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: Do you have pre-diabetes? Now what?

prediabetes-FNLWhen my friend and colleague,  Jill Weisenberger, published a new book on prediabetes, I couldn’t wait to interview her and ask her to answer questions that adults 50+ have when told they have high blood sugar levels and prediabetes.

Jill is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert. She is the author of the four books including the best-selling Diabetes Weight Loss, Week by Week and the new Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. Jill has a private practice in Newport News, VA. She is a freelance writer and a consultant and spokesperson to the food industry, as well as a panelist for the US News & World Report Best Diet Rankings. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

How important is it for adults over 50 to get their blood sugar checked? What is the best way to get it checked….doctor, health fair, etc?

With each birthday, we have an increased risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Typically, healthcare providers screen for diabetes and prediabetes around age 45. Your provider may screen you earlier if you’re overweight, have fatty liver disease or heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels.

It’s a simple blood test. If it comes back abnormal, your provider will take a second measurement to verify the first one. If you are screened at a health fair, be certain to understand the results and follow up with your healthcare provider.

Test Prediabetes Diabetes
Fasting Plasma Glucose 100 – 125 mg/dl > 126 mg/dl
2-hour OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) 140 – 199 mg/dl > 200 mg/dl
Random plasma glucose in an individual with symptoms of diabetes such as excessive thirst and urination Not done to diagnose prediabetes > 200 mg/dl
A1C 5.7 – 6.4 % > 6.5%

Some people think that if they don’t have any symptoms, they don’t need to see a doctor or get blood work…what would you say to that?

You’re breaking my heart! Sadly, there are 70 million adults in the US who have prediabetes and don’t know it. And that’s precisely because there are no symptoms. If you randomly count out 9 adults who you spend time with, three of them are likely to have prediabetes. That’s how common the problem is. Only about 10% of people with the disorder know that they have it.

What is prediabetes and can diabetes be halted if you have prediabetes?                                                                                            

If your blood sugar level is higher than normal but lower than diabetes, you have prediabetes. This is how we define and diagnose prediabetes. But, prediabetes (like type 2 diabetes) is much bigger than a blood sugar problem.

The two things going on with prediabetes are insulin resistance and the loss of some of our insulin-producing ability. It’s a nasty double whammy. The body is stubborn and resists the action of insulin. Because of this, the pancreas pumps out extra insulin. Early on in the course of the disorder, that extra insulin is enough to tamp down blood sugar levels to the normal level. No one has any idea that there’s a problem. But over time, the body can’t produce enough insulin to make up for the body’s resistance. That’s when blood sugar levels first increase. That’s prediabetes. As time goes on, if the insulin resistance continues, there’s likely to be further loss of insulin-producing ability. Then blood sugar levels rise more, and we have type 2 diabetes.

Other problems associated with insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include blood vessel dysfunction, fatty liver, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer.

Because the problem is progressive, the best opportunity for a reversal is right this minute. There is some amount of urgency here because of the continued loss of insulin-producing capacity. Every day, your window of opportunity closes slightly. Without lifestyle changes, 37% of people with prediabetes are likely to progress to full blown type 2 diabetes within 4 years and most will have the diagnosis within 10 years.

Many people think every chronic disease is genetic and that there nothing they can do to prevent a disease like type 2 diabetes. What is the reality?

There are both genetic and environmental factors at play. We can’t change our genes, but we can do so much to improve our health and lower our risks of many chronic diseases, including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. There are conditions that have lifestyle solutions that include diet, physical activity, sleep and more. And this is exactly what I cover in Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.

Many older adults think carbs must be eliminated if their blood sugar is high…can you explain why carbs are needed and what are the “best” carbohydrate foods?

Especially in the prediabetes stage, I really shy away from emphasizing carbohydrates. Instead I put the focus on the quality of the food. Instead of asking yourself if this food is high-carb or low-carb, ask yourself if this is a wholesome, health-boosting food. Other than having lots of carbohydrates, lentils and lollipops don’t have much in common!

Interestingly, there are several carb-containing foods that improve insulin resistance or lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. I always recommend oats, barley, lentils, beans, yogurt, nuts, and fruits, especially berries.

Can you explain why there is really not such thing as a “diabetic diet?” 

As science has progressed, we’ve learned that there are many ways to a healthy plate, a healthy body weight, and blood sugar management. So again, the emphasis should be on food quality. However, once in the diabetes stage, we do have to put some limits on carbohydrate intake. This is when I help my clients become carb aware. I try so hard to keep them from being carb phobic. But regardless, food quality really matters.

How does exercise help lower blood sugar levels?

Soooo many ways, but I’ll keep it brief. First, every single time that you exercise, you boost your body’s insulin sensitivity. Yes, I mean that. Every single time! And it can last from 2 to 48 hours!

Taking a walk after a meal helps lower blood sugar levels from eating. Strength training helps to build muscle and that means that there’s more place for blood sugar to go because muscle is a big storage bucket for blood sugar. All exercise matters, and it all counts. It all reduces insulin resistance.

Reducing sedentary time is also important. The American Diabetes Association recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with three minutes of light activity every half hour. You can walk to the water fountain at work, take your dog outside, do push-ups against the wall. It doesn’t matter, just do something.

I really like the section in your book on preparing for “lifestyle reset,” many people want to dive in head first without any forethought; can you mention why your tips can help someone get on track to a healthier lifestyle?

So many people just want to follow rules and make big changes right away. They think that willpower and discipline will steer them the right way. But no one has enough willpower and discipline to do what they need or want to do all of the time. We need skills, strategies and a plan much more than we need willpower. It smart to learn about setting goals and building motivation. It’s smart to identify the habits that help you and those that hurt you. The time you put into these things will help you in the long run. My experience tells me that simply rushing to change leads to temporary success and more on and off dieting.

Yellow under trees
Author, Jill Weisenberger

I encourage to check out Jill’s website for many great tips on good health and tasty recipes. Here is a link to a delicious easy lemon basil sauce, perfect for fish or seafood.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, see Food & Fitness After 50.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: “Be aware, be alert, and be active”

Edee birthday
Edee, with friend Stephen, who hosted  her 80th birthday party

At her 80th birthday celebration last year, everyone who attended had an “Edee story.” The kind of story that brought a smile, a chuckle, or belly laugh at the retelling. My friends and I have had the privilege of knowing Edee for over 25 years and traveling to over 20 world-wide destinations…from Paris to Prague…with her. We jotted down the “80 reasons we love Edee” for her 80th birthday gift. The truth is we could have come up with 180 reasons!

 

Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • In her late 70s, she traveled to France to go truffle hunting with a guide and a pig.
  • She makes things happen; a impromptu party, a special tour, a unique flower arrangement, or a special bottle of wine will happen when she is around.
  • She is loving, caring, wise mentor to us.
  • She always sees the best in every situation.
  • She never failed to tell us when we were wearing the wrong lipstick color.
  • She has shown us how to do 60, 65, 70, 75 and now 80 with joy and elegance.

FOMO 

So, while she was recuperating from a total knee replacement and before a trip to Italy,

Edee truffle hunting
Truffle hunting in France

I asked Edee how she manages to stay so vibrant. Her response? “I stay active, engaged, and adventurous because I have a severe case of FOMO…fear of missing out!” Travel and adventure expands her horizons, and “makes me more interesting!” She advises all of her friends to not slow down, “nature does that to us anyway, so stay determined and disciplined.” She adds, “be determined to age well, which is different from aging.” And, does she ever walk the talk!

 

Shortly after knee replacement surgery, she has continued with physical therapy exercises three times a week and can’t wait to get back in the pool for water aerobics, which she does five days a week in the summer. She also practices yoga and works with a personal trainer. She likes to walk around her Washington DC neighborhood and at the Delaware beach. “Parking is expensive, so I like to walk. When I walk to shops, I buy less so I have less to carry home, so it is a triple benefit…no parking fees, less buying, and getting exercise!”

New challenges and new rules

Edee lost her husband several years ago and widowhood brought new challenges and imposed new rules. She organizes the neighbors in her condo for informal “Sunday Suppers” and helps the single men and women in her circle learn to take good care of themselves. “I help my friends by showing them how to look ahead, cook ahead, and plan ahead. Instead of looking behind at the past, we look at life now and take proactive steps to eat well and get regular exercise.”

Make a plan to stay connected to loved ones

With two children and three grandchildren who live in different states, she keeps up with her children with email and regularly scheduled weekly phone calls, in addition to frequent visits. With the grandchildren, it is different. “I’ve learned to text with them to catch them on the run.!” She also schedules regular calls with friends so as not to lose touch with them.

Embrace your community

She is an active community volunteer and strongly encourages those who can, give back. “I’ve been given much in my life and I want to share my bounty.” She suggests picking a charity and supporting it any way you can: financially or with your time. Her favorite organization is So Others Might Eat (or SOME), an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the more than 8,000 men, women, and children who are homeless in the nation’s capital.

Be aware, be alert, and be active

Edee
Traveling with Edee in Dublin

I titled this post, “Be aware, be alert, and be active.” That is Edee’s recipe for healthy aging:

 

  • be aware of your diet and the food choices you make every day,
  • be alert to the challenges of aging, such as increased risk for falls,
  • be active for at least 30 minutes every day….and get outside!”

That is definitely a recipe for healthy aging!

“The trick is to live a long time without growing old!!” Edith (Edee) Howard Hogan

 

Food & Fitness After 50: No Challenge, No Change

SallyI first met Sally when she was 62 years old and teaching aerobics classes. She described herself as a “retired, healthy woman who lived her profession.” For 30 years she was a high school health and physical education instructor who loved being active. One thing she always used to say that has stuck with me is “no challenge, no change.” She was referring to our physical body, encouraging us to lift the heavier weight, go for a few more repetitions, or pick of the pace to get the heart and lungs moving to reap the benefits of exercise.

A new meaning to “no challenge, no change”

Now, at 66, Sally has learned that “no challenge, no change” can also refer to the physical and mental changes that can occur when least expected. At the age of 60 she had a total hip replacement, and then about 5 years later, her knee started to bother her. She backed off high impact exercise to give the achy joint a rest. During that time, she started feeling some abdominal pain, but didn’t think too much about it. But, as she was preparing for an upcoming trip to Spain, she decided to check it out. The discomfort she was feeling was ovarian cancer. Sally was aware of her risk factors for diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis that run in her family, but the cancer diagnosis took her by surprise.

A new mind set

After surgery and four months of chemotherapy, Sally is dealing with the major life change. “I had to slow down a bit during treatment, but I was as active as a could be, even if that meant a short walk each day.” The hardest part, she says, is “no longer being the healthy one in the family. I had to redefine myself and the reality was hard to accept.” However, Sally now sees this obstacle as a positive. “I never once said, ‘why me,’ instead, I choose to dwell on the positive.” With faith and supportive family and friends, Sally is back to old activates, as well as a few new ones. “I am trying new things, like fly fishing, pickleball, and stand-up paddle boarding.”  She fills in for aerobics instructors when needed, but no longer teaches regular classes, “I don’t want the commitment!” she says with a laugh.

One side effect of the medications and less active lifestyle has been a slight weight gain. Women past the age of 50 can relate to that. Sally found a 12- week on-line program called Bod E Talk, that is described as a weight loss and health program (Note: this is a fee-based program, not a freebie). She has always believed in “moderation and variety” in her food choices, and the on-line program has helped her understand the importance of listening to hunger cues. “We tend to eat when the clock says it is time for meal, instead of paying attention to our hunger.”

Sally’s advice for all of us over 50 is simple, but powerful. “Stay as active as you can, eat foods that nourish and satisfy your body to keep you active, and remember it is all about the choices you make every day that count.”

Supplements: Help or Hype or Hope?

This post is a summary of information from a talk I gave at the Bell Family Branch YMCA in Hartwell, GA on April 12th and 30th, 2018.

Broccoli and pillsAre you among the 76% of Americans who take dietary supplements?  And, if you are  in the 55+ population, are you one of the 80% who take supplements? The most popular supplements are multi-vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, and B-complex.

This post will cover multi-vitamins and minerals; next week we’ll cover muscle-building and weight loss supplements.

How much do you really know about the supplements you are taking? Dietary supplements are a profitable business with a $40 billion annual market. Supplements are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, but not as well as many people would like them to be. In 1996, the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act put supplements in a new category, unlike  food additives or drugs, supplements do not undergo testing to make sure they are

  • pure
  • safe
  • or that they work before coming to market

More people are more worried about artificial sweeteners, which undergo rigorous safety testing, than dietary supplements, which are lacking in safety testing.

What is a supplement?

Dietary supplements include thousands of products that fall into these categories:

  • Vitamins: such as vitamin D or C
  • Minerals: like calcium or magnesium
  • Herbs or botanicals: such as St. John’s Wort or echinacea
  • Amino acids: like branched chain amino acids or arginine
  • Dietary substances: like glucosamime or curcumin
  • Concentrates or extracts: such as green tea extract or resveratrol

Decoding a supplement label

All supplements must have a supplements facts panel, similar to a nutrition facts panel found on food packages. And, supplement makers can make claims called structure-function claims: things like, “supports heart health,” “supports bone health,” or “supports muscle health. “But they can’t say “prevents heart attack,” “treats low bone density,” or “will make your muscles grow like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.”  Any time there is a health claim you will find this statement (usually in small print):

“This statement has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Interesting, because many of us take supplements to treat, cure, or prevent disease!

Beware of testimonials

The promotional materials for supplements can make all sorts of outrageous claims. As showcased in this article from Center for Science in the Public Interest, testimonials abound and many use identical testimonials to make your think that real people are praising the value of the supplements, when in fact they are paid advertisements.

Multivitamin mineral supplements

Since multis are the most popular dietary supplement, let’s look at what you need to know.

First, look for an age-appropriate supplement: adults over 50 have somewhat different nutrient needs than younger adults. “Silver” vitamins or vitamins for “50+ for her” or “50+ for him” are formulated to meet your needs. Multivitamin-mineral supplements are safe, relatively cheap, and can fill gaps in your nutrient intakes. But, they may also be unnecessary. (Supplement users have healthier habits that those who don’t take supplements: they tend to eat better, get more exercise, and more likely to be non-smokers.) And, multis don’t provide everything you need. For example, no multi provides all of the calcium you need.

Some things to consider fall into my “don’t” list:

  • Older adults should not take a pre-natal vitamin, unless they are pregnant. Pre-natal vitamins are formulated to support the health of the baby and mother. They contain higher amounts of many nutrients, including iron, that are not needed in large amounts as we age.
  • Avoid adult gummies or chewables: they don’t measure up to pill or capsule forms and many contain far less than the recommended levels of nutrients and may be lacking trace minerals such as zinc, magnesium, or chromium.
  • Don’t fall for special “immunity,” “muscle function,” “heart health,” “energy,” or even “healthy appearance” claims. These are more expensive and just not necessary.

Resources for more information on vitamin and minerals

My “go to” source for learning about vitamin and mineral supplements, updated research, as well as food sources, is the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health. On this site, you will find a wealth of information on individual nutrients: here is a link to the consumer information on vitamin D, to show you an example.

And, in our book, Food & Fitness After 50, we provide more information on supplements that might be helpful in specific disease conditions.

Look for next week’s post on muscle building and weight loss supplement!

Chris Rosenbloom, along with co-author, Bob Murray, talk about supplements and much more in Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Health = A Lifetime of Activity + Good Nutrition + Thankfulness

“You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger!”

Do you weigh the same as when you were 20? I’m guessing that few people in their late-60s can say they do, but Phil can. He attributes his long running career to the fact that he doesn’t carry excess weight, which puts extra pressure on knees and hips when running.

Intrinsic Joys of Being Active and Eating Well

 

Phil Sparling bike trail in Sanibel
Riding on bike trail at Sanibel

Phil grew up in pre-screen days where playing a variety of team sports with neighborhood kids was the norm. In the 8th grade he discovered a knack for distance running and ran competitively in high school, college, and for another decade after college. At his peak, he was running 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year; the equivalent of running more miles in a year than from Atlanta to Las Vegas and back. Today, he runs “a lot less, and a lot slower,” but still runs three days a week for about 10 miles a week or 500 miles a year. In addition, he does calisthenics, stretching and enjoys gardening and hiking in the surrounds of his north Georgia home.

 

Phil is motivated to stay active for the “personal satisfaction of the physical effort of moving; feeling the body at work still motivates me after all of these decades.”
Of course, to stay at your college weight, diet is also important. Phil and his wife focus on eating a plant-centered diet with “real food, including plenty of fruits and vegetables while minimizing highly processed foods.” He also adds that “preparing food and eating together is relished, as this simple pleasure wasn’t always possible with busy careers.”

Overcoming Challenges

Sometimes we look at people like Phil and think it must be easy for him to stay active and eat well, but, for everyone it is a choice. Phil says he understands the challenges, including the tendency by many to be complacent regarding their health. “People think if they aren’t sick, why bother to change. Over time, sedentary living and convenience foods become the default comfort settings.” And, while he recognizes medications can be modern miracles, “too many people think pills are the answer to every modern ailment when sometimes small lifestyle changes can fix a health issue without drugs.” Another challenge is the “slick advertising hawking magic pills or short cuts to exercise or diet. We are inundated with pseudo-science making us more vulnerable to believing the hype.”

Four Tips for Healthy Aging

When asked to give tips for optimal aging, regular exercise and healthful eating were at the top of the list, but Phil also encourages us “to continue to set goals and stay engaged.” For those who haven’t been active, “start by developing a plan to do something every day; even if it is just a 10-minute walk, stair climbing, or stretching. But, tell yourself you will do something every day and then do it.” Phil also is thankful. “We need to be thankful for the people in our lives, the body we were given, and simple everyday joys.” When considering the big picture, he reminds us: “There’s no single pathway for living a long and full life. There are many possibilities. Embrace the challenge and act on it! You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger.”

From Scientific Writer to Creative Writer

Phil was a professor at Georgia Tech for 30 years and was a prolific researcher and Sparling_coverscientific writer, as the adage “publish or perish” is true in academia. These days, he turns his attention to creative writing and has published his essays in a new book,  The Sneakers in the Closet, reflecting on a lifetime of sports, health, and a life well lived. And, he and wife enjoy traveling from decades of “pent up wanderlust when we had limited time off to travel.” You can also read some of his essays in Smoke Signals, a north Georgia community newspaper (click on Smoke Signals to read a sample column.)

 

Food & Fitness After 50: It’s True! Good Things Come in Small Packages

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns, Comedian

For 38 years, Bo worked in IT for IBM and then “retired” and worked for 3 years in the “best job I ever had.” That job was for the local Chamber of Commerce where “everyday was different, unpredictable, and fun.” But, being the people-person, she is, Bo says the best part was the people she worked with and the interactions with others in her community. Having just celebrated her 69th birthday, Bo is now fully retired, but she spends a good part of every day at the YMCA taking aerobic classes three days a week from Jean the Dancing Queen.”  She also plays pickelball for several hours 4 to 5 days a week.

Healthy Habits to Control Weight

Bo 2Bo has always been petite and the only time she gained weight was during her pregnancies with her 2 boys, but she quickly got back to her usual, healthy weight. While many adults gain weight as they age, Bo manages her weight by eating smaller portions, eating lots of fresh veggies, limiting sweets and sugar, and paying attention to how much and when she eats. “I’m lucky that I like the healthy stuff!” She often finds she doesn’t have much of an appetite, but eating breakfast and a mid-day meal around 2 pm (which she calls a cross between lunch and dinner as “linner”) keeps her fueled without being full. Her only dietary indulgence is a “real Coca-Cola” a couple of times a week. She also pays attention to hydration and is sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish water loss during activity.

Keep moving

As she has gotten older, Bo knows she needs to pay attention to her body and adjust as needed. “Know what you can do and what you can’t do.” TRX is all the rage at our local Y, but she knows that it isn’t for her. “Understand your body, but stay involved and active.” Her words of wisdom are “the more you use it, the better it gets.” Great advice for everyone!

Keep motivated

Many sedentary folks look at active people and think it is easy for them or that it comes naturally, but Bo makes exercise a priority in her life. Bo’s advice is “don’t be lazy; tell yourself you have to go to exercise class, an activity, or for that daily walk. “Feed your body right and use it every day!” Her words reminded me that while I often would prefer to skip morning exercise class and sleep in a bit longer or linger over a second cup of coffee, I have never once said, “I wish I hadn’t exercised today!” We all feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally after a good workout!

 

Food & Fitness After 50: How turning 55 led to losing 55 pounds

When you hear the words “Weight Watchers do you think of women attending group meetings to support each other’s weight loss journey? Or maybe you think of Oprah Winfrey who helped revitalize the brand when she became a client and investor in 2015? You probably wouldn’t picture, Brad, a 57-year old man as a Weight Watchers fan, but he lost 55 pounds following their plan.

The “It’s time to make a change” moment

 

Brad and Mary
Brad, with wife, Mary

When Brad turned 55 he knew he needed to do something. He weighed 255 pounds, but he carried it well on his 6’2” frame. However, the weight was settled right around his middle, the dreaded belly fat, and his body mass index (BMI) was 32.7, placing him the obese category. (To calculate your BMI, enter your height and weight in the BMI calculator.)

 

So, at age 55, Brad decided to drop 55. “My clothes didn’t fit, I was on four medications, and just knew it was time to do something, so I downloaded the Weight Watchers app and went through the food list to find all of the foods assigned zero or one point…. basically, my new free foods.” Using the app taught him the energy (caloric) value of foods and he began logging everything he ate into the app for the first couple months of his weight loss journey. Once he learned the “cost” of foods, he was able to make better choices throughout the day. “One of the biggest changes I made was my night time snacking routine, now I snack on fruit and veggies when I’m hungry.” He gave up sugar-sweetened drinks and switched to Splenda (also known as sucralose) in coffee and tea.

Weight Watchers Makes List as “Best “diet in three categories

Weight Watchers is recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diet Rankings for 2018 as the best weight loss diet, best fast weight loss diet, and, best commercial diet plan. Why did Brad like it? “I never felt deprived and I learned to make trade-offs. If I want a candy bar, I eat a mini or “fun-size” and still enjoyed the treat without the calories of a regular sized candy bar.

Lessons learned

Brad lost 30 pounds in the first couple of months and then plateaued. That is a common occurrence with weight loss; his smaller body now needed even fewer calories. This is a crucial point and when many people give up, but not Brad. He stuck with the plan and eventually reached his goal of 200 pounds, losing 55 pounds in total. Some of the things Brad learned along the way:

• “Portion control! I can still eat what I want, but I control the portions.”
• “Make substitutions, not sacrifices. I still eat steak but choose a 6-ounce filet instead of 12-ounce ribeye, and I’ve learned to love grilled asparagus.”
• “Maintaining weight loss is a constant negotiation with myself, and I give myself a 5-pound window, but when the scale creeps up, I know I have to cut down.”
• “I started eating breakfast, something I had never done, but I learned that eating something in the morning keeps me going until lunch time and makes me feel better.”
• “I travel a lot for work and I can decode any menu into Weight Watcher’s points and choose a healthy meal!”

Do it for your health and self-satisfaction

Two other factors motivate Brad to keep the weight off. “I bought new clothes and I love running into people I haven’t seen in a while and their reaction to my weight loss is rewarding. I never want to regain the weight and have to face my friends and colleagues at my old weight!” And, his health has improved. He was able to get off two of the four medications he was on, and he hasn’t had acid reflux since he lost the weight.
Brad knows he is in it for the long haul, but as he says, “You can have a bad day, not just a bad month!”

Find more weight loss tips in Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Meet Jean, the Dancing Queen

“I won’t be old till my feet hurt, and they only hurt when I don’t let ‘em dance enough, so I’ll keep right on dancing.”

Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson,  U.S. Dancer

Three days a week, I muddle through a dance aerobics class at the YMCA, along with about 20 other women. While I have two left feet, Jean, our instructor, is a dancing queen. Jean, age 69, loves “music, dance, and movement,” and that is what drew her to dance aerobics over 40 years ago. In school she took every PE class she could fit into her schedule, but when she discovered dance aerobics, she knew she had found her favorite exercise.

Jean class 1
Jean, center, with dancing disciples

 

Girls weren’t always encouraged to be active

Jean grew up in rural Georgia and loved hanging out with her two brothers. She described herself as “tom-boy,” and everyday after school the trio would be outside “running, jumping, and climbing trees until mom honked the car horn to call us in for supper.” She realizes she was active in an era when girls weren’t. In high school she played basketball and was a cheerleader and in college she played intramural basketball. Over the years, she enjoyed all kinds of activity, from running (and completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) to golf to cycling. She completed the Bicycle Race Across Georgia ten times! Jean and her husband, a high school and college football player, have passed their love of exercise to their children.

Her first stint at college got interrupted by motherhood, but she eventually went back to school to earn a social work degree. Between work, school, and family, Jean taught dance aerobics in small towns in northeast Georgia and South Carolina. At the time, there weren’t many fitness facilities, so she got resourceful and used elementary school gyms or church facilities…any space that would allow her to gather with a group of dedicated dance devotees. “There were times when it was so hot in the un-air-conditioned schools or churches that we moved class outside to the parking lot. It was still sweltering hot in the Georgia summer, but at least here was a breeze!”

Dance Aerobics finds a permanent home

For the past 10 years, she has found a home in the local YMCA, teaching at 8 AM three mornings each week. She changes up the hour-long routine about every 8-10 weeks to keep in interesting for the attendees, and for herself. “Exercise is serious business, but it has to be fun,” and we do have fun. Jean transfers her joy to her fellow dancers every day, but even more so on Halloween. She surprises us with her own special look as we dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.Jean halloween

Jean says it is more challenging to stay active as she ages, but says “you have to make the effort, because some days it is easier to want to do nothing. But, we all have to take responsibility for our health and fitness and find something we love to do and look forward to doing it.” For Jean, that something is dance.

Being well

Jean also stays well by playing games, reading, and working crossword puzzles to keep her brain sharp and says maintaining relationships with her friends and family keeps her aging well. And, of course, she moves everyday for the physical and mental benefits. “Movement makes me feel happy and I hope that everyone finds an activity that makes them move and be well.”

Learn more about eating well, moving well, and being well in Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon.