Diversity or Division

I was a teenager in the 1980’s which means that I can still recall the rather long and convoluted discussion I had with my father the first time that Boy George appeared on Top of the Pops. boy-georgeHe insisted that the Boy was a girl and no amount of persuading or references to that week’s Jackie magazine would persuade him otherwise. When he finally saw something on the BBC which confirmed what I had been telling him all we heard for the next few days was ‘mutter mutter what the World’s coming to mutter mutter never thought I’d see the day’. My friends and I were fascinated and excited by the new attitudes and fashions and men wearing make-up were not seen as as thing of ridicule, rather something to set our young hearts racing (think Duran Duran and Adam Ant!). Adam-Ant-guys-in-make-up-2223989-300-300I don’t know if it’s because we were young, naturally open minded or just curious but I don’t remember anyone criticising or categorising these young men who were so different from what we considered ‘normal’ at the time. The same applied to people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different sexual orientation etc etc. We wanted to know more and the more that they shared the more they were accepted into our group. I suppose that’s how friendships are made; you make yourself vulnerable to others…..

However, after the arrival of political correctness it seemed that you could no longer view people as ‘different’. Whereas our social groups were based simply on whether we liked people or not, regardless of their race, colour, sexuality or religious persuasion, it became clear that not liking someone who was part of a ‘minority’ was to risk being accused of prejudice. That then made you think carefully about what you said in case you inadvertently offended someone; when we were all just ‘people’ we acted naturally and said what we thought. Unfortunately, although ‘equality and diversity’ are noble ideals, by trying to stop prejudice by ‘protecting’ groups according to gender, race, colour etc Governments merely divide people and that tends to breed resentment.

The more ‘protection’ that Governments offer, the more likely it is that groups will view themselves as being victims of oppression from others whether or not that’s in any way factually correct. These days we have terms such as ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘misgendering’, ‘fat shaming’ and Islamaphobic; all negative terms which stem from division but used by people who say that they want equality.  Even certain jobs are made unavailable to some groups of people in the name of equality; actually being capable of performing the role seems to be a secondary consideration. All this breeds more resentment and more criticism and therefore more division rather than bringing people together so that they can celebrate rather than defend their differences.

There are so many ways to put your foot in it these days that people really only have 2 options: either they keep their opinions to themselves and risk being overlooked and ignored or they say what they think and risk offending others. Unfortunately there are now so many different groups and so many different ways to offend it maybe safer to say nothing at all.

I miss the days when we were all just people…………………

Beat the Clock

According to the National Centre For Biotechnology Information one of the very first signs of physical aging is the decline in thymocyte function or the slowing down of production of T cells which recognise and destroy other cells in our bodies that have become infected. T cells mature in the thymus gland but, as we get older, this gland becomes smaller and smaller and so the T cell function decreases leaving us at greater risk of disease. This means that, as we get older, we need to do what we can to stimulate our immune system.

220px-Echinacea_3Many of us know of the herbal supplement Echinacea and use it when we have the first signs of a cold but scientific tests indicate that it may also be effective in helping to enhance immune systems and therefore increase protection against more serious illnesses. Some studies have even questioned whether Echinacea is the ‘miracle herb against aging and cancer’

We should also think about the foods that we can eat that will nourish the thymus gland and therefore improve its efficacy. We all know the importance of having enough fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet but we should also be thinking in terms of increasing our intake of foods which are rich in carotenes. Scientific studies have been carried out which show that B carotene has ‘marked stimulatory action on the growth of the thymus gland’ and are therefore essential to our diets if we want to maintain our health as we get older.

CARROUSELcarrot-sweet-potato-salad-11-660x400This is a perfect example of the type of foods that we should be eating; carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes are all rich sources of B carotene. Look for yellow and orange in your fruits and vegetables as well as green leafy vegetables; as a general rule of thumb, the more intense the colour, the more B carotene.

If you’re not that keen on eating lots of vegetables then try juicing them – carrot, orange and spinach juice is a great tasting combination and a super quick and efficient way to get your daily B carotene fix.

We can also stimulate the thymus gland through exercise; there are a number of yoga poses which are believed to be particularly effective. If you have never tried yoga then have a chat with a professional first.

Both cobra pose (right) and Bridge Pose are designed to stimulate the Thymus gland

If you exercise daily you will improve your blood circulation and this will ensure that thymus waste products are removed quickly and efficiently so, whether its yoga, walking, tennis or football, make sure that you are doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to keep yourself feeling younger and healthier.

No Excuse

Today is the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be; wise words indeed. We are all getting older, there’s no getting away from it but that doesn’t mean that we have to conform to society’s ideas of what it is to be ‘middle aged’ or ‘elderly’. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘ I can’t do that I’m too old’ or ‘I’m not young enough to wear that, I’d look ridiculous’. Be honest, have you had those thoughts and used them as an excuse not to do something you’d actually quite like to do? Why?

100 year old man skydiveFear of what people will think or your own self imposed limitations? If it’s the former then just bear in mind that you are the only person living your life and you’ll be the only one with regrets at the end of it if you didn’t do all the things you dreamed about when you had the chance.

If its the case that you don’t feel capable, there are things that you can do to make your body healthier and feel younger:

The first and most important is to keep moving; its so easy to feel an ache here or a pain there and think ‘I need to rest’ so you sit down. When you get up again you feel stiff and uncomfortable so you have another rest and start to feel a bit down and worried that you can’t do the things that you used to and so it goes on until your days consists of sleeping or sitting in a chair in front of the TV. 3BF99D8B00000578-0-image-m-11_1483935562948No-one’s suggesting that you go from no exercise to running marathons in a couple of weeks but walking, swimming and yoga or Pilates are all low impact and will keep your body moving and your joints well oiled! On top of that, getting out and trying new things will give you an opportunity to meet new people.

Your body will put certain limitations on you as you get older but nowhere near as many as your mind.  wang-deshunAs Wang Deshun, the 80 year old catwalk model, put it “When you think it’s too late, be careful you don’t let that become your excuse for giving up”. When we are children we don’t really think about risk or possibilities, we assume that everything is possible so we try everything. By the time we reach middle age it’s been ingrained into us that we need to limit what we do; how many times have you heard in your life “help your granddad, he’s too old to be doing that by himself” or “leave grandma alone, she needs to rest”? When you yourself then become a grandpa or granny it’s all too easy to take on that persona because that is the image that’s been created in your mind since you were a child. The fact is it’s impossible to say when someone is ‘middle aged’ because none of us know how long we will live for so don’t let it be barrier between you and the things that you want to achieve – anything is possible whatever your age. As George Bernard Shaw said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

For people of a certain age, social media is not something that they’ve grown up with and they treat it in the same way as they would have a face to face debate; unfortunately many people have found out, to their cost, that that is far from the reality. Mary Beard, Richard Littlejohn and countless politicians have all been subject to vile abuse for doing nothing more than expressing an opinion which is not ‘politically correct’. Mary, who is a Professor at Cambridge used Twitter to try to start an intellectual debate on whether morality suffers when we are in highly volatile and dangerous situations, such as the Oxfam aid workers often find themselves. She was quite clear that she did not approve of the alleged actions of the people involved and did refer to Lord of the Flies as the basis of her musings on the subject. I imagine it’s the sort of question she would regularly pose to her peers and her students, taking pleasure from the, no doubt, lively debate that followed.

Unfortunately for her she forgot or didn’t realise that Twitter is not the place for reasonable debate and a particularly nasty few who reside there went after her with both barrels leaving her distraught. She was accused of being a pervert, an ‘absolute f***ing monster’, a racist and a colonialist in the space of a few hours. I doubt that any of those who posted those messages to her would have said the same thing were they face to face with her but, for someone who spent a greater part of their life only talking face to face or on the phone I would imagine it was frightening and intimidating experience.

She then tried to express in a very natural and human way that she had been hurt and upset by the comments made; she posted a photo of herself thereby attempting to regain the ‘face to face’ familiarity and her friends and supporters immediately rallied round her offering words of comfort.

Twitter can be a good way to exchange ideas and debate current issues but, if you have anything even remotely controversial to say you’re far less likely to be subject to bullying and aggression if you do it face to face. I’m not sure what all this means for the future – will it get worse and we’ll have a Lord of the Flies for the internet age?

Tasty Treat or Crap in a Bun?

I think just about everybody, at some time or another, has been ‘on a diet’ in an effort to lose those unwanted extra pounds. The problem with the concept of being ‘on a diet’ is that it’s seen as something to be endured; even the expression ‘losing’ weight has negative connotations if you think about it. garfieldMost people think that, in order to lose weight, they will need to give up the foods that they love or think that they love. Sometimes food is all about perception; how many times, as a child, were you told you could have a sweet, if you were good, as a ‘treat’? In more recent times, children who behave while mummy and daddy are shopping will be taken to McDonalds ‘as a treat’. fat-childWhat this means is that our minds are trained, from a young age, to associate foods that are bad for us with pleasure and a sense of reward for good behaviour. Although, as an adult, we can rationalise this, the ideas that are embedded in our minds as children can be quite difficult to shift.

If you can shift your mental attitudes towards food you will find that it’s much easier to arrive at a weight that you feel comfortable with without feeling that you are depriving yourself in some way. For example, what do you tell yourself when you are feeling a bit peckish? Many of us say ‘God, I’m starving!’. That thought will register in your mind and your body will react accordingly. Whereas before you were just slightly peckish and felt that you could use something to eat within the next hour or so, when you say ‘I’m starving’ your stomach will start to grumble and you’ll feel like you need to eat immediately and eat a lot – try it and you’ll see.

We will also react in different ways depending on how food is presented to us; look at the pictures below and see which one is more appealing to you?

Colourful, Delicious                        Baby poo in a stale bun

If you just look at the food without the captions and you are a die-hard burger addict I am sure that you will pick the second picture every time but doesn’t the idea of baby poo in a bun put you off just a little? Be honest now.

If you still fancy the idea of the burger then it maybe that you are just addicted; some scientists believe that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and take away burgers contain a lot of sugar. Yes, I know burgers are meant to be savoury and not sweet but many of them contain around 3 teaspoons of sugar and that’s without the fizzy drinks that you might have to go with it or the nuggets and dips (up to 4 teaspoons of sugar). You might think that’s not a lot but then think about other things you eat that you know are sweet – chocolate, cakes, biscuits etc. Add to that the other foods that have ‘hidden’ sugar, such as bread, breakfast cereals, sauces in jars etc. etc. and you realise that you are consuming far more sugar than you realise. The fact that it’s so addictive means that the more you eat, the more you want; you then end up in a weight gaining vicious circle.

Once you are eating less sugar, you should find that you have more energy and generally feel a good deal healthier. Sugar will give you a quick burst of energy but it doesn’t last very long and you often feel far worse than you did before once the rush has worn off. Try a simple experiment – one day 1 start your day with a bowl of high sugar cereal and see how you feel at about 10.30 (assuming you eat breakfast at about 7.30) and then on day 2 start your day with a small handful of almonds and some fruit. You should find that, on day 1, you are starting to feel hungry at around 10.30 and that you’re starting to lose energy whereas, on day 2, you are not hungry again until lunchtime, you have more energy and your mind is clearer. Give it a try and see how you get on

Approximately 80% of the 600,000 packaged foods you can buy in the US have added calorific sweeteners (this includes bread, burgers, things you wouldn’t add sugar to if you were making them from scratch). Daily fructose consumption has doubled in the past 30 years in the US, a pattern also observable (though not identical) here, in Canada, Malaysia, India, right across the developed and developing world. World sugar consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, while the population has only doubled; it makes sense of the obesity pandemic. [Source: Robert Lustig: Sugar, the bitter truth

What’s the Alternative

Foods high in bad fats, sugar and chemicals are directly linked to many negative emotions, whereas whole, natural foods rich in nutrients – foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes – contribute to greater energy and positive emotions.   Marilu Henner

As we get older we tend to find that we have far more aches and pain than we did when we were kids and, if we’re not careful, we can start to use them as an excuse not to move so much which will then make the pain worse and launch us into a vicious circle which will ultimately lead to us doing nothing more than sitting in a chair, wondering what the hell happened. The medical profession often speaks these days about ‘preventative medicine’ which involves taking pills for something that you don’t have but might get at a later date; we can do the same thing with food and, happily, food usually doesn’t have any side effects!

One of the most common ailments we suffer from as we get older is osteoarthritis which is, basically, inflammation of the joints and typically caused by wear and tear. It can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful and our natural response is to try and protect our joints from further damage by not using them so much but experts believe that this will make the problem worse and we should be making sure that we do exercise especially stretching, cardio and strengthening. However, we can also look at what we eat to relieve the symptoms:

  • Oily fish: high in omega 3 fatty acids which will help to reduce inflammation; if you don’t eat fish then soybeans will do much the same thing
  • When you cook or make salads, opt for extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and walnut oil, again sources of omega 3 and good for reducing inflammation
  • Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables which are stuffed full of antioxidants which protect the body from free radical damage, a possible cause of arthiritis
  • Matcha tea: with seriously high anti-oxidant levels, this super tea is great for helping to reduce inflammation

The foods listed above are also good for helping to look after your heart; another major health concern as we get older! You can also add fresh berries, broccoli, avocados and almonds to the list, all of which are great for lowering cholesterol and improving heart health.

The other thing we have to watch out for as get older is diabetes (although it is becoming more common in the young too these days) which is caused by the pancreas not working as well as it should resulting in a build-up of sugars in the blood which can lead to other life threatening illnesses. Before we have a look at what we should eat, let’s have a look at what we shouldn’t eat:

  • Anything that is loaded with refined carbohydrates so try to stay away from fast food restaurants and take-aways
  • Anything really sugary such as doughnuts, cream cakes, fizzy drinks and sweets (although small amounts of dark chocolate, 70%+ cocoa content, is good for you)
  • Breakfast cereals with a high sugar content – try to stick with porridge or muesli (just check the box to make sure there’s no added salt or sugar)

As far as what we should eat – all of the foods that are good to help with arthritis and all the foods listed that are good for your heart health; there is definitely a pattern emerging here isn’t there! You can also add:

  • Apples which, like other fruits, contain anti-oxidants but have also been shown to reduce the risk of getting diabetes
  • Asparagus which has been shown to help keep blood sugars regulated
  • Quinoa which can help reduce spikes in blood sugar and will keep you fuller for longer so you’re less likely to snack on sugary stuff

Quinoa-Powerbowl

So, basically, if you want to avoid the ailments and illnesses that plague people as they get older:

  • Avoid processed foods
  • Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables
  • Keep moving!

 

We Are Amazing

“Some people are old at 18 and some people are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created” Yoko Ono

Human beings are incredible, there are no two ways about it; we have mental, emotional and physical capabilities that have the power to astound. Some people show such dogged determination to succeed that we are often overawed by what they achieve. You might think that you have passed the stage in your life when you can realistically hope to achieve something wonderful but you’d be wrong and here’s why:

mohr-keet

This is Mohr-Keet and he was 96 years old when this photo of him bungee jumping from South Africa’s Western Cape when it was taken. The jump which was from 708ft secured him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Apparently this World War II veteran said that he did the jump for the thrill and to get rid of fear; he believes that you have to do things, to live life

Tao Porchon-lynch will be 99 years old this year and she is still teaching yoga. She says that feeling young and being healthy is everything. In her own words “I never thought anything about age. I believed sincerely and still do, that there’s nothing I cannot do. I believe that all the power in the universe is right inside me”

Tao-Porchon-Lynch

These people demonstrate that age really is just a number; it doesn’t matter if you are 50, 60, 70, 80 or older, if you keep your mind and body healthy with the right diet and exercise, you can achieve anything that you want to achieve – it’s just a case of wanting it badly enough.

Let’s Face It

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”   Mark Twain

As we get older our skins loses its springiness and becomes thinner and drier which means that the lines and groves that appear naturally when we smile, laugh or frown tend to just stay on our faces rather than magically disappearing as they did when we were in our teens. Today there is a multi-billion pound industry whose sole purpose is to provide us with lotions and potions which claim to reverse this perfectly natural process but do they actually work?

Well, let’s face it, nothing is going to turn the clock back 30 years but many skin care products will make a difference because they contain ingredients which are known to help reverse the damage caused by our environment and our lifestyles i.e anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, C and E. They also usually contain anti-inflammatory ingredients such as green tea extract and humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin which are designed to help your skin retain moisture. A brief search on the internet for ‘best face cream’ will deliver such a bewildering  array of products that it’s difficult to know where to start but it’s pretty much agreed by those in the know that, cheap or expensive, the skin on our faces does benefit from moisturizers.

The next question is can we do anything other than use face creams to preserve our youthful complexion for as long as possible and the answer is yes!

There are the things that we’ve had drummed into us for years: stop smoking, stay away from sunbeds, wear a sunscreen etc. etc. but we can also make sure that we take in all those anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories that are found in face creams from the foods that we eat:

Vitamin A: beef liver, green vegetables, carrots, butter and eggs

Vitamin C: Oranges and other citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, peppers and tomatoes

Vitamin E: Almonds, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, goji berries and sunflower seeds

Anti-inflammatory: Ginger, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, almonds and walnuts.

Obviously, if we want our skin to stay hydrated we need to make sure that we’re taking on plenty of fluids; the most natural choice is water as our skin is made up of 64% water to start with but we can also include drinks which contain anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories such as matcha tea and juices made from oranges, carrots and spinach.

We will all age, that’s a given, but we can still have beautiful skin and, let’s face it, as long as most of the wrinkles are laughter lines what’s the problem?

Can You Stomach It?

Middle age is that perplexing time of life when we hear two voices, one saying “why not?” and the other saying “Why bother”?  Sydney L Harris

Bob Hope said that “Middle Age is when your age starts to show around your middle” and, unfortunately, he’s right; we are all at risk of the dreaded middle-aged spread but, with a bit of work we can lose the muffin tops and the baggy shirts along with it.

When we are young it’s very easy to build muscle and, if one of our muscles is damaged for any reason, it will quickly repair itself; this happens less and less easily as we get older and, as we lose muscle, we have a tendency to gain fat. Scientists have found that there are two types of fat in our body – brown and white; the brown fat is a heat generator which boosts metabolism and therefore burns the ‘bad’ white fat. As we get older, the brown fat becomes far less effective at its job leaving room for the white fat to spread and spread it will if we don’t do something about it!

We all know that it seems far more difficult to lose weight and keep in shape as we get older but it is possible so don’t despair. The first thing you need to think about is reducing your intake of foods that will increase the fat around your middle:

We need carbohydrates such as grains and potatoes for energy and, as with most food groups, it’s really not a good idea to cut them out completely. However, if you want to lose fat from your body it is a good idea to greatly reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates that you eat such as white bread and pasta.

Refined carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to spike; to combat this your body produces insulin and insulin is a fat storage hormone, hence your body stores fat.

Whole grain products are certainly better for you but, if you eat a lot of bread and pasta you will find it difficult to shift those extra pounds.

The other thing you need to be staying away from is processed food or, as a rule of thumb, anything type of food that looks nothing like it did in its original state. all-beef-dog-and-regular-dog

Once we’ve got the diet side of things sorted out, we can have a think about the exercise regime that will be best to shift the flab around our tums. Most people think of sit ups or stomach crunches when they think about trying to achieve a nice flat tummy; the problem is that, although you will be developing your abdominal muscles they will be hidden under a layer of fat if you’re not thinking about your diet at the same time as getting in some cardio.

If you don’t do a lot of exercise then take it easy and first and then build up gradually; you will need to build up your muscles but it’s no good if you work-out like mad in the gym in the first week and end up pulling half of them! Brisk walking for half an hour at a time, 3 or 4 days a week is a great way to start burning fat; if you can add in a few hills or stairs so much the better. Walking is low intensity so you are not at risk of injury and it won’t burn existing muscle. You can also think about swimming, again it’s low intensity but you need to swim continuously for at least 10 minutes, gradually building up to 20 or 30 minutes as your fitness and endurance improve.

Once you see that your body is starting to change shape you can think about exercises that are designed to burn fat around the stomach area such as crunches

Core exercises will improve your balance and stability and, the stronger your core muscles are, the less strain you will be putting on the muscles in your lower back.

As with all exercise programmes, if you feel any sudden pain or shortness of breath take a break until you feel better. If you have any existing medical problems, consult with your doctor before you start.

Back to the Future

The latest catwalk trend looks very familiar doesn’t it? It seems as though we are taking a trip back to the Victorian era when women’s fashions were a direct reflection of the morality of the time; is that what we’re doing now? In the wake of the introduction of political correctness in the 1980’s, moral outrage has gone from being justifiable anger at abhorrent events to a platform that people can use to try to instill fear in those who they see as opposing them. The original feminist movement, for exampVictorian fashionle, freed women from genuine oppression around the time that this dress was in fashion but now it has been hijacked by women who seem to want to subjugate men, thereby putting them in the position that they themselves once fought against, or eradicate them completely.

womens-march-social

Not only that, they seem to want to take away choice; their predecessors worked tirelessly to ensure that all women had the confidence and the freedom to make their own way in life but modern feminists applaud when their ‘sisters’ lose their job of choice. The Formula 1 grid girls are a prime example; they have lost their jobs because modern morality dictates that the clothes they wore were somehow ‘demeaning’ and their presence was ‘at odds with modern day social norms’ . It seems strange that the original feminists struggled for their right to wear whatever they wanted to and wherever they wanted to but modern feminists believe that ‘skimpy’ clothes will ‘objectify women.

It seems as though, in an attempt to ‘free’ women, modern feminists have actually taken us full circle, right back to the Victorian era. I wonder how long it will be before the whole process starts again and whether we will go further down the road of oppression in the name of liberty than the Victorians did………

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