Pills vs. Nutrition vs. Procedures

One of the hottest topics the “Women Over 50” lifestyle blogs feature is the one of anti-aging. It seems we are all on the same quest, if for different reasons. Some of us educate ourselves about surgical and chemical procedures for our faces. Others of us comb through reams of information about nutrition, as it applies to curbing the effects of aging. Still others head straight to a medical doctor for the magic potions they peddle to stave off the inevitable signs of aging.

Listen, there’s no judgement here. I say do whatever you please to preserve the amazing gift of your health, your glow, and your well-being. There’s absolutely no shame in that. 

I suppose we should examine what we mean when we refer to the holy grail of “anti-aging.” For some, it means feeling good. It means joints that don’t protest every time they’re asked to move. It means having energy to do the things we enjoy. It means sleeping well and staying positive.

For others of us, we focus more on our appearance. We do whatever we can to minimize the inevitable appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and uneven skin tone. We strive to find the antidote to “turkey neck,” the dreaded drooping and loosening of the skin under our chin and on our necks. Once we see it on ourselves, we can’t un-see it, can we?

Ever since I reached the age of 50, my thoughts turned to these goals and how to achieve them. My faith used to lie completely in the skill and knowledge of medical doctors, and there are times at which that faith is well-placed. Certainly there are medical conditions that can be corrected with a pill, a surgery, or an injection. 

Still, the more I read and talked with health professionals about the natural aging process, I became convinced that everything we consume affects it. Everything that we apply to our skin affects it. Food is either medicine or poison. Alcohol has considerable physical, mental, and emotional disadvantages. Water is a magic elixir. Exercise is crucial. Sound sleep, and enough of it, is key to mental and physical well-being. The very thoughts that flit in and out of our heads affect our health. 

What are we to do?

Speaking as a card-carrying Baby Boomer, what I can say is this: I was raised to believe that medical doctors are the be-all and end-all of everything that has to do with illness, wellness and general well-being. I was raised to believe that there truly is a pill for everything that ails you. And I was raised to believe that, with respect to food, “convenient” trumps “real” every time. In other words, I’ve had to un-learn some things.

A world-renown medical doctor told me once that, in all the years he spent in college, medical school, internship and residency, he estimates that he spent maybe four class hours on the topic of nutrition. Four hours. Through all his years of practice, he came to understand that whole foods, nutrition in general and hormones (yes, hormones)  drive our general well-being. He has adjusted his practice and his advice to reflect that knowledge, with considerable success.

Where does this knowledge lead us, then? Speaking for myself, I had to change the way I think about medication, food and habits. I have become mindful of everything I eat, steering toward whole and organic choices at least 90 percent of the time. I drink water all day, every day. I use sunscreen. I have developed healthy sleep habits. And I am working toward getting off prescription medications (it’s a process, but I’m making terrific headway).

I feel so much better. I sleep better. My joints don’t ache nearly as much as they used to. I have more energy. And if I’m not mistaken, my overall attitude has improved.

I have no idea whether I look my actual age, but I can tell you that it matters less to me than it used to. I just know that I feel good. I feel healthy. There is still much room for improvement, but that’s OK. I’ll stay the course. Seems to me that we can pay the price for health and wellness now, or we can pay the price for dismissing them later. 

And that turkey-neck? That’s why God made turtlenecks and scarves.

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