Just last month The Lancet published a study showing that 11 million people worldwide die because of… Have a guess.
Smoking? Nope. Drugs? Nope again. OK, so, globally 11 million deaths are linked to… you got it, bad diets. The one thing that most of us, at least as adults, have some control over: what we put in our mouths.
A healthy diet is not about fancy ingredients. It’s about real food. Food that’s as close as possible to its natural state. The kind of food your gran would recognise.
You know, something that’s grown in the ground. Or in a tree. Or a bush. The type of foods humans were meant to eat.
Not something that started life on a conveyor belt and comes packaged in polystyrene with an ingredients list longer than your arm.
This is such a big topic and one that’s close to my heart, so I’m going to write more about it in upcoming posts.
It might surprise you that smelling good is about more than dousing yourself with Lynx Africa or Burberry’s Her. Namely diet.
How so? Eating your greens (and reds, oranges and purples, too) really do make you smell sweeter. Let me explain.
It’s to do with free radicals: atoms with unpaired electrons causing mayhem with your cells in their search for other lonesome electrons to pair up with.
Far from being some abnormal reaction, the formation of free radicals is a byproduct of lots of processes like metabolism and other cellular stuff.
It’s the accumulated damage over time that becomes an issue. Years or decades of smoking (who would’ve thought?) and eating junk adds to it. Even sunbathing and strenuous exercise produce free radicals.
Now, don’t take that to mean you should stop exercising – don’t! The pros of keeping fit far outweigh the cons. For sure.
So, what to do? Well, here’s the good part. Fruits and veggies contain antioxidants. Like the friend who stays to help clear up after the mother of all parties, antioxidants help mop up the mess caused by those pesky free radicals.
Now, if your plate is usually covered with beige and brown foods (potatoes, fries, deep-fried stuff, etc. ) and your idea of veg to go with it is a couple of peas, chances are that eventually — and this might not happen for years — a sour smell could be making its way out of your pores.
And it’s nothing to do with poor hygiene. It’s just a sign of the harm caused by free radicals and not enough antioxidants to neutralise them. In other words, too much beige and not enough green.
I did a 24-hour water fast (allowing myself black coffee as well) between Sunday and Monday just gone.
Having read some interesting things about the effects of fasting on mice, where calorie restriction lead to a longer life span as well as healthier and younger-looking mice, I wanted to give it a try.
Humans aren’t mice, of course, but the research is very interesting. And who’s to say some of that can’t apply to humans as well? My guess is that those scientists, like Dr Valter Longo, will eventually be able to tell us more about it.
Anyhow, I ended up buying The Longevity Diet, by abovementioned Dr Longo. I haven’t read through it yet. But so far so good.
I know I eat too much. And so does probably 90% of people in the western world. There are lots of online articles on how portion sizes have grown over the past few decades.
Anyway, back to my fast. I must say, it was nowhere near as bad as you might think. For one, I planned it so that I’d do it on a day where I knew I’d be really busy at work.
I also made sure to start the fast in the evening — I ate my last meal around 5.30 p.m. on Sunday — so by the time I woke up Monday morning, I’d slept through the first half of it!
I had a cup of black coffee (nothing in it) and a glass or two of water first thing. I take a bottle with me to work; that way I keep sipping it throughout the day.
I had about three black coffees and loads more water at work. I can honestly say that it wasn’t unbearable at all; it was actually OK.
The thing about hunger — and I’ve heard others say this too — is that it comes in waves; it’s not a constant. Thank goodness. So, in that 8-hour working day, I think I had about 3 or 4 ‘waves’. Each one lasting maybe 10-15 minutes. That’s it. Really.
My weakest point of the day was when my work mates asked if I wanted a shortbread biscuit or two with my coffee. Or a chocolate digestive. I managed to resist but not without experiencing a few minutes of seriously wanting that bloody biscuit.
But that was it. The rest of the afternoon pretty much sailed by. Being busy really helped. And I felt strangely energised all day, no dips at all. No headache either.
Tucking into dinner 24 hours after starting my fast, I felt as if I’d achieved something. That definitely gave my confidence a much-needed boost.
And I also felt as if I’d done my body a favour by giving it a break from constant eating and snacking.
I’ll definitely do it again next week. In fact, it’s already pencilled into my diary.
I came across an article in The New York Times about Wang Deshun, age 80, who made an appearance on the runway of China Fashion Week in Beijing in 2015. An actor and artist, he is not afraid to try new things. And he has the physique of someone half his age!
According to Mr Wang himself: “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?'” He goes on to say, “Nature determines age, but you determine your state of mind.” Hear, hear!
Now that’s what I find truly inspirational. An 80-year-old on a catwalk is brilliant in itself, but it’s his attitude that I admire.
I begin this blog with the aim to provide a light-hearted antidote to what seems like a societal obsession with youth and ‘beauty’. I’m not in any way against 20-somethings (I was one myself once) nor am I against beautiful 20-somethings. (That, I admit, I was not.)
Rather, I want it to be a celebration of people over 50 and beyond. We’ve all met, or heard of someone, who acts younger than their years. Like Dagny mentioned below. Or the woman who jumped out of an airplane to celebrate her 100th birthday. (If I remember correctly, she’d done it once before!)
I appreciate that not everyone can skydive or blog, or whatever. For many people, old age brings debilitating illnesses, meaning they can’t do the things they used to. And factors such as loneliness can often lead to mental health conditions such as depression. Anyone who has ever suffered from depression would know that the last thing you’d feel like is to hurl yourself out of a plane for fun.
I’m not attempting to discount any of those people. I just want to highlight the positives of getting old/er by writing about inspirational people between 50 and 106 doing things that are considered ordinary when you’re in your 20s or 30s but seen as extraordinary when you’re, gasp, older.
Dagny Carlsson is an example of the kind of person I want to celebrate. At the tender age of 99, she enrolled in a computing class, and now, at the age of 106, she is a prolific blogger with occasional stints on Swedish TV. Check out her site at http://www.123minsida.se/Bojan/. (It’s in Swedish)