From a young age, many of us have been inundated with warnings about eating too much food. Women, in particular, are constantly bombarded from all directions with ‘tips’ on how to eat less. Whether it be avoiding certain foods, finding ways to feel more full before a meal, eating low-fat or low-carb, or myriad other strategies, the message is clear: less is more. And when we’re constantly told to avoid food, it is far too easy to become afraid of is. But there is a critical message that so many of us miss.
Food is not the enemy.
It took me a long time to realize this, and it is probably the biggest change I underwent when I started following a plant-based diet.
I think one of the biggest problems I have with calorie counting is that food becomes demonized. For the most part, people who count calories do so because they want to eat fewer of them. I know this was the case for me for a very long time. Ultimately, this ends up with attempts to eat as little food as possible, and creates a negative connotation with food in general. Far too often, this negative association with food follows us throughout our lives, impacting our interactions with food and with other people, and creating psychological turmoil as we try to work out exactly what to eat and how much.
Food is not bad. Not even remotely. It is amazing, enjoyable, nourishing, and life-giving. When we count calories with the express purpose of limiting intake, we run the risk of overriding all these positive aspects of food and creating negative perceptions of an amazing thing. Not only that, but if you’re anything like me, restricting food just leads to obsessing over all the things you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat. (more…)
There is plentiful evidence supporting the ability of exercise to slow the effects of aging and improve overall health. And research is mounting that a substantial source of that anti-aging power may come in the form of telomere length maintenance. I talk about telomeres in this post and discuss a bit about why they are important. Existing research tells us that longer telomeres are associated with slower cellular aging. It turns out that engaging in exercise as we age might be one of the best ways to maintain telomere length and increase longevity.
Engaging in vigorous exercise throughout life may have a profound impact on telomere length. The Berlin Aging Study II included 815 men and women between the ages of 61 and 82 and measured their telomere length and physical activity. Researchers found physical activity to be positively associated with telomere length, with a significantly higher average telomere length for those who were currently active (1). The highest impact on telomere length was found for those who participated in intense activity, and for those who had been physically active at least since the age of 42. Interestingly, there was no effect of physical activity on telomere length for those who only exercised between the ages of 20 and 30 and had not maintained an exercise regime since. In fact, exercising during that time period was no different from not ever having exercised. (more…)
The study of telomeres is a growing area of research, and one that I find really fascinating. I wanted to talk a little bit about telomeres, with the goal of laying the groundwork for some future posts about telomere research.
What are Telomeres?
Telomeres are stretches of DNA at the end of our chromosomes and are a critical component of preserving the information in our genome. They are often compared to the plastic caps on shoelaces that keep the laces from fraying. Like those shoelace caps, telomeres act like caps that keep our chromosome ends from fraying and protect our genetic data from damage. They also prevent dangerous cells from replicating.
Why are Telomeres Important?
Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. If telomeres get too short or disappear, a cell’s chromosomes can fuse or rearrange, which can lead to genetic damage. Consequently, a cell generally will become inactive (senescent) if the telomeres become too short. The shortening of telomeres may predict the pace of aging, and animal studies suggest that limitations on cell division due to telomere shortening may be a primary factor determining lifespan limits. (more…)