We are often told that the body inevitably disappoints. The waistline expands, the metabolism slows and energy fades. Turning the corner on 50, my experience has been completely the opposite. My percentage of body fat is considerably less than what it was before I turned 50. My skin is brighter. I have more energy, my digestion is better, I sleep better and I’m in the best shape of my life. Can a body be better after 50? Can a former yo-yo dieter with an underactive thyroid and a sugar habit turn it all around?

What I know for sure is:

1. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE to benefit from a leaner frame, more energy, fewer medications and flipping the switch to prevent (and often reverse) disease.

2. CLEAN EATING IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE and means different things to to different enthusiasts. The only magic bullet (there is one) is eating more ‘plants’ — whole grains, beans and legumes, raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and plant protein. Food journalist Michael Pollan was ahead of the ever-evolving plant-based eating revolution when he recommended that we ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’

3. HOW OFTEN ONE EATS REALLY MATTERS. Previously, I was caught up in the diet dogma of eating every few hours for energy. My body simply did not have the digestive rest required to heal and restore itself. In fact, true hunger which signals the body’s need for food comes with significantly more time between meals.

4. CHANGE IS HARD BUT NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS OPTIMIZED HEALTH FEELS. Taste buds are more resilient to change than one might believe.

5. LIFESTYLE DISEASES ARE PREVENTABLE AND REVERSIBLE. Google this and rejoice. Then, do something.


7. EATING THE MOST NUTRIENT-DENSE FOODS PROMOTES OPTIMAL HEALTH. In short, plant foods contain the most concentrated, health-promoting and disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

8. YOU CAN GET ENOUGH PROTEIN WHETHER OR NOT YOU EAT ANIMAL-BASED FOODS. Meatless meals need not be short on protein. Get experimental in the kitchen with nut-based cheeses, juicy new alternative burgers made for people who love meat and be reminded about how dense with protein green vegetables, grains and beans remain. Visit a local restaurant that excels at preparing plant-based cuisine. I recently ate a BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potato sandwich on multi-grain with grilled onions and shallot aioli from New York City’s vegan oasis Candle Café. It was unequivocally one of the best things I have encountered on a plate — ever.

9. COOKING IS NOT JUST FOR COOKS. I grew up eating from my mother’s perpetually stocked freezer. It was an easy draw for this non-cook. But once I learned that plant-centered, whole food preparation was quick and delicious, I started to prepare and build an arsenal of simple, budget-friendly recipes I could repeat. Now I cook, post (https://instagram.com/wholefoodieronna/), pin and tweet what I eat. My freezer is now my convenience store.

10. WHEN YOU OBLITERATE CRAVINGS FOR SUGAR, SALT, FAT, MEAT, DAIRY AND CAFFEINE, THE BODY REBOOTS IN A BIG WAY. Reduce and eliminate the foods that create uncontrolled urges and your body’s ability to escape from the nagging addiction to these foods increases exponentially.

What I know for sure beyond 50 is that incessant calorie-counting, measuring of portions and checking weight on the scale daily is hazardous to the health. Until I learned to eliminate toxic cravings and began to see food as sacred fuel, I could not permanently change habits cultivated over years entangled in a paradigm of dieting.

I’m grateful knowing that our food choices at any age, at every meal impact the vital numbers which determine our healthy destiny. People will ask me now, “What are you — a Vegan, Vegetarian, Flexitarian?

My answer in short is that I am a plant-propelled Qualitarian and impassioned Nutritarian in search of the next nutrient-rich meal which will optimally fuel my day and provide me a disease-fighting chance to age well. I want to make it on the Smucker’s jar on the Today Show when I reach 100. So what’s for lunch?

Originally published at medium.com