I had a birthday recently and I’m ready for a great year. Even so, the culture tells me I shouldn’t be. I’m over the hill, maybe even the whole mountain range, but I don’t see it that way even one little bit.
One of my mentors on this is Cherie Soria, director of the Living Light Culinary Institute, training gourmet raw-food chefs.
When people comment on how well time treats Cherie, she says, “But that’s not it: I’m aging normally. Everybody else is aging too fast.”
She has a point. The typical American lifestyle couldn’t be more pro-aging if we tried. We’re stressed. We don’t sleep nearly enough. We drink coffee and soda and dirty martinis, figuring our kidneys will accept these as water. Much of our food has been either literally slaughtered or simply processed to death, and yet we expect, either through good genes, good luck, or good medicine to get that full-of-life glow. It’s an illogical premise.
Enter the feel-great/look-amazing/age-later lifestyle encapsulated in the acronym MEND: Meditation, Exercise, Nourishment, Detoxification. Anyone who incorporates these regularly can make peace with the calendar.
Meditation. One study showed showed that people who’d meditated regularly for five years or more were a whopping twelve years younger physiologically than non-meditators. Meditation is the simple process of focusing on your breath or a word or sound, and gently bringing your mind back there each time it wanders. You can start slowly – ten minutes in the morning – but know that people in the youth study did twenty minutes upon awakening and another twenty in the late afternoon or early evening.
Exercise. The complex machine you’re living in was designed to move. In their book Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Harry Lodge, MD, contend that, at a cellular level, only two states are recognized: growth and decay. If you’re moving, cells sense growth and do their best to take care of you; if you’re sedentary, they sense decay and help you “rot.”
Nourishment. We’re nourished by everything we take in – environment, scenery, conversation, music. A chronically messy room isn’t nourishing. Neither is a hostile encounter with murder and mayhem, even on TV. When it comes to literal nourishment, the food we eat, life begets life. Fresh, colorful foods from the plant kingdom, minimally processed so their life force stays intact, are especially gifted at keeping us young, energetic, and beautiful.
Detoxification. Detox is simply reducing the body’s toxic load. Start by removing from your diet and environment processed foods with added chemicals; conventional toiletries (you absorb those chemicals through your skin); and harsh household cleaners. And assist your body’s detoxification efforts with exercise, sweating, dry skin brushing, scraping your tongue in the morning (you can find a tongue scraper in the dental care aisle at the drugstore), drinking water and eating foods high in water (raw fruits and vegetables) and fiber (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains).
The upshot? You get to have happy birthdays, even when you need a second cake to hold all the candles.
Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan, The Love-Powered Diet, and new this spring, The Good Karma Diet. She hosts the weekly Main Street Vegan podcast and is founder/director of Main Street Vegan Academy in New York City.