Posts Tagged ‘age’

On Acting My Age … Whatever it Is

Friday, January 16th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

"New" me, at 73.

“New” me, at 73.

I’m 73 years old. That’s a fact and unless I go to work for Fox News, I am not free to change it to suit my mood. Truth is, I don’t obsess about my age the way some do. Most of the time, I don’t think about it unless someone mentions it.

For example, last summer my partner and I were standing on line at a fix-your-own frozen yogurt establishment called Hoopla! The line of customers extended to the door and it was close to closing time. As I surveyed the offerings, my partner turned to me and said, “Did you notice we’re always the oldest ones in here?” I took a quick look around and told her that, no, I hadn’t and, furthermore, while I thought she certainly didn’t qualify, I was definitely the oldest person in the place.

And I wondered, “How come?” Don’t septuagenarians like frozen yogurt? Look at all the great flavors. And there are all the toppings — pretty much anything you can think of from fruit to nuts to Gummy Bears to complement the delicious frozen treat.

Maybe it’s the do-it-yourself bit, I thought. Or the standing in line. Maybe a lot of older folks don’t like standing in line. It could be the possibility of some messiness. Or maybe it’s just the whole idea of experiencing something new.

It’s my observation, which is open to challenge, that a lot of people of a certain age are not thrilled with trying something new. It’s as if they feel they have lived long enough and done enough. No need to learn anything else. Fixing your own dessert? Way too much trouble.

So, they have flip phones. They don’t text or Google. They barely e-mail. Kindle, schmindle; give ‘em a real book. And not a Facebook. That’s just too confusing … or something. And it’s not just frozen yogurt that they won’t eat: Kale, quinoa and coconut water will never cross their lips. Change is for the young.

I don’t get it. My feeling is, since I have just a limited time here, why not experience as much as I can for as long as I can? I know how easy it can be to slip into a rut of comfortability, even if things in life aren’t so great, even if I’m not in the best of shape. I’ve been there. It’s easy to say, hey, this is OK. I can handle it. I don’t have to worry about learning something new. School’s over. Time to relax. Ain’t retirement grand?

Actually, yes, retirement has been pretty grand. But it’s also not the end of the line.

I shaved my beard and mustache off a few months ago. In the space of a month, only six people noticed. I counted.

One of them was my son, Max, who had a full beard himself at the time. My other son, Zack, noticed that I had also gotten a haircut, which was a typical observation. Other comments ranged from, “You look really tan, Bob” to “Nice haircut,” to “You look good; are you working out?” to “Did you lose weight?”

To which I replied, varyingly, “Thanks.” “Yes.” And, “Hello, I shaved my beard off.”

The beard is now back, although trimmed fairly neatly, and the hair on top is cut short. Also neat. But more importantly for this whole getting older thing, were the other comments about working out and losing weight. They were correct. People noticed and, to be honest, it was nice to hear. The working out regularly, combined with eating a much more healthful diet, coincided with meeting my partner two-and-a-half years ago. More than ever, I don’t believe in coincidences. The result has been a significant weight loss for me and my feeling and looking better — healthier at any rate — at 73 than, dare I say, at 53. So, yeah, retirement is great.

Anyway, as I said, a few people did notice the beard was gone and their comments may be even more telling than the ones I didn’t get:

— “There’s Bob, looking all neat and reputable.”

— “You look so neat and clean.”

— “Now you’re not hiding behind anything.”

Or from anything either. The physical changes have been accompanied by subtle psychological changes, a greater willingness to try new things.

The point of this exercise in vanity, I suppose, is that numerical age doesn’t matter nearly as much as attitude does. That’s nothing new, I know. I just needed to acknowledge it publicly for myself. Just don’t tell me to act my age, because I don’t know what that means.

I am 73. I have a phone that is at least 10 times smarter than I am. I wrote this column on a laptop. I love WiFI. I have a Kindle and have actually read one book on it so far. (Confession: I still prefer the real thing.) I Google and text constantly. I eat yogurt and falafel and sushi and lots of fruits and vegetables. No red meat. I exercise with a growing degree of regularity. All my annual checkup numbers are in the positive range. My doctor says I’m the textbook example of what can happen when you actually follow your doctor’s advice. I kinda liked hearing that, too.

Now, if someone would just explain to me how 3-D printing works …

 

The ‘picture of health’? Me? Sonofagun

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

          The 'new' me.                  IR Photography

The ‘new’ me.
                                                                              IR Photography

“You’re the picture of health.”

(She has to be talking to me. There’s no one else in the room.)

“Thank you, doctor.”

This exchange took place last month at an office in Middletown. The picture was considerably less pleasant, never mind healthy, some 18 months earlier when I first walked into the doctor’s office. I was overweight, with the familiar accompanying physical complications — high blood pressure, pre-diabetic blood sugar readings, good and bad cholesterol numbers headed in the wrong directions, low B-12 and Vitamin D readings, a lack of energy, flexibility and stamina and swollen ankles.

If anyone asked, I said I felt “fine.” And I believed it.

Since that time, I have lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I no longer take the blood-pressure and diuretic medications that were originally prescribed. I’m told my numbers in all other areas are “good.” I have more strength and energy and my flexibility is improving as is my stamina. My ankles look great

And I plan to stay this way.

I’ve been writing occasionally about my improved health and the lifestyle changes that brought it about for two primary reasons: 1. I know myself well enough to know that when I share my plans publicly I am more likely to stick to them, especially when they involve significant challenges; 2. People have told me that my updates have inspired them to make health-related changes in their own lifestyles.

Now, I admit it’s a nice ego boost to be told that something I’ve written or done has motivated someone to try to improve his or her lot, and at at the same time I’m humbled to think I can make a difference in someone’s life. But the truth is my motives are purely selfish.

I’ve been muddling around this planet for 72 years and I’d like to enjoy at least a couple more decades here before moving on to the next station, whatever, wherever and whenever that may be. The key word in that sentence is “enjoy.” I don’t want to hang on as a creaky, chronically complaining old crank no one wants to be around. I can’t stop the years from adding up, but I sure can do something about the pounds and the blood pressure.

By way of updating my current condition, I am pleased to report that shoveling snow this winter from hell has not left me panting and praying for sheer survival. I don’t like it, but neither do I dread it. It’s good exercise (up to a point) and evidence of improved stamina.

Getting to this point has not been a matter of jumping on a stationary bike once in a while or taking an occasional stroll around the block. That used to count as “exercise” and, technically, still does. But that doesn’t take fat off or put muscle on. For me, it has meant changing the way I eat and making workouts, with and without weights, part of my routine. The workouts have been regular and irregular during this transition period, but they have been regular enough that the 50 pounds I lost have not been rediscovered.

My coach tells me I have a lot of nascent muscles. (I think some have progressed to actual muscles, but it’s not worth quibbling about.) The main point is that the bench presses (with dumbbells), planks, pushups, crunches and squats have shaped a new body (and vocabulary) and, while I don’t look forward to every exercise, I do appreciate the feeling of accomplishment at mastering something new and the emergence of lats, glutes, abs, quads, biceps and triceps.

I’m really talking about being fit here, not just not being fat. To me, that means combining regular workouts with a nourishing, appetizing, non-punishing diet. I don’t believe in starving myself or limiting portions of foods I enjoy which also happen to be healthful.

No, it has not been a piece of cake. Not long ago I reveled in the embrace of cheesecake. French fries used to count as a vegetable. Coke or Pepsi? Depended on my mood. Salt and vinegar potato chips, bacon, butter and sour cream on my “healthy” baked potato. Lots of salt, lots of sugar, lots of fat. Lots of XXL shirts and not much energy.

As I said, I was “fine.” There is, to be sure, a bit of bliss in ignorance. It’s all good … until it’s not. Turns out what I didn’t know was actually hurting me.

Without going into too much detail, I have stopped eating red meat and almost eliminated salt, processed sugar and saturated fat from my diet. I eat a lot more vegetables and fruit — as much as I want really — and try to eat foods that have not been “enhanced” by additives I can’t pronounce and whose chief purpose seems to be creating a long shelf life. That means less packaged goods and more of what used to be called “food.” For some reason, the less we add to our food, the more it costs, but that’s a topic for another time.

I don’t tell anyone how to eat (although I may still make suggestions to my son), nor do I tell anyone what they should do for exercise. Unless asked. Then, if I tell someone he can eat as much as he wants of different foods and and that it tastes good, but he says he wants to continue eating the same stuff, but smaller portions, I say, “Good luck.”

If I suggest regular exercise and I hear the occasional-stationary- bike-and-try-to-walk-regularly mantra, I say, “That’s good. Good luck.”

My feeling is that any significant change comes down to motivation, not need. I have my own personal motives to change major areas of my life and I am fortunate to have found someone to help me make those changes. I don’t believe in using “old age” as an excuse for whatever ails me. If I did, I’d still be taking the drugs the doctor prescribed a year-and-a-half ago. I’m not bragging; that’s just the way it is, for me. We make our own choices.

It’s simple. I like what’s happening to me physically, which is good for me mentally and spiritually. And I feel better than fine. I feel good.

bob@zestoforange.com