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Nobody wants to get old, but we have to face facts that we will. On episode 427 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, Dr. Patricia Selassie shows us the art of Aging Brilliantly.
Dr. Selassie, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Selassie (02:36):
Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be on your podcast Allan.
Well, I am eager to talk about your book because I loved, loved, loved the title when I saw it on Amazon coming out soon, and I was like, okay, I got to get this. I got to get her on here. The book is called Aging Brilliantly: How to Eat, Move, Rest, and Socialize Your Way to Long Life. And in that book, I think you do a really good job of just kind of taking us through some of the basic fundamental things that we should be doing to keep ourselves healthy and in doing so, aging better.
Dr. Selassie (03:09):
Absolutely. Yeah. It's back to the basics, you know, I think that that's always going to be the foundation.
And the way I kind of get into it when I'm talking to clients is I'm like, let's look for the big rocks. You know? And it's, I think everybody pretty much knows I could eat better, I could move more, I could rest better and I can socialize more. So it's a, it's kind of this natural go-to. Can you kind of go through those four pillars and just kind of talk about what each one means to us and how we should be mindful and focused on each one?
Dr. Selassie (03:41):
Yeah, absolutely. And even though these are just the basics, I just want to say that the basics are heavily backed up. By research, I mean there's been tons of science and clinical studies showing that these four pillars are really important for aging brilliantly. So eating, I mean, you know, right now I think that everybody is really kind of gets excited about the latest trends, you know? And if you've been in the health field for a while, you understand that these ideas change. Like I think maybe 10 years ago or not even that long ago, everybody was like all excited about the paleo diet and eating bacon and now everybody's all excited about the plant-based diet, but if you're around 20 years ago, the plant-based diet is really just the vegan diet, but despite all the trends, no matter if you're like I'm gluten-free or I'm paleo, which is not a trend for some people, but no matter what diet you're on, the most important thing I think is really that you get some of the fundamentals that you see in all diets, which is going to be healthy plants.
Dr. Selassie (04:47):
No matter what type of diet you are on, you want to make sure you're including plants. And good fats are really important and I know that there was a time when everybody was eating fat-free and now we've got to like get with the times because when I fat-free is just not the way to go. There's been the most research done on the Mediterranean diet and I think it's a very adaptable diet for lots of people. Whether you have gluten sensitivities or you don't want to eat animal products or you can't, you know, you don't do well on dairy. There's always food available for people and ways to make it more tailored towards you. And the Mediterranean diet shortly is just pretty much lots of plants. You want to have nuts and seeds and oils, a little bit of fish, a little bit of protein.
Dr. Selassie (05:38):
And that's the basic pillar of, and there's definitely more details in the book. Moving is really important. I think that we all understand now that we live a very sedentary life. Most of us are working at a cubicle. We're not even standing. And studies show that even a little bit of moving, so I think a lot of people get intimidated because they think like, Oh, I've got to start that CrossFit now. You know, or I got to, you know, New Year's is here, so I got to start my exercise regime. But a lot of the studies are showing just even three minutes every hour makes a huge difference in your health and aging well. So moving and moving every chance you get.
Dr. Selassie (06:19):
Resting is really important. People do not prioritize sleep. In fact, I live here in Brooklyn, New York, and people I think glorify like, Oh, I can get by on four hours or I only need six hours.
But it's really about if you want to age brilliantly, you've really got to prioritize rest and rest is sleeping, is associated with everything. Better body types or healthier body sizes, less stress on the brain, better performance at work and for school, for children. So rest is really important and I don't think it gets focused on as much. And then the last thing is socialization. Whenever you have people that you are loving around you, whether it's like your true flesh plant family or friends, which are like family that you choose. And also purpose, like serving people in the world, making the world a better place, those people tend to age longer. You know, there, there's a reason for them to kind of hang around. And so they do.
Yeah, you based a lot of this off of Buettner's work, The Blue Zones. And so this is a brilliant piece of work. And I, I did have Dr. John Day on the show and he found a small city in a small town village actually in China that was kind of remote and found a lot of these same things. You know, the way they eat, the way they move, the way they rest, the way they socialize was just kind of their natural day to day life, which was a lot more reminiscent of how we were in 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. And then automobiles and transportation of food and industrialization of our food kind of put us on this path of moving kind of away from that. And I think that's why we're seeing a lot of the issues that we're seeing today is because we're just not really applying these four pillars in our life on a daily basis.
Dr. Selassie (08:19):
No. And just like you mentioned industrialization of food and agriculture, there's also things that we've introduced in our lives that were not there in the 18 hundreds like smartphones and electricity and computers and things like that that are sort of keeping us attached to the desk, you know, so and getting us off our natural rhythms. You know, we can be looking at a smartphone way into the wee hours of the night and then realize later it's, Oh my gosh, it's 2:30 AM. I hear that a lot. So we forget about that. We're human and we have natural, you know, natural basic needs that we need to make sure we're incorporating into our life.
Yes. Now the Mediterranean diet you mentioned, and I think this is really, really important because you know, like you said, there's, a lot of push and most of them, the way I turned them as their elimination diets, when you, when you kind of break down a vegan diet or a carnivore diet or paleo diet or keto. All of these diets are basically focusing on one type of food or deemphasizing the other foods. And saying, okay, you shouldn't eat this and you can eat really crap food and be a vegan. You eat really crap food and be a carnivore. Interestingly enough, you know, if you're not paying attention because you know, it drives me nuts when I'm like, Oh I'm just going to eat bacon for 30 days. And I'm like, okay, you'll lose some weight cause you'll get tired of eating bacon. But beyond that, is that, is that really going to help you age well?
Is that really gonna give you the nutrition that your body needs to be healthy and maybe losing weight is something that's kind of important to you. The doctors told you you need to do that and if this helps you do that, that's great. But you have to go back to something that's generally sustainable. And that's the one thing that kind of comes out in the science over and over again is that the Mediterranean diet is effectively one of those diets that you can stick to. Uh, because people did eat that way and have eaten that way for centuries. Now that the interesting thing about the Mediterranean diet that I think is misinterpreted, this doesn't mean go eat at the olive garden every day. It's slightly different. Now you, you, you briefly touched on, on the Mediterranean diet. Could we dive just a little bit deeper into kind of the background for, you know, these folks are living longer and they're getting a lot of heart, healthy, natural ingredients. Can you kind of talk about that a little bit?
Dr. Selassie (10:50):
Yeah, sure. And I just want to comment on what you're saying that a lot of people you hear about these amazing results that they get on, they get from like, Oh, I went on the this X diet. Like the keto diet is a great example and you're right, it's pretty much eliminating products that might not be so great for us, like things made from flour, which doesn't really have a lot of life in it. And suddenly, they lose a lot of weight, but it is honestly a hard diet to sustain. And the Mediterranean diet is a diet that's very easy for most people to sustain. It's just a matter of making sure you include, it's very inclusive. You've got to include a lot of these foods. So I think that the foundation, like I said, is plants. There's a lot of, you know, all kinds of plants.
Dr. Selassie (11:36):
I mean, you know, you've got your leafy greens, you want your foods from cruciferous family, like the broccoli and the cauliflower and the chards. And you know, other foods like that have been shown in some of these blue zones to really be healthy for us. Tomatoes and eggplants and things like fava beans and all kinds of beans. Lots of these cultures that, that live where they've got people living to a hundred are eating lots of beans and all different kinds. Black beans in Nicaragua and fava beans around the Mediterranean, and even soybeans in Japan. So, that's really important. There's lots of olive oil used in the Mediterranean Diet and I think all of what all is in general have very healthy properties for us. They're very strong antioxidants. They even have even has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, or at least the olive leaves.
Dr. Selassie (12:37):
And the fat is really a sustainable oil. Like it helps us. It's a sustainable oil and it also helps us as humans to sustain our blood sugars. It helps balance out our blood sugars. And it's a really good fat You just want to make sure you don't cook on high heat. You know, there's, are there things like grass-fed butter for example, is considered a good fat. And also from close to around the Mediterranean. Meat, you know, an animal protein is also consumed but not in that, not these big pound quarter-pound burgers. You know, it's more like it's part of the meal that includes many other food. Also even sardines and fish and even eggs, but in smaller amounts. But it is included in the diet. Lots of spices I think are really important. And yeah, I think that you're right, when we think of the Mediterranean diet, we might just think, Oh, this means pizza, you know, around Italy or lots of flour products. But there are, you know, there are, there is so much processing and the American idea of a pasta is a little bit different than how it is in the Mediterranean. They're served much smaller proportions and there's a variety of other foods and variety is really the key.
Yeah. And one of the other things that I will say about most of the countries that are around the Mediterranean area is they, they eat differently than we do. And what I mean by that is a meal is an event. They, they don't go, they don't go to dinner and eat and scarf down a pizza and then go watch Netflix. They meet up, they start socializing and they might have a beer, but they're going to sit down and they're just going to start socializing. And then there'll be kind of a, you know, some olives will be put out. So maybe some cheese, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. They'll sit there and nibble and then, you know, the main course will come out and you know, they'll work through that. But they're spending most of their time talking and showing and listening and getting along and socializing and de-stressing from the day.
And then they might have a glass of wine, maybe two, but usually just a glass. And then they might have a light refreshing fruit or something for dessert and then boom, they're done. I mean that's their meal. But that meal took two hours, maybe two and a half because it's a part of their social environment building. So it's not, you know, the meal is not just to scarf down enough food to feel full. It's, it's intended to be a part of a social structure. So I think when you look at the four pillars, we don't often think of how related each and every one of these are. We have to eat to move, we should socialize while we're eating. And if we're using our time with friends and family in the right way, it reduces stress and just makes us feel more inclusive. So the Mediterranean diet to me is a little bit more than even just a diet. It's a lifestyle.
Dr. Selassie (15:36):
Yeah, I totally agree. Like, you know, putting your fork down in between bites, you're in parasympathetic mode, which is the kind of rest and digest mode you're practicing. That's actually what I call in my private practice, proper food hygiene. You know, you're like, you're resting you're not like answering emails on a computer while you're chewing, you're, you're actually looking at your friends and families in the eye or listening to what they have their day when exactly right. It's part of socialization. It's not these big portions of food that we all get quiet and dive into and talk with our mouth full. It's kind of like a much slower pace and the portions are smaller and there's rest in between.
So yeah. It's an event and I think that's what I really liked about when I'm at the times I've been over in Mediterranean countries with people that are from that area is that they just, they approach everything a little bit differently. It's a little bit like that over here in Panama, but not, not quite to the extent of what I saw in Spain, in Italy. But, um, one of the areas that I really want to get into because it's part of the reason that I am in Panama is just stress. And in the book you did a good job of talking about what stress does to our brain. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about that relationship and what's going on?
Dr. Selassie (16:53):
Yeah. So I just mentioned it. There's, there's two different modes in our body. You can be in sympathetic mode, which is really fight or flight or parasympathetic mode, which is rest and digest. And in this day and age, most of us are in sympathetic mode, sympathetic mode. Our bodies were designed to shuttle between the two. I talk about like how you're most, you're supposed to mostly be in parasympathetic mode where you're like walking around, living your life with your family and then like a predator might jump in your way. And I'm talking about like thousands and thousands of years ago. And your, your design, when you see that predator to either run that's the flight or fight, fight the predator. But these days there's no predator. What there is our bills, an angry boss, a coworker that's hard to deal with, even work projects that have to get completed.
Dr. Selassie (17:50):
Commute's, terrible communities that people have to endure. And so a lot of the times our bodies are in a constant sympathetic mode. And what happens is you constantly stimulate your brain that way, and it sends signals to what's called the amygdala. And your amygdala is important for, it then sends signals to the hypothalamus, which is another part of your brain that basically sends messages all over. And if you're amygdala gets overused or over kind of overstimulated, then it gets bigger and bigger. And this is something that you don't want. You don't want an enlarged amygdala. You want, you know, it's sort of like when you, when you, you use your biceps over and over again, you get a bigger bicep. But that's something you do want with an amygdala you don't because now you're a McDilla is overstimulated and it sends these cascades to your body of all these stress hormones that happen.
Dr. Selassie (18:46):
And so furthermore, the frontal cortex of your brain as it receives some of these stress signals get shrunken. So you have such a thing called age-related cognitive decline. And that's basically, you know, when you start forgetting names of people, even people that are close to you or you can't remember that vocabulary word or you walk into a room and you forget why you walked in there, can't remember where you put your keys. Now this is a sign that your brain is pretty much starting to age, but I think a lot of it is really can be delayed if we were to kind of stop stressing out, take time to take care of ourselves and give our brains a little bit of a break. You know. And then again, all the pillars are intertwined. So like sleep is a really important time for your brain to regenerate. You're not regenerating or restoring when you're at work in your cubicle or washing the dishes, you're really restoring your brain when you're resting.
Yeah, that's during one of the stages of sleep, that's when your body's actually flushing out the brain and cleaning it, which is are the restorative part of sleep. If we're not getting good sleep cycles or enough of them, we're not taking care of our brain. Now you touched on something and I think this is also really, really important because it's, it's so hard for people to do this and I'm just, I'm going to stereotype a little bit, but I don't mean in a bad way. It is. I think women have always been the caretakers of people and as a result, you know, so they're taking care of the children, they're taking care of the home, they're taking care of and they a lot of times it's very, very difficult to take that step back. I know as a personal trainer sometimes I just get so tied up into, you know, my business and taking care of the people I'm working with that sometimes I also don't do this and it's, it's called self care. And in the book you share some restorative self care ideas. Can you, can you kind of go through a few of those, what you think are some good ones for us to consider?
Dr. Selassie (20:43):
Yeah, I totally relate to that. I mean, you know, I'm a woman. I have five children, I have a private practice and a lot of times, and I talk about this in the book, that I get caught up in, Oh, I don't have time to prep a meal. I don't have time to, you know, drink a glass of water right now and be running to the bathroom. I have these children to take care of, I have my patients. I have, but let guess what I mean, if you don't take care of yourself, all of that, you will lose all of that, you know? So you've got to prioritize yourself and it doesn't mean that you have to stop everything and like move to Panama. Though that is really good. I would highly recommend that. But if you can't manage that right now, I mean there's a couple little tips that you can do.
Dr. Selassie (21:29):
Like for example, water is so important. You could savor a big glass of water. That's something that I do first thing in the morning before anybody else gets up is I make sure I drink certain amount of ounces of water and I savor it. And I really think about how this is, you know, hydrating me and giving me life. There's other things that you can do to just squeeze in a little self care, like a bath versus a shower. It might take you maybe 10, 15 minutes more, but it can, you know, your muscles under the hot water, it really, it really, let's go, you know what I mean? And then if you put some magnesium salts in there, you're adding some nutrients that can help relax your muscles. And it's alone time. It's me time. It's like there's nobody that can really bother you.
Dr. Selassie (22:16):
You can lock yourself up in the bathroom. Going out in nature, I think is a huge one. Even, you know, like I live in a city, so I'm either in my office or in the subway or in a car or in a building. But even just going out to a park, you know, a green space. And even just for three minutes, 3 to 10 minutes. It doesn't have to be long. Of course the more time you can spend in nature, the better. But our bodies need that. Our bodies are used to seeing plants and getting energy from live things. So that's also a really quick thing that you could do. Like literally just leave your building for a minute, look at some trees. Taking a nap, that's always my favorite one. Like there's nothing like you could be going, going, going and exhausted and you're really not getting much done.
Dr. Selassie (23:02):
But sometimes then that might be all you need. I talked about savoring a glass of water they can, there could be savoring a glass of herbal tea. I mean there's just, there's just so many things. Reading something inspiring I think is really important. One I really love is connecting with an old friend. I've had some amazing, fantastic conversations with people. Just pick one randomly that I haven't maybe talked to in a couple of years and just say, Hey, what's up? There's something really special about connecting with someone and it doesn't mean that, Oh gosh, I haven't spoken to John for two years, it's going to be an hour on the phone. It might just be, you know, 5/10 minute like I'm thinking about you just sending you some love, some good energy, you know, so connection is another one.
Yeah. Now this can sound like a lot and I think when people are looking to change, they're like, Oh, I got to do all these things. I gotta do all these things and I for one I don't, I don't even have enough time to do the things I'm already doing. My to do list just grows every day and I keep pushing things off and pushing things off. And so this just feels, sometimes it feels like there's, there's more there to do. And I would say probably not, but it's really hard for a lot of people to just bridge that gap. Now in the book you talk about setting an intention. And I like, you know, in every chapter as you go through, you have a self assessment set of questions for someone to just kind of answer a few questions really easy, get a score. And then based on that kind of a general idea of how well they're doing on those things. So by the time they get to this sudden intentions part, they should have a pretty good idea where they're weakest, where they're strongest. And what are some of the questions that they answered that they didn't get the score that they thought they should've gotten. Can you talk about setting an intention and what are the steps? What are some things that people would want to consider as they're thinking about doing these things? Because I think you're right, setting the intention is really the key to getting anything done.
Dr. Selassie (25:03):
Yeah, I mean I, I totally get it. Like my things to do list seems to be getting longer and longer too, every single day. And the thing is though, if you want to age brilliantly, you're going to have to, that might have to be sort of a goal that you're going to attain. Otherwise you're basically receive what I call a certain future, which is just can it be aging? You know what I mean? If you don't take a step here or there, you're just basically going to be aging rapidly instead of aging slowly. So you know, that's the thing as you've got to take some time to sort of assess what's going on. I think the self assessments help you to do that and kind of see what areas of your life that would really make a bigger impact for you. So the smallest shift with the bigger impact is really where you start and after you do all the assessments, you'll kind of, you'll, that will kind of come through.
Dr. Selassie (26:00):
You'll kind of see like, wow, sleep is really a big thing that I've never prioritized. Maybe that's an, and I like to sleep. So maybe that might be an area that I really work on. And you want to kind of even look at yourself like where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years or 20 years? Or like I would say that like if you're in your 50s now, you know, where do you want to see yourself in two decades? Do you want to see yourself active? Do you want to see yourself like doing and enjoying all the things you love? Do you see yourself with grandchildren? Do you see yourself playing tennis or you want to kind of project in the future and what will understand now? What will it take to get there? If you see yourself tennis in two decades, so like let's say you're in your mid fifties now and your mid seventies like what would that really mean?
Dr. Selassie (26:50):
That would really mean like preserving your joints, you know, keeping your joints active, you know, taking care of your physical body. If it's really just like seeing and being around your grandchildren, you know, maybe something like diet is going to be more important. You know, you can talk about that. You can think about your diet, you can set some intentions, you can think about your grandchildren and what you want them to see you doing. And I really believe in writing things down because when we kind of think about our intentions or we imagine that's really important, but when you write it down, it's sort of like you're writing a contract to yourself and it's sort of becoming manifested through words. So I really encourage people to get what I call a super agers journal. I'm a big fan of journaling and started. Sort of set these intentions down and, and write down what it is that you see yourself doing and how you can, you know, what are some baby steps or little tiny 1% shifts that you can take to get towards that?
Yeah, I think a lot of people miss out on just how powerful small movements can be, particularly at first, you know, it's like as you're making a snowball, you start out with just a handful of snow and that handful of snow is easy enough for you to grab. And then as you start rolling that down the Hill, it's going to get bigger and bigger. And so just starting with something small over time can have some really great impact in your life.
Dr. Selassie (28:14):
Yeah, totally. I think that as a mom with five children, I can get really lazy and I can be like, you know, ask my daughters, go in the kitchen and fetch this for your mother or run upstairs and turn the thermostat down. But I started to really realize like I am, it's almost like I'm sitting on a throne and pointing and telling my staff what to do, but that's not going to keep me alive and around to see my grandchildren. So I make the extra effort to go up the stairs and put away the laundry or stand up when I'm seeing patients stand up every hour. These days, we've got so many little gadgets on our watches, on our smartphones that can remind us to do that and standing up. I mean, that can be something that can really impair someone as they get older is just standing up from sitting. So you've got to use your, you've got to use your joints, and even just standing up can make such a huge difference. You're actually pumping, there's no blood supply into your hip joint or your knee joint. And so pumping in the nutrition right directly into the knee joint by movement is really the best way to do that.
Yes, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Dr. Selassie (29:30):
Well I think that one is definitely being active with your friends and family, especially like you mentioned, the women who sometimes start to really focus you know, where the time they're in their mid fifties they're really focused on their career. They're really focused on their family and they forget about their girlfriends. So I think that really enlarging your circle, social circle is really important and it doesn't have to be a huge social circle, but you want to always kind of be stepping out. So I think that that's one strategy, whether it's like having tea with a new person, maybe it's even somebody that could be a possible business colleague, but maybe you're going to go out and like ask about who they are and what's their family like and kind of include socialization into your life. Just a little bit more. Prioritizing sleep I think is one of my favorite ones and I think if you go to bed before rather than sleep in, you're going to, there's more of a likelihood that you'll get those sleep cycles in. Your, the sleep that you get before midnight is actually really important because I get more of those cycles and we're diurnal human beings.
Dr. Selassie (30:40):
We're not nocturnal like rats. So trying to go to bed early I think is another great strategy. You know, just go, just do it. Just put yourself in bed. A third one is kind of, you know, one that I think is really great is kind of go into your local farmer's market or getting, ordering one of these CSA shares online or are there so many different local agriculture, organic agriculture boxes that you can get and just trying a new vegetable, just like seeing it, kind of discovering it and cooking it. Just seeing what you can make out of it and enjoy it.
Thank you. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about your book Aging Brilliantly, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Selassie (31:26):
So my website is doctorselassie.com and the doctor is spelled out, so it's simply D O C T O R S E L A S S I E. and you can read all about me. I have a private practice here in Brooklyn, but I do see people via zoom or Skype or on the phone and there's, you'll see my book, but my book is basically on pre-order at Amazon right now. So you can just also find it on Amazon. Dr. Salassie aging brilliantly.
Okay. Well. This is going to be episode 427 so you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/427 and I'll be sure to have a link to Dr. Selassie's page and to the book there.
Dr. Selassie, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Selassie (32:13):
I loved being here. Thank you so much Alan. Thanks for the good work that you're doing for all of us over 40
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