20's vs 40's: The Surprising Differences and Similarities
Age is such a funny thing to me. When we're young, we wish we were older. When we're older, we wish we were younger. And our definition of "older" changes every year. At least mine has. When I was in my 20's, 40 seemed SO OLD. Now I'm 41 and I feel just as youthful and even better than I did in my 20's.
One of my missions with Sips of Sunshine is to offer futuristic advice and perspective to women in their 20's and 30's. Think of me like the big sister you never knew you needed. So here's my short list of pro's and con's of my 20's and 40's, a few things I would do differently and a few things you can look forward to.
I loved the ease of my 20's. I wasn't thinking about things like having enough money for retirement, breast cancer risks or caring for my parents. I was thinking about going to the mall with my friends (every single weekend), going to the bars with my boyfriend and having enough money in the bank to pay the minimum on my credit card bills. My condo had a nice pool and I would spend entire weekends laying at the pool (in the shade, because skincare), drinking buckets of Diet Dr. Pepper and reading celebrity magazines. Life felt slow, eternal and easy. Bonus: I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and my stomach stayed flat. But...
In my 20's I was always sick. I swear I spent a decade chronically ill. The flu, colds, sinus infections, ear infections, my immune system was constantly beat up with a rotating door of random stuff. Like one time in my late 20's, my hip hurt for about 6 months. Straight up inflammation. Today, I'm never sick. I pretty much always feel great and never feel bad. This has to be credited to my diet. In my 20's I mostly ate bagel sandwiches and Lean Cuisines. I drank about 6 Diet Cokes a day. I would boil pasta and pour watered-down, sugary pasta sauce on it for dinner. It was cheap and I was broke. Today I do my best to eat a diet of vegetables, high quality proteins and fats and some fruits. I limit dairy, processed food, alcohol and sugar. I'm single and I live in the city (just try to be committed to health and go on dates) and my tiny kitchen is a joke, so my diet isn't perfect by any means...but so much better than it used to be. I can't imagine how good I would have felt in my 20's, and how much time I would have gotten back that I spent feeling sick, if I'd eaten like I do now in my 40's.
The only exceptions is hangovers. OMG. Hangovers take me down for a solid 24 hours at this age. I remember drinking NINE drinks in one night in my 20's and going to an 8 am spin class the next morning feeling like a million bucks. I would love that superpower back.
That was a bit about my 20's. Now I'm in my 40's. I'm pretty new to being in my 40's, so this should probably be called 30's and 40's. Let's talk about what's different.
Health: see above. I'm so much healthier now and I know it's due to my diet. If you're reading this in your 20's (or any age) and you feel like you're sick too often or live in a state of constantly low energy, give your diet a look. If you do nothing else, start by cutting out processed foods, fried foods, candy/sugar and breads/crackers/pastas. Food is the fastest healer and the slowest killer. A diet of processed and fried foods and carbs causes inflammation in your body, which contributes to everything about how you feel including contributing to future dementia. That's right, your diet affects your brain. You can listen to my podcast about my recent week at Mountain Trek to learn a bit more about diet and exercise. The downside of being in my 40's is that my body doesn't bounce back like it used to. A week of excessive eating, drinking and skipping the gym shows up on my body through a bigger stomach and wrinkles on my face. It sucks. Maintaining a body composition (women should be 25-30% body fat) takes daily work. I actually have to workout more and eat healthier in my 40's to maintain the same(ish) body type as my 20's and 30's. Your body changes how it processes food and responds to fitness as you age. So when you think about your 40's and envision yourself looking as smokin' hot as you do in your 20's and 30's, plan on an increased commitment to health and fitness.
Confidence: I've always been pretty confident, but there's this thing that happens in your 40's that's so liberating. You really just don't care about so many things that used to bother you. A random comment from someone? Water off a duck's back. A night at home on a weekend? Cool. You GUYS, yesterday I got a blowout and it was raining, so I walked home from the blow-dry bar with a shower cap on. People looked at me. Didn't care a bit. Other people's opinions of me mean so little anymore. My opinion of me (and the opinions of a few of my very closest friends) are what matter. And my hair looked bomb when I got home. If I feel this way in my 40's, I can't even imagine how confident I'll feel in my 60's. Woot!
Money: your 40's is where you'll start to see the fruits of you labor if you started investing in your 20's. You'll finally have what feels like "real money" and honestly it feels good. You can afford things you couldn't afford before, you're not living paycheck to paycheck and you're making your money work for you through the magic of compound interest. You can read my article about little things I did to set myself up for financial freedom here. In addition to doing several things right, I crushed debt before I turned 30 and haven't had debt since. My advice in your 20's and 30's (and any age): get out of debt and don't go back. Debt is the one thing that seems like no big deal in your 20's, everyone has it. In your 40's, debt turns from something everyone has to a source of shame and can feel like something you'll never get out from under. It's a problem that only gets worse with time. It causes stress and also just literally costs you a ton of money in interest payments. While you'll probably have more money in your 40's, there's also added financial stress - when things do cost money, you're usually dealing with bigger dollars. You're also spending more money on more things - families, homes, healthcare. That's another reason to be healthy. Medical care is expensive and don't even get me started the opportunity cost (the opportunities you miss in life) of not feeling good. I wrote an article on this topic - check it out here. I also wrote this piece about the cost of healthcare. Want more money in your 40's and for the rest of your life? Prioritize your health and fitness.
I could go on and on, but I feel like this is a good start. I want to hear your thoughts. What do you miss about your 20's? What do you love about your 30's and 40's? The beauty of life is that it's ALL GOOD - your 20's, 30's, 40's and beyond. There's magic in every decade.