By Dr. Erika Toebaas
As I prepare to turn another year older, I am becoming acquainted with the phrase “Growing Old Gracefully & “Healthy Aging.” I’ve been contemplating what these phrases mean or better yet what they mean to me?
If you had asked me this question in my 20’s, I would’ve said “That’s too far away for me to think about.” If you would’ve asked me again in my 30’s, I would’ve said “No grey hair and great skin but I have time yet before I have to be really concerned with this.”
Little did I know the clock had already started against me. For most women, our 30s mark a significant change and downward trend in many aspects of our physical health known as premenopause or perimenopause. These minor shifts that many of us are unaware of continue to grow until our 40s where you become intimately aware of the increasing grey hair, loss of elasticity & collagen, drying skin, uneven skin tone, weight gain that makes no sense along with new fat distribution, cellulite, loss of muscle tone, temperature changes, mood swings, and suddenly more aches, pains, strains, or injuries then you’ve ever had. What’s worse is this feels like it happened overnight.
It’s like you wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and think WTF is going on with my body. The once invincible feeling you felt in your 20s is now gone!
Yes, there are certain aspects of aging that are unavoidable but I’m here to tell you there are so many we do have full control over. Over the last few years, I have been on this journey of self discovery, most of which has to do with my health.
I’ve been able to cross some things off my bucket list, I opened my business, but I also acquired a new slew of health concerns. I developed restless legs & abnormal periods with increased PMS symptoms, I’ve had two biopsies, two scares with possible cancer, had to make a choice to have kids or not, underwent my first of two surgeries, reduced function in my thyroid, & a new skin condition that has a mind of its own and no answer to what it is.
Those of us in the health profession aren’t immune to health concerns and often deal with all the same frustrations that everyone else does.
This journey has included complete diet overhauls, exercise, yoga, and meditation (well kind of if I’m being honest). It included supplements to repopulate my gut flora, to increase my essential vitamins and minerals, to increase my thyroid function, & to detox. I work everyday to reduce my toxic load, reduce my stress, and make wise lifestyle choices. I am not in the clear but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I feel better than I have in years.
So now halfway through my 40’s if you’d ask me the question again, what aging healthy or gracefully means to me, my answer is,
“Yes of course I still want to look as young as possible. Of course there are procedures to fight this, and once upon a time I would’ve said never, but I’d be lying now if I said I didn’t wonder. But more than looking younger; I want to feel young. I want to show up for my body the same way she has done for me every second of every day of every year."
Nearly everyday I have taken her for granted because she has shown up and performed seamlessly. It isn’t until we don’t feel well or have pain somewhere that we even become truly aware of our corporal form. How do we usually respond? We get angry, frustrated, and often irritated that it's not working right. For years I have been feeling like my body hates me and that she sucks as she continues to malfunction. What I didn’t realize is that she’s been acting like my drunk best friend trying to protect me from an oncoming punch but instead accidentally takes me out in the process. This is what happens when there is so much chronic inflammation causing this white noise in the body from years and years of chronic stress, improper diet, and not necessarily bad lifestyle choices but not real wise ones. Your body can’t hear the pleas from your body over the white noise until it is screaming at the top of it’s lungs to pay attention to me, which is usually the result of some chronic health condition.
I think if we can be happy, have fun, feel & know love, maybe not every minute but at least every day that is so important. If we get to do what we love which includes work, passions, and hobbies we are truly blessed. If we can live authentically, let go of blame, & be present we’re living mindfully. If we can live without or as little pain and aches as possible, live in a state of Ease instead of Dis-Ease, & live without being on a slew of medications we will all be living a healthier and more graceful life.