Looking back over milestone birthdays points out how age is relative.
Remember 30? It felt so old. Strangely, turning 40 felt young. Your 50th birthday? Different story. Fifty may be the new 40, but it can also bring a larger pant size and a pair of reading glasses to the party. Does middle age inevitably bring an increasing waistline and diminishing abilities?
Not according to Sylvie Gendreau, who set a goal Oct. 6 last year to lose 20 pounds by New Year’s Eve, “to be at the same weight I was when I met my husband on New Year’s Eve at Whistler 20 years ago”. She met that goal, and was so encouraged by her success she carried on to lose an additional 15 pounds by June 14 – for a total of 35 pounds in eight months.
Sylvie, a vivacious 53-year-old with the energy and spirit of someone half her age, is involved in the community, runs two Gabriola businesses with her husband, and yet describes herself as “semi-retired”. While weight loss was her primary goal, Sylvie really wanted to pay attention to her overall health to allow her to maintain that high level of strength and energy well into her senior years.
First up was her exercise routine. Sylvie had been working out at the gym four times a week, but had gotten into a rut, so she added some new exercises, and alternated between cardio, aerobic, and weight training. She also began to work on strength and balance as a bit of health insurance as she ages. She enjoys the camaraderie with fellow members, many of whom are her age and older, and felt their positive feedback made a difference to her success. Gardening and golfing use different muscles again, and provide her with a well-balanced exercise regime.
Sylvie’s advice for beginning to exercise is this: “Pick something – the gym, Pilates, biking, walking, and stick with it for at least three months. Commit to three months and you will be hooked”.
The gym owner became her mentor and cheerleader, and encouraged her to mix up her exercise routines “to fool her body”. She also encouraged Sylvie to write everything she ate and drank into a journal, which she checked weekly. It made the whole process both accountable and fun. “It was not hard at all, she says. “You need an outsider to keep you honest”. Sylvie’s journal became both her conscience and a reminder to stay on track.
She enlisted a local nutritionist to help clean up her act, diet-wise. Some words of wisdom: “Banish all things white (sugar, rice, pasta, bread), cut down on oil and butter”, and “eat (don’t drink) your calories for better digestion (an orange instead of juice, veggies instead of a smoothie)”. Sylvie found it easy to switch to whole-wheat pasta, whole grain bread, and brown rice and she loves to cook, so finding healthy recipes has become a new passion. Some menu items (with healthy tweaking) included chicken enchiladas, BBQ country style ribs, and chocolate mousse. “I will not jeopardise flavour”, she says, “my taste buds need to be happy”.
Other lifestyle changes were also easy, according to Sylvie. She drinks five to eight glasses of water a day, to stay hydrated and keep her system flushed. She eats five to six times a day, with no more than three to three-an-a-half hours between eating, to prevent becoming overly hungry. She cut back alcohol consumption to just weekends or special occasions, stating, “this was surprisingly easy!”. She has one “Cheat Day” per week, in which she can eat anything she wants – wine, dessert, pizza, chocolate. She reads labels on everything, and when she discovered her favourite cereal, Shreddies, had eight grams of sugar per serving, she found a recipe for low-fat, low-sugar granola.
During the eight months, Sylvie had a couple of setbacks, including Christmas holiday weight gain and a particularly stressful situation that normally would have sent her straight to the fridge. With encouragement from her mentors, Sylvie jumped back on the program, proving to herself that she was able to resist food as a coping mechanism.
Sylvie’s success has inspired her friends; some of whom have joined Weight Watchers, others who have begun to work out. Attitude is everything. Sylvie has no patience with the notion that you can’t do something because of your age. “Everyone should put themselves in a challenge” she says. “It’s good for you. “
Sylvie wants others to feel as good as she does. If you would like to lose a few pounds, tweak your dietary choices, or begin to exercise, Sylvie would be happy to talk to you, and share some of her tips for making positive change. She can be reached at 250-247-9291.
Finally, for further motivation to move, check out this funny, informative video from Dr. Mike Evans, titled, 23 ½ Hours
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