People are living longer but how long is too long? In parts of Africa, largely due to the AIDS epidemic, the average life expectancy is in the 30s. In Japan, the average life expectancy is in the low 80s. We can all agree that 30 is too young and most of you probably think that getting to your 80s is a good goal. My sister, on the other hand, is shooting for a cool 74. Her theory is to leave on a high; leave them wanting more; leave before you make a fool out of yourself. She is so emphatic that when she hits 75, I believe we may have to set up a suicide watch. She has the same theory about parties – an opinion I have wished on many morning-afters, we shared. So, while we all may have different thoughts about the perfect time to kick the bucket, it is a universal desire to be healthy until that time comes.
This is the gist of what I have learned this week.
– Move more, eat less – participate in different kinds of exercise including stretching, weight bearing, and aerobic activity several times a week. Add fiber, vegetables and fruit to your diet – make a conscious effort to add even one additional serving of these each day. Limit your intake of fats and red meat.
– Moderation – In addition to living healthy, I am assuming you want to live happy. For most, being a health nut is impossible because of time, resources and inclination. A life worth living is full of good food, good wine and good times sitting on your butt. To try to change your entire life, to become someone you are not, is more than difficult. Just joining the gym is not in and of itself going to make you healthier or thinner – a fact I learned the hard way. Believe it or not, you actually have to go and work-out to reap the benefits. But you can also just do little things that are good for you. Don’t look for the parking spot closest to the door, take the stairs, eat a handful of colorful peppers instead of a block of cheese, leave fruit on your counter and grab one as you walk by. Every little bit does help. Add up a bunch of little bits and maybe you get a couple more healthy years tacked on at the end. You were given this one life and only one beautiful, amazing body, in which to get through it. You don’t have to treat your body like a temple (boring) but you shouldn’t treat it like a sewage waste plant either. Moderation.
It is not about how you look, it is about how you feel – If looking better makes you happy, then by all means, knock yourself out to look great in a bathing suit. But, the opposite is an even more powerful cause and effect. If you feel good, you will, as a by-product, look better. I have a friend whose trainer told her that she negated all the good she had done all week by enjoying a few glasses of wine over the weekend. What an idiot. You have to take the focus off the immediate and put it where it belongs – the future. Focus on exercise and eating well as a maintenance, lifestyle technique and you will not only do more to promote your good health, you will do it with less effort and more joy. Focus on exercise and eating well to shed a few pounds or to have tighter buns and you will never get off the roller coaster. Roller coasters nauseate me.
I asked my 93 year old grandmother yesterday what it feels like to live so long. “Gram,” I said, “what do you and grandpa [98 years old] think about still being alive.” She said, emphatically, “I will tell you what we think. We think about why we should have to live so long. We worry all the time that we will have to suffer a great deal before we die.” I asked her if she had any tips for the younger generation and she said, “Drink V8 and stay active as long as possible. When your grandfather and I lived in Florida all those years we exercised every day. We swam, played Bocci, played golf and spent time with our friends. All of our friends were very old. We were the young couple for a long time, the men there loved me. People in Florida live very long because they are busy. Oh, and if you feel like you put on a little weight, watch what you eat until your clothes fit well again. Don’t ever let yourself gain more than five pounds.” You’ve gotta love this woman. Multiple falls, many hospital visits, broken bones including her neck and still sharp as a tack.