Tag Archive for: book review

5 Strategies for Aging, or Rather Dying, Gracefully | Healthy Aging Series: Part 20

OK really? Who wants to learn how to die gracefully?! 5 ways to die gracefully? I either lost you or hooked you with the title of this blog. And since you’re reading it, I assume I hooked to you. 

I read a good book this summer. Probably the best book I’ve read on aging. It’s a book by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas titled, “Growing Old: Notes on Aging with Something Like Grace.” I struggled with the book at first. Then, I liked it. And then, I loved it. I took time off from reading it and missed it. Reading “Growing Old” was like scrolling through Thomas’ Instagram page. The good, the bad, and the ugly of what she calls “notes” on life.

Thomas is defiant in her book. Defiant about death and about aging. The dust cover of the book has a picture of her smoking on her 88th birthday. She’s lighting her cigarette with her birthday-cake candles. She’s giving a big middle finger to growing old. I loved it. Maybe not so graceful. “Aging,“ she writes, “is not for the faint hearted.” 

The First Three Strategies for Aging Well 

Thomas may be defiant about the idea of aging, but her book also one of the most tender and intimate books on aging that I’ve read. Sure, she has three suggestions on aging well. First, stay healthy. OK, I’ve written a lot about ways of staying healthy. I’ve talked about exercise and good nutrition. Not so much about sleep, but it’s just as important. So, I’m not going to talk about it during this blog. Second, do something. I’ve written about this as well and will continue to write about in upcoming blogs. You need to have purpose and something worth doing as you age. Thomas has written 15 books, and she’s in the middle of writing a novel. She’s doing something. Third, don’t be isolated. I’ve talked a lot about this when it comes to your psychological resiliency. Staying involved and engage in the community and with others is extremely important to aging gracefully. So, there is some sage advice in her book, and its good advice about aging.

New Title for Her Book

I thought about her title, “Notes on aging with Something Like Grace,” and wondered if a better title might have been “Notes on Dying Gracefully.”

Strategy 4 For Dying Well: A Healthy Denial of Getting Old

There are two more strategies in our book. The one that stands out to me is her Healthy Denial of Getting Old.
She expresses this very healthy denial of getting old, and not in the sense that she is denying the aging process of dying but in the sense that getting old does not have a predetermined script. 

“Ninety looks like fifty,“ she writes, “when you’re forty.”

I’m guessing that most 50 and 60-year-olds do not feel 50 or 60. Age is relative. A number. I am 66 years old. Do I feel 66 years old? Really, I have a few aches and pains, but I don’t feel different than I did when I was 50 or 55 years old maybe I’m a little smarter and not in the arrogant sense. I know more about my profession than I did 10 to 20 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I can guide people into wilderness areas. I’ve learned a lot about relationships, and about life, and about the world. I hope I have.

Thomas shares a story about the time she had a discussion with her grown children about what would happen to her house when she dies. Her grandson was part of this conversation and became tearful and said, “You can’t die grandma.” “Everyone dies,” she told him. “Not you.” he said.

A heathy denial of getting old does not mean that I’m in denial that I’m going to die. It means denying that there is a prescribed way that I must die. I get to write my own script for getting older. I get to age and die on my terms, the way I want.

Strategy 5 for Dying Well: Coping with Losses

One of the more intimate sections of the book is about the loss of her dog, pearl. Thomas guides us through the deaths of her parents, and then her husband, who died from ALS, and then pearl. Losing the people in her life was like losing an emotional support system and losing companions. Losing pearl as she describes it, was like losing part of herself. Death takes its toll on those it leaves behind. Thomas describes the loss of pearl, as losing part of herself, like an arm and a leg. 

Note: Since loss is such a common experience with aging, I will do a complete series on loss and grief.

All my siblings experienced the loss of my parents differently. I think my sisters miss them the most. My mother would often comment about the loss of my father and the loss of her friends. I’m not sure how all this loss affects us, but Thomas implies that it makes us more compassionate toward others. Does, seeing the shortness of life, as you experience the loss of others, soften us towards others, looking past imperfections, wishing them well, and showing them kindness? That’s compassion. The other side of love is freedom I read years ago. That’s what the world needs, loss equals compassion. Maybe I’ll add another strategy for dying gracefully that I got from Thomas. 

This is part twenty in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series Which Old Woman Will You Be?: A Book Review (Really My Reflections on a Book)

Which Old Woman Will You Be? A Book Review | Healthy Aging Series: Part 16

In this week’s entry to the Healthy Aging Series, I offer my thoughts concerning Debbie Hensleigh’s book, Which Old Woman Will You Be? Do’s and Don’ts for Living Your ThirdThird on Purpose.

Which Old Woman Will You Be?: Do's and Don'ts to Live Your Best ThirdThird on Purpose by Debbie Hensleigh

Image via Goodreads

Hensleigh writes:

“Start being that old woman you want to be… on purpose. Determined to live on purpose, intentionally forecasting which old woman you will become.”

I enjoyed this book. Simple. To the point. I use the slogan, “You’ve got to prepare for the last
10 years of your life.” Hensleigh agrees. She begins her book talking about an experience at a
nursing home where she meets two of the residents. One woman is somebody that she admires
and the other woman, she finds annoying and even offensive. She asks herself, which old woman
will I become. Maybe a trip to the nursing home would benefit all of us.

I shared an experience in an earlier blog about an elderly man that I called “Kroger Man,” an
individual that demonstrates that there are people who have reached their 70s and 80s, that none
of us want to become. Hensleigh’s book provides a very simple but meaningful outline of
do’s and don’ts that you can begin implementing right now if you’re in your 40s and 50s to
ensure that  your senior years will be meaningful and happy. I’ve used the “You have to
prepare for the last 10 years of your life” slogan because people tend to be mesmerized into
thinking that they’re never going to be old and they’re never going to have trouble as they get

Hensleigh‘s book is an optimistic and positive approach to looking at preparing for your senior
years.  I liked it. I keep saying that. She has seven do’s and don’ts that I believe are a wonderful
outline for preparing for those last 10 years.

The Do’s and Don’ts

1. Quit Comparing Yourself to Others.

I think we’re living in a day and age where competition and comparison are toxic. They create a
frame of mind that can ruin your happiness and well-being. Life isn’t a competition. We should
strive to become our Authentic Selves. This means living a life that is based on your values and
beliefs, living a life that is completely distinct from what you think other people want for you, or
what others want you to be. It’s liberating!

Many writers that address the issue of aging talk about the idea of writing your own script.
Don’t allow others to write the aging script for you. Be true to yourself. Don’t allow yourself to
fall victim to the social pressures of comparing your body, or your finances, or your children to
those of others. Stop!!!!

This chapter was very helpful in looking at that life that is lived on its own terms and not on the
terms of others.

2. Being More Interesting.

I remember when I was in my early 50s. I found myself to be a rather uninteresting person and I
made a commitment to becoming more interesting and started with the area of music. My son
had downloaded many songs on our computer in the 90s. He left in the 2000s and  I started
exploring the computer and discovered thousands of wonderful songs and music that inspired me
to become a more interesting person.

I’ve begun the process of exploring life and exploring the world and exploring people. I’ve done
some studies on archetypes and one of my archetypes is an intellectual. I’ve discovered as a feed
that intellectual archetype I am more in tune with who I am and more satisfied with my life. 
Being interesting means broadening your life and your life interest to explore this wonderful and
beautiful world and culture that we live in.

3. Refuse to Be Lonely.

Early in my educational process, one of my professors disclosed that all his relationships were
intentional. I think he meant that he had relationships, not based on the idea of numbers but,
based on what he needed  and how those friendships met that need.

My mom, as she aged, developed relationships around a Hardee’s restaurant down the street
from where she lived. She would walk there every morning and spend a couple hours talking to
her friends and having coffee and a sausage biscuit. Those friends became a very important
part of her life.

I’ve developed a community of people in my life that revolve around my interest. My wife and I
share our travels, our personal development time, our TV series, and kitties. I have hiker friends.
I have intellectual friends. Of course, I have my extended family and my work family. Surround
yourself with good people.

4. Read Books

Hensleigh encourages people to be readers. I love books. Not in the same way that I love my
wife, children, and grandchildren, but I love books. Books are a way of exploring for me. My
mother introduced me to books when I was in high school, and I’ve been reading books ever
since. My office is full of books. I love buying books. I love reading books.  Books scratch me
where I itch. Hensleigh suggests that books are important for personal growth and broadening
ourselves as individuals. I agree.

5. Don’t Be Boring (Or Maybe, Don’t be Bored)

I think what she is suggesting here is that we  provide nourishment to our brain. She talks about
learning new things. She reminds us that nurturing our brain and providing nutrition for a brain
must be intentional.

6. Know Your Purpose

I’ve spent most of my adult life in the helping profession and certainly this is very important to
me.  I work with young men largely. But I also work with people within my own agency and
love watching and helping them grow and develop as clinicians and as supervisors. I would say
that helping others is a big part of my purpose in life. I believe as you age, you’re going to lose
opportunities to be involved professionally with other people. The word Elder, or Eldership
becomes more meaningful during this time. I hear a lot of older adults talk about their
grandchildren and how important that relationship is. Eldership is utilizing the experience and
the wisdom that you have and helping others benefit from your wisdom.

I believe it’s important to have a reason to get up  every morning. There’s lots of research to
suggest that having a purpose and meaning of life is very important as your age. Hensleigh has
provided several opportunities or ideas on ways to develop that purpose.

7. Don’t Get Stuck

The way to avoid getting stuck is to become more resilient. I’ve shared in the earlier blogs
about resiliency and how resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. I believe this is
what Hensleigh is talking about. Developing resiliency is a very important part of aging and one
that we would all do well to begin focusing on as were younger.

Hensleigh‘s book is the Cliff Notes version of aging. Simple and to the point.
She hits on a high note. She shared some of her experiences with her physical fitness and
wellness and would probably do well to spend more time talking about that. But as far as her
focus on mental and psychological  resiliency, I think she’s done a wonderful job.

Who are you becoming? I want to be the type of older man that attracts, rather than repels
others. People tend to become more isolated as they age. Maybe it because it’s partly due to
the kind of person you’ve become.

This is part sixteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging: Physical Resiliency “The older the house more the maintenance.”

“The Older The House, More The Maintenance” | Healthy Aging Series: Part 13

(Read the last paragraph first!)

I remember sitting in a classroom at Portland Community College, Portland Oregon (pronounced aw-ruh-gun, not aw-ruh-gone). It was 1979. The Class was Lifespan Development. The instructor was John Lawrence. The first words out of his mouth were, “The older the house the more the maintenance.” Since then, I’ve owned an older home for twenty years. I know exactly what he meant, except of course, he was talking about the aging process and, yes of course, he meant our bodies. Drive by any abandoned home. Anywhere. Roll down you window and stare at it for 5 or 10 minutes. Now, think about this: That’s you if you don’t take care of your body.

I can predict your future.

What you eat and how much you exercise will determine your future physical resiliency. What you eat and how much you exercise will determine almost everything about your future. Don’t delude yourself. You cannot escape the consequences of bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Exercise: The Silver Bullet.

I’m going to write several blogs on fitness and health and aging, so this will be a brief explanation of the benefits of exercising. Having an active lifestyle is the best gift that you can give to your future self. One of the more important books I’ve read over the past five or 10 years is a book entitled, “Younger Next Year,” by Chris Crowley. It’s a book that promotes a good diet and regular exercise. Read it!

If there’s one thing you can do to improve your resiliency it’s, start exercising. Here are some of those benefits: 

  1. Exercising helps control weight. It helps prevent obesity and accompanying diseases.
  2. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of premature death. 
  3. Exercise helps manage blood sugar and insulin. 
  4. Exercise improves our mental health which enhances in mind-body connection. I’ve written about this in an earlier blog. 
  5. Exercise improves your brain functioning, see future blogs and the aging brain. 
  6. Exercise reduces the chances of falls. See future blogs and fall prevention. 
  7. Exercise helps to maintain muscle mass. Losing muscle mass is a big problem as we age, and dramatically impacts our physical resiliency.

Diet: You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet

Michael Pollen writes, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The purpose of a resiliency-based diet is threefold: 

  1. Helps maintain weight and muscle mass. I don’t believe this means starving yourself. It means portion control. Most Americans eat too many calories and not enough protein for muscle mass maintenance. But there is a caveat to promoting muscle growth. You must also couple protein intake by or with exercise.  Muscle mass equals stability and mobility. 
  2. Provides needed natural micro and macro nutrients. Your body was engineered to extract needed micronutrients from real food. If you’re eating real food, unless your doctor prescribes supplements, you don’t need to take them. I was taking zinc because I was told that “it enhances your immune system.” I told my doctor and she advised me to stop. She said that it could interfere with my ability to absorb copper. Some people take a daily vitamin for insurance but if you’re eating right, you don’t need them. Eat real food, to include lots of fruits and vegetables, which provide vitamins and minerals that boost immunity and lead to enhanced resiliency. 
  3. Maintains good gut health, both pre-and probiotics. Never forget that you were eating for two: you and the colony of bacteria or microbiome that lives in your gut. Feeding the micro biome means eating lots of natural fiber, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lots of fermented food . This includes kombucha and yogurt.

Here are the benefits of a healthy gut:

  • Improved food digestion.
  • It helps regulate your immune system which promotes resiliency
  • It produces vitamins, which includes B12 Simon and riboflavin.
  • A healthy gut enhances weight control.
  • It improves your mental health by enhancing the brain gut connection. A heathy gut improves cardiovascular health by helping to control cholesterol.

How do we improve our microbiome?

  1. Eat fruit and fermented food to include yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. Be mindful that sauerkraut often is not fermented but simply stored in salt brine.
  2. Eat a wide range of real food. Vegetables, beans, fruit, fiber, whole grains. Eat foods that include polyphenols. Red wines, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil. Limit your use of antibiotics.

Physical resilience is the result of good diet and exercise.

Make no mistake. You cannot eat junk food and neglect fruit and vegetables, on top of living a sedentary lifestyle, and expect to be a physically resilient person. Your ability to bounce back from viruses, broken bones, exposure to chemicals or other toxins, and from genetic minefields, if you do not take care of your body. That’s as simple as it gets. It’s about taking care of your body. If you take care of your body, you will be a more resilient person now and in years to come.

Don’t do what I say, do what I do!

I’ve just finished editing this blog. I’m visiting my granddaughters in Colorado. I’m leaving my room in a few minutes for a 2-hour hike in the mountains. I had a high-fiber, high protein breakfast with some fruit. I work out every day, most weeks. I eat food, not too much, mostly plants, most weeks. 

This is part thirteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging: Psychological Resilience 10 Practices to “Keep Your Head in the Game” of Life!

10 Practices to “Keep Your Head in the Game” of Life! | Healthy Aging Series: Part 12

I’m on a Southwest flight 31. Headed to Chicago and then to Cancun, Mexico. Vacation mode. With my wife. We work hard at helping others. We give a lot of ourselves. Often, times we see a lot of pain and suffering. I see broken families. I see men and women in despair, and yes, I see hopelessness. All of this takes a toll on us on us. That’s what life does.

Life Can Be Messy 

Throughout our lives we experience the loss of  jobs, of first loves, or the loss of money in the stock market. We live through the stress of a spiteful supervisor, the stress of an irrational neighbor, the stress of living in a partisan country. We carry the burden of wayward children and grandchildren, the burden of an ailing partner, the burden of a dying parent. We endure the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams, unrequited love, and undeserved betrayals. Life can be a mess.  How prepared are you for those messes, the mental and emotional upheaval‘s? How psychologically resilient are you? How quickly do you rebound from the disappointments, from the unexpected adversities, and from unwanted changes?

What is Psychological Resiliency?

I have written in an earlier blog about resiliency. In some ways it helps to understand that physical resiliency is the opposite of physical vulnerability or physical fragility. Psychological vulnerability and  fragility are similar in many ways. Psychological resiliency acts as a buffer between us and our adversity and helps preserve our emotional balance or what some call homeostasis. Why is this important and what can we do about it?

Psychological resiliency is important because of the body-mind connection. If we are fragile psychologically or physically it affects our mental resiliency. People that are physically frail often suffer emotionally and psychologically  and vice versa.

If psychological resiliency is that important,  how does one become more psychologically resilient? How does one develop emotional stamina, mental strengthen and endurance? The mindfulness community teaches the phrase “What we practice grows stronger. The AA community refers to the 12 steps and encourages its members to practice the principles in all their affairs.

Becoming and maintaining our psychological resilience takes practice.

In the same way that you need good nutrition and exercise for physical resilience, you need good mental nutrition and mental exercise for psychological resiliency. Becoming resilient and maintaining our  psychological resilience takes practice. Much like you need good nutrition and exercise for physical resilience you need good mental nutrition and mental exercise to grow your psychological resilience. It’s all about diet and exercise

Living My Life by Slogans (Practices)

I have based much of my own psychological resiliency on slogans and  mottos that reflect resiliency practices. What follows are a number of those slogans that I encourage you to practice. 

1. You have to adjust to the things that won’t adjust to you. I believe this means living life on life’s terms. There are a lot of stressors and things that happened to us throughout our years and our expectations of life, and these events can create a reactivity to the stressor that takes its toll on us both mentally and physically. Excepting the things that we cannot change is part of the process of developing resiliency.

2.  Easy does it. I have learned to not push so hard when pursuing my wants and needs. As a therapist I’ve learned that working with families involves being a change agent. I use the Easy-Does-It approach when is work with families. This means taking it slow and not pushing so hard for change.

3. The golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If there is any guiding principle in life that I use, it’s the practice of treating others the way that I want to be treated. Practicing this principle eliminates conflict in relationships.

4. Memento Mori: “Remember that you will die.” I think about dying every day. There’s a lot to be said about this. Stoics believed that life only has meaning in light of dying. Resiliency grows as you make the most of each day, and that comes as we appreciate the meaning of each day.

5. “I treat everyone like my peer.” A few years ago I was watching an interview with Norman Lear, the creator of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” At the time he was 93 and his interviewer asked him how it was that he seemed so youthful. His response was, “I treat everyone like my peer.“ There are practices that can alleviate resistance and difficulty in relationships. This is a practice that helps people or puts people at ease when they are with us and allows us to create it environment for them and promotes your resiliency.

6. Do the Next Best Thing. Life can present us with difficult decisions to make in the future. We fast forward at times into our future and think about all the things that we might face. We become overwhelmed by what “might be.” Doing the next best things means focusing on the here and now and dealing only with the problems that you face now. The future can rob you of your serenity and contribute to your loss of resiliency.

7. Build a Repertoire of Positive Sentiment. I go places with my wife to build a repertoire of positive sentiment. I hike for the same reason. I backpack for the same reason. I read and listen to new music for the same reason. I spend time with my sons and granddaughters for the same reason. This repertoire is a protect bubble that protects you from the hardships of life.

8. Balance Giving and Receiving. I know you’ve heard the slogan: It’s better to give than receive. This is BS. You must be a receiver for someone to be a giver. I love giving, but only being a giver ensures that you will become cynical and burned out. Learn to be a receiver.

9. Balance Work with Play. If you are going to be resilient you must play. You must have fun. You must be a little boy or little girl and play in the mud and make mudpies. You must make playdough cookies. You must laugh. You must tickle and be tickled. 

10. Spend Time Alone in Your Head: -reflecting -creating -using active imagination. There is the saying in the religious world, “Let go and let God!” I prefer, “Let go and let the wonderful, hidden thoughts that you’ve repressed and suppressed express themselves in those quiet moments that you spend by yourself.” I often do this while hiking by myself in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. I also suggest one of the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork parks. Reflect on the day. Reflect on the year. I love thinking back on the old year each New Year’s Day. Not all the memories are good but reflecting in them is necessary. 

These are my life-affirming practices. What are yours? What’s working for you? What gets you through the hustle and bustle of life? What helps you decompress from the stressors in life? What you practice is growing stronger.

This is part twelve in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series Part 3

How To Prepare For Aging | Healthy Aging Series: Part 3

Regardless of your age, begin preparing for aging right now. Honestly, it’s that simple. Do the things that you need to do to be healthy now. Here is what I say:

In order to prepare for the last 10 years of your life,

you’ve got to start preparing for the next 10 years of your life!

In his book, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” Andrew Weil M.D., provides a 12-point Program for healthy aging. This program really looks like a list of things that we should all be doing now to get and stay healthy. If you want to be healthy when you’re 60, 70, or 80, then live a healthy lifestyle in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Here is his program:

  1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  2. Use dietary supplements wisely to support the body’s defenses and natural healing power.
  3. Use preventative medicine intelligently: know your risk of age-related disease, get appropriate diagnostic and screen tests and immunizations, and treat problems (like elevated blood pressure and cholesterol in the early stages.
  4. Get regular physical activity throughout life. 
  5. Get adequate rest and sleep.
  6. Learn and practice methods of stress protection.
  7. Exercise you mind as well as your body.
  8. Maintain social and intellectual connections as you go throughout life.
  9. Be flexible in mind and body: learn to adapt to losses and let go of behaviors no longer appropriate of aging.
  10. Think about and try to discover for yourself the benefits of aging.
  11. Do not deny the reality of aging or put energy into trying to stop it. Use the experience of aging as a stimulus for spiritual awakening and growth.
  12. Keep an ongoing record of the lessons you learn, the wisdom you gain, and the values you hold. At critical points in your life read this over, add to it, revise it, and share it with people you care about.

For those familiar with twelve step programs, maybe this is the 12 Steps for Aging. Look over this list. Everyone would. Benefit from doing these things right now. Aging well means doing the things now to be healthy and happy now. 

Contrast Weil’s list with the following list:

  1. Don’t worry about what you eat. Don’t be concerned with the amount of sugar you’re eating. Don’t practice any willpower over the food you eat. 
  2. Don’t worry about supplements. You’re young, you’ll focus on micronutrients in 10 or 20 years.
  3. Put your head in the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. Forget about getting screenings and assessments.
  4. Don’t see your doctor anymore then you need to. Forget annual or semi-annual checkups. Forget blood work. Forget breast and prostate exams. Forget colonoscopies (I actually work with people that tell me that they haven’t seen a doctor in 5 years).
  5. Sleep shmeep!!! Who needs sleep!!!
  6. Drinking helps me deal with stress. 
  7. I’ll exercise someday. I need 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week? I’m busy. I’ll start exercising next year.
  8. Who has time to read and have family or friends over? I work. I come home and I’m exhausted. I need to get a break from people and thinking.
  9. I have a way of doing things and it’s worked for me these past years or decades. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. 
  10. I get tired of hearing people talk about growth and discovery. What’s wrong with me now? If people don’t like the way I am then they can…
  11. I hate getting older and looking older. I hate what I see when I look in the mirror. 
  12. I’m going to roll with the flow. I’ll worry about getting older when that happens. I’m probably not going to live to be old anyway. My parent didn’t get old, so I’m not going to get old. 

Okay, not everyone feels this way about getting older. Many of are working hard at staying healthy and worry about getting older. 

I want to help with those worries.

Weil’s list gives me a good outline. I want to fill in the blanks and share of my experience in aging.

Healthy Aging Series: Part Three How to Prepare for Aging








This is part three in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.


Mark Scaling a Mountain!

It’s Never, Never Too Late to Start Getting Healthy!! | Healthy Aging Series: Part 2

I’m 65.

I’ve been pretty serious about my health most of my adult life. This is due, in part, to the many people that have mentored me and influenced me these past decades. 

I see my doctor and dentist twice a year.

I work out almost every day.

I hike and walk every week.

I cycle (during the warmer months) every week. 

I lift weights or do body weight exercises 3-4 times a week.

I recently eliminated “added sugar” from my diet and dropped 20 lbs.

I still have lots of things to work on, but it’s never too late to get started.

I have worked on the stress in my life, and I been doing mindfulness practices to help.

I’m working at reducing the sodium in my diet with the hopes of reducing my blood pressure.

I’d like to get my percentage of body fat down to around 18%.

Like I said, it’s never too late!

In a recent New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds (September 18, 2019) entitled, “Taking up Running After 50? It’s never too late to Shine,” she writes that, “middle age is not too late to take up intense exercise training and begin banking many of the health benefits of being an athlete.” I love this analogy of banking health benefits! She explains that older athletes have fewer long-term health conditions, take fewer medications, have fewer hospital or medical visits, and their physical function is excellent.

Again, it’s never too late!!

I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog a book that my father gave me 2 decades ago, “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Guide to Turning back the Clock.” Arnot writes, “You can set back your biological age, like rolling back the miles on a car’s odometer. How much? A sedentary forty- or fifty-year-old can realistically expect to test as a healthy twenty-five-year-old after as little as six months.” This is a book worth reading if you want to become more active and reverse aging. I have two copies in my office, and I’ll loan you one!

Bob Arnot’s advice, “It’s never too late!”

Another book that inspired me during this past decade was, “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy -Until You’re 80 and Beyond,” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. This is a very hopeful book. Crowley is eight-four-years-old and continues to be active and in very good health. He writes that, “you may want to think about the fact that 70 percent of premature death is life-style related.” “Premature death,” he explains, “means before you’re deep into your eighties.”

Crowley and Lodge agree, It’s never too late to start preparing for old age!!

Here is my advice:

The sooner you become more health conscious, the better your chances of living a long and healthy life.

Let that sink in. 

This means getting more health conscious about:

  • Good nutrition
  • Being active
  • Having something to get up for every morning
  • Maintaining good relationships
  • Learning to adjust to the things that will not adjust to you

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Colorado as I write this blog. I’m getting ready to hike The Incline. It’s a mile-long train up the side of Pike’s Peak that increases in elevation by 2000 feet. I try to do it every time I visit, to test myself. It’s usually takes an hour and fifteen minutes to make it up that mile stretch. We’ll see about this time.

Why do I do things like this?

Because I’m doing what I can now to ensure that I live a long and healthy life.

It’s never, never too late to get started!

Book Mentioned in Blog By Mark Neese









This is part two in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Nutritional and Medical Disclaimer for True North Counseling, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.


Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“The problem is not that we aren’t trying. The problem isn’t even that we don’t know how. The problem is the world has turned “wellness” into yet another goal everyone “should” strive for, but only people with time and money and nannies and yachts and Oprah’s phone number can actually achieve.”

Sometimes a book comes along at the exact right time in your life. Sometimes, that’s a book you probably should have read three degrees ago. This book is exactly that for me. It provided a brand-new way of looking at stress in my life by separating stress from stressors. They write:

Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle…Stressors are what activate the stress response in your body. They can be anything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or imagine could do you harm. There are external stressors: work, money, family, time, cultural norms and expectations, experiences of discrimination, and so on. And there are less tangible, internal stressors: self-criticism, body image, identity, memories, and The Future. In different ways and to different degrees, all of these things may be interpreted by your body as potential threats.”

A failure to go through and resolve the stress cycle can result in burnout, which was “first coined as a technical term by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975. ‘Burnout’ was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; 2. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and 3. decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.”

If we’ve known about burnout for so long, how is it that we’re just now figuring out how to fix it?

This is not quite a rhetorical question. The answer is: Because it’s hard. If everyone knew how to combat burnout, we would all be doing it! (And the monetized “experience of self-care” that’s sold by the capitalist machine will go away, but that’s for another time…) Part of the problem is that we’ve been looking at stress the wrong way. “The good news is that stress is not the problem. The problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the physiological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”

To get un-stuck, the Nagoskis’ write, we must move. Run, dance, kickbox, tense and release muscles, and, most importantly, breathe. The book has other great tips, as well as a way to plan out all of the options you have for completing the stress cycle.

So the real question is: How are you completing the stress cycle today?

2 or 3 pounds a year

The 2 or 3 Pounds a Year Club

It doesn’t sound like much: 2 or 3 pounds a year. But in ten years you’ve added 20 pounds. In 20 years, you’ve added 40 or 50 pounds, even 60. 

I’ve had a membership in this club and, unfortunately, I put on 25 extra pounds in 8 years. 

Many, many Americans are members of this club. To be precise, 160 million. That’s how many Americans are overweight or obese.

I apologize for my insensitivity. This is not a club. 

For many, it’s a prison. It’s a life of hopelessness.

Most of this added weight comes from added sugar. I have used the word “insidious” to describe the effect that sugar is having on America and its children. Everywhere I look, people are carrying many, many extra pounds of adipose tissue (fat). They were fit and lean in their twenties and thirty years later they struggle with a high body mass index. I’m noticing it with children as well

Do you want to cancel your membership to the “2 to 3-Pounds-a-Year-Club?” Then you’ve got to do something different.  Alcoholics Anonymous warns us about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We are reminded that they call this insanity. 

Two Options for Getting out of the Insanity Club

First, hire a personal trainer that can help you put together an exercise and nutrition plan. Make sure they are certified. I’m certified with the American Counsel for Exercise (ACE) and I believe that this is the best program because it initially focuses on stability and mobility.

You can find them at most fitness facilities, or you can hire them individually. Simply google ‘personal trainers’ in the city where you live.

I practice the Paleo Diet (and lifestyle) and believe that it’s the most nutritious. It also addresses the sugar problem. Make sure your trainer has a certification in nutrition and expect that they will be able to give good information and guidance (within their scope of practice) about nutrition. 

Your second option is to be your own trainer and nutritionist. If you choose this option, you’re going to need some help changing the status quo in your life. Think, KISS. Think “exercise and fitness for dummies.” 

I’ve selected three books with simplicity and comprehensiveness in mind. All are in the “Dummies” series of books. 

Fitness Walking For Dummies,” by Liz Neporent.

Weight Training For Dummies,” 4th Edition, by LaReine Chabut, Liz Neporent, and Suzanne Scholsberg.

Paleo All-in-One for Dummies,” by Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan, Melissa Joulwan, and Dr. Kellyann Petrucci.

I’ve chosen these books for two reasons:

If you put together an exercise, it needs to include moderate-intensity cardio and resistance training. The first book helps with the cardio and the second book helps with resistance training.

If you put together a nutrition plan, it needs to help you get the added sugar out of your life. I believe that the Paleo Diet accomplishes this.

One additional suggestion: find a coach. Find someone that can help you stick with the plan. This could be a workout buddy, a spouse, or a Certified Health Coach (they do exist). 

It’s time to get out of the 2 to 3-Pound-a-Year-Club or Insanity Club and start preparing for the next ten years of your life. 


In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

seduced by sugar

Seduced by Sugar

“Prone to Wander, Oh I Feel it,

Prone to Eat the Sugar I love!”

I’m not sure the hymn writer intended their song to be used to illustrate the temptations of sugar, but I had to give it a try. It may not be right, but it feels right. 

We are constantly seduced by sugar. It’s everywhere and in everything. It’s delicious! And if we are ever going to cut back or completely avoid it, we are going to need lots of willpower! 

Willpower, also referred to as self-control or strength, plays a big role in our health, fitness, work, and in our relationships. The problem is, we only succeed half the time when we try use willpower to overcome temptations. This is due, I believe, to our lack of understanding of willpower.

I want to share some current research about willpower. Hopefully, it will help you in your quest to eat and live well.

These are two important sources that help:

Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior: Why is Self-Control so Hard?” a series of lectures by Dr. Mark Leary, from Duke University 

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” By Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.

Here is what I gleaned from them:

  • Willpower (or Ego Strength) is more effective when you are able to avoid being exposed to the things that tempt you. If you want to avoid added sugar, avoid going to a candy shop. Simple enough. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Try to set more immediate and concrete goals vs. distant and abstract goals. You are more likely to keep goals that focus on losing 8 lbs. in one month than a goal to “get healthy or lose weight. 
  • Work on one goal at a time. “Studies have shown,” explains Leary, “that when people must control their behavior on one task, their ability to control themselves on a second task is weakened.”
  • There seems to be a reservoir of ego strength, so be careful to not expend it by stress and multi-tasking. Ego strength decreases as the day continues especially after a day of self-control for many hours. “People were using up all their willpower on the job,” writes Baumeister and Tierney. They explain that it’s the same supply of willpower to deal with frustrating traffic, tempting food, annoying colleagues, demanding bosses, and pouting children. 
  • It’s possible to “store up” self-control strength to be used for later tasks, such as engaging with family and children after work. This can be done by decreasing the level of self-control intensity that you use during the day. It may mean taking breaks and recharging throughout the day. “Possibly by relaxing before Lent,” write Baumeister and Tierney, “people store up the willpower necessary to sustain themselves through weeks of self-denial.”
  • I believe the self-control reservoir is similar to a gas tank. Work at keeping it at ¾ of a tank to ensure that you don’t experience lapses of willpower. I always remind parents about self-care to keep their gas tanks full. Relax and de-stress throughout the day.
  • Blood glucose levels affect willpower. Researchers have discovered that low blood glucose equals low willpower. The pattern showed up time and again as they tested more people in many situations. Sugar plays a role in our resisting sugar!!!

All roads lead back to sugar!

I want to make it clear; the researchers are not recommending that you have a flask of sugar water in your car or desk to use throughout the day. Sugar makes it worse!!! They are recommending that you eat a diet that helps you maintain a stable blood glucose level throughout the day. 

The High Willpower Diet and Lifestyle

  • Eat for the slow burn. The body converts just about all sorts of food into glucose, but at different rates. Foods that are converted quickly are said to have a high glycemic index.

To maintain steady self-control, you’re better off eating foods with a low glycemic index: most vegetables, nuts (like peanuts and cashews), many raw fruits (like apples, blueberries, and pears), cheese, fish, meat, olive oil, and other “good” fats. (These low-glycemic foods may also help keep you slim.) 

  • When you’re sick, save your glucose for your immune system.

If you’re too glucose-deprived (because of the demands put on your immune system) to do something as simple as driving a car, how much use are you going to be in the office (assuming you make it there safely)? 

  • When you’re tired, sleep.

Not getting enough sleep has assorted bad effects on your mind and body. Hidden among these is the weakening of self-control and related processes like decision making. 

Whatever you call it (ego strength, willpower, self-control strength), we need “it” to live healthy and successful lives. 

Improving your willpower will enhance every aspect of your life, but especially in overcoming the temptation of sugar.  


In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

thoughtful eating

Thoughtful Eating

We take food for granted. 

I know there are people in our country that are hungry. I work with many people on reduced incomes and I see them struggle to make ends meet. Poverty continues to pose a challenge for our country.

Despite this, children and adolescents in low-income families are more likely to be obese than those in high-income families.  This pattern doesn’t hold true for adults and is more likely affected by the level of education. We will look at obesity in a later blog.

Regardless of our socioeconomic status, Americans eat with little thought about the food we are eating. Americans are convenience eaters. We eat in our cars and we eat standing up. When we’re angry or sad, we eat. We impulse eat and snack between meals. We see a candy bar at the checkout lane and buy it and eat it. Even after we feel full, we continue to eat. 

We take our food for granted.

When was the last time you fasted? Skipped breakfast and lunch? When was the last time that you thought about the people that provided, cooked and served you your food? How often do you take a moment and quietly voice gratitude for the food for which you are about to receive? When was the last time that you sorted through the different textures, flavors, and colors while you were eating a meal?  Do you think about the triggers that prompt you to eat? Triggers like feeling down, angry, or anxious. When was the last time that you craved a pastry (that’s always for me) and ate it so quickly that you didn’t even remember eating it? 

Thoughtful Eating simply means, paying attention to what we are eating

 In his book, “How to Eat,” Thich Nhat Hanh offers what he calls “notes on eating.” I’ll share some of them.

  • Nothing comes from nothing. Think about how the bread was made. The fields where the grain grew. The sunshine that bathed the blades of wheat. The farmer that labored to harvest the grain.
  • Your body belongs to the earth. “We eat with care,” writes Nhat Hanh, “knowing that we are caretakers of our bodies, rather than their owners.”
  • Slow down. The author shares that, slowing down and enjoying our food helps our lives take on a deeper quality. You become connected to everything that the food represents.
  • Pay attention to the people that are eating with you. This he calls community-building. Food should bring you closer to the ones you love.
  • Take a moment before you eat and nourish yourself with the breath of life. Breathe deeply. Fill your lungs with the life-giving air around you.
  • Turn off the Television.
  • Become aware when you are full and satisfied with the food you are eating. Then stop eating.
  • Chew your food, not your worries. It’s difficult to feel grateful when your chewing your planning and your anxiety.

These are just a few of the suggestions in “How to Eat.” 

Here are two of mine: 

Prior to eating, reflect on the gift of food. The Stoics practiced reflection to insure they saw the meaning of the events in their lives. They reflected on the mistakes and successes. They wanted to learn from both. 

Reflecting on food can take place as a quiet moment or a prayer. I remember growing up and learning a prayer we called ‘Grace.’ We said ‘Grace’ before eating. Many faith traditions have their prayers. Mine was:

Bless us Oh Lord,

For these thy Gifts,

Which we are about to Receive,

From thy Bounty

Through Christ our Lord, Amen

You may prefer a more secular prayer:

Earth who gives to us our food,

Sun who makes it ripe and good,

Dearest earth and dearest sun,

Joy and love for all you’ve done.

If you’re not satisfied with these, create your own thoughtful prayer.

My second suggestion is to practice fasting. Many, many religious and secular practitioners have been fasting for millennium. I have practiced fasting for many years. I currently fast 3-4 times a week. There is nothing like feeling hungry. I love it. I think it mimics the lifestyle of early humans. It makes my senses more keen. It helps me appreciate food.

I have taken food for granted, but with practice, I’ll learn to savor it and to enjoy the people that I share it with. 


In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.