For some, every birthday brings a mild sense of dread. Despite it being better than the morbid alternative, few people truly love getting and feeling older. But no birthday carries a bigger personal burden than the 40th birthday. Go to any Hallmark store, and you’ll see the cards saying you’re “over the hill,” joking that you’re ready for retirement, and implying that you have one foot in the grave. Obviously, these are massive exaggerations. You’re middle aged, not dying. That being said, your body and life do both start to change after age 40, and thus, there are some life rules and guidelines that need to be ditched after this landmark birthday.
For instance, at age 40 you may notice that you need more fiber or calcium in your diet, and taking supplements (or eating these vitamin- and mineral-rich foods) is of utmost importance. You may also need to check out those weird body aches and pains you’ve otherwise been ignoring.
However, 40 isn’t that old, and you need to throw out the notions that your age is something to be ashamed of, that you can’t wear something because of a number on your driver’s license, or that your best days are behind you. You’re 40! It’s time to rewrite that life rulebook and ditch these 40 ideas you may be holding dear.
Please don’t call your 40th birthday “the first anniversary of my 39th birthday.” You’ve reached a landmark year, and turning 40 is a heck of a lot better than not turning 40.
While it is important to eat healthy, especially in middle age, exercising and eating right isn’t all you need. This is the age where you need to start getting colonoscopies, mammograms, and other screening tests regularly.
It’s easy to look back at your college years, 20s, and early 30s with a certain fondness. Life was a little simpler back then, wasn’t it? But thinking those were your best years and spending all your time looking back is pointless. Live in the now and think of all the things you have to look forward to, like seeing your children grow up, travel, and retirement.
It’s easy to crave stability and want for everything in your life to remain a certain way, and while change can be difficult, it isn’t impossible. Also, don’t think that just because you’re in your 40s you can’t adopt new habits or try new things. Some things are easy and affordable to try for the first time at any age.
Listen, compromise is important in any relationship, but that doesn’t mean your wants, needs, and desires aren’t important. Make sure you’re not being inconsiderate of others, but be sure you don’t compromise your life away.
Counting calories is actually sabotaging any hopes of losing weight. Plus, as you age, your metabolism fluctuates. There’s a very real possibility it will slow down. Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on your hunger cues and cravings.
If you really hate regular milk — or have some other aversion to eating dairy — by all means, drink almond, soy, or other alternative types of milk. It’s a perfectly healthy staple to keep around the house and add to your smoothies, pour over cereal, or just drink plain. However, if you’re drinking it because you think it’s healthier, there’s no need. Cow’s milk has much more calcium than almond milk, and calcium is one of the most important things your body needs after 40.
Dating has changed a lot since the ‘90s and the dawn of the Internet, and the old adage that women shouldn’t call or text men back is dated, sexist advice. You are savvy and experienced enough at 40 to make your own rules when it comes to dating. So call or don't call, swipe left or swipe right, text or ghost the guy or gal — just don't breadcrumb them.
The science is still a bit ambivalent about whether drinking alcohol will help you live longer or greatly shorten your lifespan. However, after a certain age, the way you metabolize alcohol changes. It gets way more difficult for your body to handle that one glass; you’ll get a worse hangover and higher degree of toxicity from your drink. So be sure to drink in moderation.
Sleep is just as important for your health as exercise, and a lot of terrifying things that can happen to your body when you’re sleep-deprived. Mitigate these risks as you age by putting sleep first. Your workout can wait until a later time.
Loneliness can actually hurt your heart, so don’t let your friendships and relationships with your loved ones fade into the background. Did you know your mom can live longer if you hang out with her? Be sure to pick up the phone and give old friends a ring. You never know who you can reconnect with.
The fear we’ve been trained to have around restaurant food is misplaced. While some restaurants overdo it on the grease, chemicals, and additives, others simply use real food ingredients and cook wholesome meals. Plus, remember that tip about loneliness? The health effects of spending time with friends far outweigh the drawbacks of (sometimes) unhealthy food.
With Facebook and Instagram, it may be easy to think everyone out there is living their best life — and that it’s inherently better than the life you’re living. So while you may think those old high school friends jet-setting around the world are happier than you, they’re looking at your life and are equally jealous. Plus, very few people post about their bad days on social media, so you’re not getting a wholly accurate look at their life.
Celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren, and Glenn Close proudly and loudly rock their gray hair, and you should too. Forget that dye. Heck, even younger celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna have dyed their hair gray on purpose. It’s on trend!
It’s easy to think that swapping pasta for zoodles or eggs for egg whites are the key to weight loss, but in reality these are among the foods women over 40 should never eat. If you’re craving bread or protein, those foods just won’t cut it, and you’ll eat way more later in the day.
Think your days of solo travel, going to music festivals, or skydiving are behind you? Well, they aren’t! It’s never too late to try something exciting and new. If you’ve always wanted to go scuba diving, what’s stopping you? Go explore the world!
It’s easy to look back on some decision you made years ago or a missed opportunity and live with a serious regret. While some may say that no matter what choice you made, you still could have had a bad outcome, we think it’s better to learn from your mistakes and move on in a healthy manner.
Is it, really? Now that you’ve reached middle age, there’s something to truly be learned from “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Go for that promotion, book that overseas trip, or ask that cutie in the office out on a date. What’s the worst that can happen?
Life is short. So don’t be afraid to take a big leap and live every day to its fullest. But life is also long, so don’t get caught up in the nostalgia of days gone by. Live in the now.
When you were younger, a lingering headache or a random bruise might have been a little thing that would simply go away. But now that you’re in middle age, these small aches and pains may be serious symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
The ‘80s were the decade of low-fat food options, but do you know the best foods to eat to avoid Alzheimer's? Fats! Yes, it may be tempting to eat low-fat foods to keep slim, but olive oil, salmon, nuts, and avocados have all been linked to better cognitive function. All fats, even the saturated kinds, can help keep your cholesterol down and actually help you live longer.
There’s an old-fashioned stigma that one person will end up catching feelings for another if a man and woman try to simply be friends. Let’s blame When Harry Met Sally. But it’s 2018! Men and women can totally have a platonic friendship, and they can be seriously rewarding.
You know which exercise is just as beneficial is high-intensity interval training? Walking. Truly! So instead of risking injury by going to that CrossFit gym or waking up at the crack of dawn to get an 8-mile run in, just take a 30-minute walk through the park.
There’s a lot of power in the word “no.” It’s easy to want to be a big people-pleaser, but you need to know when to stop trying to make everyone’s life easier and improve your own.
When you skip even one meal, it can wreak havoc on your body. Your metabolism takes a nosedive. Your blood sugar fluctuates. And your other body systems start to slow down. When you’re already aging into a slowing metabolism and uneasiness with insulin, these are the last things you want happening in your body. Nearly two-thirds of adults with diabetes get diagnosed between ages 40 and 64. Do your health a favor and eat consistently throughout the day.
Maybe you’ve been smoking for 25 years, and at 40, what’s the point in quitting? Well, smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death. Immediately after you toss your cigarettes to the side, your blood pressure drops, your body’s oxygen levels improve, and your risk of heart disease drops considerably.
You’re 40. You’ve earned the right to hold your opinion and to speak your mind. While you shouldn’t go around spitting your truth to everyone whether or not they want to hear it, sometimes it’s better to clear the air or say what’s on your mind. Trust us: You’ll feel better afterwards.
There are a lot of vitamins you’re probably missing. While it may seem like you’re getting all the calcium, vitamin D, and fiber you need from fruits and vegetables, your body changes after 40, so supplementing a healthy diet with vitamins and supplements may be very important.
It’s easy to worry about whether the front window is locked or the lights are turned off. But as long as you’re acting with general care in your everyday life, worrying about whether or not that fan downstairs is still running as you get ready for bed will just add unnecessary stress to your life.
You may think you’re too young to network, too young to change careers, or too young to be in college. But you’re only 40! There’s still so much life ahead of you. If you want to do something, don’t worry about what others will think.
Don’t isolate yourself from others (loneliness can lead to health problems after all), but there’s no need to feel like you always need to be engaging with someone else. In fact, being alone and at peace with yourself is a useful skill at any age.
A lot of people will tell you to stop wearing that leopard print, pink hair, or stiletto heel at age 40, but you know what we say? Wear what you want all the time. Does a loud, lime-green print make you feel happy and confident? Cool. Then rock it!
One day, you look in the mirror and notice a line in your forehead or crow’s feet. It’s easy to freak out and look for fillers or consider getting bangs. But wrinkles are signs of a happy and long life lived.
New allergies, intolerances, and food sensitivities can develop at any age. Maybe you used to eat cheese by the pound, but suddenly it makes you sick. If you’re having weird symptoms, consider getting an allergen test.
There are a lot of times you need sunscreen and may not know it. Are you leaving the house? Throw on a quick SPF. It’s a quick and easy way to avoid skin cancer and premature aging.
No matter what age you are, any person’s body is a “beach body” whenever it’s on the sand. But we get it, in your youth you were insecure. Throw those body issues out the door when you turn 40 and learn to love your body. If you want to feel the sun on your belly, rock that bikini no matter your size! If someone has issues seeing your buns out in the sun, that’s their problem, not yours.
You may think 40 is too late for parenthood, but if you still dream of parenthood, it’s not too late. At age 40, women still have about a 50 percent chance of conceiving within a year, though that drops to 1 to 2 percent at age 43. In vitro fertilization and egg donation are options for parenthood even at a more advanced age.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or so you think. But you can adopt a new habit or life outlook at any age — yes, even at 40. For instance, you can do something as simple as stretch for 10 minutes every morning, and this simple morning hack will transform your life. Or you can try something new and affordable for the first time, like composting or hiking.
More From The Daily Meal:
Diet Advice You Need to Forget When You Turn 40
Foods Women Over 40 Should Never Eat
Foods Men Over 40 Should Never Eat
50 Rules to Throw Out When You Turn 50
18 Life-Changing College Courses You Can Take for Free