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Staying Fit Over 40: One Doctor’s Hacks

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH - Blogs
By Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPHBoard-certified internistMay 16, 2017
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It always amazes me how much work it takes to simply maintain my health – and each year past 40 it seems to get harder. So, I’ve made some changes over the past few years to my diet, especially my workweek meals. They’re small changes, but since I’ve been consistent (for the most part), they’ve really helped.

Here are some of the tricks that are working for me:

Stick to a routine: I’ve read routine is a key player in weight management, and I don’t have any extra calories to waste. So, I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning during the workweek. I make a big batch of whole oats (more fiber than instant oats) and add almonds, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. I measure everything, so my portions (and calories) are controlled and consistent. And, then I divide it into 6 bottles so in the morning all I have to do is heat it up and go. It’s tasty, and the best part is I’m full until lunch!

Cut back where I can: I’m a coffee drinker, and for years added artificial creamer (I’m lactose intolerant). But when I learned about the trans-fat in the creamer, I went cold turkey and cut out the creamer (and sugar!). It took a little while to get used to it, but I love my black coffee now! Never going back. I have a second cup of coffee in the early afternoon. I’d like to cut out the coffee to not be so dependent on the caffeine, but I’m not fighting it at the moment.

Bring my lunch: I’m on again, off again with how strict I am with lunch, but my WebMD lunch buddies are a pretty good influence. I bring my lunch from home most days and sit in our kitchen area to chat with coworkers. I like to eat a green salad every day plus a bean or lentil dish, or whatever food is left over from my fridge.

Variety at dinner: While I’m pretty regimented and routine with my meals during the day, I need variety during dinner with my family. Over the years I’ve collected many tasty recipes originating from around the world. I have a formula for the ingredients I choose when making my weekly meal plan. Every weeknight is a different protein – either red meat, poultry, seafood, or a bean/lentil dish. And for carbs I do the same – it’s either rice, a pita or roti; a pasta (high fiber!); or a starchy vegetable like peas, corn, and potatoes. And, of course, every night we have a colorful veggie side. Of course, some weeks, schedules are crazy and the formula goes out the door – but I try!

Think Mediterranean: I look to the Mediterranean diet for all the various food ingredients I’ve added to my diet. A lot of my focus over the years has been to add nuts/seeds, beans/lentils, and fish to my diet. I’m always trying to increase the quantity and variety of vegetables I eat. And I’ve cut down on red meat a lot! I do tend to run short on dairy, but I try to get a little cheese and yogurt in most days.

Save restaurants for special occasions: I don’t eat out at restaurants much, and when I do, I want it to be because I’m craving a certain food, or it’s a social event – not because I don’t have any food at home to cook. To be honest, I have a tough time ordering healthy when I’m out – I’d rather just order what I want to eat. But, I’m getting better: if I really want the Reuben, I get a half sandwich with a salad, rather than the full sandwich with chips. Like I said earlier, it’s about small changes.

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About the Author
Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and a WebMD Medical Editor. She is on the team that makes sure all WebMD content is medically correct, current and understandable. She sees patients at the Women’s Wellness Clinic at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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