Food & Fitness After 50: Guess her age!

Mary Ellen
Mary Ellen and her granddaughter, Kait, a sophomore at Purdue. Kait not only pledged the same sorority as her grandmother, she lived in the same dorm her freshman year

On Mary Ellen’s 80th birthday she gathered with 14 family members for a celebration weekend in Chicago. Her children and grandchildren asked every wait staff who served them to guess her age. Not one was close. She attributes her longevity to many factors. “My mother lived to be 100,” so she inherited some good genes, but she also learned firsthand the benefit of physical activity and social connections from her 40-year career in long-term care.

How a career choice can influence healthy aging

Mary Ellen is a registered dietitian who started consulting in nursing homes near her home in Indiana when her children were small. “When you have four little ones at home, part-time consulting work was a perfect fit.” That part-time work grew into a full-time thriving business, consulting with 35 nursing home, assisted living facilities, and group homes over her long career. She hired 11 associates to help her with the work. She sold her business several years ago but continued working with a monastery that devoted one floor of the building to members of an aging religious order. She worked with them for 40 years, “I know that it was 40 years because I started working with the sisters when my youngest son was born, and he is 50!”

What motivates you to stay fit?

The impact of working in long-term care made Mary Ellen want to keep herself as healthy as possible. Her motivations for staying fit include traveling with her husband and taking care of her grandchildren when their parents travel for work. “Keeping up with a 5 and 8-year old takes physical endurance and strength.” To keep fit and strong Mary Ellen works with a personal trainer three times a week. “I work out with a group of four women; sometimes the faces change but having the social connection keeps me committed to my workout.”  Her trainer, a 63-year old woman, knows how to structure the workouts for older adults and changes it up frequently to provide a challenge. Before the training session she spends about 30 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill to warm up and introduce some cardio work into the routine. She also walks her dog and finds she is exercising more than she did when she was working full time. That is something  many “retired” adults say; the enjoyment of being physically active when time isn’t as tight is a real perk of retirement.

Keeping the mind sharp is equally important

I put “retired” in quotes because Mary Ellen is still active in her professional world. She is a past president and currently newsletter editor for practice group for nutrition professionals who work in long-term care. In addition, she writes test questions for continuing education courses, and talks to the undergraduate students at Purdue University, her Alma mater. All these activities keep her “mentally sharp and up to date” with the latest research in her field.

As you might image, a registered dietitian knows how eat healthfully, but moderation is her eating style, and nothing is off limits. She has found that her appetite isn’t as good as it was in her younger years and lunch is the hardest meal for her; “if I eat too much at lunch I’m not hungry for dinner, so I try to eat a lighter meal at either lunch or dinner depending on my hunger level.” Also, she has become more conscious of hydration. “I don’t think I was drinking enough water, so each time I wash my hands I drink a glass of water. It’s a good reminder to stay hydrated.”

Her tips for optimal aging?

  • Keep your mind active. In addition to her professional involvement, Mary Ellen plays Words with Friends to keep mentally active.
  • In addition to regularly scheduled exercise, she keeps active throughout the day by taking “activity snacks” of 5 to 10 minutes of physical activity every few hours.
  • And, she maintains an active social life to stay connected.

Mary Ellen and her husband recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary with family and friends. Her grandchildren wanted to celebrate the event my going to the zoo, so after a nice family dinner, she walked the hilly zoo. “I might have been a few paces behind, but I kept up!”

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50.

Food & Fitness After 50: Should you Fast to Lose Weight?

Picture1When I was helping my mother-in-law move from her apartment I came across this 1963 booklet, “Calorie Counter for 6 Quick Weight Loss Diets.” (My mother-in-law tends to hang on to things for a long time!) The 6 weight loss diets featured were the:

  • Three-Day Jet Diet
  • Seven-Day Hurry Up Diet
  • Get Slim Diet
  • Stay Young Diet
  • Slow-and-Easy Diet (editorial note, seems odd that this one is a “quick weight loss” scheme)
  • For Men Only Diet (second editorial note, this diet plan implies that the other five plans are for women).

Diets come and go, but overweight and obesity continue. Today’s popular diet plans are packaged not as diets, but as “lifestyles.” Keto, Paleo, Gluten-free, and Whole 30 are 2018’s versions of “Get Slim” and “Stay Young” diets of the 1960s.

But, the plan I am asked about most often is Intermittent Fasting (IF). There are several versions, but the original plan was popularized by British journalist and physician, Michael Mosley in 2013 (revised and updated in 2015). The book suggests intermittent fasting for 2 days each week (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men) as a weight loss strategy and as a path to improved health. Many of my 50+ friends express interest in this approach because it appears to be an easy way to lose weight.

The premise of the book is that “fasting” on a “5:2” plan (5 days of normal eating and 2 days of fasting) can help achieve a weight loss of 1 or more pounds per week and reduces the risk of chronic disease. The fasting days do not have to be consecutive to follow the diet.

It promises weight loss and protection against cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Since the book’s publication, researchers have been interested to learn if the promises hold up. Many of the studies are done on rodents and the human studies are mostly short-term. But, there are some pros:

  • Reducing calories for 2 days each week could result in weight loss if calories are held constant on non-fasting days. This could be an easy diet for those who have trouble with portion control and it could help individuals jump start a weight loss plan.
  • It can help educate dieters on how many calories are in their favorite foods, as they learn how little food it takes to achieve 500 and 600 calories on the fasting days. A man could blow his entire 600 calorie allotment on a Smoothie King Peanut Power Plus Chocolate drink and a woman would have a mere 100 calories left for the day if she drank a Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.
  • There may be some mood enhancement with intermittent fasting. Many cultural and religious practices encourage intermittent fasting (although intermittent fasting is defined as 200-500 calories for a period of 7 to 21 days in one comprehensive review). Mood enhancement is reported when individuals fast intermittently and some chronic inflammatory degenerative disease symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, appear to be reduced with fasting.

The cons of the diet:

  • While the authors claim the diet results in weight loss and reduces disease, there is no evidence to support those claims for this type of intermittent fasting. Some studies show reduced blood sugar and insulin levels, but we don’t know if that translates into eliminating diabetes or heart disease or cancer.
  • There is no guarantee that dieters will hold food intake constant and not eat more calories on non-fasting days.
  • This plan is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. For those with diabetes taking medication, medical supervision is advised.
  • For athletes and really active people, the biggest challenge is having sufficient energy to support hard training. Intermittent fasting could impair the ability to train at high intensities unless athletes fasted on non-exercise days. In addition, ingestion of protein and carbohydrate consumed shortly after a weight training session enhances muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. Resistance exercise coupled with food intake results in elevated insulin levels which in turn promotes protein synthesis. Fasting could impair the ability to repair and build muscle.
  • The U.S. News and World Report for the Best Diets in 2018 rank The Fast Diet as #35 out of 40 plans evaluated. Not a very high score.

    A study of longer duration (1 year) comparing IF to conventional calorie reduction found both achieved similar beneficial results. This infographic summarizes the study and the results.

ISSJN study

The bottom line: If intermittent fasting helps you learn portion control and you don’t overcompensate on non-fasting days, and you don’t mind feeling hungry, give it a try. Be sure to spend your 500 or 600 calories wisely (no pumpkin spice lattes) by choosing lean protein (eggs, seafood, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef), plenty of low-calories vegetables, and drink lots of water.

Food & Fitness After 50 devotes a chapter to weight loss and maintenance with tips to help you achieve good health.

Food & Fitness After 50: From Meal Makeover Mom to Cannabis Janice

janicewithplantI knew Janice as one half of a dynamic duo who taught families to prepare healthy meals for kids. For 15 years, Meal Makeover Moms developed recipes for busy parents who wanted to provide easy, healthy meals for their families. But, in 2016 Janice’s career took a turn; not a slight turn but a radical shift of reinvention. “It wasn’t a goal to reinvent myself, it was fate!” she says.

Her father was in severe pain from multiple injuries to his spine. The heavy dose of prescription medicine wasn’t controlling the pain very well and it made him groggy. At one of his many appointments, Janice asked the doctor if medical marijuana might help her dad. To her surprise, the doctor responded that he thought it was a good idea. “I don’t know why I even asked about marijuana because I knew very little about it and thought it was something people mostly used to get high.” But, the doctor recommended cannabidiol (CBD) and after 2 puffs from a vape pen, her dad said, “wow, I’m not in pain.” That completely changed both of their lives and Janice was on a mission to learn all she could about the medical benefits of medical marijuana.

Her research led her to the Holistic Cannabis Academy where she studied the benefits of medical cannabis and became an expert on the various forms and delivery methods of cannabis and its derivatives. After completing the course work and passing the exam, “Cannabis Janice” was born. Her website JannabisWellness, provides information on her journey and her services. And, for those of you who want to clear the confusion about cannabis, check out her recent article in the Food & Nutrition Magazine.

janicemachupicchuI was interested in Janice’s personal journey to reinvention and to aging well so I asked her a few questions to share with our 50+ readers.

What did people think when you introduced yourself as “Cannabis Janice?”

It has been an educational experience; some of my colleagues wondered if I was pushing alternative treatments that didn’t have research to support the claims, but that isn’t the case. On my website, I share many research studies conducted around the world on the benefits of cannabis and CBD for relieving pain and reducing inflammation from many chronic diseases. So many older adults suffer with pain and if a plant-based solution could help them, why not use it? It certainly helped my father and improved the quality of his life.

How has the medical community responded to learning about cannabis?

Only 10% of medical school students learn about cannabis and I hope to change that. I’m conducting a Grand Rounds presentation on cannabis for pain management for doctors and pharmacists at a Boston-area hospital and I’m talking about cannabis and CBD for older adults to social workers at a long term care facility. Every state that allows the use of medical marijuana has different laws regulating its use, so it’s important to know what is happening in each state.

“What do you do to stay healthy as you age?”

I eat well but I don’t exclude anything from my diet. Moderation has always been my guiding principle. I’ve always been thin, but as I age some of my weight has shifted to my middle, but I don’t obsess over it. I just had to buy a new pair of bike shorts because my old ones were getting tight! I think we should accept the changes that come with aging and not expect to look the same at sixty as we did at thirty.

What kind of physical activity to you like to do?

I used to run more than I do now, but I still do the occasional 5 or 10K run, but nothing longer. I realized the value of strength training and balance, so I practice yoga and do TRX. I love to hike with my daughter, and I want to keep up with her, and my husband and I like to kayak. I want to be fit and healthy and live a long life, but I am more motivated to exercise to feel food right now!

What three things do you advise for adults to be well as they age?

First, I think it is important to be gentle with ourselves. My point of view is that we should all be thankful for every day because not everyone gets a long life. It is also important to be part of a community. Take time for connecting with people, and not just on social media! Make time for the people you care about. And, lastly, I practice what I preach by taking a low dose (sometimes called micro-dosing) of CBD to reduce inflammation from the aches and pains that come with activity and aging.

Do you think your passion for new career path will remain?

janiceOh, definitely! Being a holistic cannabis practitioner will be my dad’s legacy. I said earlier that I think it was “fate” that led me down this path. When I was born my mother wanted to name me Holly, but dad said I think she should be Janice. Is it a coincidence that Janice rhymes with cannabis and sounds perfect as “Jannabis?” I don’t think so!

For more information on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Happy Healthy Aging Month

healthy_aging_monthSeptember is Healthy Aging Month and Dr. Bob and I wish everyone a happy, healthy September! Since we published Food & Fitness After 50 we have posted a weekly blog, Fit to Eat, and we have interviewed over thirty inspiring adults, ranging in age from 55 to 90! They live as far away as Australia and as close to home as our own backyards of of Hartwell, Georgia or Chicago, Illinois. (We hope you like our posts and if you haven’t already followed our blog, please do but clicking on the Fit to Eat link!)

Today, we are taking a short trip down memory lane to mine the advice and wisdom of the folks interviewed for Fit to Eat. Like our book, we’re capturing the ideas in three buckets: Eat well, Move well, and Be well.

Eat well

Three themes came through from our 50+ folks on eating well. First, no one adhered to a rigid plan or fad-diet-of -month. No Paleo, no Keto, and no CICO or IIFYM plans. One person experimented with intermittent fasting, but the key word for everyone is balance.

Bob bike 2
Bob indulging during his bike ride across Iowa

Balance is the ability to eat and drink anything you want, in moderation. Of course, you have to know what moderation is; eating a basket of fried chicken wings with a half dozen beers every Friday night is not moderation! It is OK to indulge once in a while, like Bob did on his 7-day bike trek across Iowa riding about 65-miles a day, but you can’t over eat everyday and claim you are eating well.

A second theme that emerges is eating for health, that is, enjoying a wide variety of healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, and dairy. Some focused on plant-based vegetarian diets, but most didn’t limit a particular food or eliminate an entire food group, like grains. Eating a variety of foods is smart because you are more likely to get all of the nutrients you need to support optimal aging.

Lastly, everyone we spoke to did not fear their food! They know that eating is not only biologically necessary, but one of life’s pleasures. They are conscious of limiting sugar and saturated fat and excess alcohol, but they love sharing meals with family and friends over social occasions.

Move Well

Buddy
Chris walking Buddy but sometimes Buddy walks Chris

Everyone we talked to was active in their own way. Some loved pickleball and others used their fists and feet from boxing to Bollywood dancing. And, me, I love group exercise classes and walking my dogs while Bob prefers individual activities and doesn’t own a dog.

So, bottom line, find something you like to do and do it. Make it challenging…get your heart rate pumping a bit harder, your breathing a bit labored, and fatigue your muscles when you lift weights. As Sally says, “no challenge, no change.”

Exercise brings intrinsic joy, but it helps to have a mentor to encourage you or a buddy who will meet you at 5:15 am every morning for a run before work. So, make it fun and make it your own and be consistent!

Be Well

We all know that eating well and moving well are only part of the equation for optimal aging. To be well we need resilience; probably the most important trait to healthy aging. Because as we age, stuff is going to happen; we lose loved ones, we get injured, we experience chronic health problems, we get joints replaced…but, through it all we need to see the positive and bounce back from set backs. Everyone we  talked to had experienced some challenges but they all recognized the issue and moved on.

Social support is also important for being well; whether family or friends, community or religious institution, everyone valued social support for optimal aging. Book clubs, health clubs, Friday morning breakfast with the guys or gals, or developing a social club for Single Outstanding Ladies Offering Support (SOLOS), anything that keeps us connected helps us to be well.

Lastly, a thirst for lifelong leaning, as typified by Elizabeth, who at 90 seeks out opportunities to learn something new every day.

SCAN symposium
Chris & Bob

We hope you take every day this month (and every month!) to be healthy. For more practical intel on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 on Amazon.