“If you know the right ways to eat, sleep, move, and de-stress, and if you commit to creating community, meaning, and passion in your life, the years of your 40s, 50s and beyond can be some of the most rewarding and vital you have ever known.” —10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat . . . and How you Can Stay Young, Slim, and Happy! by Frank Lipman, M.D.
I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who as a child observed and then consequently believed that certain physical attributes, behaviors or lack of behaviors as well as perspective and attitude were inevitable once a certain age was reached. Shockingly, forty was believed to be old in my eyes during the 1980s. It was easy to determine someone’s age based on their excessive wrinkles, greying hair, widening hips and gradually growing belly, or so I thought. To see someone in their forties and beyond that did not fit this mold was to believe they found a miracle cure or must have been blessed with youthful genes. But no . . . no.
The effects of becoming older rather than being something we all experience because we hit a certain age much like puberty, are actually a result of how we’ve been living our lives up until this point, how well we’ve been taking care of our bodies, how well we’ve been handling stress, how well we’ve been respecting the machine that we’ve been given.
There are always exceptions, yes, genetics plays a role to a point, but as Dr. Lipman points out, “we can change how our genes express themselves”. No joke. The doomed destinies modeled by familial predecessors do not have to be our own. We have so much more control than we realize. The key is knowledge and then putting into practice what we learn.
The first piece of knowledge is an approach to life that can be applied to every aspect of life, go to an expert, someone who knows their field to get the answers. Unless your great uncle is a doctor proficient in understanding how the body digests certain foods and how the brain responds to lack of sleep (did you it actually shrinks our brains?), don’t accept for one moment that he knows what your life will be like when you hit 50, 60 or 80. His life may have turned out the way it did at those ages, but how he lived his life prompted that particular outcome.
What are the components of our lives that we must tend to if indeed we are going to remain youthful, slim and truly content?
- Diet (understanding the powers of food and refraining from medications as much as possible in order to allow the body to heal itself)
- Levels of Stress (finding a healthy balance)
- Finding a purpose
- Cultivating a community (finding your tribe)
Already a New York Times bestselling author with his book The New Health Rules: Simple Changes to Achieve Whole-Body Wellness, Dr. Lipman’s new book 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, is a gem of well-organized information that dispels what many people believe and teaches readers how to change the outcome. The reality, as he points out, is that many, perhaps the majority of Americans, when they get older do get fat, more unhealthy and are less happy, but while there is a correlation between increased age and these negative outcomes, old age isn’t the causation. The cause is how someone has been living their lives. And after repeating bad habits over decades, the body finally begins to reveal that it can’t be the shining temple that it once was. Why? The owner forgot to tend to the necessary maintenance, or perhaps forgot to read the user’s manual.
Think of it like this. There are many new homes, brilliantly beautiful new homes with state of the art appliances and finishes going up in the Bend area. Much like a healthy newborn baby that is born to a healthy mother after a full-term pregnancy, the baby is beginning with a clean slate, just as the house is. As the years pass, the house needs to have the roof replaced or patched, and the chimney cleaned and repaired due to the weather that punishes the exterior. Inside as well, the pipes will get clogged, the hardwoods will need to be refinished and the windows cleaned. Maintenance, understanding how parts of our body (and our homes) can perform at their best is key to not needing major fixes in response to a problem, but rather small financial investments to prevent a problem.
While Dr. Lipman goes into great detail on how to live well to prevent the no longer inevitable wrath of aging, I went through and made a list of items to get you started.
1. Eat the right foods
Understand the addictive properties of sugar. Understand what eating “something sweet or starchy — a cookie, some white rice, or a white potato”, which breaks down into glucose very quickly does to your blood sugar levels. At this point, when the sugar high is in full swing, it feels good, but the “sugar crash” does not and it leaves you thinking you are still hungry. In other words, you aren’t feeling truly satiated, so you eat more, and if you reach for something more that is more sugar and starch, the nasty cycle continues, and your moods go with your sugar highs and lows.
As Dr. Lipman points out, don’t beat yourself up about not having willpower. It really isn’t. Initially it is when you choose what to eat, but if you have been eating sugary and starchy foods for a while, you are going to have a harder time weaning yourself off of them. However, the good news is, once you go through the initial 2-5 day period that is the most difficult, your body won’t crave it anymore and you will feel much better, as you are feeding your body what it actually needs, not what it thinks it needs.
2. Eat fat!
Which ones should you eat? Any “fat you can find in nature” is usually very good for you rather than fats that have been “created in laboratories and factories.” In order for your brain, YOUR BRAIN, to function properly, you need to eat fats regularly. So add to your capsule menu list the olive oil, the nut butters, the organic pastured eggs, the grass-fed butter, and the goat and sheep’s milk cheese (the list goes on, but you get the idea). And not only is fat crucial for your brain’s health, “healthy fat is crucial to staying slim and feeling young”. There are many more benefits, but these are at the top of the list.
3. Tired and fatigued no more!
Our bodies were made to handle stress, acute stress, as Dr. Lipman points out. Not chronic stress. Well, the body can handle it, but the result is becoming exhausted, becoming more prone to health ailments and gaining weight. In order to strike the right balance, we must assess our lives. Where is the stress, the continual stress coming from? Can you eradicate it? If not, how can you change how you are handling it? When we worry incessantly, when we build a daily schedule that doesn’t allow for regular rejuvenation, when we design a life in which we are always saying “yes”, but not first assessing how everything is going for us, we are ratcheting up the stress and decreasing our overall health and well-being.
4. Move your body regularly
Dr. Lipman cites Dan Buttoner’s book on happiness, The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, as he recognizes the one thing all of the lifestyles in each of the Blue Zones have in common: the individuals were regularly physically active. Now this can mean going to the gym, but it can also mean getting outside and walking around the neighborhood, working in the garden, taking yoga, tai chi, anything that moves your body for 20-30 minutes.
One aspect that we must not forget about is the use of our tendons, ligaments and the fascia (connective tissue between muscles and organs). So be sure to incorporate into your regular fitness regimen some sort of stretching. While you don’t have to get involved with yoga, be sure to find something (he provides examples in his book of exercises you can do at home) that regularly stretches these parts of your body so as to leave them supple and not regularly tense which over time will eventually lead to aches and pain.
5. Everyday strike a balance
As I mentioned #3, acute stress is expected and easy for the body to handle well. Stress can also be good for us in certain situations to provide us with the ability to meet the challenge, give us the adrenaline, etc. Think about the presentation you have to give, the tough conversation you are going to have to have or the workout you know will be a challenge. These are good examples of stress because they are short-lived and allow us to push ourselves providing an opportunity to grow and learn. The flip-side of this is that we must balance it with rest, calm, tranquility every day. So you had an exhausting day at work. Nothing bad happened, but a lot was demanded of you, you were always “on” with no time to just breathe. Make sure when you come home, that you do breathe. That you do give yourself time to unwind without more stress. Your body and mind need it. Your quality of life needs it.
6. Cope with stress by being preventative
There are many different ways to cope with stress as you will find in the book, and perhaps you already have a handful of ways you put into practice when the stress intensifies in your life. One of the ways Dr. Lipman details is focusing on our breathing. It could be a meditation practice, it could be mindfulness or part of your exercise, but when we give ourselves the tools to combat the stress that will be part of our lives, we are better able to strike the balance we need.
7. Adhere to a healthy sleep pattern
As discussed many times on the blog, a good night’s sleep is our superhuman strength to turn a good day into a great day. By being aware of how we communicate with our mind and body as we arrive closer and closer to our bedtime, we help ensure a quality night’s rest. Be aware of what you eat and drink before turning in and try to settle into a regular pattern no matter what day of the week it is. (Here is a post on sleep you might enjoy: Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep.)
8. The power of passion, meaning and community
When we discover what makes us come alive, we enrich the quality of our lives. When we find meaning in what we do, something that reaches beyond ourselves, we enrich the quality of our lives, and when we find our tribe and feel a part of a community that we enjoy being a part of, we enrich the quality of our lives. Each of these three components may change over the course of our lives, but we always need them to feel truly alive. To take the time and energy to find your passion is not being selfish. It is necessary. If you want to thrive, if you want to feel youthful and alive your entire life, you must have a very close relationship with yourself.
You have an amazing opportunity to live a most extraordinary life. Why not refuse to let the myths that never served you well in the first place get in the way of living a life that is completely within your control. Remember, knowledge is power and so long as you forever remain curious, old will only be indicated by the number one sees on your birth certificate, not the life you are living. Santé!
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~click here for the entire, simple recipe
The season for figs is upon us! And when I happened upon baskets of them at my local produce stand, I pounced! So excited to try my first fig recipe as I have seen them in so many delicious looking entrées, desserts and appetizers, I immediately gave a long-awaited-recipe-to- taste a try. And, ta-dah! Paired with some of my favorite ingredients, this decadent, yet simple recipe will leave your guests impressed and your tastebuds dancing for joy.
Did you know that figs have a short season, but conversation has begun about making it a season-less fruit here in the states? A couple of years ago NPR did a story on just this topic. Learn more about when to find figs at your local farmers’ market and much more in their article here.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #120