My mom is in her early 50s and can still outrun me any day of the week. As long as I can remember, she's been waking up at the crack of dawn for early morning workouts, eating small and (mostly) plant-based meals throughout the day, and getting lost in a big belly laugh daily—all lifestyle habits that I'm convinced are her secrets to getting older without looking or feeling like she's aged a bit.
I'm not alone in thinking that these healthy habits contribute to my mom's ageless looks and high energy. "Eating well and staying active is more important after 50 than any other time," certified holistic health coach and founder/CEO of Shore Magic Joy Harari confirms. She also explains that a thriving social life and practicing mindful exercises like meditation and self-care are factors in healthy living over 50.
The most interesting thing about my mom's lifestyle habits is the way she's adapted them all quite intuitively. She works out in ways that make her feel good and energized, rather than with a specific weight loss goal in mind. Her food choices are also rooted in what works best for her body, not in any kind of fad diet or meal plan. And as for her social life, she's always had a young soul that attracts other positive, happy people. "Yes, I’m 53, but I feel like I’m in my 30s physically and, at times, mentally in my 20s," my mom, Patty Joy, shares.
Here's how she does it.
"To keep hormones balanced and the gut biome in check, nutrition is key," Harari explains. It's all about eating real food and avoiding anything that's processed or packaged. She recommends women over 50 eat five balanced meals a day and drink lots of pure water. Funny enough, that's almost exactly the nutritional routine that my mom follows. She's never been a social eater and says, "I eat to live, not live to eat." Here's what a typical day of meals looks like for her.
Breakfast: My mom starts her day with two cups of French press coffee with almond milk. Then, a few hours later, she'll eat a breakfast of fruit (usually a banana or berries) with Belvita crackers or Activia yogurt.
Lunch: She always packs a lunch to bring with her to work. Some of her go-tos are low sodium vegetable or tomato soup with avocado or either two hard-boiled eggs or tuna fish with chopped tomatoes, olives, goat cheese, and avocado.
Snacks: When she's craving a smoothie, she'll blend together frozen fruit, vanilla yogurt, and pomegranate juice. She also likes to snack on a handful of Bella mushrooms, a fig bar, yogurt, or Evolution cold-pressed juice. In true mom form, she also keeps a Pro Bar in her car just in case. "I don't like to be stranded without food," she explains.
Dinner: Typically, she'll prepare a simple meal like brown rice with tomatoes, avocado, and goat cheese or a bowl of soup for dinner. She also dines out about two times a week and makes it a point to order something relatively healthy that she normally doesn't fix for herself like fish.
"Eighty percent of the time, I eat good, and 20% of the time I eat what my body is telling me I need, like a sweet treat or a delicious hamburger," she admits. My mom also drinks plenty of water and stays away from sugary drinks like soda. "I keep a water bottle with me 24/7. I don’t add dressing to my salads, as the vegetables create their own juices naturally, and I stick to small portions, which leave me energized and fueled for what is coming around the corner," she says.
"It is crucial for women over 50 to engage in physical activity," according to Harari. "My rule is to do what you love," she continues. My mom has been following this rule for her entire life and has crafted a workout routine that includes all of the activities she truly enjoys doing.
"At a young age, exercise and a love of the outdoors were introduced to me by my family," my mom tells me. Today, she loves going on hikes and swimming in the ocean as well as taking yoga and spin classes. "I find creating a physical challenge and accomplishing your goal gives your mind a big mental boost," she says. My mom casually climbed Mt. Whitney—the highest summit in the U.S.—in one day and attributes this feat to helping her stay mentally strong, too, when she needs to be. "I think of myself on this hike when I'm struggling with something in my life and say I'm tough as nails."
When she's not summiting mountains, a typical week for my mom includes two relaxing yoga classes, one spin class, two more strenuous yoga classes, and time on the elliptical. She also likes to start the day with an at-home arm workout three times a week before heading into the office to stay toned.
Even while she's at work, she makes time to move her body by taking short walk breaks throughout the day. "I need to stay active otherwise my legs ache," she explains. "I get in about three miles a day even before I hit the gym."
A fulfilling lifestyle is also a huge part of the picture when it comes to healthy living over 50. "I believe we all must keep learning and challenging ourselves," Harari says. My mom certainly makes it a point to try new things and meet new people, which seems to have an effect on her youthfulness. "I keep my life exciting for me—I go out of my comfort zone to stretch my mental well-being as often as my physical well being," she says.
For her, this includes signing up for meditation and yoga workshops, volunteering, and joining groups where she can meet people with similar interests. Harari agrees that an active social life is also an important factor in feeling young. "I do believe social interaction is essential for good emotional health," she says. "People need people."
Finally, mindful activities also play a role in living well as you age. "We cannot forget spirituality as a very large part of holistic health," according to Harari. "Whether it’s prayer or meditation or another practice that centers you, how you nurture the spiritual side of yourself has proven connections to your physical well-being," she continues.
While my mom practices yoga and meditation, eats healthily and works out like a 20-year-old, she'd tell you that feels young simply because she acts like it. "My happy place is the ocean—I feel like I'm 10 years old again when I'm riding waves or splashing around," she tells me. "It's part of my genetic make-up to be silly and happy and find humor in every day… I find a lot of things amusing and I think that keeps me young," she concludes.
I'm just hoping to be blessed with her good genes, eternally youthful energy, and maybe, just maybe, to beat her in a race one day.