Barbara Crosby’s decade-by-decade guide.

As we age, what, when, and how we eat should change, just as our metabolism, hormones, and bodies do. “Our bodies do change and we do have to critique what we are eating or how much we are exercising or if we are doing weight bearing exercises, so each decade it is important to understand the changes in our bodies,” says weight loss coach and behavioral therapist Barbara Crosby, co-author of Your Decade Diet: How Your Body Changes Through the Decades. It’s important to make the necessary tweaks in diet, sleep, and exercise habits that are appropriate to your age group, says Crosby. Having taught thousands of people how to bridge the internal and external changes in their bodies and lives, Crosby now reveals to LivingHealthy the secrets to staying in shape as you age:

During the teenage years, when puberty hormones are running wild, Crosby suggests that it is crucial that girls eat healthy, balanced meals. Avoiding refined sugars and starches is also a priority, as they will not only stimulate estrogen production in the body and provoke mood swings, but will also keep young women up at night. 

Life gets busy in your 20s, so Crosby urges maintaining balance with meal planning and exercise. At this age, women need to be eating 3 meals a day, incorporating green leafy vegetables (like kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), legumes (such as black, pinto and kidney beans), and protein (like salmon, tofu and almonds), into their diet. 

A woman’s body starts to slow down in her 30s, and according to Crosby, 3 meals a day that include protein, fat, vegetables, and healthy complex carbohydrates, are a must. She also recommends eating more calcium-rich and nutrient-dense foods like kale, broccoli, and cabbage. 

Mid-life changes begin in a woman’s 40s, which Crosby refers to as the “triple whammy:” gravity, hormones, and a slowing metabolism. This makes it more important than ever to engage in regular aerobic exercise and weight training, while making sure to eat 3 meals a day while avoiding junk foods. Same goes for a woman in her 50s, who should also be reducing portion sizes and eating the bulk of her daily caloric intake before 4 p.m. Dark, leafy greens such as Swiss chard, spinach, and kale are great for this age group, as they lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research at Harvard School of Public Health.

In her 60s, heart and lung function and Vitamin B12 decrease, and women begin to face issues with their stomach, joints, and bladder control. Crosby urges women in this age group to eat 5 small meals a day and to walk more, as studies have shown that walking can help with everything from strengthening bones to boosting oxygen intake. 

Women in their 70s and 80s worry about memory loss and mental functioning, which is why Crosby encourages engaging in brain-building exercises like learning a new language, joining a card club, or playing chess. She also suggests eating 4-5 small meals a day and not skipping meals, even if the appetite does decrease. If deprived, the body will hoard food, which will result in weight gain.