Where, oh where, is the fountain of youth? It seems like women everywhere are searching for that “magic” pill or cream that will erase wrinkles and keep them looking 25 forever.
What if we all stopped wanting to look younger, and replaced that desire with the idea of feeling younger? Registered dietitian Elisa Zied’s new book, “Younger Next Week,” offers this transformation with nutrition and lifestyle strategies to help you feel younger and more energetic.
I skyped with Zied to find out more about her new book:
RS: In “Younger Next Week,” you define being youthful in terms of seven Pillars of Vitality. What are they and how does the book help women achieve them?
EZ: When I began to think about what it really means to be youthful, and when I poured through research that linked certain dietary patterns and lifestyle behaviors to better aging and a longer life, what kept coming up was that stress is a major ager.
Stress not only affects our bodies on a cellular level, but it takes its toll on our food, fitness and lifestyle behaviors. And unfortunately, the ways we handle stress often exacerbate it and make us rundown and ragged inside and out. We all go through stressful times and situations – it’s just an inevitable part of life. But I don’t think we need to surrender to it (easier said than done, I know). I created the seven Pillars of Vitality to put life goals in a context that women could easily relate to and respond to. A few of these “pillars” include:
1. A radiant appearance (better skin and a brighter complexion).
2. Boundless physical, mental and sexual energy (having energy for all you do at work, on the go, at home and in bed).
3. Effortless weight management (learning to eat in response to hunger rather than emotions – and providing the body with enough nutrient-packed foods and physical activity, in just the right doses, to help you achieve and maintain a healthier body weight).
4. A sense of calm and relaxation (learning to settle down and set yourself up for restorative and refreshing sleep).
RS: Let’s talk about the “weight management” pillar. In the book, you say that dieting can actually sabotage us. How so?
EZ: When you go on a so-called diet and cut too many calories or cut out certain foods or food groups, you may actually deplete yourself of the energy necessary to help you get through your long daily to-do list. Rapid weight loss – and fat loss, especially from your face – can also contribute to an older-looking appearance.
Going too low in calorie intake makes it that much harder to meet your daily food group and nutrient needs, and your body needs a wide range of vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals that synergistically help your brain and body perform optimally. That includes managing stress in productive and positive ways rather than in ways that sabotage you even further.
Finally, dieting can leave you feeling deprived and hungry and can also cause some anxiety and stress. Studies suggest that being overly restrictive with food intake – or even just having the intent to restrict calories – may not only increase psychological stress and promote weight gain, but may shorten telomeres, which is linked to more rapid aging.
RS: Readers may be surprised to find that no foods are omitted or off-limits in your 7-Day Vitality Program. Can women really achieve true vitality even if they eat French fries, candy and cookies?
EZ: I just think it’s important for women to bury the dieting mentality and learn to eat in a positive, nourishing way, rather than in a negative or restrictive way.
Even if you want to look and feel younger, does that mean you should never eat French fries, have some candy or enjoy some cookies? To me, all foods can fit into a mostly healthful diet and lifestyle. I don’t believe it’s realistic or practical to expect people to ban certain foods from their diets if they enjoy them, even if they’re not healthful.
I created the 7-Day Vitality Plan to be realistic and sensible for women to follow long-term. Of course I want women to get enough calories and nutrients, which they need to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and look and feel their best. But rather than set them up for failure by being too restrictive, I built in a small amount of treats they can choose from, even daily if they’d like.
This comprehensive and holistic program empowers women to take charge of their eating and overall lifestyle and to not feel guilty when it comes to eating – even if they sometimes feel that nothing but a donut, scoop of ice cream or hunk of chocolate will do. We can all relate to that.
RS: You also highlight ‘Vital Moves” and “Vital Relaxation” in the book. Can you explain these components of the program?
EZ: The benefits of being active and sleeping enough each night are endless. They play key roles in how successfully we age and in our vitality.
For example, exercise increases blood flow to all your body parts, including your skin (to give you a glow); it helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue, which keeps your metabolism revved up; it keeps you energized; it positively affects your mood and tempers stress; it may help you manage your weight and help you sleep better; and it may reduce the risk of diseases and their risk factors. And while exercise is important, so too is sitting less – too much time sitting has been shown to promote disease and shorten your lifespan.
Getting enough high-quality sleep is also essential, as it can prevent some of the consequences associated with inadequate amounts. As I discuss in Chapter 11, too little sleep contributes to skin woes, zapped energy, moody blues, weight gain, increased stress and reduced overall health and well-being.
RS: What do you hope readers glean from reading your book and incorporating the principles of the program into their lives?
EZ: My goal in writing this book was to empower women to prioritize caring for and nurturing themselves no matter what stressors or obstacles they face. They can do this by eating nutrient-rich foods, doing regular physical activity and exercise, getting adequate sleep, staying connected and finding ways to inject fun and laughter into their lives. Don’t we women deserve that? I think we do!
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