I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for nearly forty years which either means I am very old or very wise; (I am very old.)
During that time I have survived the low fat, high carb craze, the long slow distance theory of fat loss, and countless wasted hours planted on a spin bike, stair climber, treadmill, all in the pursuit of a better, leaner, healthier body. The rub? I was taking a huge detour, but, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Going Paleo changed my life and my body.
Nine years ago I discovered a better approach to exercise, (variety), and changed my eating habits (Paleo) which finally helped put my body back in balance, helping me lose those last 10 lbs. At 50, I looked and felt better than I had in my 30’s! (I’d still just as soon be 30, with my life experience now, but we don’t always get what we want, right?)
Just as my slightly older friends had warned me, with age comes change; that not so subtle metabolic ‘clunk’ that signals another shift in your body composition, energy, and mobility.
You’d think after three hip replacements I might have a clue, but my persistently positive attitude always makes me susceptible to naivety.
Denial notwithstanding, recently, the reality of time’s passing has shown up in my ability to, well, MAINTAIN.
And I am certainly someone you might call pro-active! I eat clean, workout regularly, meditate and try to be kind to others. I practice gratitude, dammit! But all of those things still added up to this: my back hurt, I felt shitty, fat, stiff and old. Furthermore, I just noticed dimples on my biceps! WTF????
Of course, I am aware of the source: inflammation.
That’s essentially what aging is. As we get older, we “rust out,” sooner than later if we don’t watch our sugar intake, alcohol consumption, or choose to stop moving. Other things play a role too, like sleep, attitude, staying connected and engaged, and having a faith of purpose.
What I didn’t understand until very recently was also how much our environment plays a role. To be specific, I’m referring to the (literally) thousands of toxic chemicals we are exposed to daily.
The minute we step out of bed in the morning, the Toxic Party begins.
We wash our hair with them, brush them on our teeth, slather them on our bodies and apply them to our eyes, lips, and cheeks. Toxic irritants are present in most commercial shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies.
Our food, air, and water supplies are also loaded with chemicals; chemicals largely sanctioned as “acceptable” by our governmental agencies; the same organizations that were designed to protect us.
In a 2003 study performed by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, researchers found an average of 91 industrial chemicals, heavy metals, or other significant toxins in test subjects. These chemicals included PCBs, commonly used insecticides, dioxin, mercury, cadmium, and benzene. At least 53 of these are known to suppress our immune system.
In 2004 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing a much bigger sample of 2,500 people, detected an average 116 chemicals in subjects and finally, in 2005 a third study found traces of 287 chemicals in test subjects. These toxic chemicals create inflammation and disruption of our T cells, often setting us up for inflammatory disease and/or triggering an autoimmune response.
Autoimmune dysfunction is when the body gets triggered somehow to turn our own immune systems to “fight” and resist us. This can affect one organ or multiple organs which causes a myriad of diseases.
The Bottom line? We feel bloated, stressed, wired and tired. That’s not the quality of life we aspire to.
So what can we do? Thankfully, there’s a lot. Here’s what I’m doing:
Eating clean. This means taking a closer look at what I have been eating and getting real about my protein sources and selections. I still avoid dairy, grains, glutens, sugar and processed foods, but have been a bit lax of late with my travels and eating desserts and drinking way too much. That’s gone, NOW. My belly is my reminder: Booze = Bloat and I ain’t digging it. I’ve also taken a look at my medications and supplement list and with the help of my Naturopathic doc, Alicia Johnson, I am taking only what I need and flushing the rest (more on this in another blog).
Moving More. Truthfully my back has been a big hindrance to this. I know what you are thinking- how does a freaking Pilates instructor wind up with a herniated disc? I know! It’s bullshit. But it’s real and it’s cramped my style for several weeks. Thankfully most injuries of this kind tend to take care of themselves in time and that is the case with me. I have been able to return to teaching Pilates and Inversion Therapy, maintain my walking but need to add in some more 20-minute resistance training via weights and the reformer. All of these things I call “supportive” exercises as they provide variety and support instead of breaking me down.
Making Sleep a Priority. This has never been my strong suit but lack of sleep is a huge detriment to our health. Skimping on sleep not only affects our energy and the way we feel, it affects us on a cellular level. Sleep scientists say sleep deficiency is associated with problems with concentration, memory and the immune system — as well as with shorter lifespans. Caffeine, alcohol, stress and sleeping pills all undermine the quality and quantity of our sleep and therefore, our health. I am not quite Benjamin Franklin, but I did ask Herb the other night if it was bad that we were in bed before the sun went down. His answer? “Nope.”
Toning down the toxins. This has been eye-opening and truthfully, I never gave it much thought until recently. I’d been so focused on my diet and exercise that I must have thought I was somehow immune to the toxins I was ingesting and slathering on every day. I was wrong. Why would I go to all those lengths to detox my body and then simply ignore the toxins in my food, home, and makeup? This, after having to remediate my home for mold last year when Herb got sick with not one but two autoimmune diseases. His sickness from mold toxicity triggered Lyme’s disease which had previously been latent.
All I can say is denial is a powerful thing.
Today we are installing a new whole house water filter to decrease the toxins in our water; getting a small freezer so we can purchase grass-fed beef and afford it; replacing our soaps, shampoos, deodorants, detergents and other cleaning supplies with chemical free options; and buying organic ALL the time instead of MOST of the time- especially those fruits and veggies on the “Dirty Dozen” pesticide list.