. Don’t ever be a doormat. Your shyness will hold you back, and it will become so bad you’ll develop social anxiety. Seek help for it because there is treatment that will help. There will be one person who is strong enough to help you and will always have your back – you won’t meet him till you’re in your 40’s but when you do, there’ll be an instant connection and you’ll know you’re with the right person. Life won’t always be easy, but he’s the one you’ll be able to grow old with.
Protect your back. Back pain will be the defining feature of your later years. Nursing is a wonderful career which you will love, but it will take a toll on your health. Don’t stay in a job that causes too much stress. It’s not worth it and there’s better jobs out there.
Appreciate your healthy body. Look after it and don’t take it for granted. You’re in for a lifetime of health related issues so appreciate your youthful body. Get your teeth fixed while you’re young – your confidence and self esteem will improve. Investigate your migraines and palpitations – the underlying cause will shock you but you’ll be on a better pathway towards a healthier you. Watch out for weight gain – you’ll discover that more of a plant based diet is the answer to maintaining your weight and well-being.
Travel as much as you can when you’re young. The world will change so much and your health will limit how much you can travel.
I don’t need to tell you that motherhood will be the most rewarding role you’ll have in life. You already know you will be a mother, even if it takes you years to have children. You will guide them in the way you wish your parents had guided you – with strong communication, mutual respect, and appreciation of the unique creative people they are. They will give you so much joy and fulfillment.
Don’t ever stop writing and reading. It will give you untold joy and satisfaction. You’ll always want to learn something new, and you’ll throw yourself into new projects with passion – don’t ever stop doing that!
Above all, keep believing that there’s a higher reason for all of this. We’re spiritual beings in human form and our goal is to learn as much as we can in our lifetime. Your life will throw you many curve-balls, and at times you’ll struggle with the weight of so much burden on your shoulders, but you’ll always get through each challenge. Care for yourself, make sure you take time out for yourself. Enjoy your life,
Love Christina, aged 53
I don’t regret much – my life has been a learning curve and I’ve probably dealt with more situations than some people. Some I’ve dealt with well, many not so well. I’ve learnt to accept myself with all the traits, good and bad, that I have. Some inherited, some learnt as I’ve travelled through life.
In my previous post, I explained that I am investigating self-sufficiency as a prospect for a sustainable future. We plan to supply most of our own basic needs, including growing our own food. My parents taught me some important skills as I was growing up, most of which I took for granted and have not used in my adult life. As I am heading into my later years, I am realising that those old-fashioned skills are relevant now.
If we are to supply our own food, we will need to be able to preserve food that we have grown ourselves, so that we have a steady supply during the months that our garden isn’t producing. Plants grown in season are more easily grown – you don’t need to provide an artificial environment (such as a green-house or water sprinkling system) to keep them alive. This means you harvest a large quantity at one time. Learning how to preserve some of the crop is essential.
My mother was a down-to-earth, practical and savvy woman. She was a stay-at-home mum of four kids under 5. The skills I learned from her were:
Budgeting – she took full advantage of using discount coupons, bought in bulk, never racked up a debt, and seemed to be able to stretch her money so that we never went without;
Sewing – mum made all her own clothes. She taught my sister and I to sew and knit. Mum also had a spinning wheel and made her own wool out of sheeps’ fleece;
Gardening – my parents were avid gardeners and grew most of our vegetables. They researched alternative growing methods and put them to use through having a greenhouse and hydroponic set-up which could produce out-of-season food in a cold climate. We also learned composting from them. Their green thumb has passed on to the rest of the family and we all enjoy growing our own produce;
Cooking – we rarely ate out, and mum cooked all our food. She baked cakes and biscuits, made icecream and other desserts. My dad cooked every Sunday for a house full of guests – he loved to experiment with food and entertain our guests. We all love cooking, and especially love to experiment with new flavours and techniques.
Preserving food – My mum used to make chutneys, jam, and preserved fruit. Dad made brawn – preserved meat. These skills are ones I now want to learn as a skill that will be needed for self-sufficiency. I have made pickles and chutneys, but only in small quantities. I am going to learn about bottling food so that it can be stored safely for future use;
Smoking food – we have a smoker so we can make smoked fish and meat. I know this has been used successfully to preserve food so we will learn how to do this as well;
Fishing – my husband and I both grew up in families that loved fishing. My parents owned a boat and we used to go trout fishing on one of the many fresh water lakes around our city. My husband’s father took him sea fishing and they still enjoy that now on their boat.
Health promotion- my mum was into natural therapies throughout her life. She knew every natural remedy known to man! She preferred to promote health by having a healthy diet and supplements. She practiced yoga and meditation as part of her philosophy of self-care.
Housekeeping and house maintenance – my parents did all their own cleaning, yard work and maintenance. I learned many skills from them and still struggle to hand those tasks over to anyone else. I prefer to do all my own cleaning, and my husband does everything he can in the garden and around the house. We are only able to hire someone else when we acknowledge that the skill required is outside our limits, or would take us too long to finish. As we get older we are realising our bodies aren’t up to doing hard work and sometimes it’s better to hire someone to do it;
Researching – my parents passed on their love of reading. They used to research all different things, and that love has passed on to me. My other hobby was genealogy which I learned from my mother – I was able to use her research as a basis for my own. I have another blog, This Is Who We Are about our family history
I guess I was like any other teenager and did not really appreciate my parents until I left home and had my own family. My mum passed away when I was 24. I really missed her presence in my life – it was very hard bringing up my sons without my mother to advise and help me. I was lucky that she was such a wonderful parent and I learned so many skills from her as I was growing up. I was able to draw on that knowledge throughout my life. I certainly don’t take it for granted – I really appreciate everything my parents taught me.
Many of the skills I learned like preserving food will be necessary as we aim towards self-sufficiency. In the next few years I will be researching different skills in order to be able to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.
A week ago my son moved out of home. I knew it was coming – he’s nearly 25, but it still caused an upheaval in my life all the same. I have my other son at home still, so the nest is only half-empty, but I’m feeling a sense of loss akin to grief that only another mother could relate to.
This is the son who I bonded with immediately after birth when he latched on in the delivery suite. It was complete love at first sight with my second baby. My first baby had been born three years earlier when I was mourning the death of my mother, and this meant my bonding with him was affected by post natal depression and anxiety, and from not having the one person there for me – my mum, whose presence would have made such a difference to a new mother. He had colic as well so he cried a lot. In contrast, my second baby was a calm, relaxed and cuddly child, and I was a more experienced and confident mum.
For years my second son was my shadow – he clung to me. As he grew our bond was strengthened by our similar sense of humour and enjoyment of banter where we fed off each other, talking about diverse subjects at great length to the bemusement of the rest of the family who didn’t really ‘get’ us. Our mutual love of animals and our taste in music, our enjoyment of cooking together, and our daily walks with the dogs meant that we spent a lot of time together over the years.
My son went through a period of depression a few years back and he dropped out of university. 18 months later he decided to re-enroll in a different course in another university. I told him then that I would be keeping a close eye on him to make sure his mental state didn’t suffer by taking on another course of study. Our conversations became more in depth as I didn’t hold back with communication – I needed to make sure he was ok this time around, and that the pressure of studying, working and internships didn’t impact his mental health.
To my absolute joy he thrived under pressure, and was able to take on a heavy study load while working almost full-time and doing two internships at the same time. He was more motivated to accomplish his goals when his schedule was full. He completed his degree in communications, public relations and journalism in just over two years.
He applied for jobs all over Australia in his chosen fields, and was keen to start his new career and get out of the crappy retail position he’d held since the age of 14. He struggled to get so much as a reply to his application, and the few interviews that he attended did not even bother to let him know he’d been unsuccessful. After six months of knock-backs we were both disheartened and incredibly disappointed. For me as a mother, it was like a stab in the heart to watch him go through this. Honestly, I do not know what is wrong with employers these days – they do not even send out an email to let applicants know they’ve been unsuccessful. No wonder young people struggle to find a job, and when they do, there’s not the sense of loyalty that we had to our employers. I’m disgusted by how rude it is – the least they could do is send out a polite email thanking them for their application and telling them they have been unsuccessful.
So my son stayed in his retail position, stayed living at home and gave up on applying for jobs. My husband and I went on holiday and while we were there my son rang me to tell me he’d quit his job. He couldn’t work there anymore – it was making him ill, both physically and mentally. He was getting migraines nearly every day and spiralling into depression again. Of course I was stressed about this and begged him to reconsider. His employers met with him and pleaded with him to stay as he is a hard worker and reliable employee, so he dropped back to casual and took on another job (retail as well!).
Then he decided to go back to university and do his Masters Degree in Secondary Education – he’d be able to teach high-school English and History. I wrote about it in my last blog post Don’t Hold Back . He was all set to start university this month and then out of the blue he decided to move out of home and take on a full time position in his new workplace. Just when I thought he was set on one path, he did a 360 and has now put off going back to university just so he could move out of home.
Our household has been in turmoil for the last few weeks – quite a few deep discussions have occurred between my son and I as I attempt to persuade him to reconsider this decision. But he was set on this path and has now moved out. My main concern is that he’ll regret this down the track, and that he won’t be fulfilled in his current job as I know it won’t be challenging enough for him mentally. He needs a job that will stimulate him intellectually for his own well-being, and he acknowledges that but is still keen to spread his wings and become a fully functioning adult by cutting the apron strings.
I was fine until I drove toward our house the evening before he was due to move out, and I realised it would be the last time our family of four would sleep in the same house together. The floodgates opened and I couldn’t control the tears for the next 12 hours until I had to show up for work again. It felt like I was grieving for my father again – he’d passed away 18 months prior. That’s understandable because it is a loss, just like all the other losses I’d experienced in my life. I’d had the same reaction when my mother and sister had passed away, and when I separated from my ex-husband. No-one died obviously but I was losing a massive part of myself all the same.
I was prepared to be emotional because my son and I had been together during several of the hardest periods of my life, and despite his youth, he had proved to be an incredibly resilient person and very supportive, emotionally mature and caring. When my father was suffering from cancer and spent the last few months in and out of hospital, it was my son who came with me to New Zealand to see him. I leaned on him more than what a mother would normally do with their son but his strength of character showed that he could handle this. He did it willingly and generously, not holding back from seeing the brutality of his grandfather dying from pancreatic cancer. We grew even closer from that shared experience. We both felt honoured to have spent that time with my father, who, despite being in pain and hallucinating from his condition, displayed utter peace at being so close to dying. He was praying that God would take him and he had incredible faith right until his last breath.
If my son had moved out a year ago I would not have coped as well as what I have, because I was still grieving my father. For anyone who has lost someone that close, you know that the acute stage of grief varies. It has been different for each person I’ve lost – my mum when I was 24, my sister when I was 45 and my dad when I was 52. But eventually it becomes easier to bear. So in no way do I feel that my son moving out is in any way as bad as losing someone who has died – I still see my son, he’s only 20 minutes drive away. But it won’t be the same without our daily walks, our cooking sessions and our nightly banter at the dinner table.
I’d love to hear from you, my readers – how was the empty nest for you? What helped you to adjust to the gap left in your life? Do you still miss your children or are you enjoying the freedom of not having dependents at home? My immediate way to adjust was to clean out his room and turn it into a study for me. A space where I can write freely without interruption, and decorate it according to my taste, in soothing colours. I write surrounded by my pets who are great company.
My motto for this year is don’t hold back. For years I’ve left things on hold because of lack of self confidence. Last year I finally started my blog after having it on hold for 6 years! My confidence last year was inspired by my weight loss and new zest for life because I had more energy and felt good about myself. Once I had started writing, it just flowed. I have written in journals all my life but finally I am writing for other people! I’m learning new skills and connecting with other people who have a passion for a healthy lifestyle. Once I could see the possibilities open up to me, it flowed on to other aspects of my life. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years but I’ve held myself back in my career even though I’ve studied and obtained other qualifications. Whenever a career opportunity has come up I’ve always said to myself that I can’t apply because I don’t have those skills or experience in a particular area. I’ve decided the best way to fix it is to get those skills! This is the year I’m finally going to give myself permission to learn new skills so that I can go for those jobs. If it means stepping out of my comfort zone then so be it. By learning new skills I’ll be opening myself up to working in areas that are much more suited to my stage of life – that being someone with chronic back pain who can’t work a day without it causing severe pain, and insomnia so bad that the shift work I do is intolerable.
My older son has always had a dream to be a film editor. He got the nickname “Steven Spielburg” when he was only very young because he was always filming on our home video camera. He’s been slowly building up his portfolio of work by doing free work for his niche industry (music and tour videos for bands). His goal is to be an editor and he’s been planning to go back to University to study towards this. He said to me a couple of days ago that next year he would start applying for editing jobs and if he doesn’t get one by the end of next year he will go back to studying. I said to him, “Why not do that now? You’re ready for it. This is the year we should all decide that we’re going to go for it. If we’ve had a dream to do something for years, then this is the year we will do it. What have I got to lose? I’m 54 this year and if I don’t do it now I probably never will.”
With that I could see the light-bulb moment shine in his eyes and he said, “You know what? You’re right! What have I got to lose? I’ll bring my plans forward to this year and start applying for editing jobs”. I’m glad my influence can inspire someone else to follow their dreams.
My other son finished a degree in journalism and communications a bit over a year ago. He applied for many jobs but was pretty let down by the lack of response and his dream was shattered. Mid last year he decided to look into going back to university and studying teaching. He’s had the dream of teaching since he was a child. I can remember him telling me that when he was at Primary school himself. It was always “Plan B” and something to do when his writing career was stagnating or he was settling down to married life and had a family. So he looked into university courses and decided to apply for a Masters course to become an English and history teacher- not some time in the future, but now, this year! It meant taking a few more history subjects at university last year but if he’d waited till this year it would have been one more year before he’d been able to start his Masters.
So this year is going to be the year that we don’t hold back. No more procrastination or self-doubt. Just go for it and give it a go. What have we got to lose? Nothing! But if we let self-doubt hold us back, then our dreams will be on hold for another year and another. So my message today is – If anything’s been holding you back, figure out why? What is it that you lack? If it’s skills or experience, then study or find a mentor. Volunteer or work freelance, or work for free to get some experience. Do a course or just learn it from books at the library or Youtube videos or online courses. Whatever it is, don’t hold yourself back. What have you got to lose?
My healthy lifestyle blog has been my biggest achievement this year (apart from losing 17kg!). I’ve really enjoyed writing about a topic that I’m passionate about. The hardest part is the self promotion which goes against my introverted nature but it’s vital to gain followers if I want people to read my articles.
Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, liked and shared my posts across WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I really appreciate your support and all the comments, likes and shares. It keeps me motivated to write more.
Welcome to my new followers! I feel very humbled and privileged that you all have responded so positively to my blog. The urge to start this was because I succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off. The difference this time is that my weight didn’t bounce straight back to where it was when I completed the program I was on. I’ve always been interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle through my nursing career, but now I want to help other people towards health through this medium.
Why do I feel weird when people compliment me on my weight loss? I don’t like getting all that attention, but people are constantly telling me I’ve lost more weight (even though I’ve been pretty steady for the last few months). They ask how I did it and probably expect me to name a fad diet or gastric bypass or something. When I told them I count calories and cut my portions down they seem disappointed! I think people want to know that there is a foolproof way, or an easy way to lose weight, but fad diets especially elimination diets, aren’t successful in the long run because you start craving all the things you can’t have. Whenever I’ve tried a “diet” such as Weight Watchers or Lite n Easy, I’ve been able to lose the weight easily enough but I’ve always craved things and felt really restricted. So as soon as I stop the diet I put on all the weight plus more!
The program taught me how to choose food that is lower in calories while being nutritious and filling. This new way allows me to choose my own food so I don’t have to eat food I don’t like. I don’t restrict myself to eating only low fat, low carb, low cal or any other thing and I don’t give up whole food groups like a lot of diets do. I automatically pick food that fills me up and doesn’t have too many calories, like a big salad. But in that salad I put really nice extras like feta cheese, olives, snow peas and roast beetroot, so that it’s interesting to my palate. The beauty of it is that you can choose what you like so if you don’t like olives but you love nuts, you can swap them out.
A few weekends ago I packed up a large box of clothes that I no longer fit. Some of them are brand new because I had bought a lot of clothes thinking I would get to a certain weight and that would be it, but I just kept on losing weight. I’ve gone down about 3 sizes. It starts to get expensive when you have to replace your whole wardrobe twice in a year! But still, I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I do feel much better at this weight. I feel more like my old self. I was painfully thin as a child and didn’t start to gain weight until after having children in my mid 20’s. I feel like I’m at a good weight for me now, in the healthy range for my age, and I plan to stay at this weight now.
Because I have had a history of yo-yo weight since I was in my 20’s, it is now my goal to help other people to achieve the success I have had. That is the drive behind me starting this blog, so that I can help other people to live a healthy lifestyle in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond. It is not a “diet”, but it is a change towards living your best life with a little advice on how to achieve it. I don’t have all the answers, but I may be able to help in some way. I will be giving tips on what worked for me in upcoming blog posts.
What I won’t be able to help you with is information on beauty products, anti aging treatments such as fillers and injectables, and supplements designed for weight loss. I’m no expert on fitness and exercise regimes either. There are lots of other people who are! As I have said before, I did not go to a gym. My sole exercise is walking the dogs nearly every day.
Once again, thank you for reading my blog. If you would like information on anything specific, please comment, and share this post as well!
This month marks one year since I weighed my heaviest. I have lost over 17kg and managed to sustain the weight loss for 6 months. I didn’t use any fad diet or expensive program to do it. I will be sharing tips on how to lose weight as part of this blog, but for now I will just say that to lose weight, you need to keep at it. Rapid weight loss using fad diets that cut out major food groups do work, however I believe that they can’t be sustained long term. Using my own experience, I managed to lose weight many times in the past, but as soon as I stopped “dieting” I put that weight straight back on, plus more. My yo-yo weight was not healthy.
I am not a dietician, and I urge anyone wanting to lose weight to see their doctor, and a dietician before doing so. Once you get some professional advice, start your weight loss, and stick to it. I was losing about 500grams per week which is a safe, steady way to do it.
I did get professional advice – my doctor had to give me medical clearance. I signed up for a free program sponsored by the Queensland Government called Get Healthy, my eligibility was due to me being at high risk of developing diabetes. Even if you’re not eligible for their programs, there is a lot of free information on their website. My weight loss success was even featured in their website: https://www.gethealthyqld.com.au/success-stories/stories/christina .
My final decision to lose this weight forever came about after my son graduated and I saw how hideous I looked in all the photos. I had bought an outfit in Malta and had saved it for this special occasion but when I saw how I looked in it I was deeply ashamed of just how big I had become. Now every time I look at my son’s graduation photos I am reminded of just how far I’ve come. Sometimes that’s all it takes to start you on your journey.
Please refer to my disclaimer and note that I advise you to get medical advice before starting any fitness or weight loss program. Best of luck on your journey.
If you enjoyed this article, there’s more valuable advice here:
Update 24 June 2020 – It’s now well over a year since I reached my goal weight and I have sustained the weight loss using the same principles. In the last year I’ve had several health issues but I’ve stayed at a healthy weight despite being limited in my ability to exercise. If you’re struggling with your weight, or you’d like to mention a method that has worked for you, please comment. It’s an issue that a lot of people battle with and I’d love to support you on your journey.
I first came up with the concept of writing this blog about 6 years ago, but never got around to starting it because it always seemed to be in the too-hard basket. In the meantime, I came up with many ideas for articles, so I wrote them in journals and always thought “one day I’ll get around to starting that blog”. I never really had the confidence to put it into action. Then this year I succeeded in losing a lot of excess weight, my confidence was restored, and I finally felt like I had something to back up what I was writing. I felt like I had gained enough insight into changing my lifestyle to actually advise other people. It’s no point in giving people lifestyle advice if you yourself aren’t living a healthy lifestyle. The turning point for me was being able to lose 17kg and keep it off.
I’ve been writing all my adult life. I’ve had two other blogs – This is Who We Are, which is about my family history, and My Healthy Heart, which was a journal about my heart condition. The idea for this blog has been in the pipeline for 6 years, and in that time I’ve married for the second time, renovated two homes, battled some health conditions, and gone through some major life challenges.
This blog is for people like me: people in the prime of their lives. I’m also a Registered Nurse and mother of two adult sons in their 20’s who still live with us. Our blended family also consists of 2 border collies, three cats, a budgie and a pond full of goldfish. My husband and I love to travel, eat good food and have started growing our own vegetables.
Midlife crisis does not accurately describe midlifers as it is reflective of them expressing their true self. Our sense of identity is well developed by midlife and we are more secure in expressing ourselves.
I was interviewed with Sue Loncaric of Women Living Well Over 50 - we discussed staying positive despite the setbacks in life. It was my YouTube debut but it went well because Sue put me completely at ease and the conversation flowed freely
Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle special guest Lauren Spencer explains why therapy is beneficial for emotional well-being. A healthy lifestyle is only possible when we strive for mental and emotional wellness as well as physical health
All the essentials you need to know for walking for your health. Buy all you need to start walking for your health. Read about the health benefits of walking. How walking can improve your health and help you lose weight. How to get more walking into your daily routine. Click the link for more information on what you need to know before you start walking