I need to vent a little.  For the first time in my life (OK, mayyybe the second but this time it’s a little worse) I am noticing mild aches in my knees when I go up and down stairs.  Keep in mind I live in a 3-story townhouse and also work on a 2nd floor at my new job so I’m all about the stairs, baby.  And yep, I feel it.  Sometimes I even “hear” my knees making very faint, grinding sounds, like really fast Rice Krispies crackles.  Hmmm, one of these days I’ll likely be too noisy to sneak up on people.  And my back starts to tire out more quickly now when I play hockey…I truly “know” when it’s the end of my shift as my lower back screams it to me.  I suppose I should feel blessed that I’ve never had knee or back problems as a kid, teen or young adult.  None of these are sharp, alarming pains…just things I’ve never really felt before…and I’m wondering WHY.

And why now?

I just turned 43 last month and you know, I remember how I was soooo ready and excited to turn 40…I was all BRING IT OWHNNN and thrilled to punch through into a new decade.  But I admit the big 4-0 kicked me in the ass.  A few weeks after my birthday I ended a relationship with the man I thought I was going to marry.  I am not going to drone on about the details other than say here that it was extremely painful as we were really, truly, deeply in love but there were some very unhealthy things going on that we could not work through no matter how hard we tried.  Then, just a couple of weeks after that breakup my work contract ended abruptly.  Abruptly as in I was driving home one night after work to meet up with a friend for a drink and got a call from my agency that I literally did NOT need to go back in the office the next day.  So…I turned 40 and within weeks two HUGE elements of my life SHUT DOWN.  Hard.  It was brutal and there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed.  But I pulled through and survived thanks to the incredible support of my family and friends.

Oh, and here are a few things people may not tell you about that happen when you hit your 40s:
– Knee/back pain (at least for me…perhaps it’s weight gain too?)
– Weight redistributes…where are my teeny little waist and flat tummy?  Yoo hoooo…
– Thinning hair…not in a major baldspot way but in general.  Thankfully I have thick, wavy hair and have some to spare.  But if you look at pictures of me 20 years ago you CAN see a difference.
– Ass drops about 3 or 4 inches.  Boooo gravity.
– Random, rogue chin hairs.  Yep, my tweezers are my new BFF.  Every other day I gotta check out the jawline.  What the F already??
– Peach fuzz…thankfully my facial hair is pretty much colorless but it makes makeup look bad and frankly is very aging in general.  I get it waxed periodically at my favorite spa; while I’ve been out of work and on a major Money Diet I’ve actually found a drugstore waxing kit that works GREAT as a cheap alternative and doesn’t irritate my skin.
– Zits!  Yep, zits AND wrinkles here…bonus.
– Changes in eating/diet:  I have totally lost my tolerance for red wine.  One tiny glass maybe with a huge steak dinner is OK, but other than that I have no desire to drink it and when I have a glass I feel like a train hit me the next morning.  I suppose there could be worse things to give up, however!
– Occasional loss of balance…I actually know of 3 women who shortly after turning 40 have lost their balance and taken bad falls either at work or at home.  A missed last step or a stumble that turns into a major embarrassment or even some surgery to fix broken bones.  I admit I have sometimes “caught” myself about to miss a last step either indoors or outdoors and it’s scary.  And I HAVE fallen once in my townhouse, but I blamed it on the high heeled clogs I was wearing. A couple of years ago I was heading down to my garage to meet up with my boyfriend K at the time and I went SPLAT down the stairs and smacked head first into the wall at the bottom.  Luckily no twists or sprains…just a bruised ego and a good laugh that no one was watching.

They also say your metabolism slows and it’s harder to lose weight as you get older. Honestly, my weight has always been an achilles heel for me so I don’t see a real change there, other than my weight has re-distributed within my body.  Grrr.

So let’s talk about the weight gain here.  This is probably a reason why my knees/back are feeling the burn more than they used to.  A few of you know that in the summer of 2003 I walked about 5-7 miles a day outside every single day for about 5-6 months and dropped 35 lbs.  After that I took up hockey.  I am trying to think back all those years to remember if I noticed less aching in my knees and back, but I can only remember how great it felt having my lung strength increase.  No more wheezy, tight-chested feelings going up steep hills.  Once I started slimming down and getting in better shape it was a breeze.  And thank goodness I got my cardio in good condition before starting hockey.

Oh, and one other thing – The Pill.  Yes, in early fall 2007 I started a new job and started dating K around the very same time.  I also found a new doctor and after a complete physical, bloodwork, some meds for high blood pressure and all we made the mutual decision to put me on the Pill.  And this was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.  Within a couple months I blew up like a balloon.  And the only good thing about that was that I suddenly went from a small B to a full C cup so I now have decent boobs, ha ha.  I quit the Pill after a little under a year and will never, ever do that again.  Even that low dosage prescription plumped me up pronto and I’ve had a devil of a time fighting off the weight ever since.  Kinda weird how none of those 3 things (job, man, Pill) ended up working out.  My entire business unit got RIF’d from that company, I broke up with K because we just never had time to grow our relationship (another long story) and the Pill was a big ol’ mistake.  Oh well – sometimes you take a path at a fork in the road and it’s not the right choice after all.  Regroup!

Stress has also played a big role with the weight gain too.  As a lot of you know, I was unemployed from late July through late October last year, worked very briefly 8 weeks at very low pay through the end of December, and then was unemployed all into 2010 until just about a month ago.  It hurt.  It hurt financially and emotionally, big time.  There were days I’d drink coffee all morning, have popcorn for lunch and mac and cheese for dinner.  And, oh, maybe pop a few vitamins.  All while barely showered and in my ripped up leggings and an old flannel shirt.  Yeah, I’m not proud of all of that but it’s the truth.  That was my M.O. on days I didn’t have interviews or other things to get me out and about.  I felt very lost, stressed and alone on the bad days.

Now that I’m back to work and getting acclimated (and enjoying decent paychecks again, woo hoo!) I’m trying to re-assess my diet and fitness goals.  I guess it’s a self-esteem issue for me; when I’m working I feel I have “purpose,” and through that it fuels me to make other improvements in my life.  Right or wrong, that’s my reality.

So, here are a few things in the works:
– Exercise:  I’ve signed up for a 5K in late July and have started the Couch to 5K Program yet again.  I did two 5Ks last year but this time around it’s tougher to train with the extra pudge.
– More exercise:  I am now the proud owner of the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred DVD.  I’ve never watched The Biggest Loser but I hear this workout is kickass.  And for just $8.99 thanks to the nice people at Amazon.com it fits my Money Diet.  I did my first workout tonight and I might be too sore in my pecs to get out of bed or even type tomorrow, ha ha.  We’ll see!  It’s a very intense, 20-minute workout of cardio, weights and abs in small circuits.  Kind of nice having it done quickly, rather than a long, brisk walk outside which might take an hour or more and doesn’t really do anything for the upper body.
– Diet changes:  I still don’t have any Diet Coke cravings after stopping it cold turkey in early January!  But I now work again at a company where beverages are complimentary, sodas, juice, the whole works.  And while I love bubbles, I find that sparkling sodas and diet root beer make me bloat up like no one’s business.  So I stick with plain water from the water cooler and a couple cups of coffee in the morning.
– Nutrition:  the cafeterias here are kick butt and subsidized, so I hope having more nutritious (and cheap!) choices at lunch will inspire me to blow the dust off my cookbooks yet again. The salad bar and brown rice sushi are two of my favorites.
– Healthy snacks:  string cheese and plain, unsalted almonds are great low-cal snacks to keep the blood sugar stable between meals.  I try to avoid snacking but if I’m stuck with having to take a later lunch either of these really help.

So, I’m excited for this journey to get back to a healthy weight, ease the strain on the knees and back…and getting back to where I recognize myself in pictures again!

Oh and PS:  what GETS better in your 40s?  Wisdom, confidence, less and less tolerance for bullshit and…sex.