Does trying to be healthier make you feel bad?

by Andrea Atkins

What is healthy enough? My attempts to become ‘super healthy’ usually end in disappointment. I spoke with two of the biggest names in wellness to shed new light on the subject.

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As a wellness writer, I stay on top of the latest health and medical research by reading scientific books and studies, attending webinars, and following top wellness influencers on the podcast circuit and social media. The good thing is that I am very knowledgeable about how to live a long and healthy life.

Unfortunately, knowing and doing are two different things, so there’s also a downside: I often feel like my healthy habits are inadequate, and my attempts to become “super healthy” usually end in disappointment. This cycle of trying, failing, and trying again has undoubtedly made me much healthier than I would otherwise be, but it can also make me miserable at times.

Comparing myself to the wellness titans

Wellness podcasts are a big part of my problem. These shows feature big-name doctors and scientists with hundreds of thousands of followers, best-selling books, and famous TED talks, and none of them achieved that level of success by leading “pretty healthy” lifestyles.

These people plunge into ice water every morning; they eat all their calories in a few hours a day (except when they don’t eat anything for a week); sleep in what is essentially a darkened, climate-controlled Faraday cage, snuggled under a 20-pound gravity blanket; take a cabinet full of medications or supplements; and fitting continuous glucose monitors to their slender, non-diabetic arms to see what effect a handful of grapes might have on their insulin response. But the most extreme habit of all, in my opinion, is that they don’t eat dessert, ever!

Meanwhile, I count chopping wood and walking the dog as exercise, I wake up five times a night with hot flashes, and while my meals tend to be pretty healthy, dessert is a regular fixture in my life, not to mention “second breakfast.”

I was tired of feeling guilty about my healthy habits (or lack thereof) and wondered if I needed to go to extremes to avoid future health problems. I was hoping there would be only two or three things I could focus on to live a long and healthy life, but I didn’t know if that was realistic.

To find out, I spoke with two of the biggest names in wellness, and those conversations shed new light on the topic and helped answer my questions. If striving to be healthy sometimes makes you miserable, I hope your insights help too.

Also Read: Men Over 50: Here Are Some Things You Can Do To Take Better Care Of Your Health

live like a centenarian

My first interview was with Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and author of the bestselling book “The Blue Zones Kitchen.” If you’re not familiar with the term, Blue Zones are those geographic regions where people live for 100 years at a much higher rate than the rest of the world. Buettner and his team have been studying people in these areas for more than a decade and have found that they share a common set of lifestyle factors that are likely responsible for their excellent health and longevity.

I like the Blue Zones model because I already follow many of their prescribing habits. Eat mostly plants? Check. move naturally? Check. Hang out with fun people? Check. Drink wine every night? Check!

However, there are nine factors in total, The Power 9, which seems like a lot to me. So I asked Buettner if there were only two or three that I could focus on for maximum effect. If so, I was hoping they were the ones he was already doing, but no such luck.

“Longevity is the sum of a lot of little things,” he explained, “and the key isn’t knowing what those little things are because we’ve heard them a million times; it’s the interconnected, mutually supportive web that fuels those little things.” “.

I asked what that would look like in practice. “First, I would think about moving to a clean, walkable, happy neighborhood,” she said.

This seemed a little radical to me, but it was okay because I live in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest, where the air is pristine, I can walk for miles and miles, and the six people I meet here are pretty. damn happy.

See: I no longer drive and want to retire in a very walkable urban area with lots of cultural activities, where should I go?

But what about other people? Should they consider moving if they don’t live somewhere that meets the requirements? “Everyone should think about doing that if they’re serious about their health,” she said emphatically.

“Number two is to heal your immediate social circle,” he continued. “Don’t dismiss your obese friends, but proactively make friends with people who are active or engaged in new hobbies. Unhappiness and loneliness are contagious. So surround yourself with healthy, active, happy people whose lives are full of purpose.”

surround me? I wrote “Get Friends” on scratch paper and underlined it.

“Finally,” she said, “I might get some whole food, plant-based cookbooks. Find half a dozen recipes that you and your family would like, and then make them.”

That sounded good, but I had to ask, “What about dessert? Do these people from the Blue Zones ever treat themselves?”

“Yeah sure,” he said (I smiled), “at a party, but usually dessert is a piece of fruit.” (I frowned.) “They haven’t napalmed their taste buds, so the only satisfying sweet is a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.”

I murmured my agreement to him as I thought, “Hmmm, Ben & Jerry’s!”

The conclusion was that I am doing many things well, but there is room for improvement. My treats for coffee break and dessert seemed to be in great jeopardy.

Read: US plant-based foods market value peaks at $7.4 billion, but industry faces rocky path to further growth

Fountain of youth: a model of lifestyle

My second phone call was to David Sinclair, professor of genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School. He is also the best-selling author of “Lifespan: Why We Age-and Why We Don’t Have To” and the host of the Lifespan with Dr. David Sinclair podcast.

Sinclair is looking for more than just how to live a long and healthy life. Instead, her research is aimed at finding the keys to slowing, stopping, or even reversing the aging process at the molecular level.

While I can’t afford the gene therapies, drugs, or supplements Sinclair writes about in “Lifespan,” he also adopts many other lifestyle habits that are free, so I asked him to give me his top two or three.

“If I could only recommend one thing,” he said, “it would be for people over 30 to kick the three-meal habit. Our bodies aren’t designed to be constantly fed. So if your body is always fed, you don’t care.” fight the aging process or defend against disease.

OK, three meals a day is the minimum for me. However, I can’t remember a day in the last month that I haven’t eaten a lot of snacks (“healthy”, of course) and dessert. So how am I supposed to do this?

“The trick is to not try to change your lifestyle too quickly,” he said, “and try to substitute activities and foods instead of adding and subtracting.” He explained: “I decided to eat within a certain period of time, four hours a day. To do so, I had to do it gradually and have tea and coffee available all the time so that the habit of putting something in my mouth and the feeling of fullness still It was there”.

That sounded miserable to me, but so are the aches and pains my 50s have brought, so I asked her to continue.

“The second thing would be to get moving. Get a standing desk, walk 7,000 steps a day, and get out of breath from vigorous exercise for at least 10 minutes three times a week.”

I wrote, “Move faster and faster” on the scratch paper.

“And third,” he said, “consume molecules made by stressed plants, plants grown in less than ideal conditions.”

This is not the week-old wilted lettuce you find in the supermarket, but a food grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or adequate water. In other words, almost everything comes from my garden. Excellent!

He added: “It takes a few weeks for your body to get used to new things (exercise, new food, a new window to eat), so take it easy and wait a few weeks.”

Related: Do you want to live to 100? Here’s what the latest research on longevity says

Not having your cake and not eating it too

I got Sinclair’s message loud and clear, but I couldn’t imagine fasting 20 hours a day, especially if dessert wasn’t included in that 4-hour window. Was this important for health and longevity? So I sent a follow-up email to Dan Buettner, asking about the frequency and timing of meals among Blue Zone centenarians.

He wrote: “Across the Blue Zones, they tend to consume most of their calories before their midday meal and have little or no dinner at all. Several of the older ones told me they eat only one or two meals a day.”

Well shit. I knew what I needed to focus on now, and if I was going to do this, I’d have to add “Avoid Sugar” and “Limit Time to Eat” to my scratch paper wellness plan.

Read: How do the world’s oldest people make their money last?

I decided then and there on a new path to follow, gritting my teeth as I made notes on my scratch paper. I would continue to seek out the latest information on health and longevity, and continue to strive for optimal health, but I would stop feeling bad when things didn’t work out perfectly.

I put down my pen with the satisfaction of having made a great decision. It was almost five, so I celebrated with a glass of wine.

Rashelle Brown is a longtime fitness professional and freelance writer with hundreds of articles in print and online. She is a regular contributor to NextAvenue and Active Network, and is the author of “Reboot Your Body: Unlocking the Genetic Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss” (Turner Publishing). Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @RashelleBrownMN.

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