Are you eating a super food now? Nibbling on some blueberries or salmon or broccoli? And were you persuaded to eat it because it was identified as a “super food” in a story you saw in the media?
If so, you’ve been inspired to make that choice through a marketing campaign because it turns out that there isn’t an agreed-upon scientific definition of what makes up a super food. In fact, the term “super food” isn’t even used by nutritional scientists and dieticians. I gleaned this piece of information from reading Lauren Kessler’s wonderful book, Counter Clockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging. And I’d encourage you, too, to pick up a copy.
To research this book, Kessler spent a year exploring numerous anti-aging options. These explorations included the usual topics, such as plastic surgery, as well as what she describes as “the frontier” of the anti-aging movement – the International Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine and Regenerative Biomedical Technologies. Kessler, who is a writer as well as the director of the Literary Nonfiction Program and professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, digs through lots of research studies and also offers herself up as a guinea pig in trying some of the anti-aging advice. Because of her approach and the wealth of information that she provides, Counter Clockwise was featured in a December 2013 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Year’s Best Books for the Road Ahead.”
Not surprisingly, many of the topics that Kessler covers in her book focus on food and exercise, as well as dietary supplements. Here are some of the parts that I found most fascinating:
- Exercise – Kessler talked to experts and read the research to try to identify the best exercises for slowing the aging process. Her probing led to a varied list that included gentle jogging, the burpee, yoga, swimming, the squat, water aerobics and high-intensity intervals. Kessler then took the research one step further by trying each of the identified exercises. She offers funny and illuminating tales of her participation in yoga classes, boot camps and Tabata. I’ll leave you to read her book to find out which one(s) she found worked best in her effort to turn back the clock, but I applaud her major realization – fitness needs to be a way of life, not an add-on.
- A Progressive Detox – Working with a credentialed nutritionist, Kessler went on a metabolic detox that was designed to clean her body’s organs, including the skin, liver, colon, lymphatic system, intestinal system and lungs. The detox consisted of plant-based foods as well as rice protein powder shakes that had specific vitamins and minerals. Initially, Kessler was asked to avoid caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and meat; eventually, she also gave up diary, eggs, grains, nuts and seeds. Kessler said this particular regimen actually caused her to feel more youthful.
- Calorie Restrictive Diets -- A large body of research indicates that a diet that severely limits calories improves health and longevity. Kessler defines this type of diet as “a tightly regulated, tightly controlled dietary regimen that involves eating nutrient-dense, high-fiber, low-energy-density (aka low-cal) foods – and not a lot of them.” However, Kessler’s chapter title gives away her feelings – “Starving to be Young.”
As I mentioned in a sharepost for HealthCentral’s menopause site, my favorite take-away from Kessler’s research is at the conclusion of Counter Clockwise. She suggests that our focus needs to move from a quest to remain forever young; instead, we should embrace the concept of high-level wellness so that we will be able to live a long and good life.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Kessler L. (2014). Counter clockwise: My year of hypnosis, hormones, dark chocolate, and other adventures in the word of anti-aging. Rodale.
Published On: January 31, 2014