Unveiling the Third Path: A Woman’s Guide to Aging with Grace and Vitality

I vividly remember sitting next to a psychotherapist during a business meeting. It was the year 2000 and we were deep in conversation about women and aging, and her words have stayed with me ever since: “Heather, in our culture, a woman’s power is in her youth and beauty.”

Back then, in my early thirties, I reveled in the idea of being young and in great shape. But with each passing birthday, I found myself wondering how much longer I could hold onto that coveted “youthful” label. I faced two choices: wage a relentless battle against aging with every product and technique available or embrace the inevitable and make the most of the time I had left.

However, as the years passed, I came upon a third path. It didn’t happen until my mid-forties, but it was there, waiting for me to notice. It was a simple truth, one I’d heard other women mention, but it didn’t quite resonate with me at first. Like any profound insight, it took time to permeate my psyche and become a part of my life.

The reality is, at every moment, we have the power to shape how we perceive ourselves and our world. If we absorb the anti-aging messages prevalent in our society, we will never reach that elusive goal. 

This “third way” that I’ve come to embrace is all about savoring life, living it to the fullest, and taking ownership of it. It encourages me to find opportunities for learning in every situation and to appreciate both myself and others, whether in moments of beauty or vulnerability.

women and aging
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva

My husband teases me that I’m in denial about getting older. Ten years ago, maybe. But today, I have very different conversations about women and aging. I’m very aware of my age and I know for sure that we have way more control than we’ve been taught to think. Not because of cosmetic efforts to look younger. But because our lifestyle has a tremendous impact on how well (or poorly) we age. From our sleep to what we eat, to how we move our bodies and our relationships, we are not doomed to simply our genetics and the idea that “this is just the way it is at this age.” When I take ownership of this truth, it changes what I do. 

I don’t walk this third path perfectly. And that’s totally okay. In my coaching work with numerous clients, I’ve witnessed how the all-or-nothing mindset often holds them back from experiencing the health, joy, and satisfaction they long for. It just struck me that the only way I could discover my own “third way” was to recover from my perfectionism. I don’t have a perfect body, my house isn’t always perfectly organized, and I don’t constantly experience a blissful connection with the Divine. But I’m becoming stronger and healthier, my surroundings are more peaceful, and I enjoy greater moments of calm.

Honestly, I don’t even know what “perfect” would look like, or if it truly exists. And if it does, I’m not sure it would be any better than the life I’m living at this very moment. Life, as it is, is a beautiful journey of growth, learning, and embracing my imperfect self.

3 ways to move the needle when you hit a weight loss plateau

When you don’t get the result you expect fast enough, or you hit a weight loss plateau, you likely make some observations. Things like “I must be doing something wrong” or “this isn’t working.”

Be careful. These insidious thoughts lead to something worse. 

Next thing you know you’ll justify skipping a workout, having seconds, or snacking on jelly bellies. After all, it’s not working so why bother? 

Can you see how asking the wrong questions ensures you don’t lose weight or, you gain back what you’ve lost?

Photo by mali maeder: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-analog-meter-50634/

You want to delve into why you’re at a weight loss plateau in a way that keeps you on track and motivated to continue. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Ask useful questions. Like: 

  • What, if I was consistent, would have a big impact on my results?
  • What am I doing well that I can capitalize on?
  • Is there something I was doing previously that made a difference, but I’ve gotten out of the habit?

The key is recognizing where you’re winning and how you can build on that. And to see where you might need to shift or re-engage. Once you identify those areas, take a close look at food and movement…

2. Food assessment. Sometimes what you’re eating got you to where you are, but it won’t get you further. Let’s say you were drinking a sugary coffee most afternoons and having dessert every night and, after cutting it in half you lost weight. It may be that reducing half the sugar gets you this far, but not the rest of the way. In what areas might this be the case for you?

Another consideration is, are you consistent with your eating habits or have you let some things slide? Maybe in the beginning you were mindful of not snacking while preparing dinner or while watching TV, but those habits have creeped back in. Or you eat a bit too much, not to the point of stuffed but more than sufficient. Find where you need to get back to what was working. 

3. Exercise progression. Do you know a woman who after years of walking almost everyday, laments that her body doesn’t look any different?  I asked this while speaking at a women’s conference and one audience member said, “I know who you’re talking about. That’s me!”

Our bodies need new and different exercise options to continue changing. You can challenge your body in several ways, such as:

  • Exercise longer and/or more frequently
  • Up your aerobic exercise intensity (see ways to measure it here)
  • Get variety. If you walk, add biking, dancing, running…anything. 
  • If you don’t already, add strength training (it’s a must!)
  • Lift heavier weights 
  • Shake up your strength exercises

I’ve had several clients who, after making changes like these, were able to workout less and start losing weight again.

Reaching a weight loss plateau is common. The key is to respond with curiosity and compassion. Take credit for the progress you’ve made. Then, determine what needs to change and decide what you’ll do about it.  You got this.

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