There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance that goes along with turning 40. Big, blow out birthday parties and elaborate gifts. When I turned the big 4 - 0 however; I wanted none of that. I opted for a low-key dinner with family and close friends. I wasn’t about to advertise, “hey look at me, I’m 40!” I didn’t know what this 40-thing was all about or what was in store for me on the “other side of the hill.”
That was three years ago and if you asked me then how my body changed since turning 40, I would have honestly replied that it hasn’t. Well this year I turned 43 and along with the change in number, I feel as if my body is changing before my very eyes. I have been to my doctor’s office more this year than the previous ten years combined!
Let’s talk hormones for a minute because those babies are the primary culprit for the multitude of changes a woman’s body goes through after age 40. In our 40’s our body is preparing for or going through menopause, which is marked by a dramatic decline in the estrogen and progesterone hormones produced by our ovaries. Fun right?
Much in the way no one tells you what your body is really going to look like after having a baby, there are a lot of secrets regarding the biological changes your body will go through after 40. What kind of changes you ask? Where to start? How about we start at the top and work our way down, because that’s the general direction everything is falling these days!
While it’s no secret your hair turns grey as you age, up until this year, I was blessed with a full head of thick, chestnut brown hair. The last few months however; the grey hairs are popping up quicker then I can get into my stylist’s chair! Don’t get me wrong, I love the salt and pepper look – on my man, preferably. Not on me!
I’ve had 20/20 vision my entire life, however; the last 3 months I can’t see s%^t. I have trouble reading a book, picking my kid out on the beach and working on the computer. According to the American Optometric Association, most adults in their early to mid-forties start to experience problems with their ability to see clearly at close distances. Awesome. I see another doctor’s appointment in my future
Remember those hormones I mentioned earlier? Due to the decrease in hormones, our skin, which is our body’s largest organ BTW, takes a beating. My smooth, wrinkle free face is now accentuated by deep wrinkles on my forehead and not so cute “crows feet” around my eyes (probably from all that squinting I’m doing). As if that wasn’t enough, I have parenthesis on both sides of my mouth. Did you ever see that Juvederm® commercial “parenthesis have a place but not on your face.” Yeah that’s me. I’ve shied away from Botox and fillers thus far. Something about having a poison-filled needle jabbed into my head, that freaks me out a little bit, but as these wrinkles start spreading I’m coming around to the idea.
And while we’re talking about skin, I feel it’s my duty to tell all you 20 and 30-somethings to stay out of the sun. Seriously, like put your SPF 50 on with your hat and sunglasses and sit under an umbrella! All of the sun tanning I did as a teenager (baby oil anyone?) and even as a southern California girl in my 20’s and 30’s can now clearly be seen on my face in the form of brown spots. My daughter announced the other day “Hey Mommy, I didn’t know you had freckles.” I didn’t a few short years ago. Now they’re everywhere forming their own constellation across my body.
Muscle mass declines with age starting in, you guessed it, your 40’s. There’s an actual medical term for it, it’s called age related sarcopenia. For me, this means a little more “jiggling”. If that’s not a word it should be. My arms are less toned, my ass is starting to resemble my father’s and my once long and lean thighs have cellulite. I have to workout SO much harder just to keep what muscle I do have let alone build more.
Gaining weight in your 40’s could be due to a number of reasons. You’re less active, your busy schedule has you reaching for unhealthy foods or like me your thyroid isn’t functioning properly. The thyroid is the gland that produces hormones which control the speed of your metabolism. When your hormones begin to decrease in your 40’s this can cause your thyroid to produce low levels of thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism.
Despite my under active thyroid however; there is no denying the fact that my body just does not burn fat like it used to. When I was in my 20’s I didn’t’ hesitate to eat fast food and put on my string bikini immediately after. Now a days however; despite working out and eating fairly healthy, if I eat one bowl of ice cream I’m not getting into my skinny jeans the next day.
Hopefully, I haven’t thoroughly bummed you out and you’ve stuck around to hear the good stuff. Yes! There are some good great things that go along with turning 40.
Despite the biological changes mentioned above, I find in my 40’s that I am more accepting of my body. I accept the fact I am aging and that I don’t have the same body I once did. In my 20s I was so concerned with body image and constantly comparing myself to others around me, it was exhausting! Today, I realize there are far more important things in life than physical appearance and I want to be sure I pass that on to my children. The key for me is finding balance between maintaining a positive self-image without judging myself harshly against the standards projected by the media.
As frustrating as these biological changes are at times, I not only accept my body, but I have a deep appreciation for it. My body has bounced back from my party years, years when I was too busy working and making a life for myself and family that I completely neglected it, it created, carried and nurtured two perfect human beings and remains healthy so that I am present for them every day.
At this time in my life I am starting to see the health of friends and family deteriorate and even pass away around me. A not so gentle reminder that it’s not about a number on the scale or whether I can fit into the latest low rise skinny jeans (FYI I can’t), but rather the health and well being of my body. I may wake up with a few aches and pains, but I am grateful each morning I wake.
While there is no biological basis for women reaching their sexual peak in their 40’s, I have been with my husband for 25 years and when you have been with someone that long there is intensity between you that makes the sex so much more than just intercourse. At this point in our lives we have had years of experience with each other and don’t hesitate to express our needs and wants.
I don’t feel 40, and am not sure what that is even supposed to feel like, but what I do feel is an enormous sense of confidence that I did not have in my younger years. I cannot only take care of myself, but I have cared for and raised 3 other humans pretty damn well. I trust my decisions, I can multi-task like no one’s business, the amount of items on my to do list are legendary and I could run circles around my 20 year old self. I am still youthful, still desirable and I don’t really care what others are doing and instead focus on what makes me happy, what works for myself and my family.
Forty may bring with it some unpleasant biological changes, but for the most part I am fit, healthy and my mind is still sharp. I have so much more to look forward to, so much life yet to be lived. Now that I am officially “middle aged”, the notion that “life is short” takes on new meaning. I’m not perfect, but I know myself perfectly well.