Looking and feeling great at 50: ‘It’s 80% diet, 20% exercise’

Looking great at 50

If you’re looking for a little inspiration to kick-start that healthier lifestyle in 2019 you’ve come to the right place.

Gold Coast dynamo Melinda Richards juggles horse stud ownership and running Super Sprout, an award-winning Australian business specialising in pure fruit and vegetable powders, with somehow finding the time and energy to stay in top shape in the pool.

We tracked down the tireless mum after her recent splash at the Masters Games on the Gold Coast to find out some of the secrets to striking the right balance at 50.

Melinda Richards at 50

We’re in awe of your dedication to the pool and how it’s helped you stay in such great shape. When did your interest in swimming start and how have you managed to keep the passion alive?

When we moved to the Gold Coast in 1971, I was three years old. We had a pool in the backyard and lived on the Nerang River with a retaining wall. Literally the first thing my mother did was book me into swimming lessons at the old Mermaid Beach Motel where they had a 15 metre pool and Robert Brough was running a small swim school. Within a few months I was swimming the length of the pool freestyle and he suggested I join the Mermaid Beach swimming club, which I did when I was four. By then I was happily swimming 25 metres. From there it was training with Lou Vaughn and a 10 year stint competing.

What kind of preparation did you do for the Masters Games, and were you pleased with the result?

Winning was never my aim, but I was so happy to be involved and swim to my best ability in both races! The freestyle race was great fun and I finished in the middle of the pack. The butterfly race was quite the challenge, but I was really proud that I stuck with it. After all my training and healthy eating I managed to push through the race.

Do you have some generic swimming tips for our readers to help them get back in shape?

Swimming is just about technique. If you are starting out after a long break or just starting out, it is worth investing in a stroke correction coach for a few sessions just to get you super efficient in the water and then you will be able to swim a lot further and expend a lot less energy doing it. It also makes it a lot more enjoyable.

Of course a healthy diet is also part of your regime. Have you always been focused on healthy eating? Or was it the advent of Super Sprout that set you on that track?

My mother taught me about the importance of health and nutrition from a young age. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for real and raw foods and nurturing our bodies, as they are the only one we get!

Melinda Richards, CEO of Super Sprout

We hear a lot about the balance between exercise and diet and how it impacts on an overall healthy lifestyle. What’s your view on that. How much is diet and how much is exercise?

It is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I believe those are the facts. So if you feel great after a workout of any description don’t feel you can eat some bad food or a much bigger portion because you’ve “earned it”. That is not going to give you any healthy results.

How has your relationship with food changed over the years? Are you finding that you need to adjust portions, types of foods, as you’ve got older?

I definitely eat less – as I know my metabolism has seemed to have slowed down. I have learnt to listen very closely to my body and I only ever eat when I am hungry. I am much more mature when it comes to food – I know exactly what my body needs and what I like to eat. (I never ever have a problem ordering off a menu at a restaurant!)

Can you share some of your diet tips?

My biggest tip about dieting is: don’t! It is a well worn fact that dieting only serves to ensure that most people are trapped  in a continual struggle, cannot usually keep it going, and end up putting the weight back on – and then some. I have never ever “gone on a diet”. I have always just been sensible about the amount of sugar I put into my body. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, and I try to minimise processed food. That’s it!  

We all know what to do – eat more fruits and vegetables. We have over-complicated what should be a very very simple message.

I also don’t deny myself completely the things I love. I love carbs, I love chocolate and I love champagne. The trick is everything in moderation, having a great balance in the food that you eat and ensuring that you do NOT follow a “fad” or a new “trend” is critical for health and happiness.  

Another very big tip I have is never ever look at what has worked for other people. Never. You have to listen to your own body, get to know how it feels after a meal and after eating certain foods. We are all very different, and to model your eating habits on what other people are doing is wrong. What works for some people will invariably not work for you, and following others down some weight-loss journey only prevents your ability to understand your own personal needs. Many people disagree with me about this because they believe other people’s journeys are “inspirational” – but whilst this may be true when you have to climb a mountain or change a career – it is not true with something as deeply personal as your own body and self image and ultimately what is going to make you happy as an individual.

I have also found since turning 50 that I cannot drink as much alcohol and have reduced this quite considerably, as well as the amount of food on my plate. I definitely don’t need to eat as much or as often.

You have an incredibly busy lifestyle. You’re a mum, a businesswomen and a stud-owner at Gainsborough Lodge. What’s the secret to keeping it all in balance?

Yes, there is never a dull moment! I try not to get stressed or worry about anything I cannot control. I try to live well and that means in all aspects of life and have the courage of my convictions to stand up for what I believe in, back myself and have an opinion when I need to. You have to get to a point in life where your maturity actually helps you set priorities, and also allows you to let go and delegate to others who are much better at their jobs than you are!  Not being ego-centric is critical. I find having the best people surrounding me is the key. Including my wonderful husband. I am very lucky.