Carol became a nurse because she was always “fascinated with illness and disease.” She laughs as she says this, realizing it may sound odd to those not in a medical profession. But, she loves being a nurse because she likes the holistic approach. “Nurses treat the whole person. Doctors treat the arthritis or the heart disease, but nurses care for the well-being of people and want to make them feel better. Sometimes, just listening to a patient goes a long way to making them feel better.” In her nursing career she has done everything from bedside, hospital-based nursing to home health to teaching high school students to be certified nursing assistants. Today, she is an independent nursing contractor with activities as varied as teaching CPR to firefighters to working at flu clinics to provide immunizations.
About ten years ago, she found another career she never planned on….as a dog breeder. While attending a dog training class with her German Shepherd puppy, she saw a “fluffy, hairy dog” and fell in love and said she had to have one. The fluffy, hairy dog turned out to be a Black Russian Terrier and she got a male and female and learned the technique of artificial insemination (“a combination of doing research and applying my nursing skills”) to produce a litter of nine pups. She has also trained dogs for “protection.” Running dogs through obstacle courses is one of her favorite activities. “Obstacle training bonds owner and dog by building trust and discipline. It is hard work and keeps both the dog and the handler in good shape, and it is done outdoors, which is another plus for me.”
Carol’s path to healthy aging, now that she is in her mid-50s, includes being active every day. “I vary my activities…dog walking and training and going to the gym keep me moving.” Being a nurse has taught her the benefit of preventative health. “You can pay for your health up front by getting screened for disease, joining a gym, and buying healthy foods, or pay later when disease and illness sets in.” She advises everyone to get regular dental check ups and vision checks, as well as vaccines for the flu, pneumonia and shingles. “We should all know our blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar to help us keep them in check with food and fitness.”
She also eats well, but forgives herself when she eats something unhealthy. “It is OK to eat some unhealthy foods once in a while and don’t beat yourself up when it happens.” She eats well for herself, but also to set a good example for her three daughters. “When they were growing up I was careful to be a role model for my girls as mom’s have a big influence on a young girl’s body image and risk for eating disorders.
Lastly, Carol pays attention to her mental health. “Reading a good book or watching a favorite television show helps me relax and de-stress.” Being well is just as important at eating well and moving well.
Final advice from the nurse is “stay active and keep moving, because you will lose it if you don’t use it!”
We often hear about the value of life-long learning, but how many of us are stuck in our daily grinds and tell ourselves that someday we’ll get around to reading that book or taking an online class to improve a skill that has eluded us? Well, not Elizabeth, who at age 89, is still learning. Recently, she enrolled in financial planning courses so she could manage her own investments (which she does quite well from her laptop!) Elizabeth had to learn to do for herself at an early age. Her husband died when she was just 43 years old so she set her priorities: get a job, raise her three children (who were in high school at the time), and make sure she had enough money to help her kids get to college. From a research librarian to working in consumer affairs for a regional grocery store chain, she did whatever she needed to do to support her family.
When asked about her path to healthy aging, Elizabeth recounted how her parents set a great example on healthy eating, which she has passed on to her children. “My father had a garden and we always had fresh vegetables on the dinner table. I learned to can what we grew so there would always be vegetables in the house, even in the harsh New England winters.” Her parents also raised chickens and had fresh eggs, and they encouraged her and her three siblings to choose “colorful” foods, long before the dietary mantra to do so came to be popular. She became a canning leader for the local high school to teach boys and girls how to preserve food. She thinks that Americans have “come full circle,” enjoying gardening and shopping at Farmer’s Markets and trying to choose healthier foods.
As for exercise, she was always active. “I grew up before the Internet and screen time was a thing; we were just outside all of the time. My dad played baseball so there was always a game going on in the field near our house.” Today, she belongs to the local YMCA, but hasn’t exercised as much as she would like as she recuperates from a broken wrist, but she knows she will get back to it soon. “I love group exercise for the social aspects; my fellow exercisers are my friends, even if I never see them outside of the gym.” She loved riding a bicycle, but she gave that up 3 years ago (at the age of 86), because she didn’t feel “safe” on the bike any longer.
Elizabeth worries for many older adults who live on a fixed income and can’t afford healthy foods. Indeed, food insecurity, the lack of money to buy food, is estimated to affect 5 million older adults in the U.S. Elizabeth admits she is a “worrier,” but she is learning to relax and urges everyone to “enjoy their life.”
I am sure that Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday in February, surrounded by her children and 5 grandchildren and will be setting her next learning goal, while enjoying her life. Thank you for sharing your journey, and keep on inspiring us to be life-long learners.
This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray
After high school, Linda stopped competing in gymnastics, but since then has led a physically active lifestyle, including 10-K road races and a handful of marathons. Now at age 56, road races are in her past, but her competitive instincts are still evident: she is fully engaged in a competition against Mother Nature. Linda’s over-arching goal is to look and feel younger than her age, although she knows Mother Nature may have other ideas. Blessed with the right genes and a lifelong commitment to eating well and staying physically active, Linda is happy with the way she looks and feels, but knows that she will have to double down on that commitment as she ages.
There is no doubt that genetics play an important role in how gracefully we age, but our genes are not the only determining factor. Our lifestyle habits also play a critical part in how we look and feel as we grow older. Fortunately, it’s never too late to eat well, move well, and be well, so even if we haven’t paid as close attention to our health and fitness during our first half-century of life, there is still plenty of time and room for improvement.
The three tips for aging well that have worked for Linda are: 1) get enough sleep every day, 2) eat and drink in moderation (no deprivation, no binging), and, 3) stay physically active.
On those occasions when Linda has gained unwanted fat weight, she sheds the pounds by increasing her daily physical activity—including the time she sets aside for exercise—eliminating snacks, reducing alcohol intake, and eating calorie-controlled meals. All of these changes are simple extensions of Linda’s usual routines, so losing weight never feels like a major life change.
Linda rarely sits or naps during the day and is constantly moving around her house, yard, and neighborhood, burning extra calories that aid in long-term weight control. She does not follow a set exercise schedule—although she knows that would be a plus—and she prefers to exercise on her own, opting for the occasional spin or body-pump class with friends. When it comes to exercise, Linda likes the familiarity of a set routine and doesn’t mind repeating the same workout multiple times.
Linda does cardio exercise for heart health and weight control, along with strength exercises to protect her muscle mass and stay toned. For cardio, she enjoys hill walking in the neighborhood or on the treadmill, interspersed with short jogs. When the weather permits, she and her husband like to ride their bikes in the country. Linda has done a 65-miler and would like to retain the stamina to do be able to cycle 20-30 miles without the effort being a major hardship. For strength training, Linda focuses on her arms, back, chest, and core, relying on 15-20 repetitions of relatively light weights (10-20 lb.), moving quickly from one exercise to the next in 20-minute sessions that she tries to accomplish four times each week. Whenever she’s able to keep that schedule, she quickly notices the changes in muscle size and tone.
“I’ve been fortunate to have good health and habits over the years,” Linda said. “Now that I’m in my 50s, it’s time for me to be even more diligent—but not crazily so—about getting enough exercise to keep my strength and muscle mass. I want to continue living an active life and staying strong is so important to that goal. I’m hoping that my understanding the benefits of good eating and exercise, combined with my vanity, will keep me on the right path!”
Dr. Bob Murray and Dr. Chris Rosenbloom are co-authors of Food & Fitness After 50, available in paperback on Kindle edition for E-readers at Amazon
When we had full-time jobs (me at a university and my husband for a state agency) we both sat through many team building exercises, strategic planning sessions, and committee work to craft mission and vision statements for our respective departments. Every time a new leader took over we sat through another round of “values clarification,” wordsmithing mission statements, and updating 5-year strategic plans. There is nothing wrong with any of this, but when new leaders come and go as if there is a revolving leadership door, it was hard to maintain enthusiasm for the process. I remember in one such meeting the question was posed, “Where do you see yourself in the next year?” In a very snarky way, I whispered to a colleague, “I don’t know about the next year, but in 2 hours I see myself getting out of this meeting and never thinking about this again.” This is probably a sentiment that many of you can relate to.
But, then a funny thing happened. Over dinner one night we were talking about work and mission statements and strategic plans and decided we should have a family mission statement to state our philosophy, goals, and ambitions as we transitioned from full-time work to semi-retirement and starting consulting businesses. We figured that it was a worthwhile activity because we were confident the leadership wasn’t going to change and that we could commit to it.
So, we sat down with pen and paper (not the “big” paper that sticks to the walls that is ubiquitous at every formal planning session) and started by thinking about what we value. Values clarification is an important step in the process. Many of us have stated values (for example, “we value health”) but we don’t take the time to clarify what that means and how we can achieve good health. For us, our list looked like this
• We value:
o Each other
o Life-long learning
o Active lifestyle with physical challenges
o Good health
o Financial security
Next, we followed the principles of writing a good mission statement. Including cause (who we are, what we are, where we are), actions (what we do), and impact (changes for the better). So, for each of our values, we detailed what we currently do and what changes we wanted to make. In other words, image what you want to become. To get inspired, take a look at Fortune 500 mission statements and note that the best ones are short and sweet.
Every year in December, we revisit our personal mission statement and review what we achieved and where we fell short. It is also a time to reassess values and add or subtract to the list. Early on one of my values was writing and so the idea of Food & Fitness After 50 was hatched and included as a goal that was achieved in 2017. If one of your values is to eat well, move well, and be well, take the time to write down what that means to you so you can clarify that value and achieve the goals. This past year, we added the value of being active volunteers in our community; something that wasn’t on our list 10 years ago. For us that value is translated into volunteering at the local high school, library, YMCA, and civic organizations.
So, this year, instead of making new year’s resolutions, make a family mission statement for solutions for all that you value.
“The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.” ~ Michelangelo
Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray are the authors of Food & Fitness After 50 available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.
Now at age 75, Harry doesn’t run marathons anymore, but after completing 11 marathons, he is still running 5-6 miles four days a week with a longer run thrown in to keep it interesting. He also walks and occasionally cycles. He works fitness into everyday life, like walking the stairs, standing on one leg in checkout lines, and balancing on the curb while walking the dog.
Harry, an Associate Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Special Education, started running in his late 30s. “In 1976, I watched the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K run on the 4th of July and was mesmerized by the swishing sounds of the hundreds of runners going past me and I thought I would like to do that next year.” So, with a friend, they began running near his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Slowly, at first, and then progressing to looping around the mountain three times for a total of 15 miles. He ran the Peachtree in 1977 and was a regular participant for many years. Before too long, he was running the annual event with his son. Harry describes running as “cheaper than Prozac!” For him, running was the best stress reliever and it soon became a “positive addiction.” At his peak of running, he was covering 65 miles a week. But, he learned that pounding the pavement takes its toll; he was losing too much weight and had a harder time recovering as he aged. “I wish I had cross trained and taken a more balanced approach to exercise and fitness.”
He discovered a Furman University professor’s book, Run Less, Run Faster, and realized he didn’t have to put in so many miles to be a successful, competitive recreational runner. “The approach outlined by the authors helped me achieve some balance. I enjoy being active, but as I’ve gotten older I think I am smarter about exercise.” Harry started practicing yoga about 5 years ago to help stretch out tight hamstrings. Runners often have tight muscles because they like to run, but stretching, not so much. (As a former runner, I can relate. I just wanted to go out for a run and not bother with the warm-up and cool-down phase!)
When asked to identify three things that have helped him age well, Harry immediately said “keep moving,” and that is not surprising given his 4 plus decades of running. He is lean and fit, and you wouldn’t guess he is 75 years old. Second, he said he is careful about what he eats. He likes the approach taken in the Blue Zones where exploration of long-lived populations reveals how people eat well, move well, and be well around the world. And, lastly, he has enjoyed learning about the scholarship of aging and wellness. “As a university professor I was entrenched in my own discipline and did not know much about aging and wellness research and the robust body of literature that exists.” He also enjoys reading popular, informative books such as Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History. “My grandfather and father died of prostate cancer and I have a much better understanding of how cancer affects my family after reading these books.”
Harry’s advice for those who are sedentary is to start with something within reach, “in hindsight, walking might have been a better choice!” Start slow and set goals to continue to progress. And, remember, “we are all a work in progress.”
As a 10-year-old, Samantha loved animals. She had 5 cats and her favorite Walt Disney movies were the ones featuring animals, not princesses. And, she faithfully watched the television show, Wild Kingdom. Her love of animals made her question what she was eating, and she told her mother she was going to be a vegetarian. By the age of 18, she made a deeper commitment and became a strict vegetarian. Today, many years later Samantha remains a strict vegetarian who is mostly vegan.
In her early 20s, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream of singing and acting; a Broadway star-to-be! Like many aspiring entertainers, she needed a Plan B and that led her become a licensed massage therapist, fitness instructor and ultimately to going back to school and getting master of science degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition.
Today, in her 50s, she may not be winning Tony Awards, but she is an entertainer of the educational kind. She hosts a weekly radio program on Sirius XM Doctor Radio and is a frequent health expert on TV. A sought after speaker, Samantha blends her musical talent with her passion for science and medicine by infusing many of her keynote presentations with music and song. “These presentations are not musicals” she says “But the science is accented with popular music and humor which adds a whole other dimension, facilitates learning and retention and is fun.” (For example, see her at work in the fusion of science and song.)
Let’s back up a bit…after Samantha completed school and became a registered dietitian nutritionist, she started counseling patients with medical conditions at NYU Langone Health. Though Samantha is a vegetarian, the nutrition advice and medical nutrition therapy she provides her patients is always evidence based. She understands the importance of meeting people where they are and working with them to optimize their health. She learned to listen to her patient’s needs and gently nudge them to a healthier life. If that means eating meat, then she teaches them the healthiest choices and how to moderate portions, while increasing nutrient-rich plants and whole grains.
While working as a clinical dietitian at the medical center, the public relations department tapped her to do local television appearances and her acting chops and her knowledge of health made her a natural. In 2008, Doctor Radio came along, and she has been hosting the show every Friday for the past nine years. “The radio show, which is conducted live every week, has provided an amazing opportunity to work with a variety of health professional from medical doctors to nurses to registered dietitians who otherwise would have no reason to talk to me!” Her goals are simple: provide science-based health information, showcase her guests so they do a great job, and have fun. As a guest on her show several times, I can attest that she meets all of those goals with a 5-star rating.
There are many keys to her success, certainly her performance skills shine through her radio voice, but she doesn’t just talk the talk, she lives it. Samantha exercises most days of the week. She loves running, hiking and walking when the weather cooperates, but in the cold NYC winters, she hits the gym. Just as with her career, she always has a Plan A and Plan B for exercise. “Aim high when it comes to activity; we are not always going to meet the goal, but that just makes you want try harder.” As mentioned earlier, she eats a plant-centered diet for health and enjoyment. “In 2017 it easier to be more plant based than ever before. There are tons of recipes online and many restaurants now have vegetarian and vegan options.”
She also promotes being well by managing stress. “I promote a positive approach to daily life by rewriting the script when bad news intervenes. We can’t avoid stress, but we can manage it by redirecting negative thoughts into proactive, positive responses.” She also encourages her patients and her listeners to “be kind and respectful” to their bodies. “Our body’s job is to keep us alive so use your brain…your mental muscle…to move yourself to good health.”
She knows it isn’t always easy, especially as we age. She sees many of her friends struggling with finances as they age, working 2-3 part-time jobs and worrying about who will care for them when they are old. Many are caretakers for aging parents or loved ones, creating another layer of stress. However, she encourages a proactive approach to good health and optimal aging to be the best we can be at any age.
Samantha may not have ended up on Broadway (but, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a Plan C up her sleeve!), but she has positively impacted the lives of her patients and Doctor Radio listeners. For that I give her the 2017 Food & Fitness After 50 Award!
For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out my new book (with co-author, Dr. Bob Murray). Available in paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon.
This post is a summary of a nutrition session I conducted for the Bell Family YMCA in Hartwell, GA on November 14 & 28, 2017.
Are you doing all you can to achieve your fitness goals with the foods you choose? Before you can answer that question, it is important to step back and ask yourself a couple of things.
First, what is your fitness goal? Is your goal to build muscle or to improve endurance or cardiovascular fitness? Is your goal to lose weight? Or, is your goal to be healthy? I think it is important to clarify your goal, so you know if your food supports your fitness goals.
• For example, if your goal is to build muscle, are you doing progressive, resistance exercise and working your muscle until it is fatigued? If lifting 3-pound weights is no longer a challenge, you might be improving muscle endurance, but you won’t get stronger. And, if you are doing progressive resistance exercise training, are you getting about 30 grams of protein within 2 hours of your workout to feed your muscles with amino acids, the building blocks of protein?
• Is your goal good health? If so, do you know your blood pressure, blood lipids, blood sugar, or bone density? It helps to know your baseline to see if exercise and your food choices are working to meet your health goals.
Second, is your goal realistic? A 70-year-old can be more fit than a 40-year-old, but the odds of having 3% body fat and six-pack at 70 isn’t very realistic. Or, for women, do you compare yourself to the cover of women’s magazines and think you won’t ever reach that ideal? Well, you’re right, because the women on the covers of those magazines are usually photo-shopped, sculpted, and perfected in a digitally enhanced way that isn’t real. So, as we reach our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, let’s get real with our goals.
So, if you do set realistic goals, let’s visit a couple of exercisers to see how they have developed realistic goals, but are sabotaging their goals with their food choices.
“You can’t out exercise a bad diet.” Michael works out at moderate intensity 3-4 times a week; he likes to shoot baskets in the gym, lift weights, and walk on the treadmill, but he can’t lose weight and is actually gaining weight. Because he works out, he thinks he can eat whatever he wants. He eats out a lot. Let’s look at his 3 favorite meals and illustrate how long he would have to work out to burn the calories in those meals:
o Zaxby’s Chicken Finger Platter with sweet tea has 1822 calories. To burn those calories Michael would have to:
Shoot baskets for 5 hours
Lift weights for 6 ½ hours
Walk at 4 mph on the treadmill for 4 ½ hours
o 10 Chicken Wings have 1590 calories, so he needs to:
Shoot baskets for 4 hours
Lift weights for 5 ½ hours
Walk on treadmill for 3 ½ hours
o Waffle House All Star Breakfast with Bacon and Hash browns weighs in at 1500 calories, so he needs to:
Shoot baskets for than 3 ½ hours
Lift weights for a little more than 5 hours
Walk on the treadmill for a little more than 3 ½ hours
You get the picture; his food choices are sabotaging his exercise calorie burning. So, what can he do? The easy answer is to make better choices at his favorite quick service restaurants. Nutrition information is available online, so do some homework before you choose. For example, at Zaxby’s, the Kickin chicken sandwich has 760 calories; the grilled chicken sandwich meal has 900 calories, and a chicken salad sandwich has 620 calories; all lower calorie options than his usual meal. And, if he can’t give up sweet tea; try mixing half sweet and half unsweetened to cut calories in half.
“Muscle needs protein.” Sandra, age 61, is trying to build and tone muscle. She recently adopted a plant-based diet, but she will eat some animal protein, like yogurt and cheese. She does weight training three times a week, but is not seeing much progress. For breakfast she has coffee, a glass of almond milk, and a biscuit; lunch is a green salad with lots of veggies and unsweetened iced tea, and for dinner she eats spaghetti with marinara sauce, a green salad, and garlic bread. For a night time snack, she has a bowl of air-popped popcorn.
Sandra is not getting enough protein to feed her muscles; she needs protein at every meal and she can do that with a plant-based diet, but she isn’t making the right choices.
• For breakfast, her protein intake is practically zero. Almond or other nut milks, like cashew milk, do not have protein unless the protein is added to it, usually using pea or rice protein. She could switch to soy milk to get high quality protein and add a slice of Swiss or cheddar cheese to the biscuit.
• The green salad at lunch is good, but again, no protein. If she added chickpeas or garbanzo beans, chopped nuts, and sunflower seeds to the salad and added a serving of cottage cheese or 6-ounces of Greek yogurt, she would boost her protein intake.
• For dinner, in keeping with the plant-based theme, Sandra could learn to make a lentil marinara sauce; lentils and beans (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) are higher in protein than other veggies.
• Popcorn is a whole grain and a good snack, but low in protein. To add some protein before bed, she could sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the popcorn or make a fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt or add a scoop of protein powder to a glass of almond milk.
Next time you bemoan the fact that you aren’t meeting your goals, ask yourself if your food choices support your goals. Food and fitness go hand-in-hand! For a good resource on plant-based eating, see registered dietitian nutritionist, “The Plant Powered Dietitian,” Sharon Palmer’s website.
For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well after 50, check out our new book, Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.
This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50.
John’s odyssey with weight control, fitness, diet, and physical activity is probably not unusual for a 60-year-old American male. A three-sport high-school athlete (football, wrestling, golf), John graduated weighing 200 lb on a 6’3” frame, borderline overweight according to current BMI standards. After graduation, John began working in a machine-tool shop, got married, started a family soon after, and spent the next 25 years of his life immersed in building his own machining business, along with being a husband and father of two. Building his business meant long hours, little exercise, and bad food choices. By the late ‘90s, John weighed 235 lb and was so out of shape he had a difficult time with even low-level physical activity. He realized that changes were needed.
Relying on the same gung-ho, let’s-get-it-done personality that led to success in building his business, John started running. At that time in his early 40’s, he knew his initial progress was going to be slow and found it helpful to frequently remind himself of that. Gradually, the pounds came off. And kept coming off. A couple years into his running routine, John weighed 175 lb, a normal BMI value, although he was very gaunt-looking for his height. Over the next ten years, John continued running, supplemented by weight lifting and a generally active lifestyle, allowing his weight to rise to a more-healthy-looking 190 lb. In his mid-fifties, when his left hip joint began to give him trouble, John switched to biking as a new way to stay fit and trim. Heavy weight lifting gave way to intense sessions of P-90X, a transition John enjoyed. All in all, everything was clicking: regular exercise, much-improved diet, weight under control, feeling good.
Early on a hot July morning in 2016, John participated in a 5-K charity run. Doing so may have saved his life. Struggling throughout the 3.1-mile event, John recalled being surprised that he was so far out of running shape. Within yards of the finish line, John collapsed face first onto the pavement. Nearby paramedics raced to his side and told him they were taking him to the nearest ER. John agreed, but only if they first let him finish the race. John walked the few remaining yards across the finish line and into the waiting ambulance.
The doctor’s diagnosis was a shock. John’s aortic valve (the valve from his left ventricle into the aorta) was worn out, the result of a lifetime of wear on an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. As it turned out, John’s mother and one of his sisters had the same defect. Open-heart surgery was required to replace John’s worn valve with one fashioned from the heart tissue of a cow. The surgery was a major setback to John’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as would be expected with someone who was by all standards vital and healthy.
It took John about one year after surgery to feel normal again. The strange aches and pains that often accompany open-heart surgery gradually subsided and John was able to slowly ramp his cycling and strength sessions back to pre-surgery levels. Life is good once again. John recognized that his devotion to regular physical activity may have both unmasked a life-threatening issue and enabled him to survive it. He knows that continued activity and a good diet are an important part of living a long and healthy life.
John says his advice to others who share similar struggles is to “find activities that you enjoy and slowly make them a regular habit. I’ve found that interval training is a great way for me to dig myself out of the holes that we all encounter when our diets and exercise habits periodically lapse. I enjoy the variety and challenge of interval training and a hard 20-minute workout sure beats a much longer ride or run for saving time. My interval workouts on a stationary bike or elliptical machine are challenging and very tolerable, the best part being that I can sense improvement from one session to the next. Unlike playing golf, I’ve never walked away from a workout in a bad mood.”
Learn more about how to come back after illness or injury in Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon. And, read more about inspiring people in the 50, 60s, 70s, and beyond at my blog, Fit to Eat.
At age 41, Jill had a wakeup call that it was time to end a 12-year relationship with her boyfriend. It was the start of her journey to “let go for it” that has led her to accomplish amazing things. When it came to a marriage commitment, her boyfriend’s favorite two words were “not yet.” Jill finally realized if not yet, when? So, she let go of everything: Broke up with him, quit her job, moved from the Midwest to the East coast, and met a wonderful man online. They were married a year later.
Now in her mid-50s, Jill has come to fully embrace the power of letting go, but it took another blow—the loss of someone she deeply loved for her to realize what we all know is true, that life is precious and can end way too soon.
With that in mind, she decided she wanted to help other people let go of the things that were standing in the way of enjoying life. Starting with herself, she began working on letting go of the self-doubt and nagging burdens about her less-than-perfect body, in particular, that had plagued her since childhood. “We all have a motor running in our brains 24/7 telling us we aren’t good enough or pretty enough or thin enough,” says Jill, adding that letting go is a process. “Women, especially, have a hard time quieting the harsh voices in our heads and living up to society’s idea of what we should look and act like. All of this negative self-talk can take a toll on our self-worth and our outlook on life. It can also increase our stress, which has been well documented to affect our health.”
Instead, she says, at a certain age, letting go is not only an act of kindness, but preventive care. “When we learn to let go, we can enjoy better health as we grow older, and accept ourselves and love ourselves most. It’s very freeing.”
Jill wanted to get her message of letting go to a wider audience so she took on the ambitious, audacious idea of doing a TEDx talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go”. For those who don’t know, TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design” is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas in short 10- to 15-minute talks. Her proposal was accepted on the first try, which is highly unusual, but that is just like Jill. You can watch her talk here.
Jill is also working on a book about letting go and an advice column to help people let go for romantic love, specifically, which you can read on her website.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch her talk; it is inspiring, touching and funny, and it might just make you think about what you are holding on to and what you need let go of to be happier and healthier as you age. In the talk, Jill lists five ways to let go. I won’t give them all way (you will just have to watch it!), but one of my favorite tips is “let go of the need to be perfect.” I had a friend who was a perfectionist, but she was always unhappy. The world isn’t perfect so trying to be a perfectionist is just self-defeating!
While letting go may not seem like an obvious way to improve your health as you age, it can be just as important as eating well and moving well. Each plays an important role in staying physically, mentally, and emotionally well as we age. For more tips and stories on how to do it, check out the book Food & Fitness After 50, by Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray.
And, if you have questions about eating well, moving well, or staying well as you age, leave us a question at our webpage.