What Really Happens As You Get Older?

Most of us have been programmed to believe that growing older is synonymous with getting fat, slow, forgetful, and sick. Like most people in our society, you might see the years from age 40 onward as a slow, painful decline, marked by the following inevitable outcomes:

  • You gain weight.
  • You slow down.
  • You have to live with mysterious aches and pains.
  • You get sick more often.
  • It takes you longer to “bounce back” from any physical or emotional challenge.
  • You develop memory issues, “senior moments,” and brain fog.
  • You lose interest in sex or maybe lose some of your ability to perform.
  • You feel sadder, more depressed, and maybe also more anxious.

As a physician, I can agree that for many people over 40—and now, for an increasing number of folks in their 30s—these and other ailments do become more common. But I can also tell you with absolute certainty that they are not inevitable. If you know the right ways to eat, sleep, move, and de-stress, and if you commit to creating community, meaning, and passion in your life, the years of your 40s, 50s, and beyond can be some of the most rewarding and vital you have ever known.

How can I say this with such confidence? Because, the real obstacle for most of us isn’t age. It’s loss of function. Our bodies are perfectly capable of remaining slim and vigorous, and our brains can absolutely stay clear and sharp—if we give them what they need.

The problem is that most of us don’t do that. We buy into the myth that age means decline, and we buy into a lot of other myths as well. We misunderstand what our bodies need to function at their best, so we eat the wrong foods, skimp on sleep, and deprive our bodies of the movement they crave. We become overwhelmed by the pressures of our lives, burdened by an unremitting stress that saps our bodies of vitality and drains our life of joy. We take one medication after another, never realizing that they might be disrupting our bodies’ own innate ability to heal, depleting our bodies of essential nutrients and draining our natural resilience. Most insidious of all, many of us lack the personal support and community we need to feel fully human.

So yes, in that case, our body’s natural functions—our intricate systems of hormones, nerves, brain function, digestion, detoxification, and immune function—begin to break down. The wrong diet disrupts our gut, destroys our friendly bacteria, imbalances our hormones, and renders us vulnerable to brain fog, anxiety, and depression. A sedentary life leaves our bodies starved for movement. Lack of sleep literally shrinks our brains. Unnecessary medications cue our body to slow down and put on the pounds. And stress, isolation, and the loss of purpose create their own set of problems while making everything else worse.

That is what middle and old age look like for many of us. And for more and more of my patients, this process begins even before middle age. I have seen many people in their 30s and even in their 20s struggling with weight gain, stress, sleep issues, and feeling “old and fat before my time!”

But I can tell you as a physician that it’s not that way for me, nor for my patients who have worked with me for a while. And it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

What’s the secret? It’s actually quite simple:

Give Your Body What It Needs to Function At Its Best

Support your body with the food, movement, and sleep it requires. Nourish your mind and spirit with the meaning, purpose, and community they crave. Whatever your age, your reward will be a healthy weight, a vast reserve of energy, and a renewed sense of resilience, vitality, and joy.

This is an excerpt from my book, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat……And How YOU Can Stay Young, Slim and Happy.

PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINEFor Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.