It's no mystery that age changes our bodies. Many of these bodily changes (hormonal, physical, and the like) rely on a healthy lifestyle to keep the natural changes from negatively impacting us. But what, exactly, is an adequately healthy lifestyle for someone in their 30s? We consulted dietician Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, founder of The Well Necessities and TWN TV, to share her wisdom on the topic.
Meet the Expert
Lisa Hayim, founder of The Well Necessities and TWN TV, is a registered dietitian, speaker, wellness blogger, and coach. She holds a master of science in nutrition and exercise physiology from Columbia University.
On the best approach for weight loss:
Preparation is key for anyone trying to lose weight. If it's your first time, be aware that the biggest "mistakes" occur when situations are out of our control. Meal planning, batch cooking, keeping snacks on hand, and learning a bit about the science of nutrition can all be helpful tools to help you stay on track, says Hayim.
Food logs are also a critical component. In 2008, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine released the results of a relatively large trial during which participants were encouraged to eat a healthier diet coupled with exercise and keep a food journal. After only six months, the participants shed an average of 13 pounds. According to the study, the most powerful predictor was how many days the participants kept a food diary. Those who kept a food log for six days of the week lost about twice as much as those who kept it for one, she adds.
Food records hold you accountable for your actions and heighten your awareness. There is no such thing as "a couple of chips" when you have to jot down an exact number in your log. If you're working with a registered dietitian, the food log can also help them get a full understanding of your habits and provide informed guidance.
Hayim says she keeps a running list of "accomplishments" for her clients. On days they don't feel motivated or want to give up, she shows them this list and reminds them of all the positive changes they have made and successes they have had. There will be defeating days and weeks, but reflecting on your list is a great way to keep yourself inspired and motivated.
If you're trying to lose weight, keep a journal and mark down accomplishments.
On the key foods to focus on for weight loss:
Hayim says there are certain foods and concepts that help someone in their 30s lose weight.
Focus on water-dense foods: Tomatoes, watermelon, iceberg lettuce, grapefruit, and mushrooms are not just nutritious and rich in vitamins, but they are also satisfying and hydrating, filling you up without bringing a lot of calories to the table.
Snack on raw and crunchy: Skip the fried chips and grab a handful of crunchy veggies, which are low in calories and high in fiber. When we chew, we notify our brain to send a signal to our stomachs that food is coming. Once this process begins, we are closer to reaching the feeling of being full. Eating foods that take longer to chew ensures that we are more aware of our satiety cues and slows down the number of calories we consume in total.
Lean protein: Protein should be consumed at every meal. Women in their 30s need to eat enough protein to promote muscle-protein synthesis, which is what we need for the growth and repair of skeletal muscle. Protein also helps with satiety, keeping us full for longer. Start adding protein-rich foods like eggs, chicken breast, beans, and greek yogurt to your meals.
Remove added sugars: Added sugars bring in calories without extra nutrients. Learning how to read labels and scan for added sugars is key for choosing healthy foods. Avoid any foods sweetened with seemingly innocuous ingredients like cane sugar, agave, honey, or brown rice syrup.
Calcium-rich foods: This is the prime age to prepare for what will occur with menopause when the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Women begin losing bone density in their 30s and can lose up to 20% of their bone density after menopause. The best way to combat this is to enter menopause with sufficient bone density. While a supplement may be needed later in life, a food-first approach is recommended. Calcium-rich foods include spinach, kale, sardines, almonds, yogurt, broccoli, and watercress.
On the recipe for good health in your 30s:
Hayim says that the 30s are some of the most stressful years. Managing the stress of juggling a career and children can be demanding. Therefore, women of this age should focus on stress-releasing exercises, like yoga, as well as get at least eight hours of sleep per night—sleep deprivation affects our metabolism by slowing it down.
It's not only about food
Hayim says she cannot stress exercise enough. When working out, incorporate a mix of cardio, strength training, and yoga to ensure your mind, heart, and muscles are getting adequate exercises.
On the key to maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle:
Women lose muscle mass twice as fast as men at this age. Muscle is more metabolically active compared to fat, so the more muscular you are, the more calories you burn at rest. Therefore, strength training is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, particularly for women in their 30s because its when they naturally begin losing muscle mass.
When it comes to the diet, focus on a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix. Starvation only leads to focus problems, a slower metabolism, and decreased muscle mass. Instead of forcing yourself to adhere to an unsustainable diet that makes you feel deprived, explore healthy foods and meal plans that you wouldn't mind eating for many years to come. A dietician or nutritionist can help you create a plan that's aligned with your needs.
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