Saturday, February 09, 2008

Things No One Ever Tells You About Getting Old.....

I have decided to do an in depth discussion on my feelings about aging. There are many many parts to this discussion. I hope to eventually cover exercise, skin, hormones, sex -all of it. There is so much that no one talks about and is not written anywhere. Especially for women...and there is soooo little research that has been done on it. I mean, it is 2008 and there are still no answers, no real info, and doctors are dishonest just in case their common sense advise proves wrong and they get sued for malpractice. Doctors would rather err on the accepted side of a controversy that use obvious experience and observation. I will be using myself as an example, and would value your input - so please comment away! I am learning here, too.....
Today I am mainly going to just talk about exercise...although I do ramble into other aspects.
But first a sort of "prelude", cuz that's where my thoughts have gone.....
Having lost my mother a year and a half ago really put aging and mortality into focus for me. I guess she's on my mind because her birthday is coming up - Feb 22nd. That combined with moving my 87 yr old father has brought this topic to center front again for me. I thought about it occasionally before then, but as long as mom was still around, I could still be a little girl. I could fight with my sisters and she would mend the fences, I could call her anytime and tell her my boring and absurd fears or problems and she would listen and tireslessly advise. She would come and visit and take care of me or my family at the drop of a hat. Sheesh - she even came with me as a "nanny" for my boys for 3 months when I went to work in Boston! (boy was that fun!) She was obviously immortal and thus....... so was I. When she was well, before she got sick, I asked her about aging. (Actually, I alsways asked elderly relatives about getting old - as a child I was very curious - but more on that later).
OK. the truth. Aging is inevitable. No where have I found a book that tells me what those white spots are, how come there are hairs on my eyelids., where did those little skin "tags" come from. ...etc. etc. Even the doctors I've gone to have very vague answers. I may feel like I'm 20 (in my mind, that is) but my body knows better. Things ache when I use them. I have a longer recovery time when i work hard. I need more sleep but seem to be getting less.,,,And my brain function is anything anything but sharp as a tack. At least it feels that way sometimes. (I don't know, maybe I was just as scattered when I was younger - LOL-others tell me I was) - but now I notice it. Aging is something I have thought about for a long time. I have read close to every book on the subject - Lee, Northrup, Somers, Posner, Wright, etc ad nauseum. But I am not quoting books here. I am commenting on my own personal observations about ME and my relatives and friends. But mostly ME. Parts of books are interesting, but there is so much controversy and so many theories between books that after reading I am once again left with the truth that there are simply no facts, and no answers. At this point I have to take the parts in books that seem to apply to me and try them out, experiment. I personally am convinced the key here is hormones. But that is a HUGE topic for me, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and its controversy and all that. I'll cover that topic another day..... maybe tomorrow.
OK. back to exercise. After age 40 give or take a few years, muscle mass starts to turn to fat ( READ: chunky pitted cellulite) whether you like it or not. Exercise can help stave this off tremendously - but we're not talking about the regular exercise you did in your 30's that kept you strong and shapely, we're talking aerobics 5 days a week and a weight work out for over an hour 3-4 times a week. Work- we're talking about real work here! And here's the real kicker - if you undertake a really active work out, like I did, in my late 40's early 50's, when you stop - like I did - for just 8 weeks......all of that muscle mass turns to fat fat fat- jiggly gross fat and cellulite . ....and that old exercise routine just doesn't cut it anymore to get it back to muscle. and now you've stretched skin that has lost it's elasticity and doesn't bounce back taut, so you have sagging knees? yuck! ....I can lightly pull the top of my thigh and presto! the cellulite seems to disappear.... would that be a thigh lift? same thing on my arms, my face, my butt! (I can't believe how much my jaws have "fallen" in the last year....) I thought - I'll exercise more and harder. But it doesn't seem to work like it did before. ...and I had to be careful or I'd pull a muscle easier. ..and it was tiring...and it was boring and I just don't feel like doing it! I no longer can go on a that favorite fast diet and lose those extra 5 lbs that turned to 10 that turned to 15. My bodies simply doesn't metabolize and work the same as it did before. No one ever ever mentioned to me that I would need to INCREASE my exercise as I got older...and from my experience even this is no guaranty you will even begin to maintain your body muscle and tautness. I'm sure it's from the change in hormones that wreak havok with my mood, my energy, my skin, my mind!....my ability to maintain muscle. My childbearing days our over, and like a plant, I am going to seed!........and eventually that means I am going ...to....die.
Several years ago Jamie Lee Curtis, the actress, did a photo spread in Vanity Fair where she showed her body as it was. It was a very brave and vulnerable thing to do. Up to this point she had been an active exerciser and her body was always in super taut shape. But after she turned 50, her priorities changed....as have mine. She didn't want to spend hours exercising everyday when she could spend time with her family, her hobbies, her work. In my case it was spending time with my art. And so she stopped. She continued to do enough exercise to keep her heart and bones strong, but she gave up on carving out a perfect body. ....and her body became rounder, softer.
It has taken me a while to come to grips with all of these changes. The floppy crepey skin everywhere really appalls me. Oh well. Yes, I do accept the changes of aging. I've never had a perfect body, never stressed about having one. My body weight has always varied, and I have dieted off and on. But my skin was always pretty taut, the floppy fat not too bad. But things have changed. Not just the "it's harder to lose weight" thing. .... all of a sudden everything has "dropped"....and I am not doing anything different. Should I? I mean maybe I should - just for the experiment of it! I have searched and searched for pictures of elderly women who are in shape. I've found some Jack Lalane type men, but no women. Is it possible for any woman to keep good muscle mass after age 55? and if she is in good shape, does she still have crepey skin? and do the women who are taking hormones have better musclemass? I do know that my mother took high doses of estrogen (no progesterone, premarin only) until she was 79, whereupon she got breast cancer and they took her off the estrogen. Within 3 months my sexually active, tight skinned, robust and active happy mother turned into a dried up depressed no interest in sex and confused, very very old woman. Did you know that if you were to lie in bed for a month (or is it 2 weeks? anyway, it's not a long time!) you would lose 25% of your muscle mass? That's a lot of muscle!
Exercise makes me feel good. It keeps my bones strong, it gives me flexibilty, it gives me stamina. And it really elevates my mood. So I think it is important. It is the INTENSITY of that exercise that I am questioning here. Is it worth it? Am I using this as an excuse to be lazy? To relax? Are there any studies on it? How different can exercise change the appearance of the elderly body? What do you think? How are you dealing with aging? What bugs you the most? What are your results - pro or con?
Please do not think I am obsessed by this. I am not. My body right now is a bit overweight and out of shape. I haven't exercised in over a month. For my own personal well being and state of mind I need to get back to my routine. But I've just been thinking about it alot and I think it is a topic that is never covered totally honestly. It's not just about vanity. It is so much than that.
As I type this my DH just took a picture of me. My nose is drooping. MY NOSE! My cute naturally tiny little nose - now the tip is...droopey. Gross!

8 comments:

kathy mc said...

I have no problem with aging. At least it means I'm still alive and kicking. I try to keep my skin moist(drinking lots of water) and keep my body moving(by walking as much as I can). I also believe in taking vitamins. I am still looking for the fountain of youth. If I find it, I'll let you know.

Joanne Huffman said...

I never had a taut body, so I guess the increasing response to gravity (everything IS moving south) isn't as problematical to me. I remember the trauma of the day I washed and rewashed my hands before I realized it was age spots and I hate chin hairs and the scraggly stray hairs in my eyebrows (which, otherwise, seem to be vanishing). Aging isn't pretty or easy. The fact that I'm going to be 60 in September bothers me; this is the first time I've been bothered by a birthday (40 and 50 were no big deal).

Joanne

Lucky Girl said...

Wait, you mean my NOSE is going to head south also? I showed my students a picture of me from 10 years ago and they didn't even believe it WAS me - perhaps I'm not aging as gracefully as I thought...

Latharia said...

I can't speak much, personally, as I'm a young chick at 38, but I will say I've read Victoria Moran's Book "365 Ways to Be Younger," and it has some wonderful, thoughtful recommendations, plus lots of little answers to why our bodies do things as we are older, and which things we might choose to fight ... and which things are just part and parcel of our bodies' entropy! You can check out the author's blog here: http://charmedlifeblog.blogspot.com/ and see if her writing style is up your alley. :D

Lorri Scott said...

I think I'm exercising a little too late. I've got all those age issues and am not happy with mirrors. I think a fair amount of these issues are beyond our control. I think some of the sagging, especially the stomach is very hard to control and doesn't seem to want to ever be taut again! I had a friend who had a tummy tuck after trying everything. I don't think I can do anything that drastic, I'm a big chicken and hate needles and to be cut on and the fear I'd be the odd person who gets the botch job! I go to the gym twice a week and try to work out in between but the thought of wearing a bathing suit in public makes me anxious. U hate the adipose tissue around my jawline. I think I could diet a little better but am pretty good at moderating "bad" foods so I'm on the fence about that one. It's hard to eat lean all the time and avoid sweets altogether, would it matter? Maybe but I think acceptance might be the word for us.

Lorri

sheri said...

Hey there,
First, I LOVE your shirt. The aging post was a great way to start my Monday morning, so thanks!

I skied hard all weekend and my 48 year old body is feeling it, so I thought it was especially poignant, thank Goddess for YOGA.

We may not bounce back as fast, but I'm not givin' up! Plus...we're a lot smarter then we were!

What a great blog!

Sheri

Connie Carpenter Macko said...

I'm not happy with my body shape... and I'm working on it through better eating and exercise. What gets me is the people who INSIST I must color my hair to remove the maybe 3% grey that I have at 42 years. NONSENSE! I'll be back to visit!

Gretchen M said...

I have to say I hate the fact that I'm not that skinny girl I use to be, not that I'm fat, but like you said, I've got the padded tummy and arms and face. I miss being slim & hate buying new clothes, all the extra padding makes things fit terribly. I saw a photo of myself with my sister from Dec and I didn't even recognize myself. I'm looking at the photo & thinking, whose that with Kathy? & then I recognize the t-shirt & think O God it's me!! (it's true what they say about film adding weight, oh wait it was digital, blows that theory, I guess I'm just un-photogenic) In my mind I'm 20 & sometimes younger, in reality I'm going on 49. If I had the time & energy I'd exercise a couple of hours a day, every day, (I've always wanted to be that buff kickass chick) I have plans to live to be at least 100 if not more so I try & exercise but my time is so limited. A couple years ago all this would really get me down but lately I think I've begun to resign myself to the fact that age happens no matter what you do and I'm just going to have to accept the fact that one day, at least on the outside, I'm going to be an old lady, the best I can do is try and stay as healthy as possible. Well I guess that's it for now, I'll check back in occasionally & see what your thinking. Cheers!