Jill Lebofsky of Midlife Mojo: “Find an exercise you enjoy doing and can continue for many years to come”

Find an exercise you enjoy doing and can continue for many years to come. Many midlife women in their younger years were runners, played sports, or loved to hit the gym. But they have had to give up many of these activities due to injuries and never found something to replace it. I am a […]

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Find an exercise you enjoy doing and can continue for many years to come. Many midlife women in their younger years were runners, played sports, or loved to hit the gym. But they have had to give up many of these activities due to injuries and never found something to replace it. I am a big believer in having positive movement experiences. Moving your body should invigorate your body and mind, not hurt you. Finding activities as you age that increase your heart rate, improve your strength, and increase your flexibility and balance are vital for healthy living. I have clients who work up a huge sweat and use their upper body gardening for hours and then get to enjoy the fruits of their labor every time they pass by their flowerbeds. Others have traded in their running shoes for a bicycle, something they haven’t enjoyed since childhood. Many women are finding new ways to connect with their spouses by going trail walking.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill Lebofsky.

Jill Lebofsky is a champion for the midlife woman. As the Midlife Mojo Master & CEO of Midlife Mojo, Jill provides online and in-person education, support, and resources to women aged 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Jill has two international Amazon best-selling books that offer natural solutions for hormonal changes and permanent weight loss, focusing on using essential oils for support. Jill has spoken on many stages and podcasts and shares her message that midlife is not the time to throw in the towel. It is the time to create lasting wellness and live life to the fullest every day. Learn more about Jill at www.jilllebofsky.com

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Three generations of women in my family have fought breast cancer.

My great-aunt, my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, twice — at age 38 in one breast and twenty years later in the other — and my younger sister. But it was not until my sister, at age 32 and three months pregnant, was diagnosed with breast cancer and then tested and confirmed for the BRCA gene that I wanted to know whether I had the breast cancer gene too. At the same age as my mother when she received her cancer diagnosis, I learned that I was the first woman in 3 generations in my family NOT to have the breast cancer gene. It was quite a relief, but I knew I had gotten lucky and that I had to step up how I was taking care of myself.

I had never been one to run to a doctor, always leaning toward natural solutions for my health. At the time, I was a Weight Watcher’s leader and thought I was doing relatively well in managing my health, but after my sister’s diagnosis, I went all-in with creating my optimal wellness. I became focused on my diet and living a clean lifestyle. While working for Weight Watchers, I discovered that standing in front of a group of people teaching, motivating, and inspiring them to be their best selves lit me up. I found that I was good at taking complex, scientific information and making it easier to understand and that people listened, took action, and had positive results. The experience of taking someone on a journey, watching them transform before my eyes — not just by releasing pounds but also because of the emotional weight they shed — knowing I had made a difference in their life had me hooked. I realized teaching, supporting, and being a champion for women was my purpose.

I had dealt with significant back issues since I was a teenager. The pain made it difficult to maintain a consistent workout routine and held me back from fun activities with my young children. I lived with daily pain. My chiropractor recommended Pilates to me, and I fell in love with it. For the first time, I felt strong and confident in my body when I moved. I felt empowered and left every session feeling better physically and mentally than when I started, and in time my body began to heal. As my back healed and I felt better, I decided to become a Pilates instructor and opened a Women’s Wellness and Pilates studio.

Over the next few years, I continued to dive into my interests in this wellness arena. I went on to get many different certifications, including a specialty midlife woman’s coaching certification. I also researched and studied to become an essential oil educator. I now have hundreds of hours clocked teaching everything from essential oils classes for menopause and emotional release to cooking with oils.

Life was zooming along. I had two great kids, was married to my college sweetheart for 20+ years, and all seemed great in my world. But in my mid 40’s, everything felt like it went south overnight. I put on 20 stubborn pounds, was sweating off and on throughout the night, getting no sleep, and then was moody and angry during the day. My concentration and memory were shot. I felt like a person I did not know and didn’t care for much.

Recognizing I was probably starting to have hormonal changes, I went to my doctor, who sent me home with no solution except to wait it out. That plan didn’t work for me. I started researching natural ways to deal with the issues that accompany the hormonal changes affecting women in their 40’s and 50’s. I looked for natural help and found solutions that worked for me. I wrote my first international Amazon best-seller, “No Sweat It’s Just Menopause: Eating, Exercise & Essential Oils For A Healthy Change,” to share with others all I had learned and experienced.

I closed my studio during this period. When my book was released, many women began reaching out to me for help, and I knew I needed a more prominent platform to make a real difference. I relaunched my business, this time online, and named it Midlife Mojo.

But a year later, I was still struggling to release the extra weight that was causing my old back issues to reappear. None of the weight loss tools in my healthy living toolbox were working for me. Then one day, the answer presented itself — intermittent fasting. Fasting went against everything I had taught my whole career, and I initially thought it was unsafe. But after weeks of research, my mind changed. What I learned changed how I look at eating forever. I realized why so many of my over-40 female clients struggled to lose weight even though they were eating and exercising as I taught them. I started my intermittent fasting journey in April of 2018. Essential oils for years had been my health and wellness go-to for so many things, and I integrated them into my fasting routine to support me during both the times I fasted and the times I was eating. Within months I’d achieved my ideal weight, had more energy, and felt in control of my life. Three years later, I have easily maintained my weight and will NEVER go back to eating from breakfast-to-bedtime again. I am an #IFlifer!

I wrote my second international Amazon best-seller, “Melt The Midlife Middle: A Beginner’s Guide For Women To The Intermittent Fasting & Essential Oils Lifestyle,” for those over-40 women struggling to lose weight despite their best efforts. I also created a six-week companion program called “Win At Weight Loss: Conquer The Never-Ending Dieting Cycle For Good.” The program helps women over 40 learn how to safely and effectively lose weight and keep it off once and for all by adopting an intermittent fasting and essential oils lifestyle. I have supported hundreds of women in losing their stubborn midsection and empowering them in all areas of their life. Change your mind, and your body will follow.

I wish to change the conversation around women and aging by becoming the #1 online education, support, and resource center for women in their midlife years and beyond.

I could not be more grateful 13 years later: My sister is still cancer-free, and my niece she was pregnant with is beautiful and brilliant. My 2-time survivor mom is still with me and doing well. In recent years, my decision to live a toxin-free, healthy lifestyle was reinforced by my dad’s breast cancer diagnosis, which had nothing to do with genetics. He, too, is a survivor, but his experience strengthened my resolve for myself, my family, and my mission to educate and support women worldwide in their quest for health and happiness by finding their midlife mojo.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

When you work with people in person for 25+ years, you meet some interesting ones and have some memorable moments. I am blessed to have had some fantastic humans cross my path, but one special woman will stick with me forever. Miss Ginny had moderate dementia and was brought to my Pilates studio twice a week by her aide. Miss Ginny’s daughter wanted to improve her mother’s strength and balance for a trip to visit her grandson in Australia. Miss Ginny had very minimal remaining short-term memory, but her long-term memory was alive and well. I have my master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and worked with patients with dementia in skilled nursing facilities in my 20’s. I now found new ways to use those skills.

I had learned that the best thing you can do to communicate with someone with dementia is to get into their world. Every time Miss Ginny walked through my door for nearly three years, she never remembered my name, but she always had a big smile for me. She knew my heart and that I was someone who cared. While I helped her body function at its best (she made that trip to Australia), she told me stories of her youth. I heard all about growing up with her sisters, how the boys called her “Skinny Ginny,” and her job as a teacher. We worked together until she passed at 96. I learned from her that you are never too old to learn new things. To enjoy life until the very end. I asked Miss Ginny once what her secret was to living such a long life. Her response: “I keep moving so they can’t catch me.”

I have taken that advice to heart. There are two kinds of older people, and I’ve worked with both. Some buy into the notion that aging means slowing down, whereas others see aging as a time to move faster to accomplish everything they want. I have a lot of living to do, and I don’t plan on taking it easy as I age, and my mission is to take as many women along with me who want to live their best life. Miss Ginny ended all our sessions with a kiss on my cheek, and on her way out the door, she would say, “now you be a good girl.” I intend to do just that!

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t feel like I have made any critical mistakes. Have there been things I wish I had done differently or turned out a different way? Sure, but from my experiences — good, bad, and ugly — I have learned and grown, and my business has evolved for the better. For instance, I worked with men and women for most of my career, young and old. I taught healthy eating classes, essential oils classes, and exercise classes. Still, it wasn’t easy to meet everyone’s unique needs when there were so many differences between the sexes and the ages. I felt unfocused, frustrated, and at times ineffective. By trying to be everything to everybody, I felt like I was never authentically me. I avoided specific topics or used different words than I would typically use because they might not be appropriate or resonate with all the different people I was teaching. I knew that men and women, younger people and older people, lose weight differently, require different types of exercise, and have different life stressors, but I still taught a one-size-fits-all way of healthy living. I had previously thought I could help more people if I were general in my approach, but it was exhausting. I knew I needed to feel 100% passionate about what I do, so I took a step back, closed my studio, and spent months thinking about the clients with whom I most enjoyed working. I considered the aspects of what I did that excited me and also brought in money, the things I didn’t want to do, and how I wanted my future to look, knowing I’d be an empty nester soon.

After much reflection on these topics and my own recent experiences dealing with menopause, I knew I wanted to support the under-served, often silently suffering, midlife woman. I relaunched my business, this time entirely online, in September of 2018. I chose the name “Midlife Mojo” after looking up the definition of “midlife” in the dictionary. It read, “the wrong side of 40.” That shocked and saddened me. Mojo means “magic, and that’s what our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond should be — full of adventure, passion, sharing our acquired wisdom, and living our best life.

By making this shift in my business from coaching anyone to supporting those I could help the most, I learned to listen to my heart first: If I am not happy, I can’t show up in this world the way I want. Second, I learned to get very specific with who I wanted to serve and how I wanted to help them. Sending out a single authentically “Jill” message was easier, more fun, and a lot more successful. When I narrowed things down and honed my message, it resonated with even more people. I attracted my ideal, fellow, midlife ladies. My business has flourished, and my passion returned.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was in my mid 40’s, in the throes of perimenopause, feeling out of sorts in both my business and my life. My husband was dealing with his own emotional struggles, my firstborn was preparing for college, my tween had just turned into a teenager, and I was putting on a fake smile for the world when the perfect words appeared to me. I felt lost and unsure of myself, angry and sad instead of my usual upbeat, confident self. I remember being in the doctor’s office telling him that I “just didn’t feel like me.” My body was betraying me, packing on the pounds, my brain was on this negative loop I could not break, and my heart felt unexplainably heavy. When the doctor sent me home that day, offering no practical help, I was at a loss. Nothing could break my funk.

Until one day, I was mindlessly scrolling on Facebook where someone was sharing a Brene Brown blog post with a title that caught my attention, “The Midlife Unraveling.” I stopped and read the lengthy monologue, and it hit me hard in the gut. She wrote, “People may call what happens at midlife a crisis, but it is not, it is an unraveling…The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are.” The word unraveling described precisely the way I felt.

I pictured myself wound up in a spool of thread, spinning around out of control as some cosmic force pulled hard on one end. I did not realize it at the time, but I know now that this out-of-control feeling was actually freeing me from my self-imposed restraints and limitations. The “superwoman” image I had been working on for years was getting more complicated and less desirable to keep up. This loosening of the “shoulds” around me as I continue to unravel and come undone has allowed me to use the different threads of my life to create something new, something better. I am grateful because those powerful words Brene Brown wrote ignited something in me. My time wasn’t up. I was reinventing myself. My Midlife Mojo mission is to pay it forward to other midlife women in need, using my words, knowledge, and insights to help transform others.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I said earlier that my Midlife Mojo purpose is to change the conversation around women and aging. We live in a society that prizes youth. Look at how midlife women are usually portrayed on television or in the movies. They are often overweight, frumpy, angry. A woman in menopause is the butt of jokes. But the changes many women over 40 are going through are no laughing matter.

Many women report feeling invisible, not taken seriously, left to fend alone, like I was by my doctor, with the hormonal changes. Few people discuss women’s midlife health from a natural perspective, even though a few minor tweaks to one’s daily routine could lead to significant results. All women will experience menopause. For most, it is a naturally occurring process, but people don’t treat it as such. Midlife women have been brain-washed into thinking that when we enter our 50’s our best years are behind us, and we are doomed to a life of hot flushes and night sweats. I am helping women deprogram themselves and realize that our story’s best chapters are still unwritten. We can write our own “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, like the ones we grew up reading. We get to put the words down on the page and determine the ending through our decisions and actions.

I educate women on healthy, natural alternatives that can help them feel better than they did 30 years ago. I empower them to be their own advocates, do their research, and try different things to see what works best for them. I provide them with self-created products and other professional resources to thrive not just in their physical and emotional health but in their relationships, careers, and finances. My private Midlife Mojo Facebook group includes women from around the globe. Our stories and struggles are similar, but we cannot accept the rocking chair and knitting needles. We want to find our midlife mojo and enjoy life. The Facebook group provides weekly live education on topics important to the midlife woman, a monthly interview show with an inspiring older woman with a journey of triumph to share, and daily motivation and fun posts to build community and friendships.

When women feel heard, appreciated, and cared for, they feel energized to be, do, and have whatever they want and go after those long put-aside dreams they desire.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Many women don’t realize that by making small changes to their daily lives, they can experience life-changing results and avoid shots and pills. A quote I like by John Maxwell is, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” When I had my wellness studio, I had a giant decal with the words “eat well — move more — love life” in big letters across the wall. That says it all. Simple lifestyle tweaks are the key to lasting change.

1-Let your body be your guide. Our body is designed for optimal functioning. Its whole goal is to keep us alive, and it would never steer us wrong. When we pay attention to our bodies’ signals, it will lead us to total health. For example, in my entire life, I never was hungry until mid-afternoon. Yet we all have been taught since we were children that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Every morning I would force down a yogurt or a smoothie and end up leaving most of it in the car before heading into school or work. My body did not want the food, but I force-fed it instead of just waiting a few extra hours because that is what I was “supposed to do.” When I implemented an intermittent fasting lifestyle, I started skipping breakfast and did not eat until the afternoon. I found I had more energy, fewer stomach problems, and was more clear-headed. My body knew best.

2-Women over 40 should practice fasting for a minimum of 12–14 hours a day and slowly build up to 16 hours without food. Not only does the body start to enter fat-burning mode around that time, but fasting also triggers the release of the Human Growth Hormone, sometimes referred to as the “fountain of youth.” Fasting for at least 12 hours also allows the body to reach a stage of autophagy, the body’s cellular recycling system, getting rid of the damaged cells that can lead to physical problems, and reformulating into a cleaner cell. Both the increase in the human growth hormone and the process of autophagy have anti-aging benefits. That is just one bonus of adopting an intermittent fasting lifestyle, especially for over-40 women! For the midlife woman, the slow build-up over time is essential. Pay attention to your body and see if your new eating schedule is exacerbating or improving the midlife issues you are experiencing, adjusting as needed. Many of my clients who refrain from eating for 14–16 hours have seen their hot flushes disappear, their hair, skin, and nails regain their vibrancy, and their midlife middle start to melt away.

3-Stop counting calories and start following an 80/20 way of eating. Make healthy food choices 80% of the time, and indulge in your favorite treats the other 20%. Enjoy every bite of pizza, triple chocolate fudge cake, and a glass of your favorite wine guilt-free, just not every day. When you choose foods that nourish your body most of the time and give in to your sweet tooth or another favorite a couple of times a week, you won’t think about food so much. I hate counting calories, macros, and points, and so do my clients. As they say: Been there, done that! My clients tell me that following this rule of thumb has been so mentally freeing. They were tired of thinking about food all the time and feeling guilty about what they did or did not eat. Learning that they could consume foods that they considered “bad” and still lose weight, they no longer wasted time beating themselves up and used the extra time for fun.

4-Find an exercise you enjoy doing and can continue for many years to come. Many midlife women in their younger years were runners, played sports, or loved to hit the gym. But they have had to give up many of these activities due to injuries and never found something to replace it. I am a big believer in having positive movement experiences. Moving your body should invigorate your body and mind, not hurt you. Finding activities as you age that increase your heart rate, improve your strength, and increase your flexibility and balance are vital for healthy living. I have clients who work up a huge sweat and use their upper body gardening for hours and then get to enjoy the fruits of their labor every time they pass by their flowerbeds. Others have traded in their running shoes for a bicycle, something they haven’t enjoyed since childhood. Many women are finding new ways to connect with their spouses by going trail walking.

5-Use essential oils throughout the day. I recommend essential oils for physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. They can replace household and personal care products that contain harmful chemicals. Use oils to help you fast longer. Use oils to release the negative thoughts holding you back in life. Clean with oils. Exercise using oils. Cook with oils. My “No Sweat! It’s Just Menopause” book gives DIY recipes at the end of each chapter so you can make your own toxic-free products. A client favorite is the “I’m Still Cool” Hot Flush Spray made with peppermint oil to cool the skin.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to start the “Toxin Toss” movement. Everyday products may be factors in so many diseases, disorders, and deaths. Everyone on the planet, especially when over 40, can achieve immediate benefits by going through their cabinets, refrigerators, cars, etc., by picking up each item, reading its label, learning what the ingredients are in the products, and eliminating the ones with dangerous chemicals. Most cleaning, beauty, and personal care products contain harmful toxins, many of which have been linked to different cancers or even death. Many of the chemicals have estrogen-like qualities that wreak hormonal havoc on the already taxed midlife body.

A Toxin Toss is an easy start to creating balance within the body and improving women’s wellness. You ditch, and then you switch. After reading the label, if it contains any harmful substances, toss it into the trash. Next, find safe and effective plant-based substitutions, such as essential oils, to replace items like all-purpose cleaners, deodorant, and toothpaste. Most people are unaware that their favorite lipstick, lotion, or laundry detergent are causing so much distress to their body. I have already seen the ripple effect of teaching people to become informed consumers, label readers, and natural alternative seekers within my own family. My son has grown up with natural products for most of his life and is now at college. I went into his bathroom on a recent visit and saw it stocked with essential oil-infused shaving cream, shampoo, and even an essential oil cologne. He asked to bring his own diffuser and oils to school and shares oils with his friends when they need to get some sleep or concentrate for an exam, and many have since bought oils themselves. Now they will go back to their families and teach them. One person teaching one person is all it takes for this Toxin Toss movement to begin and improve wellness in the world.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1- I wish somebody had told me that being an entrepreneur, I would be a one-woman show, literally a Jill of all Trades. I was excited to share my knowledge when I started my first venture. I did not stop to think that I also had to learn all the technology, marketing, sales, etc., involved in running a business. It was overwhelming at times and almost stopped me from moving forward. You need to be ready to learn to do new things as an entrepreneur.

2-Don’t give away everything for free. I wish someone had told me to show people your value, over-deliver, and charge your worth. Many women, including myself, get into the wellness world because they “just want to help people” and say the money doesn’t matter. But I have learned that is not true. People providing and people paying for services exchange positive energy, creating a win-win for both parties in which everyone feels respected and more committed.

3- You don’t have to be like anyone but yourself. When I took my business online, I knew I wanted to reach more women and saw others making videos. But I thought I could never be as captivating, so I did not make videos for the longest time. I asked myself, “who would want to listen to me?” I wasted a lot of time not sharing my message with those who needed to hear it, those who needed to know they had support. When I put my ego aside, stopped caring about my hair or makeup, or if I talked too fast and just hit record and spoke, my people found me.

4- Schedule free time for your week. It is so easy to work from sun-up until sundown and deep into the night when it’s just you in your business. However, downtime is vital for success, so you can recharge and tackle issues each day with fresh eyes. You can’t give of yourself to others when you are running on empty.

5-Don’t take advice from those who don’t know or who have never tried. Find people who are already where you want to be. The people who try to hold us back from our dreams, make us doubt ourselves, and give opinions as if they know best often have no idea what it takes to be an entrepreneur. They offer advice from a place of their own fears and doubts about the unknown. Seek out words of wisdom from those who are doing what you want to do and are successful in business and life.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

All those topics are important to me, but the midlife woman’s mental health is at the top of my list. Having experienced mental health struggles in my own perimenopause, I know how they can affect all aspects of your life. As I mentioned earlier, midlife women’s needs can be overlooked or ignored. Midlife women are juggling a lot. Some become sandwiched between taking care of younger children and aging parents. They are stressed out with trying to work, volunteer, and keep their family happy and healthy. Others are dealing with an empty nest or are newly retired and feeling isolated and lonely. Add in the depleting estrogen levels (higher levels are associated with happier moods) these women are experiencing, and one can understand why the midlife woman feels emotionally drained. Women often go to their doctors because they feel depressed or anxious, out of sorts, and doctors prescribe antidepressants instead of looking at the underlying cause or trying a natural fix. These antidepressants often cause other issues. They help with one problem and generate a new one. Specific foods, herbs, exercise, essential oils, and even fasting improve one’s mood and outlook on life. Finding a supportive community of women can help women not feel so alone. Medicine has its time and place, but when it comes to mental health, begin by trying a natural solution first and surrounding yourself with others who lift your spirits and encourage you to be your best self. Certain essential oils can evoke feelings of hope, gratitude, and peace when diffused in the air or used as perfumes. A midlife woman can take her mental health into her own hands.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

If you are a woman over 40, you can find me in my Midlife Mojo private Facebook group and LinkedIn.

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Image courtesy of Austin Hargreaves

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