For the 16th time.
While you’re doing the math, I’ll tell you that I work in a small town public library and to mark the occasion my staff, mostly quinquagenarians themselves, retrieved the book How to Look Hot in a Minivan by Janice Min from the library’s shelves, and slipped it surreptitiously into my mailbox. Gotta love ‘em. Despite their shy, mousey ways, the library ladies are impishly clever at times.
Naturally, I checked the book out and took it home. While How to Look Hot focuses primarily on strategies for young mommies to reclaim their bodies and looks after giving birth, it also provides practical advice for women who simply want to lose a few pounds, update their looks and appear overall less dowdy “in the age of the celebrity mom.” Pretty good stuff, actually. And it got me thinking about the fact that so many of us who are over, um….37, tend to helplessly accept as fact that advancing years leads inevitably to middle-aged spread, general frumpiness, and declining overall health.
Au contraire. While it’s healthy to acknowledge that aging is a natural progression in life, passively allowing one’s looks and vitality to deteriorate? Not so much, particularly when it’s avoidable. So while you can’t stop the clock and completely reverse the effects of aging, here are a few age-erasing strategies – a proverbial fountain of youth – that will keep you looking and acting “hot” and fit, with or without the minivan (and definitely without the Botox):
- Get Plenty of ZZZs: Seven to eight hours of sleep per night will make you mentally astute, emotionally less vulnerable and physically energetic. AND, it will alleviate those age-defining bags that form under your eyes due to fatigue.
- Combat Stress: Schedule some time-out each and every day. The constant, daily stress-induced surge of adrenaline and cortisol that you may be experiencing will have a disastrous effect on your overall health in the long run. Even ten minutes of deep breathing with your eyes closed in the middle of the day will help mitigate age-related physical and cognitive deterioration caused by stress.
- Get Up and Move: Daily physical activity is a sure-fire way to keep you looking and feeling young and should include cardiovascular movement as well as strength training and balance maneuvers. Schedule 30 minutes of cardio (walking, running, swimming, Zumba, cycling, etc.) at least four days of the week to keep your blood pressure and waistline in check and improve your stamina. Incorporate weight lifting sessions once or twice a week for healthy bones and muscles and a shapely physique. Add some occasional yoga, tai chi or ballroom dancing for improved balance, flexibility, and posture.
- Go for the Big Gulp: Of water, that is – H2O is the most vital of nutrients. Every cell and organ in your body relies on water to function correctly. Water also helps rejuvenate and moisturize your skin as well as improve skin elasticity. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water (64 oz.) each day.
- Fat? No Way. Essential Fatty Acids? Absolutely!: The Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed and some beans help boost energy, improve cell function, reduce inflammation, lubricate the skin and glands, and prevent many of the visible signs of aging. Don’t care for fish, nuts or beans? Add a fish oil supplement to your daily Vitamin pack.
- Boost Your Brainpower: Life is a schoolhouse; never stop learning. Read, inquire, do puzzles, take classes, try new things. Use it or lose it – the less you stimulate your brain, the more prone you will be to mental deterioration.
- Scale Back: Even 10 pounds of excess weight increases your chances for developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Overweight is also hard on the bones and joints and brutal on your wallet and self-esteem. While you’re at it, cut down on the clutter in your life – both real and electronic. It contributes to inertia and lack of focus, both of which will age you in a hurry.
- Super Foods for a Super You: Cut the junk food and sodas and load up on colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and green tea. They’re excellent sources of antioxidants, which fight free radicals. They also enhance your immune system, help keep your weight and mood in check and improve your skin and digestion.
- Pamper Your Skin and Don’t Neglect Your Teeth: Your skin is the largest organ of your body and your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. It’s important that you keep both looking vibrant. Moisturize daily with retinol-enhanced creams and lotions that have a SPF of 30 to protect the skin against damaging ultra-violet rays and prevent wrinkles. Brushing and flossing daily will keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy. Caring for those pearly whites will also keep your breath smelling sweet and lessen your risk of developing heart disease, COPD, overweight, and believe it or not, dementia.
- Think Positively and Stay Connected: Attitude is everything – and a positive, optimistic outlook on life will help you maintain balance and keep you looking and feeling young. Embrace change and progress and studiously avoid using such expressions as “new fangled” and “thing-a-ma-jig,” particularly when staring in befuddlement at your new smart phone or tablet. Dispense with those labored grunts that punctuate every occasion that you stand up. Pray often. Maintain a strong bond with both your deity and loved ones. Re-connect with old friends and make new ones. And every chance you get, enjoy a good belly laugh.
As an undergraduate I once wrote a paper for a Social Work class on the concept of age as a social construct – ten pages of utter hokum which, in essence, simply supported the maxim, “you’re only as old as you feel.” For the most part, I don’t feel old, outside of the occasional achy knees and periodic observations of the adverse effects that gravity has on the fleshy parts of my body. And so, on this 16th anniversary of my 37th birthday, I actually do feel…well no, not “hot” exactly — the very act of writing the expression makes me giggle. More to the point, I feel happy, healthy, and yes, relatively young. Now if AARP would quit sending me a membership card every February, life would be sublime.