In the last blog of 2019, I talked about how changes in diet can help lengthen telomeres, the end-caps on DNA that help determine longevity – and that shrink as we get older. So my telomeres are front and center for me as I contemplate my own goals for 2020.
We know from observing the lifestyles of people who live long well that there are 4 major “pillars” that help support healthy longevity (and by extension our telomeres): 1. daily physical activity, 2. social interconnectedness, 3. an inner sense of purpose and joy, and 4. a whole food, plant-based diet. On reflection, I’m doing reasonably well on my pillars. But, true confession, that hasn’t always been the case – and there’s always room for improvement.
For example, a couple of years ago it struck me that I was telling all my patients to exercise regularly but I wasn’t really heeding my own advice. So one day I decided to go downstairs and get on that treadmill that had been collecting dust in my basement. And I was SHOCKED. I could not believe how utterly deconditioned I was! When you don’t use your body very much, you don’t even realize how weak it’s become.
Angry with myself, I decided to get on that treadmill every single day. And initially it was really hard and I had to will myself to do it. Over time it got easier and easier and about 6 months later, it was like a switch flipped. I was no longer forcing myself to exercise – it simply felt odd NOT TO do that.
I’ve never had a “runner’s high”. I’m not training for a race. It just all of a sudden felt so natural and so GOOD to work out. And 2 years later, I’m fitter, stronger and feel better about myself than I have in years. In fact, I feel 20 years younger than my chronological age (56 in case you’re wondering). So one of my resolutions is to keep exercising and maybe move from the treadmill to the bike. I’m sure I’ll find new muscles that had been neglected!
On the diet front, as you know, I’ve never claimed to be perfect. In fact I created Step One Foods as much for myself as for my patients. But this year I’m going to try to really adhere to pillar #4. For me, that means eating meat only once per week. I’ll eat more fish and still consume fermented dairy (like yogurt and kefir), and eggs from time to time - but really try to limit how much meat I consume.
But I’m mostly going to focus on pillars 2 and 3 – and a recent experience inspired me on how to improve on those. The other day I was walking into a store right around the same time as an older woman wearing a beautiful grey coat. But what struck me was the color of her lipstick. It was bright pink and suited her to a tee. So I said “That color looks great on you – and I don’t mean your coat – I mean your lipstick!” She looked at me and exclaimed “Oh my gosh – thank you. I actually bought the lipstick during a bucket-list trip to Paris. A saleswoman there convinced me to get it, but I’ve had second thoughts about it ever since. It’s the first time I’ve put it on. You really made my day!” As we parted ways, I noticed she was beaming.
And I realized how easy it is to make someone else a little happier. And how GREAT it felt when I did that. So my biggest commitment this year is to say something nice to a stranger every day. I’ve actually gotten a head start on this one and I can already tell how much joy this will bring me!
So what are your resolutions for the new year? Which pillar will you focus on? Whatever your resolution(s) may be, know that at Step One Foods we are cheering you on! After all, we exist to help you be your healthiest self – so that YOU can be younger 12 months from now.
Here’s to 2020!