When I started to write about how to secure a happy and healthy old age, I found remarkable new research. Things which I thought could not be good for me had health giving qualities that rivaled the magical “Venus Pill” that revived that dreary group of women on Star Trek (Mudd’s Women, Season 1, Episode 6). Without the pill, the women were broken down– terribly old and haggard looking. The pill glowed on and off with a ruby light while transforming these sad specimens into sexy, vibrant, youthful sirens. It turned out the placebo effect was responsible for the transformation. Self-confidence was all the women needed to revive their sorry looks, and the Venus Pill gave it to them, making the lonely lithium miners of far away Rigel XII happy and Capt. Kirk happier because he needed the lithium to power the Enterprise. Remember that? Well, maybe you were not a geeky Trekie in 1966 like some of us. If you ever doubted my authenticity as a boomer, you are surely convinced by now!
What are these magical substances that restore youth, beauty and confidence? This sounds almost too good to be true, but research proves that red wine, coffee and chocolate are the holy trinity of youth and vigor! Before I heard that I should be drinking red wine every evening, coffee every morning and and eating chocolate when the fancy took me, I had embarked on my usual round of self improvement regimens.
Having become very fit a mere seven years ago, I couldn’t help but notice lately that I had slipped. Nothing on my body was quite where I remembered it being ‘back when’ and surely there was more of it than there should be. I went back to the same routines that delivered the miracle of my transformation from a sad, dyspeptic vegetarian couch potato into a slim, chirpy, cheerful runner who ate burgers and salad, (minus the bun, never the bun.)
After a mere 3 months of this once magically effective routine, which I had received from a naturopath of some renown, I had energy to burn and a slim, strong figure. Dropping 35 pounds and 10 dress sizes in the process gave me the opportunity to indulge in a new wardrobe and I felt like the cat who ate the canary. Actually, canary was not mentioned as a preferred food for me but would probably have fit well into my steady diet of turkey, beef and wild game, with a side of greens.
Sadly, shockingly, even though I was religious about following the same instructions, I did not achieve the same results the second time around. I had not descended to my previous low weight but I knew what it felt like to bound upstairs, then agree happily to another two mile hike with the grandkids after my morning five mile run. I wanted that edge I felt when there were reserves of energy to draw upon when needed for work or fun. I wanted to fit back into my tiny waisted skirts as well.
I just could not get on board with the “age slows you down” program so many of my contemporaries subscribe to. After all, I felt better now at sixty-two than I had for most of my forties, so I was not about to let this insidious “blah” become my norm. I figure with forty more years or so ahead in this body, it was time to get and keep the upper hand, fitness wise, or the decline could take all the fun out of my future.
Live Fast, Work Hard and Don’t Die
My exercise program and improved diet had some very good results, like better sleep, more energy and, to my eye, firmer upper arms, but my weight and dress size stubbornly refused to budge. Week after week the scale and the tape measure showed no difference, I got mad. “Son of a Biscuit Eater!” I exclaimed each week at the ritual weigh in when I saw no change in the digital readout on my new scale. Stepping up my weekly curse fest at the device proved ineffective as all the other techniques I had tried so I began to acquire new gadgets to monitor my efforts. My little Fitbit device monitored all the steps I took and stairs I climbed each day while I measured my aerobic efforts with a heart rate monitor as I ran. I even tried weight watchers for two weeks. I was the weight watcher nazi, measuring and weighing all my portions and being super vigilant about all my records. Calculators were employed. Charts were made. Special foods with the point value printed on them were purchased.
There was a major hissy fit when, after two weeks of this I had actually gained two pounds. I know, I know, most people have great results with the program, I must have a hormone or thyroid problem, I thought. So I got tested and no such luck. It was a bit cheering to find out exactly how healthy I was, everything in balance, bad cholesterol low, good cholesterol high, thyroid OK, no hormonal issues, heart strong, no suspicious spots, no excuses–drat!
The only change I notice was that when I diet I usually drop a bra size first thing. Nature is cruel, it is an inch I cannot afford. This time, I held steady, even put on a half inch. OK-this was a clue. I had been walking up my local mountain (3 miles round trip, the equivalent of 64 flights of stairs) a few times a week. To keep it interesting, I added 2 pound weights in each hand which made it that much harder to do the deed in under an hour. I started at one hour and fifteen minutes round trip with no weights. There were a lot of sound effects at first, grunts and whining as I sweated my way up the steepest inclines. I also confess to turning around before getting to the top more than once, counting it as “good enough” Now I can do the mountain in 50 minutes with the weights and not wheeze–OK, maybe a small grunt and grumble.. I didn’t say I loved it, I just said I could do it. I figured the weights worked to build up my arm and chest muscles and that was a positive change I could live with.
Now I have signed up for the gym again so I can use the weight machines once a week. That’s right, research shows that’s all you need for building muscle. Muscle strengthens bone, I could tell you why, and probably will, stay tuned. Muscle also burns more fat. So, let me get this all organized for you–the more muscle you have, the easier it is to do the things you want to do, like carry your 40 lb. grandson around on your hip as long as it takes to keep him happy. Then it goes and burns more calories for you while you are sitting around watching old star trek episodes (still a fan). This sounds like the deal of the century. OK, OK it’s not the Venus pill, but remember, that was a fake anyway, a fiction inside another fiction.
So now I am buckling down to yet another discipline. Yep, in addition to drinking eight glasses of water a day, eating no carbs, running 5 miles, plus-drinking the wine and coffee, eating the chocolate, hey, it’s for my health, –I am lifting weights. I’ll let you know how it works out.
We are far beyond “live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse” -that boat sailed long ago. I Hope I Don't Die Before I Get Old while I'm proposing a new motto for Boomers-live fast, work hard and don’t die till you can leave a beautiful corpse. I’m trying, still trying.
On August 27, 2012 we had our first radio interview with Trudy Thomas on the Body, Mind, and Spirit Radio. You can listen to our interview at this link: