I have been on a journey to better eating habits for a while now. In the past few years, veils of ignorance about food have lifted from my eyes. I ate the way I grew up eating. Luckily this always included an ample supply of vegetables.
The first veil lifted when I decided to stop drinking soda maybe five years or so ago. I don't remember why, but I stopped. I then began to drink water (with a lemon slice occasionally) and tea almost exclusively.
The second veil lifted when I was in my local supermarket getting ready to buy the salmon that I love so much. I was standing there waiting my turn at the fish counter and thinking about how when I was growing up, salmon was considered a luxury. Other than canned, we only fresh salmon a couple of times a year. I wondered why it had become so readily available. I glanced at the fish case and saw a sign, “farm-raised salmon, pink color added.”
“Pink color added?” I repeated to myself, then thought, why? Why would a fish need to have color added? I went home and read about farm-raised salmon and decided to only eat wild-caught salmon.
Other veils were lifted when I read In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Anyone who’s read these books knows that they will kick your consciousness about where food comes from and whether what you’re eating is real food or a food product to new heights of awareness. I’ve been an active reader of food labels ever sense.
Reading food labels means that there’s lots of stuff I will no longer eat (except for those times I backslide -- hey, it happens). Eventually this may lead to weight loss on my part, but in the meantime I am eating better than I ever have, and I do feel a lightness of being. Having always loved vegetables, I am now exploring new vegetables and eating my colors consciously each day.
Yet another veil lifted when I realized that it is easy to prepare foods from scratch once you decide it’s something you want to do.
About a week after I finished the very straight-forward and simple (especially for the verbose and detailed Mr. Pollan), Food Rules, a friend gave me another book.
That book, Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond, has knocked any remaining veils about the need to eat well and exercise from my eyes.
Written in alternative chapters by Chris Crowley, fit and active in his 70s, and his doctor, Henry S. Lodge, the book is no-nonsense about what one must do to “turn back your biological clock” (a quote on the cover). It is also a follow-up book to their New York Times best seller, Younger Next Year, with chapters added to address women’s specific issues.
Very early in this book, I realized it was different from others I’d read when it acknowledged that many of us who reach middle-age will in fact live for thirty to forty more years but that those remaining years may well be filled with disease, pain and isolation unless we take control.
“Two amazing numbers, right up front: 70 percent of aging, for women as for men, is voluntary ... you do not have to do it. And you can also skip 50 percent of all the sickness and serious accidents you’d expect to have from the time you turn fifty to the day you die. Skip 'em. Altogether.
Limited aspects of biological aging are immutable. Like the fact that your maximum heart rate goes down a bit every year, and your skin and hair get weird. So you’re going to look older. Tough ... what did you expect? But 80 percent of what you feel as "aging" is optional. No joke. No exaggeration. Even,” (page 6)
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is the alternating chapters between the folksy writing style of Chris, who was a patient of Dr. Lodge, and the doctor’s scientific and medical explanations for the approach outlined in the book.
Their advice is frank. Here are a few of Harry’s Rules:
Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.
Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
Quit eating crap!
Connect and commit.
Chris and Dr. Lodge also emphasize that you must join a gym, and they encourage you to get a trainer initially to make sure you’re exercising full-throttle and with proper technique.
While I have read lots of articles about getting fit, there’s something in the scientific information and analysis that Harry’s chapters detail, especially the chapter titled, The Biology of Growth and Decay: Things that Go Bump in the Night and The Biology of Exercise, that I found especially appealing. They are so rich in material that I can’t lift a quote from them.
A simpler example comes from another chapter, The Biology of Strength Training:
Aerobic exercise is primarily about your muscles’ ability to endure. Strength training is primarily about your muscles’ ability to deliver power, which, surprisingly, has as much to do with a special form of neural coordination as actual strength. That’s a critical point. Strength training causes muscle growth, and that’s important, but it’s the hidden increase in coordination that changes your physical life. This is not eye-hand coordination; it’s the coordination of fine muscle detail through the elaborate networks of nerves that link your brain and body.” (182)
Heart disease and hip fractures are two of the top killers of women and this book definitely addresses preventing both of them.
I am in process of fully-committing to the recommendations of this wonderful book (and Michael Pollan’s Food Rules) because I have seen too many of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances, slowed/ stymied/stopped by diabetes, heart disease, stroke and loneliness even before reaching the final third of their lives.
I have also heard great things about Strong Women Stay Young by
Dr. Miriam Nelson, Director of the Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition and Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Dr. Nelson is the author of the international best-sellers, Strong Women Stay Young, Strong Women Stay Slim, Strong Women, Strong Bones, Strong Women Eat Well, and Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis.
The Strong Women Program she founded has sites throughout the U.S. You can find them at: http://jhrc.nutrition.tufts.edu/programs/strongwomen/index.html
Good and plenty!
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