It is late fall. I’m at the waterfront in my parked car. A woman frantically runs after her pre-teen, who’s on a bike.
“Hurry up, Mom,” the brat whines.
Please. I’m trying to enjoy my coffee and bagel with cream cheese. And cinnamon roll. Meanwhile, people of all ages and sizes walk, run, and bicycle past me. I think about walking, sure, then crumble the wrappings into the paper bag. You know, for hand exercise.
Back in my 30s, moving my body felt easy. Now, decades later, post-back/neck injury from an accident, attempts beyond a stroll lead to generous use of balms, cold and hot packs, complaining, and calls to the pharmacy to find out what soothing medicines don’t interfere with my stash of boomer pharmaceuticals.
But something else weird is happening. Formerly taut skin now reminds me of cottage cheese. Like a spoiled beauty pageant contestant, my body suddenly has turned on me. One day I caught a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower. Here’s my first tip: Never do that. Not without a support person and possibly a tranquilizer.
My post-accident program involves muscle strengthening, stretching and walking. I’ve also been paying attention to what I’m feeding myself, which, ironically, is not cottage cheese.
Regardless of what advertisements tell us about aging, some things are not reversible. Except for mortgages, I hear, but that can be a “slippery slope,” which sounds super scary if you’re not an agile boomer.
Here are my tips for making progress – not miracles – in how we feel in our skin.
1. Check, please, with your physician-type person regarding precautions or adaptations in diet or activity, based on your health status. I say this because I love you (not in a, like, do-you-want-to-take-me-out-to-dinner way.) Do it safely. If you are a fairly inactive boomer, start slowly. Oh, and Friday night would be great. Seafood.
2. Improvement, not perfection. I’ll never look like the cover person on a sports magazine, mainly because I look terrible in a football uniform. Remember that “bagel day at the waterfront?” I ended up taking a walk – a long walk. OK, I completely lost track of how far away I’d parked. I was sore the next day, but accomplished. Now, I walk regularly, in less painful amounts. I still eat bagels.
3. Try fooling yourself. “I’ll just walk around the block once” becomes “Eh, just one more time,” and eventually, “Oops. Should’ve brought my passport.” In dietary matters, modification and compromise are generally more effective and longer-lasting than radical changes: smaller sized treats; flexible eating, such as a mid-afternoon dinner and a light, healthy snack later. Box of doughnuts land in your shopping cart? Have one, then wrap each one up, label them for other family members, freeze or give some away, preferably to me. It’s often just the first few bites you want. If genuinely hungry, go for something packed with nutrition.
4. Old favorites. One boomer I know enjoys getting up at 4:30 a.m. to swim, a sport he loved in college. What did you like? Hiking? Disco dancing? Skipping? Tennis? Shooting hoops? Throwing rolled socks into a basket (my personal favorite)? Sumo wrestling? Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. There’s no rule that you have to give up certain activities once you get your AARP card. Modify as needed.
5. Buddy up with another human or with ear buds. Try music or audio books or exercising while watching a movie – although sometimes, people behind you might complain to management if you bump into their popcorn. If wearing headphones, it’s best not to run/walk in the road. This is under that I-Love-You category. (Call me. We’ll do lunch.)
6. Magical thinking. Did I say avoid quick fixes? Avoid quick fixes. Please, don’t take supplements, magic cures or miracle preparations without checking with your health professional. Certain products contain ingredients that are unhealthy, and may affect your blood pressure or interact with other medications. Some could make your eyes stick that way. Oh, wait. That’s something else.
7. Get global-er. That’s probably not a word. But, expand your focus from ways you prepare food (example: using healthy oils) to your home environment (less chemicals) to getting enough sleep and “down” time. (I know. Shouldn’t it be called “up” time?)
8. Specifically, eat more vegetables, fruit, and lean protein; whole grains; read labels and question authority, a la 1960s, in food choices. Sample snack: low-fat cheddar, whole-grain crackers, baby carrots, decaf tea. Drink extra decaf fluids and watch your calories (easy on the alcohol, if you must drink).
9. Explore. Many community center classes cater to boomers: Pilates, aerobics at your level, volleyball – you may be limited by medical restrictions, but likely there are still great ways to be active. I leave my weight-training equipment next to my TV chair, so it’s easy to exercise and stretch in smaller, gentler segments.
10. It’s all math. Eat less, move more. Try tracking diet and exercise to stay accountable. And remember: Enjoy life and your fabulous boomer body.
P.S. Avoid mirrors.
Kathy Eliscu, who lives in Westbrook, writes “Lightly Roasted,” a humor column for Maine Women magazine. She also blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com.