Thursday, October 1, 2015

On Health and Longevity. . .

Hi everyone! Hope things have been going well out there in the world. I’m doing fine. Work is good. Kids are good. It’s all good!

Today I want to talk about longevity. Specifically, my longevity.

I’ve been interested in the field of longevity since I was in my 20s. Read a lot about it. Practiced Caloric Restriction for a while, which may be a way for humans to live longer, potentially much longer, lives. Read everything about and by Dr. Roy Walford, who was a pioneer in Calorie Restriction and apparently a really cool guy as well. Remember Biosphere 2? The cool glass greenhouse structure in Arizona in which they closed 8 people to try and live in an enclosed "biosphere" for 2 years back in the early '90s? He was one of those 8.  Really. Cool dude.

Roy Walford, MD, back in the day - presumably inside Biosphere 2.

Anyway, despite my interest in living long and healthy, I kind of fell off the longevity wagon in my late 20s to early 30s.  Had kids.  Drank too much wine and ate some LOTS of pasta and cheese and other stuff.  Put on some weight.  Didn’t work out as often as I should.  Put on some more weight.  Only did sporadic yoga.  But I was still interested in longevity.  Read about it, followed longevity news on the internet.  Of course, closely following the subject intellectually while not practicing the health principals that might actually let me extend my life just left me feeling like a giant health failure :-).  I’ve always been active and tried to get my nutrition in, but I never pulled it all together to live a consistent full-on healthy lifestyle.  I guess I’m just not OCD enough to really make it stick the way some people do.

And then I hit my 40s.  With each trip around the sun, I’m realizing it’s beyond time to get my act together.  I’m sure I’d be looking way better and would have better health if I’d stayed consistent with my health habits from my 20s until now.  But better late than never, right? 

I consider myself really lucky (so far - knock on wood) in that my poor health habits haven’t really bitten me yet (decent genetics, maybe?).  Even though I’m still overweight (though have lost 10 pounds in the past month!), my last physical showed excellent numbers for my blood-work.  I still have regular to low blood pressure.  Don’t take any medicines on a regular basis.  No real aches and pains - other than when I trip or otherwise injure myself from my extreme clumsiness (this is actually a longevity issue that I really do need to be concerned about - I'm not joking about being clumsy).  So I feel lucky so far.  I know a lot of people who deal with a lot more than me on a day-to-day basis health-wise, even at age 44.

That said, I’ve SERIOUSLY lost a ton of flexibility in the last 10 years.  I used to be really limber as a kid.  I wasn’t a gymnast or anything, but felt fairly flexible nonetheless.  I miss that feeling.  And I’m sure I’m not the only 44-year old who looks in the mirror and sees things I don’t like.  For me, it's primarily the bags under my eyes.  GAAHHH.

Given the above, I’m trying to tackle the whole “Get healthy / Get fit / Live longer” thing on multiple fronts.  Running.  Walking.  Yoga.  Weights (hate weights).  Pushups.  Planks (hate planks, too).  Extreme nutrition.  Drinking tons of water. 

And how’s it going, you ask?  So far so good.   I’m down 10 pounds!  Have built up a wee bit of stamina in my running.  I do push-ups and planks in my office at work (more days than not).  I almost always hit my 10,000 step goal for the day – and on running days I’m way over that.  I’m not going to claim I’ve been 100% good, but I’ve been more good than bad!  I call that a success, because I tend to be an all-or-nothing person.  I have to fight the urge to completely throw in the towel when I’ve been naughty, or skipped a workout or something.  I'm getting better at accepting that moderation is ok. 

I’m particularly proud of my nutrition.  I’ve always been fairly diligent about tracking my intake with online diet tracking software.  Even when I wasn't really “dieting” and when I knew I’d be going home to wine and pizza (or other naughty foods), I’ve almost always tracked my intake during my work day (generally using, more on this later), and my nutrient intake has almost always been quite good.  

Sparkpeople Nutrition Page Screenshot for today.  In addition to the macro-nutrients, it will also track the vitamins & minerals, water, etc. as well as the exercise, and other stuff.  I can't say I love Sparkpeople, but its the best for me so far in nutrition & fitness trackers - and I've tried out a BUNCH of them. 

I try to get most of my nutrients from my diet, because I'm notorious for not remembering to take my vitamins on a regular basis.  I’ve always made a point to include the power foods in my daily “quotidian” diet – things like almonds, Greek yogurt with blueberries or blackberries, sardines, salmon, spinach or kale, green tea – these are in my diet almost every day.  

Today's lunch salad on the digital scale in my kitchen.  Romaine, spinach, red & yellow bell peppers, tomato, edamame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, almonds, banana peppers, cucumber, and I have some chicken breast I'll warm up and add at lunch time.  This is honestly my normal every-day lunch, except when I'm running late and forget to pull it together or something.  I LOVE salads.
My focus now is to be more consistent: cutting back on the wine and other splurge foods except on special occasions or off days (so I can drop the excess weight), and making the running / yoga / weight training regular parts of my schedule. I'm not going to lie: consistency is my struggle. It's why I'm overweight in the first place. But I know I've got to pull it together. I'll be 45 years old next month (OMG). And for those of you who just have this health stuff all figured out and you're thin and fit and eat what you should, I salute you! Honestly, and no snark at all. Those peeps are the ones whose blogs I follow regularly for inspiration. I sort of see my blog as an example of a work in progress - meaning me. I suppose I should have figured this crap out by the time I'm 44, but it is what it is, right?  

Obviously, even if I’m better at my consistency, that’s no guarantee that I’ll live any longer than the next person.  I could get cancer.  Alzheimers - dementia is a very real and scary thing in my family.  But I figure if I’m living a healthy lifestyle, I’ll have better odds than if I don’t, right???  And, honestly, none of this should be a major hardship.  The key for me is to try to limit the splurge foods to designated “off” days – and not eat (or drink!) them every day!  Truly, if I can be good in the evenings, I'll be golden :-).

Wish me luck!