Take Control of Your Diet: Develop a New Mindset

The dreaded scales. Yikes!

In our search for optimum health, we began by talking about exercise, but research shows that it’s mostly what goes into our mouths that determines our weight.  We’ve got to take control of our diet, but that’s easier said than done.  You probably already know lots about dieting. You probably know the calorie and carbohydrate counts for most foods you eat.  Maybe knowledge isn’t the secret here.

You’ve heard the one about the two women who walk into any group.  One says, “I just finished my Ph.D.   Everyone says, “Oh, that’s nice. Congratulations.”  The other woman says, “I just lost 20 pounds,” and the whole room comes alive.  “How in the world did you do that?  Tell us exactly what you did so we can do it, too!”  Those 20 pounds are the Holy Grail of weight loss.  And just about as elusive.

Maybe what we need to do is think about dieting in a new way.  Let’s stop thinking about the pounds and start thinking about the process.  Let’s consider the brain before we tackle the belly.  Before we begin to explore the best diets (which we’ll do in our next post), let’s look at these seven ways to think thin – to create a new mindset that will put us in control and lead to success.

  1. Start from a positive place.  Take some time to see yourself as you’d like to be.  Don’t start by chastising yourself for the “wobbly bits” that you don’t like.  Just concentrate on how you’d like to look and feel.  Maybe you have some photos of a time when you were happy with your weight.  Put them up as a reminder.  Spend some time really visualizing your success, and be patient with yourself.  This isn’t a race.
  2. Set some small goals for yourself. Make them measurable and attainable.  Here are some suggestions from Katherine Zelman from WebMD.    Pick one or two and get started.  Order a side salad when I’m out rather than fries.  Eat five fruits and vegetables every day.  Walk 30 for minutes five times a week.  Switch from cola to water.  Drink alcohol only on weekends.  Eat low-fat popcorn rather than chips.  These goals are positive rather than negative.  They put you in charge.
  3. Ask for support. That is why groups like Weight Watchers work so well.  They make you part of a community.  But it doesn’t need to be something formal.  Ask your spouse or a friend for support in your journey.  Studies show that it helps.
  4. Plan how you’ll reward yourself. Break your weight loss into mini-goals.  After losing five pounds, give yourself a pedicure or a new shirt or a movie or any of the things you like – but not a donut!

    Use your breath to change your mindset.
  5. Use your breath to set your intention. Aleisha Fetters offers this novel suggestion in her article for shifting your mindset for better weight loss.  She tells us to slow down for ten minutes every day, lie on our backs with one hand on our belly and one on our chest and simply breathe in for four seconds and out for six seconds.  This simple action lowers the stress response, helps us to focus,  and ups our chances for success.
  6. Realize that food is just food. It’s neither good nor bad.  Spinach isn’t superior to chocolate.  If you want the occasional cookie or glass of wine.  By all means have them.
  7. Treat yourself kindly – like you would a good friend. I’ll always give my friends a break if they fail in some way, but I’m pretty hard on myself.   Adopt the new mindset and do your best, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day.  Just start over the next day.

“Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment.  They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best.  You deserve both.”  Laura Cipullo, author of “Women’s Health Body Clock Diet.”

I’m working on my mindset.  Good luck with yours!  We’d love to hear your experiences.  Next time we’ll explore the major diets of 2017 and the habits of successful dieters.

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

Start Small for Fitness . . . but Start!

Take a walk. It’s great for your body and your mind!

As part of our series on creating optimum health, we’ll begin by exploring the role of exercise.  The key is to start small for fitness . . . but start.

 There’s a man living in our community who bases his entire retirement life on his fitness schedule.  At 86-years-old, he starts his day with a bike ride.  Then he walks on the treadmill for an hour and lifts some weights. He plays either tennis or golf daily and finishes off his day with an hour’s swim.

Standing straight and tall, he has the energy, flexibility, and body of a much younger man.  He also has a schedule that would exhaust most of us.  No wonder he takes a nap every day!

This story is both inspirational and daunting!

Many of us fail to fulfill our health resolutions because we try to do too much too soon. We vow to completely overhaul our diets while working out like our 86-year-old example.  Then we’ll top it off with a nightly yoga class for relaxation.

After about three days of starvation and the sore muscles that come from doing nothing to working out for hours every day, we’re so tired that we fall asleep on our yoga mat and just give up the whole darn plan. Drastic changes are not the way to succeed with healthy living.

Instead, we need to take some baby steps – to make some small changes:  eat a little less and move a little more.  Here are some suggestions for getting started with exercise.

Start small but get started!
  • Set some goals that you can measure and check off. Don’t say, “I’ll get fit.” How are you going to measure that?  Instead say, “I’ll walk for 30 minutes five days this week.”  You’ll know if you fulfill your goal.

If you think that’s too much of a commitment, try breaking it down into smaller units. Try taking a ten-minute walk after every meal.  This isn’t a bad way to get your 30 minutes of exercise a day.  You don’t even have to go outside  (although that’s nice).  You can walk around your own living room if you want.  I worked with a woman in her 90s who used this method.  She faithfully walked for 10 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That way she got more than 150 minutes of exercise every week, and she seemed years younger than her age.

  • See if you can just add a little more activity into every day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Park a little further from the store.  Get up and walk around the house during commercials while watching TV.
  • Get a dog. It will have to be walked!  Plus you meet all those other dog lovers.

 

  • Buy yourself a pedometer and go for 10,000 steps a day (but not the first week).  There’s something so satisfying about seeing those numbers mount up.  It gives you a real feeling of accomplishment.

 

  • Get some great workout clothes. Sometimes that’s what you need to get out there.

 

  • Sleep in your workout clothes. When you wake up in the morning, put your shoes on and go straight out the door.

 

  • If you really don’t want to get started, just try to do something for five minutes. Most times, once you get started, you can keep going for 30 minutes.

The really good news about fitness is that it’s never too late to start.  In fact, recent studies show that those who start exercising late in life reap even greater benefits than those who have been exercising all along!

If there is a fountain of youth, this is it!  You are in control of your own life, so make up your mind to find something physical that you like to do – walking, swimming, tennis, yoga, water aerobics, dancing  – the list is endless, and do it for 150 minutes a week.  Start small . . . but start!  You will be so glad you did.

Pam

writers@richly aged.com

 

Optimum Health – the Key to Vibrant Longevity

Overview

As part of our exploration of positive aging, we’ve just finished a series on building extraordinary relationships.  We know that concentrating on those we love yields strong benefits of happiness in this time of our lives.  But there’s something else we need to concentrate on – and that’s ourselves.  We’re responsible for creating optimum health – the key to vibrant longevity.  All we need is a plan!  Let’s start with exercise.

Take control to create optimum health and vibrant longevity

What does exercise do for you?

 If there were a pill that would help you manage your weight, improve your health, reduce your stress, make you look and feel better, and possibly live longer, would you take it?  Of course, you would.  Although there’s no pill that will do all that, there is a simple thing we can do each day to gain those benefits.  It’s called “exercise,” and it can be the fountain of youth for retirees.

Regular exercise provides a myriad of health benefits to everyone, but especially to seniors.  It improves blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and cognitive function.  It lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, obesity, heart disease, and colon cancer – to name just a few.

It improves our mood and gives us energy, and it may even make us live longer.  According to Dr. I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard professor,  a middle-aged person who gets the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise – defined as the level of brisk walking – can expect a 1-to-7 return:  seven extra minutes of life gained for each minute of exercising.

Protect your pocketbook by protecting your health.

If that’s not enough to get you off the couch, consider your pocket book.  In order to prevent spending much of our retirement savings on health-related or medical expenses, we need to invest in a healthy lifestyle and avoid being sedentary.

If we want retirement to be a time not to slow down – but to explore new adventures, we need our health.  It’s worth more than gold.

And it’s never too late to begin.  Health benefits can be gained into the 90’s and even beyond.  Just get started.

Embrace Healthy Living

Begin by making a commitment to working toward a healthy lifestyle. Our health is largely a result of our own decisions.

According to a groundbreaking study on Successful Aging sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, only 30% of how we age can be attributed to our genes.  The remaining 70% is determined by our lifestyle choices.

A life of television watching has its consequences.  We boomers do like our TV. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than four hours of TV every day (or 28 hours a week.  That’s two months of nonstop TV watching per year.  In a 65-year life, that person will have spent nine years glued to the tube!

Moving toward optimum health doesn’t have to be done all at once, and it doesn’t require drastic changes.  Instead, it means taking a series of small, incremental steps toward the healthy life you seek.  Like the legs on a three-legged stool, this kind of lifestyle rests on three supports:  solid nutrition, regular exercise, and a reduction in stress.

What about diet?

Eat right for optimum health

Since our metabolism slows as we age, we need less food to make the energy we need.  That’s why so many seniors suffer from creeping weight gain. The addition of only a pound a year can result in a significant and unwelcome change in our bodies by the time we retire.  The National Institute of Health recommends that we choose nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, and poultry, rather than calorie-heavy foods like candy and chips.

That’s easier said than done, especially when it seems that almost everything we do revolves around food and drink.  Exercise can be the saving grace here!  The NIT also recommends getting 150 minutes a week of physical activity.  That sounds like a lot, but it’s easier than you think and will be discussed in detail in this chapter.  Somehow it’s easier to take a walk when you realize you can trade it for a bit more food.  We’ll be talking more about diet later in this series.

Controlling stress is important!

Exercise can also help to reduce the stress we all deal with every day.  Aerobic exercise causes the release of endorphins that help us feel better.  People manage stress in all kinds of ways, so you’ll need to find what works best for you.  It might be learning to meditate or practicing yoga, or it might just be getting outside to enjoy nature or sitting quietly to reflect on the good things in your life.  We’ll explore some of the options for controlling stress in this series.

The good news is that you are in control.  You can take charge of your health at any age and make adjustments to create optimum health and vibrant longevity.

We hope you’ll join us in this part of the adventure!

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

Create great relationships with friends and neighbors

 

It’s a healthy choice. Choose friendship for positive aging.

Creating great relationships is simple but not easy.  It requires taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on the person opposite us.

Our last several posts have dealt with various types of relationships that include significant others;  in-laws, siblings, children and grandchildren.  Now its time for a few words about friends and neighbors.

Why all this attention to relationships?

More than just getting along with people, enjoying extraordinary relationships enriches life and retirement in the most wonderful way. Research shows that a positive social life with lots of friends make aging a happier phase.

Listed below are a few basic reminders that I know you are familiar with but bear repeating:

Listen.

Really listen.  Pay attention to what the other person is saying without formulating your own response.  Don’t start talking about yourself until you have responded to the speaker’s interests.  This is much easier to say than do.

Think before you speak.

Is what you say going to hurt someone?  It’s better to return the soft word rather than the sharp jab.  I can remember shopping with a friend when a clerk was downright rude.  I started to make a sharp retort to her when my friend said, “It’s really busy in here.  I’ll bet it’s hard to work today.”  The clerk made an immediate about face, apologizing for her rudeness and what could have been an unpleasant, negative situation was completely turned around by the soft word.

Be respectful.

Good manners are not out of style.  Simple phrases like “please” and “thank-you” show people that we care enough about them to show respect.  Treat everyone as if they are equally important – because they are!

When you remember that happiness is a choice, you are in the driver’s seat.
Be life-affirming to those around you.

Pam’s mother used to come and visit in the summer when her children were young.  She stayed a month, and by the time she left, Pam felt better about everything and saw her whole life in a more positive light – marriage, children,  home – everything.  Her mother was a person who made all those around her feel better about themselves. Decide to be that kind of person.

Build people up.

Offer encouragement and support, kindness and praise. You don’t need to be insincere or phony but there’s something about most everyone that is worth complimenting.  It’s just as easy as criticism and much more effective.

Accept yourself & those around you as they are.

Be who you are and take responsibility for the choices that you make.  I can reach out, or I can be selfish.  I can be kind, or I can be mean.  I can be accepting, or I can be critical.  Those are choices I make, and I will have to live with the consequences of those choices.  The only person I can really change is me.

Agree to disagree with those who have different opinions.

Our closest friends hold completely different political opinions than we do, and we’re both pretty passionate about them. That hasn’t been a problem for us because we know that disliking an opinion is not the same thing as disliking a person.  I know that our friends love America and want only what is best for this country, just as we do.  We just see different ways of getting there.  Respect and compromise are essential to extraordinary relationships.

 Stop comparing yourself to others.

We’re all different. Those differences contribute to our uniqueness.  Jealousy and envy are corrosive elements that bring only damage. Would you really want to be one in a batch of clones?

Reach out to others.

Almost everyone has felt shy, nervous, and insecure at some point or another.  Be alert to your surroundings, and if you see someone looking that way, rescue him or her with an open-ended question.  You never know; you might develop a wonderful new relationship.

Disengage from toxic and negative relationships.

If you have done everything you can to create an extraordinary relationship, and it is still sucking the life out of you, give it up and reclaim your life. Interactions with people who bring only negative energy are harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.  If you must see that person, do it as infrequently as possible.

 Be positive.

Welcome others with a smile.  It makes you more approachable.  Focus on happy things that make you feel good.  After all, that’s what retirement is all about!

 

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it—Gene Perret

Dixie

writers @richlyaged.com

 

Value your Siblings and the Old People in your Life

Hurry is the enemy of love.

It’s been noted that ‘hurry’ is the enemy of love.  Sometimes we are so busy, even in retirement, that we don’t have time for what is most important – like our siblings and the old people in our lives.   When our elderly friends or family need our help, we’re conflicted over our priorities. This can be difficult because we already have so much to do.  It’s essential, however, to value your siblings and the old people in your life.

I haven’t known anyone who regretted the time spent with the old people in their lives.  My father and my in-laws both died before I retired.  My father died as a young man, but my in-laws both lived into their late 80s, and my husband and I were actively involved in caring for them at the end of their lives.  Dixie, too, cared for both of her parents in their final years, even moving them to live closer to her and her husband.   Anyone who has done this knows that it’s not easy, and there are times when you wish it would just all go away.  Still, there is great comfort in helping the people we love at the end of their lives.  To make them feel cared-for and safe, and above all, loved.

It’s easier, of course, if they live close, but what do we do when they live far away.  Forbes Magazine shares these seven tips for helping your aging parents beat their loneliness.

Tips for helping out when you live far away.

  1. Maintain frequent contact.  If you only call once a month, call more often.  Call for no reason – just to talk.  When I lived outside the country, I wrote my mother a long letter every week.  I couldn’t call her, but I wanted to maintain regular contact.  When we returned to the United States after five years, she had saved every letter.  She’s gone now, but I’m glad I wrote the letters.
  2. Visit in person at regular intervals. A hug is even better than a call!  Even if you have a difficult parent, you can keep it brief, but make it regular.
  3. During your visit take your aging parent to concerts or plays or movies or anything that he or she especially enjoys and might not go to alone.
  4. Check out the community services available where your parent lives. You can find out so much on the internet.  You may be able to lead them to a great senior center that they don’t even know about.
  5. Ask your parent questions about things like lottery entries and contests. When my mother began to get dementia, she started to enter contests where she was sure she’d win lots of money that she could leave to us.  It wasn’t long until she was scammed.  This is an increasingly worrisome problem, and there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there to take advantage of trusting seniors.
  6. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. This is particularly helpful if you can only visit your parent once or twice a year.  These professionals can find activities and help your parent when you are far away.
  7. Consider teaching your parent to use technology. My mother-in-law learned to use the computer in her 80s.  She was proud to master e-mail and absolutely delighted with Skype!  Along with the advantages to communication comes a profound sense of pride for the senior who conquers technology.

Treasure your siblings, too!

Value your siblings.

It’s not just our parents and our in-laws who need the gift of attention:  it’s also our siblings.

These are the people who share our past, who co-star in our memories, who understand in the most profound way the very foundations of our lives.  They were there long before our spouse, our children and our grandchildren and they are worth celebrating.  No matter what the relationship with our siblings is at the moment, research shows that strengthening that bond makes us healthier and happier!

Just like with our aging parents, the key to the relationship with our siblings lies in communication and a willing heart.  Familyshare offers nine ways to stay connected to your adult siblings in an article of the same name.

  1. Learn what your siblings are involved in and make efforts to support them.
  2. Forgive and forget. Avoid all those bad things from the past.  Just don’t bring them up.
  3. Treat your siblings as you would a friend. We’re always quick to give our friends a break, but sometimes we don’t offer that same compassion to our sister or brother.
  4. Keep trying – even when it seems like family dinners are always awkward and uncomfortable. You’ll never regret trying.
  5. Keep your siblings in the loop.   Let them know what’s going on in your life.  I’ve always had good feelings about my brother, but we didn’t communicate regularly because our mother kept us both informed, but when we no longer had her, we began to pick up the phone and call each other.  I treasure those calls now.
  6. Have fun together. Do something that everybody likes.  If you live far apart, have a family reunion.  We rented a house with my husband’s family last year and siblings from New York, California, Florida, and Maine had a ball together for four days!  It was worth every penny.
  7. Connect with technology.
  8. Don’t talk about politics. Or religion!  I’m begging you!
  9. Let your siblings grow up. That sister who is 18 years younger than you are is not a little kid anymore.  Treat her with respect!

When we first started this discussion, we said that the only things that are really important in life are the people we love and the people who love us.  I know that’s true.  Don’t let all the hurry of life – even in a great retirement – keep you from concentrating on them.

Why not pick up the phone today and call your mom or your brother!

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

 

Making Nice with In-laws

All things are made better with a cup of tea in a lovely china tea cup.

 I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  I miss her every day and would love to spend an afternoon drinking tea with her out of her treasured china tea cups – or sharing a glass of wine on her patio.  But when I think about making nice with in-laws, I can’t help but think about a time when I didn’t “make so nice,” and I’m glad I found out about it in time to make amends.

My mother-in-law lived her last few years in the independent section of a senior community.  When we visited, she wanted to parade us around so that everyone could see us.  I hated making the rounds – exchanging polite chitchat – so I often begged off on that part and just stayed in her apartment.  We saw her frequently, visiting her and taking her out or bringing her to our house to stay a few days.  But I didn’t care if we saw anybody else – just her.

I was shocked once when we were attending a holiday party to find she had told the management that we lived out of state.  Apparently, it was deeply embarrassing to her that we weren’t very visible to her friends and to the people who worked there.  After that, we made sure to have dinner with her in the dining room when we visited and to talk with her friends and the staff.  Who knew?  I thought we were having quality time without distractions, but she thought no one knew she had attentive children.

These kinds of misunderstandings happen not just with our mothers-in-law but with all the in-laws and out-laws we gain when we marry into a family.  But there’s hope . . .

Lessons from “The Happiness Project”

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  She has some wonderful suggestions for creating warm relationships with those people who are members of our family, but not our genetic relatives.  These work for all the in-laws and the out-laws – mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters.  I’m paraphrasing, but all the ideas here belong to Ms. Rubin.  There are plenty more in the link to her book above.

  • Remember the “mere exposure effect.” That means that familiarity breeds affection.  The more often we’re exposed to something – music, sports, art, even faces – the more we like them.  So if you’ve been avoiding someone in the family, perhaps you should spend some time together.  It may improve the relationship.

“A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.”
― Amit KalantriWealth of Words

  • Act the way you want to feel. Feelings really follow actions, rather than the other way around.  If you want to deal with someone in a calm and friendly manner, make sure that you approach that person in that way.  Acting calm and friendly will actually make you feel calm and friendly.  This is the same thing as smiling when you really feel lousy.  If you do it for a while, you’ll improve your mood.  Try it.  It works.
  • Avoid pointless bickering. If you fight about the same things – politics, for instance, or religion, just agree to disagree.  You are not going to change your 85-year-old father-in-law’s voting habits.  Criticizing people’s choices isn’t polite, and it isn’t effective.

Accept yourself as you are, know what you value, and let the rest go.

  • Act in accordance with your own values. Gretchen Rubin correctly points out that when we really accept ourselves, others accept us, too.  You don’t have to be noisy about it, just go your own way.  When our sons were young, they both went through a long (and I mean very long) hair phase.  I know that was not my father-in-law’s favorite hair style, but I’m a big believer in letting people wear their hair the way they like.   I never said anything.  He never said anything.  It worked out.
  • Respect the priorities of others. Sometimes relationships can be difficult because we simply think different things are important.  Ask yourself what is really important to that person, and then if you can, if it doesn’t violate your own values, see if you can honor that priority.

How do you handle your special family relationships?  We’d love to know.

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com