Shelf-life and women nearing-30

It was one of those “oh shit” moments… my very first, near-30 fat roll came bulging over my trousers.

And so I just kind of sat there, rather bulged there, at the wheel of an old Volvo. How had this happened? Worse still — I couldn’t blame it on pregnancy or that I’d quit smoking the year before. I couldn’t even blame it on a half-hearted thyroid. I realised then — at the wheel of an old Volvo — that the blame lay squarely with me and my nearing-30 metabolism.

The warning signs had been there. Months earlier, my homeless friend John had cycled past me in France and noted in his Texan drawl, “Bianca have y’all gotten a little tanned or a little fat? I can’t quite tell which one.”
“Well John, I think a little fat,” I remarked.
To which he replied, “Bianca is it tha Swede? ‘Cos ya know, a fat woman is a happy woman.”

“Bianca have y’all gotten a little tanned or a little fat? I can’t quite tell which one.”

It was both so honest and so tactless of him. The truth is: everyone will hush hush your gripes about how your body has changed from one decade to the next. They’ll tell you that you look great and you’ll tend to believe them, while kilogram-by-kilogram you edge towards your heavy-weight. No one will have the tact of a homeless man and share the honest truth with you. But if you face the biological facts, you will know that your body is changing and it’s up to you to do something about it.

In my early twenties, I could not comprehend this “shelf thing” that everyone went on about — that is, women on the shelf. I’d hear it thrown around loosely at every dinner party: “now that she’s 30 she’s on the shelf” or “her maternal clock’s ticking” or “you know she still doesn’t have a man?” The societal pressure on women nearing-30 is fierce: we’re portrayed as these depreciating assets, once beautiful but now weathering with time. Suddenly “wife” and “mother” don’t sound as appealing as “20-year-old”. And we’re made to believe all this nonsense when really it is just that: a pile of nonsense.

The societal pressure on women nearing-30 is fierce: we’re portrayed as these depreciating assets, once beautiful but now weathering with time.

I suppose the invincible twenty-something me was made to believe that I’d never reach my “shelf life”. And then I did: the night I bulged at the wheel of an old Volvo.

And it came at a time when there is so much confusion and controversy around what to eat and how to keep your 20-something body for life. The intellectual war between carbohydrates and protein is far from over, our lifestyles have become increasingly sedentary and we’re made to believe that younger women are in and older women are out. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

First I became interested in paleolithic eating when I read The Four Hour Body (Tim Ferris) late last year. I ate scores of protein and packed it in after the keto-breath became unbearable. I then dabbled in the high-fat-low-carbohydrate (HFLC) eating style put forward by The Real Meal Revolution (Tim Noakes). This too left me grossed-out when I saved some chicken in the fridge overnight, only to find it the next day solidified in a block of buttery lard. My medic mates had a point too: why had Noakes released the diet to the media without first consulting the medical community or putting his diet to scientific test?

Everyone's divided
Everyone’s divided

And still, I’d made a commitment to myself that I would get the nearing-30 metabolism under control and feel better than ever. I kept nosing about, reading all sorts of research and tracking changes in my own body. When I brought it up with a few girl mates, they admitted they’d been going through the same thing. And that they felt very much alone in their nearing-30 jitters.

I then finally settled on a book that makes more sense than both The Four Hour Body and The Real Meal Revolution. It’s called Eat, Move, Sleep (Tim Rath). Without going into too much boring detail, Rath explores research on how making small choices about what we eat, how we move and how we sleep can lead to big changes in our lifestyles as a whole.

Since the night I bulged at the wheel of an old Volvo, I have lost nearly six kilograms. And I’ve done it my way, in my own time and by being patient with myself. And I’m proud to say that I’ve listened to my body.

It’s taken nearly a year of my own playfulness and experimentation to figure it out but here is a list of the small choices I’ve made that have had big changes in my life:

I replace my sugary breakfast muesli with boiled eggs
I cut out all added sugar
I cut back on carbohydrates where I can, especially in the evenings
I use the ratio of 1:1 protein to carbohydrates as a guideline in eating
I feast at breakfast and fast at dinner
I turned my garage into a studio and now spend an hour every day with the BASI Pilates Method for anaerobic training
I run/cycle three times per week as part of my aerobic training
And I still have as much fun socialising and partying

And if anything, it’s made me realise that a woman’s shelf life is one big societal lie that’s ingrained in us. When in fact, now that I’m nearing-30, I am more woman than I have ever been: I know who I am, I wear real women’s lingerie, I have the guts to send naughty photos to Arvid, I have loads of energy, I feel in partnership with my mind and body, I don’t cry at the stupidest things and I have no mood swings. It’s awesome to be nearing-30.

Joseph PILATES couldn’t have said it any better:

We retire too early and we die too young. Our prime of life should be in our 70’s and old age should not come until we are at least 100.

If this sort of post interests you, take a look through other articles I’ve written on the topic:
Why Weight For 2014