On Health, Aging, Aging Well, and the Wholesale Dumping of What No Longer Works. That Goes for Any Age.
It’s not at all uncommon for those of us in our sixties to go through a downsizing. Anyone who has bought into the van life understands the rich pleasure of living more simply as a result of having no room to cram your ten different colors of the same shirt.
Since I often live out of a backpack during the year, this comes naturally. On the other hand, I bought a big house. Filled it. With lots of stuff I don’t need. And that is why right now my front room is full of the third huge load of goods headed for collectors, consignors, and Goodwill.
Another thing that happens as we age is that we also let go of many of the assumptions that we’ve been told, that have been foisted upon us by a (well-meaning, hahahaha ) government, or other authorities, experts and the like.
By this, among others, I mean the years I bought into the idea that I needed supplements. I’ve written about this elsewhere, in particular about the evil empire that is Utah’s Hatch family. I’d rather that my Medium peep Markham Heid lay it out far better than I can.
Not long before I read that article, which really underscored what I already knew, suspected and decided to act upon, I had begun to clean out my supplement cabinet. Finally I dumped all of them out. The only ones I’ve kept are Vitamin D, Vitamin B (which blood work indicates I need) and calcium. Because my diet is rich in so many things that naturally have a good amount of what I require, the rest is both literally and figuratively very expensive filler.
To the tune of about $1200-$1400 a year, which likely I was peeing into the toilet, because either my body didn’t need it, or there was too much duplication. It’s one thing to supplement when I am in another country where fresh produce might be scarce. It’s another to supplement in our country just because I’m scared I’m not getting enough of X, when in truth I most likely getting plenty enough. Pass the broccoli please, and blackberries for dessert.
Besides, I can’t begin to explain how nice it is not to force myself to choke down horse pill after horse pill every morning. Now I can just enjoy the damned drink.
As Markham’s article points out, with oversight, study and serious review of an industry that is rife with ridiculous claims and outright dangerous products, we may someday use certain supplements to our advantage. Meanwhile you and I are walking lab rats when we are dumping unregulated, unproven pills down our gullets without truly understanding what they might do. Especially since so many do not contain what the bottle claims.
To that I would add this superb article about so-called “super foods.”
There are many foods with terrific nutritional profiles: rich in valuable nutrients, free from nutritional liabilities, and either low in calories or notably satiating. Even a short list would overwhelm superfood claimants: spinach, hundreds of foods among beans and lentils; broccoli and most brassicas; chard, kale, collards and most dark greens; most berries, not just blueberries; almonds, walnuts, and most nuts; oranges, cherries, arugula, cabbage, and so on. Consider all fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains: It’s pretty much that simple.
That right there is most of my diet. So please someone tell me why the hell I have thought I needed an entire cabinet shelf full of supplements?
I bought into the super food idea for a while too, including bottles of spirulina. Recently I marched out two huge garbage bags full of pills, aging supplements and other products. Products that, after many decades of experimentation, ultimately haven’t done me a damned bit more good than my basic habits of good fresh food and regular exercise have done.
Besides, I can use that $12–1400. Or so. Buys a lot of hostel nights in certain countries. Buys a whole trip in others.
As a body builder for life, I am subjected to endless exhortations of take this protein drink and you too will look like Ms. Olympia. Given the unique compositions of our bodies, all eight billion of them, what works for Ms. O isn’t guaranteed to work for me.
That said, some folks do find certain things that work. However, the bogus claims that such and such magic fruit from the Cook Islands causes weight loss? Yah? Then why are so many island women as corpulent as we are? I struggle with how we buy into these ridiculous claims, all in the belief that if it comes from somewhere exotic it must be magical.
I have absolutely, positively drunk that Koolaid. I am an otherwise marginally intelligent person, but because I struggled (and still do) with my weight, my body, my looks, I of course sought out the magic sauce. I wanted an answer that was easier than patience, self-discipline, and that I really did have to learn what works with my own body. Which takes time, attention, and a good sense of humor. Magical answer?
No more magical than the way our immensely well-designed bodies process food, turn it into energy, repair themselves, keep us largely healthy and moving for many decades, and allow us to live.
Out loud, in fact, particularly when we aren’t obsessing about our looks, our bodies, our whatever. That is another thing I am dumping out the supplements. My aging face, while I will take care of it, is what it is. I am well past the point where my puss is my passport. (kindly, for the uninitiated, that’s slang for face). My body is what it is. I am not going to win any beauty contests.
What I need to manage is my overall health: mental, emotional, spiritual, physical.
We all just need to do a better job of managing what we munch.
The final paragraph of the Katz-Bittman article sums it up nicely for me:
To recap: The active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli. The active ingredient in a healthful diet is the whole magilla, from simple soup to nonexotic nuts. Claims for superfoods are superficial, supercilious, and superfluous. Only spend extra on a superfood when you can carry it home in the saddlebag of your sparkly unicorn.
I am deeply embarrassed to have searched for the magical unicorn for too damned many decades. But like those boxes of junk I don’t need which are headed to other homes, the Wednesday garbage man will be scooping up all the uber-expensive nonsense that I imbued with powers it didn’t have. The only superpower I have is the discipline to eat smart- for my body- to exercise smart-for my body- and to stop believing the endless, mindless pap that is peddled to us to line the pockets of those who could care less how well we are.
Aging well is as much a process of letting go of what works as it is a process of acquiring what does. Somewhere in there one hopes for a little wisdom. While I would