daria howell
shadow

The Lucky Ones

partyA friend of mine invited me to her housewarming party recently. She’s adorably eccentric and I know she’s on the same page with me about taking care of body and soul.

So I was a little taken aback while conversing with a friend of hers who seemed to take a totally opposite stance. Apparently, he and his friends have decided that it’s nonsense to make an effort to exercise or alter their diets because, as he stated, “We’re all just going to get old anyway. Why fight it?”

In his opinion it was silly to deny yourself goodies or to put yourself out to move any more than necessary.

I started to explain my position, which is that the people who age well don’t do so because they happened to hit the genetic lottery.

They do it because they take the time and make the effort to learn how to best care for themselves, they do it because they’re involved in life and have an almost reverence for the vehicle that allows them to express their creativity and purpose.

But I stopped myself. gym

If your attitude is one of, “Why bother trying to fight it?  I’m just going to get old anyway,” you’ll probably just go ahead and believe that the ones who don’t suffer the commonly accepted afflictions of the elderly are just “lucky” somehow.

I hope you have a great long-term care insurance plan and some devoted family to look after you.  (I didn’t say that, of course—just thinking it.)

If, on the other hand, you’re curious about what can actually be done as you grow older to avoid the decline usually associated with that process, you’re in the right place.  This will be a place to soak up tips and strategies and learn what to avoid and what to emphasize.  (Stuff you might already know:  Avoid sugar, deemphasize stress, and emphasize sleep, but some things you might not know and the how-tos.)

I believe—and I hope I can convince you too—that we can make the years ahead our best years yet!

 

Do You Treat Yourself With Kindness?

fruitsThere’s a whole set of people who believe that if you eat healthfully all the time and exercise, it’s because you’re slightly narcissistic or you do it because you have a need to lose weight or have some particular health challenge. To them, treating yourself with kindness means indulging in whatever sugary, deep-fried or salty comfort food is at hand while relaxing in front of the TV.

Another set, of which I am a member, believes that you choose to eat healthfully (almost) all the time and exercise because it’s the only way to live a long, luscious, lovely life pursuing your dreams and desires. To this set, treating yourself with kindness means taking exquisite care of the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual body and using time and resources to share a greater purpose with the world. We all have a choice.

My top picks for treating myself kindly?

beau• I prepare most of my own meals from scratch, using fresh, organic ingredients and including lots of veggies.
• I do some type of movement every day. It doesn’t always have to be an intense cardio workout to show your body love.
• I shun violent forms of entertainment and avoid listening to the news.
• I take time to connect with my emotions rather than shutting them down.
• I include some time for spiritual practice every day, be it meditation, gratitude practice, visualizations, or inspirational reading.

Being kind to yourself may not always be the easiest choice, but in nurturing your body and spirit in healthful ways, you will put yourself on the path to ageless beauty.

Those Eeeeekk! Moments

1Maybe you’ve had an eeeeeeekk! moment or two yourself lately and can identify with this. I was at an event recently – actually one of those fairly “Portlandia” style ones – called “Paint Nite” where the participants come together to get their “art” on by imbibing lots of palliative liquids while producing a painting as they follow the instructions of the local artist who’s leading the show.

Sounds like fun, right?  I was there at the invitation of a friend of mine, and since it had been a long time since I painted anything, I thought it could be good for me.  Besides, I would have a chance to listen in on what was on women’s minds.

Sure enough, the woman across from me – as soon as she heard what I was up to these days – confided that she had one of those eeeeekk! moments recently when her little dog was in her lap and she decided to take a photo.  She turned the camera to focus on the two of them and was suddenly aghast – whose neck was that?!

She then went into a spin considering her options, which in her mind were plastic surgery here (too expensive and the downtime would be ugly) and plastic surgery in Thailand (which would be cheaper and she’d be away from everybody during the recovery). She also regaled me with stories of peels she had, which took her out of commission for a week or so at a time.

3I’d like to propose another option. How about becoming aware of the habits and choices we make that contribute to unhealthy aging and old-before-your-time skin and then choosing differently?

These are the most common hijackers of healthy radiance:

• Dis-stress
• An unhealthy diet
• Lack of appropriate exercise
• Prescriptions meds
• Exposure to toxins and pollutants
• Nutrient deficiencies

Want to get the most bang for your buck beauty-wise? Make sure you engage in regular – let me repeat – regular exercise! I just read a somewhat shocking figure in the current AARP magazine (April/May 2014) that JAMA Internal Medicine reported that only 35 percent of boomers exercise regularly and more than half have no routine at all.

joggingThat’s sad because exercise is one of the best ways to manage cortisol levels and to tone, not just our muscles, but also our skin.  Exercise triggers the production of one of the most important antioxidants in the body – glutathione – which slows down the aging process and helps ward off wrinkles and sagging.  Exercise boosts the natural production of collagen, which improves skin thickness.  Resistance training in particular helps build up muscles to create lifted, taut-looking skin.

Here’s something to be cautious of:  not all exercise is created equal.  Excessive cardio is not recommended!  Too much spinning or aerobics causes an overproduction of cortisol – your stress hormone – which is exactly what you don’t want for your skin or your waistline.

Hot Chocolate

Hey, Girlfriend!

(It was still winter when I wrote this)

In case you don’t know, the first thing you need to remember about me is that I love to eat. I’m half Italian and I’ve never forgotten my childhood admonition: “Mangia!”

chocAnyway, it’s a rare snowy day here in Portland, Oregon, and while enjoying a laid-back afternoon watching the snow fall, I got to thinking about hot cocoa. Now, if you know everything about me, you should know that I don’t keep packaged, commercially prepared substitutes for the real thing hanging around. No tear-open-here-and-dump-the-powder into the cup of microwaved hot water for this girl.

Hmmm, what can I create with what I’ve got on hand to satisfy the hot cocoa craving, while simultaneously meeting all my other criteria for contributing to my health and well-being, instead of destroying it? Fortunately for me, I do keep the pantry pretty well stocked with interesting and useful ingredients.

First, I brought down the bag of Mayan super food raw cacao powder. The package states that cacao contains a naturally rich supply of antioxidants, fiber, and is one of the highest dietary sources of magnesium, flavonols and polyphenols, and it has been very carefully sourced! That, and it has zero grams of sugar. Excellent!

Next, I found the raw organic maca powder which, the package explains, comes from a Andean root vegetable that is believed to help increase energy, reduce fatigue and improve libido. It is also an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to regulate stress and balance hormones. Perfect!!

Oh look! The label even has a recipe for a cacao drink, which gets my creative juices flowing. So, here’s what I came up with (thanks to Earth Circle Organics for the idea).

LUSCIOUS HOT COCOA
2 rounded tsp. raw organic cacao powder
1 tsp. raw organic maca powder
1 tsp. organic coconut palm sugar
Pinch Celtic sea salt
6 oz. boiling water
¼ tsp. natural vanilla extract
2 Tbs. organic heavy whipping cream, almond or full-fat coconut milk

In a small saucepan, I mixed the cacao powder, maca powder and coconut palm sugar (which is low-glycemic) and a pinch of naturally harvested Celtic salt. I added – very slowly, stirring all the while – the boiling water and let that simmer together for a few seconds.

After I took the pan off the heat, I added vanilla extract and a splash of organic whipping cream (not ultrapasteurized). You could use non-dairy milk like almond or coconut if you like, or leave it out altogether. But I like the additional (healthy) fat to help slow down the absorption of sugar. The finished drink had about five grams of sugar total and was oh-so-satisfying!

cupSo, you ask, what the heck are flavonols and polyphenols good for? Well, both of these help fight aging and prevent disease. Flavonols help support healthy circulation and keep the arteries flexible and may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Polyphenols are believed to help lower cholesterol. They work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage in the body (hence, the powerful age-and-disease-fighting ability).

Who knew that age-fighting could be so much fun? And, yes, I can feel the benefits kicking in already! Woooohooooo!

 

Do I Look The Best I Can?

Do I look the best I can for my age?

It’s easy to think that our looks are totally dependent on the genetics we were born with, but what if that wasn’t true?  Time and time again science is proving that 70 percent or more of the way we age is dependent on how well we take care of ourselves.  So, if you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering just who that face belongs to, help is here.

jeinThere was a time in my early fifties when I was single, that I had a terrific bout of heartbreak.  You know the kind—you can’t sleep, you aren’t eating well, maybe you huddle up in a ball of misery, or you distract yourself constantly by overworking and complaining to your friends.

Yes, I was there.  And I was miserable.  And my face showed it.  I looked in the mirror one morning and was shocked and dismayed to see that I appeared to have aged 10 years.  My skin had lost its glow, my eyes looked tired, and it seemed I had sprouted wrinkles overnight! It was alarming.

My cells were suffering because  the thoughts I was thinking and  the feelings I was indulging in weren’t healthy.

BeautyFortunately, I had some tools available to begin repairing the damage.  And I’m happy to report that my body did respond.  My skin, eyes, and demeanor sprang back to normal in a relatively short period of time.

My experience was a dramatic rehearsal of what happens as we age.  Usually, you can’t see yourself aging from one day to the next because the process is so gradual.  On the other hand and for the same reason, you can’t immediately see the benefits of adopting a healthier lifestyle. 

You have to trust that the antioxidants in that kale you just ate really will stop free radicals from injuring your cells, that the exercise you do will make your bones strong and keep your lung capacity and your muscles in good shape,  and that the meditation practice you commit to will make a difference in keeping stress down and cell repair tip-top.

Here’s what I did and still do to look the best I can:

  • Trust that I have the know-how to take me where I want to go.
  • Engage in different forms of exercise and movement such as dance, walking, high-intensity intervals, yoga, and resistance training.
  • Choose only high-quality foods and prepare most of my meals at home.
  • Treat my skin with loving care:  get regular facials and use products that leave out the nasty parabens, fragrances, and petroleum by-products.
  • Spend time with happy, exuberant people.
  • Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep.
  • Get into a habit of daily meditation of some kind—it doesn’t have to be sitting still and fighting my monkey mind.  Automatic writing, ecstatic dance, and walking meditation are some options, among others.

meditationThere are so many things you can do to bolster your loveliness, and if you’re not already doing them, you may think they involve too much work, deprivation, time, or cost.  My mission is to help you realize that most of what will keep you looking and feeling youthful is to develop good habits and incorporate them slowly so that they stick for the long haul.

Luscious Life Activities

While caught up in the milieu of everyday life—whether you go to a full-time job, are taking care of teenagers and aging parents, a household, a husband, or whatever—you realize that it’s equally important to take care of yourself so that you can offer your best to the world.  But where to find the time?

florI was talking with an organization expert just yesterday (yes, I am a little organizationally-challenged) and one of the first things she said was that she recommends keeping a list of at least 10-15 things that I could do just to nourish myself and have a little fun.  Well, since I already take pretty good care of myself, finding 10 or 15 things to put on a list isn’t all that difficult.  Sometimes fitting them into a busy day is the challenge.

I thought I’d share a few of the things on my list and some ideas about how they’d fit into a typical day (not all at once, of course).

  • Meditate.  Excellent for nourishing the mind and spirit and calming the body, I can find a few minutes when I first wake up and before bedtime.  Meditation is something I also do as I’m working with clients on the treatment table.  Walking meditations are also great.
  • P.A.C.E. exercise.  Most of the personal trainers these days concur that old-style cardio is a bad idea.  P.A.C.E. stands for “progressively accelerated cardiopulmonary exertion” and is available on DVDs from Dr. Al Sears’ website. It gets your heart pumping with high-intensity intervals that re-train your body to burn fat and keep your lungs youthful.  Takes only 12 minutes of exertion—about 15 minutes total—so it’s pretty easy to fit in before work.
  • Yoga.  Don’t groan!  It’s easy to fit in just one pose first thing in the day (before or after you meditate!) or download the routine at www.thepromise.com and do an easy 7-minute sequence that promises to turn your life around.  Of course, taking a class when you have more time is an excellent idea.  Another possibility is to take advantage of streaming yoga classes online, YouTube videos, and DVDs.
  • Call a girlfriend and meet for lunch or tea or?  Yeah, getting together with girlfriends gives you access to love, joy, and happiness in ways nothing else can.  It’s good for your health!
  • Dance!  A weekly class on the weekend is easy to get to and not only supports my body but nourishes and connects me with my spirit.

OutdoorActivities_landing1 copiaSo what’s on your list of self-nourishing activities?  Playing in the park with the kids or grandkids?  Getting a once-a-month professional facial and/or pedicure?  Getting bi-weekly massage or cranial therapy (a very good idea, by the way!).  Why not get a list together and start scheduling in more activities to luscious-up your life a little more?

Mindset and Sleep

secrets here

 When I tell people how old I am, most react in shocked disbelief and then ask, “Daria, how do you do it?  How do you look so great for your age?

I’ll gladly let you in on my “secrets.” The truth is I’ve had a lifelong interest in health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, massage, beauty and everything related to aging well. In the past I’ve worked in the beauty and fitness industries and I’ve garnered a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I do that works.

I have a routine and a mindset that keeps my body humming despite the stresses that I put it under and the mistakes I’ve made along the way.  I have a belief, and this is key, that I’m the type of person who takes care of myself.  That I’m worth the effort to select better foods and to take time out of my day for movement and exertion.  I’m worth taking care of my skin with professional facials and good-quality skin care products.  I’m worth taking time for massage and other complementary health care practices.

BrainI educate myself about supplements and nutrition, about stress reduction practices, about pain management.  My interests are broad and turn up all kinds of recommendations for taking care of everything from head to toe:  hair care, tooth care, soothing aching muscles in the neck and back, allergies, vision improvement, acupressure for wrinkle reduction and prevention, yoga postures, meditation variations, digestion issues, sleep habits, cellulite and lymph drainage, weight management, posture and so on.

Not everybody knows this stuff, so my friends and clients come to me for advice when they have a self-care question, and I readily help them.  If I don’t have an answer off the top of my head, I can usually find one fairly quickly. 

But even if you’re already doing all of this, here’s the one way you may be sabotaging yourself without even realizing it….lack of sleep.  This topic keeps coming up in the media and among my clients.  We aren’t sleeping very well, most of us. And not for lack of trying.

These are the things I have found most important for my own sleep recovery.

Limit caffeine.  Most researchers recommend not consuming caffeine after about 3 p.m.  That’s way too liberal a limit for me.  I’ve tried stopping with just one cup in the morning, but even that amount disrupts my sleep.  Some people are extra-sensitive to caffeine, and if that’s you, you’ll do yourself a world of good by finding an alternative you like.

Limit alcohol.  I’m not saying you should stay away completely (I am Italian, after all!) but one glass of wine with dinner a few times a week is a far cry from two or three drinks every single night.  This caution is especially important if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep.

Hormone levels.  It’s important to know what your levels are of these three especially—cortisol, progesterone, and insulin—as too much cortisol, too little progesterone, and surges of insulin will all affect sleep.  Working with a holistic doctor may be necessary if simple lifestyle changes involving supplements, botanicals, exercise, and/or mindfulness don’t even things out. Bioidentical hormone replacement is an option for those of us with low progesterone.  I’ve heard that pomegranate extract is also good, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Supplementation.  You will often see certain supplements recommended to help sleep, namely melatonin or valerian.  You should be aware that melatonin supplements often come in dosages far in excess of what you’d actually benefit from (.3 to 1mg will do).  And both melatonin and valerian can sometimes be problematic as some people (myself included) respond in a contrary manner and become wired instead of relaxed.  By the way, you should only use melatonin under a doctor’s supervision.

The thing that works best for me is supplementing with about 400-500 mg of magnesium citrate (or other chelated form—not magnesium oxide) right before bed.  Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the body very nicely and helps deactivate adrenaline so your brain settles down.  Most Americans are deficient in this mineral and would benefit from supplementing.  You can also get more of this vital mineral from dark, leafy greens, beans, nuts, avocados and garlic.

Turn off the devices.  That includes the TV, the computer, the tablet, the cellphone and any other device that is backlit with blue light.  These interfere with natural melatonin production and confuse our biorhythms so our bodies don’t realize it’s time to go to sleep.  It’s generally recommended to go screen-free an hour or two before you hit the mattress.

Sleep is so important, ladies!  It’s really the foundation of the long, luscious, lovely lifestyle, so it’s well worth doing the detective work to figure out how you can best protect your beauty sleep.

Sleeping Beauty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow did you start your day?

Did you wake up and spring out of bed, thrilled with the rest you got and ready to take on the world; or did you drag yourself out of bed and stumble into the kitchen, frantic to get some coffee going just so you could function?

Did you take some time to savor the early-morning quiet, perhaps reading something inspirational or sitting in meditation, or was it another one of those push-to-get-out-the-door-on-time days that left you feeling stressed before you even got going?

Well, truth be told, I like to think I mostly have the well-rested, take-time-to-savor-the-quiet kind of mornings. But, there are times when I didn’t sleep as well as I’d have liked and I stay in bed too late trying to get as much sleep as I can. That puts me behind schedule before my feet even hit the floor, and so the day goes….

Hmmm, the importance of adequate, restorative sleep is being talked about quite a lot these days. It happens to be a key element in the formula for Ageless Beauty. Without a good sleep routine, every other part of our life suffers.

That’s because sleep time is when your body does its main restorative work. It has everything to do with how well your hormones are balanced and how much energy you have during the day. It keeps your brain functioning harmoniously, making sense of the new input from the day before, or in other words, it keeps you sane and smart!

Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, especially around the middle. And we all know we have less patience with our loved ones when we’re tired and cranky. So, why are so many of us not making sleep a priority?

qweTWRYSTJYTKUI know that in order for me to get a good night’s rest, I have to be planning ahead early in the day. That means little to no caffeine for me, and certainly not after noon. That’s because caffeine over-stimulates the adrenals and messes with our cortisol production and its effects can last much longer than you might imagine, especially if you’re sensitive to it.

I also tend to jump on the computer after dinner (and I know lots of folks spend time in front of the TV too). Unfortunately, the type of light these electronic devices emit plays havoc with our pineal gland and we get wired when we should be winding down.

Added to all that, I also happen to be a highly sensitive person. Therefore, the stresses of the day, unfinished tasks, or worrying about upcoming events can upset my nervous system enough that I just can’t wind down once my head hits the pillow.

In my next post I’ll have some tips to help with shifting into relaxation mode.

I Knew It.

I knew it.  As I lay there in bed listening to the mantel clock chime midnight, I chided myself for my choices.  Well, not right away of course.  First off, it was the blame game.  Why does this have to happen to me when I want to be particularly alert tomorrow, when I planned to get up a half-hour earlier than usual just to make sure I have everything ready for a client retreat tomorrow?

I’m the one who preaches on the best practices for good sleep, and what did I do yesterday?  Yes, I had, not one, but two cups of regular coffee—knowing, mind you, that I am sensitive to caffeine. 

What is that thing that happens between knowing a thing and acting on it?  I’ve been sleeping so much better avoiding the caffeine, but somehow I think I can get away with a cup or two “once in a while.”  Well, coupled with the excitement over what the next day would hold, that decision proved to be disappointing.

The combination of caffeine and emotional stimulation left me buzzing for a couple of hours.  You’d think that would be enough to create a firm resolve to NEVER drink coffee again, especially if you have a lot going on in your life.sir_caffeine_alot_by_sikname-d5r8z9c

I know some studies point to coffee’s antioxidant content and even a connection with longevity, but depending on how sensitive you are to the caffeine, the rise in cortisol might cause you to go looking elsewhere for your antioxidants…oh, like maybe a couple of squares of really good, organic, 85% dark chocolate!

And for a morning drink?  Lots of health gurus recommend squeezing half a lemon in some warm water for its alkalizing effects.  For a similar effect, I’ve found that raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar—with a little bit of local honey—in warm water is a great way to start the day.  Then, perhaps, I’ll allow myself one cup of organic decaf and I’m good to go.

My new mindset?  No cup of coffee is worth my fighting to get to sleep.  Period.

Beach Story

My_Wife_and_My_Mother-in-Law-2

How does a 60-something grandmother get mistaken for a 40-something hottie?

I was in Florida for a business retreat.  After the session ended on the last day, I decided to walk to the beach (about a 20-minute walk) and took along a picnic of the leftover dinner I’d had from the night before and a book to read.

I plopped myself down on the sand, having waded past an international volleyball tournament that was happening–stunning young bodies in bikinis (no Photoshop needed) and all–and settled in to relax for a little while.  The beach itself was nothing much to see–one straight line of white sand dabbed by ho-hum waves.  (Our beaches in Oregon are spectacular by comparison.)

Every once in a while, one of the volleyball players would decide to wet her feet in the surf, and then that vision would be starkly contrasted by an elderly Jewish-looking woman (actually one after another) who was walking along the water’s edge–also in a bikini!!4702613758_82bfa448c6_z

After I’d finished my picnic and was engrossed in the book and the scenery, a Mediterranean-looking fellow walked up and gestured as if to put his stuff down a few feet away from me.  He asked if I was going to be there for a while because he wanted to go into the water.  I asked him how long he would be and he said about 20 minutes.  But then he proceeded to keep right on talking.

He had a thick accent and told me he was from north Africa, that he was in Florida because he was looking for the next place he wanted to move to, he had considered Portland as an option, that he had just been dumped by his lady friend of 2 years (although he never really loved her), and on and on.

It turned out he’s 48 years old (he thought I was younger than he).  He also had quite an appetite for spiritual discussion, so I ended up counseling him about seeing people as mirrors, about soul lessons, and about staying open to Spirit’s direction.

He wanted to know where I was staying, and I told him that wasn’t something he needed to know! As it was getting dark, I told him that if he was still going to go in the water, I wouldn’t be able to watch his stuff as I needed to get back.  I did ask his name and he said it was Bel-ai-eed.  How do you spell that?

B-E-L-A-I-D.

Hmmm.  It was a great ego-booster, I’ll tell you that!

If you have cougar ambitions, keep checking back here for tips and strategies to make that happen.