Have you read anything by the author Barbara Ehrenreich?  I hadn’t, but apparently she’s a radical sceptic and free-thinker and she’s just about to publish a book here in the UK called Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of Control. And I’m about to do the very worst thing as I’m commenting on a book before I’ve read it (it’s on my birthday wish list).  However, I’ve just read my third review. Her argument is you can go the gym, eat well, get health checks, be as pro-ageing as you like, it doesn’t matter you’ll die anyway. And indeed, she goes on, don’t for one moment believe that your body will help you to live longer. No way can you coerce your body into longevity because what she thought were the good guys, macrophages, will turn against you and nurture the blood supply to a tumour without a thought for how well you’ve lived or how much you’ve juiced in the past.  Her credentials include a PhD in cellular immunology so, although she says she’s simplified her findings and this will consequently annoy some scientists, she backs her hypothesis up with 20 pages of notes and citations.

Hmm, well she’s right there, we all die. You can’t escape that, and tax, well you might the latter if you run a large multi-national company. But setting aside that, and noting that this review had its criticisms; because Ehrenreich is inconsistent in her attack as she still goes to the gym, I do wonder if the American way of health colours her perspective? Which I believe is that you must counter any ill-health, including chronic illness leading to end-of-life, with more and more tests and hospital treatment.  You can tell me if I’m wrong but it certainly seems that way from another book, Being Mortal, by the American surgeon Atul Gawande (which I did read) which argued that our pursuit of survival gets in the way of the reality of our mortality.  He wants us to have a good life all the way to the end and as part of that mentions hospices, but it appeared to me when I read his book that a hospice seemed a fairly radical idea to him, a surgeon, who had been taught to save life rather than help people towards their final time on earth.

But here in the UK we have a very good hospice movement and it wouldn’t seem radical or out-of-place to have a relative going to a hospice.  On the contrary you’d welcome it. And I know this because when I was a nurse I worked in a hospice. You need to allow people to die. It is not giving up on people, it is giving people wonderful care to the very end of life.

I began writing this early on Sunday morning and only a couple of hours later my friend Tricia Cusden, founder of Look Fabulous Forever posted on eating for a longer healthier life. In quite a technical piece she describes our DNA structure and its ageing and argues that although you can’t change that ageing your lifestyle choices can delay that deterioration. And one of the lifestyle choices you can make is to eat healthily.

It’s not that there’s a happy medium between those two perspectives, that would be a bit trite, but both have a point.  Yes, we’re all going to die and really, you can’t change that, but you could eat well, although how long that would prolong life is another matter.  My view is should you not live as healthily as possible, so you are comfortable as you age? We don’t want to live longer if we are unable to walk and are too frail to care for ourselves.

My position is that I know I’m not as fit as I used to be.  There are factors that have contributed to this: I stopped going to a class over a year ago, moving house and down-sizing was exceptionally stressful (it always is) and I had two viruses this winter which left me feeling physically low.  But hey, good news I have finally found the class I want and need.  And. I’ve found a Personal Trainer – yay!  I’ve searched for this person for a long time and I’m right at the beginning of getting a fitness programme tailored to my needs, and I’ll keep you posted on this.

And just to show you how we all come up short of our aims and intentions. On Sunday we went out to see the Brighton Marathon in action.  What an event, what an atmosphere, what a buzz.

This is why I moved to Brighton!  But it was much colder than it looked and we got quite chilled.

So, having had a healthy breakfast (muesli) I saw the words ‘fish and chips’ outside a café.  Reader, I went in had three cups of tea, two slices of bread and butter (look, it was brown bread) and a huge plate of fish and chips.  That warmed us up!  But we had to wait for a bus and by the time I got back home we were chilled again so we had another cup of tea and a delicious hot cross bun (with lashings of butter and jam – yum).  And then nothing much in the evening apart from crisps washed down with zero alcohol lager and a cup of decaffeinated coffee and a couple of biscuits. Consequently, I woke at 1.0am starving hungry and had to get up and eat a banana. Honestly, in comparison to Tricia, on that day, I did not come up to scratch, but I truly intend to be better!

Btw, I’ve made an appointment with my General Practitioner to check my BP and I’ve also re-started the NHS Couch to 5K running programme. This is the year I’m bringing fitness back to my body.  How do you feel about that?  And your fitness?

With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
instagraminstagram
Tagged on:             

41 thoughts on “Life, death and living well

  • 17th April 2018 at 8:25 am
    Permalink

    Your day sounded excellent to me (except for the alcohol free lager, why would you?), and coincidentally I’ve just started week 2 of couch to 5k so interested to hear how you get on and what you wear for it – are there any leggings that don’t fall down?

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:18 am
      Permalink

      Well the thing is I haven’t had any alcohol for 20 years so I have been through the hunt for alternatives and for me a no-alcohol lager is about the best as it doesn’t taste sweet. And fish and chips is the best meal ever I think! And for me it’s fingers crossed with the couch to 5k as I didn’t get past the 2nd week last time. At the moment I’m wearing track suit bottoms and have spent my money on the footwear. I can see that that’s the key thing – but having watched the Brighton marathon some leggings looked great so will probably buy some later on.

      • 18th April 2018 at 10:42 am
        Permalink

        Ah, I didn’t know that, it makes sense now. Please let us know some of your alternatives to alcohol – I do drink wine but when I’m the driver I don’t and it’s difficult to find something pleasant to drink with a meal and I usually end up with just water. I’ve just bought some 2nd-hand leggings and tops online and waiting for them to arrive but I did splash out on new running shoes – now have to make sure I really do persevere with the C25K and get my money’s worth.

  • 17th April 2018 at 9:03 am
    Permalink

    Fitness is hard to maintain. I used to be fitter, thinner and more supple. Illness took a huge toll. I have quite a lot of medication now and my immune system is shot so when I do get ill I get really ill. The most important thing is your attitude to life. I try to be positive, happy and interested in people. I get out and about as much as I can and love to talk to anyone. I might not be the most glamorous woman but I try to be interesting and interested in everything.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:24 am
      Permalink

      That’s so the right attitude – I hope to attain that if I get really unwell. The viruses were nothing – just made you feel a bit physically low and slow and were compounded by the winter. More power to you – and respect. You sound a really interesting and connected woman – thanks so much for commenting.

  • 17th April 2018 at 1:29 pm
    Permalink

    And yet….. we know that eating a rotten diet will definitely curtail our health and lifespan.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:29 am
      Permalink

      Yup – the more I think about the more I realise I have to read the whole book. The UK press that I read was full of praise for her, but her hypothesis must be something to do with the American health system. Eating well is about attaining quality of life as we age, eating badly will curtail it for sure – fat in arteries etc etc.

  • 17th April 2018 at 2:45 pm
    Permalink

    In the last three months, I’ve become the caregiver for my husband. I am thankful to be retired and physically able to do this. Yet I’ve given up a walking and exercise regimen that kept me physically fit.
    I am trying to be smart in how I face the time ahead. I was going to give up my summer vegetable garden then realized that I should keep it up as it will be good for the both of us to be outdoors and eating well. I am striving to find help so that I can have a few hours to walk again, get a haircut, go to the grocers, etc.
    I want to remain strong for my husband, for my own life, and for kids and grandkids. Trying to be balanced in the days ahead.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:38 am
      Permalink

      Oh yes, you do need to find that help. I do hope you get it, gaining that along with gardening and growing vegetables will be such a blessing. A little exercise and vitamins from fresh veg will be so good for you. But I really hope you also get some time for a haircut – that’s very very important.

      When I was younger I worked for organisations that helped and supported the unpaid caregiver and I knew everything there was to know about it (because I ended up in a national project) Yes, I knew everything, until I became the carer of my mother and found how frustrating that was, when officials and medics didn’t listen. But I didn’t have to stay with my mother all the time. You have to keep well. I really can’t stress that enough – you must have time for yourself. But I know also how difficult that is. We owe a great debt to all carers out there – wishing you all the very best in finding your way through this x

      • 18th April 2018 at 3:37 pm
        Permalink

        What a blessing it is to read your sweet words…all the way to Los Angeles. Thank you.
        Charlene H

  • 17th April 2018 at 2:52 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Penny, so enjoyed reading your story this week especially the bit about the fish supper etc!! So funny!! I always try and eat as healthily as possible and have done yoga for many years now also walk each day! I agree if we’re going to take a disease or an illness then we will in spite of whether we look after ourselves or not, but we at least might stand a better chance of fighting it off if we start off as healthy as possible! I will be 69 this year and I too have had a couple of nasty viruses over the winter which knocked the stuffing out of me and took ages to get my stamina back!! Recently I’ve started thinking about my mortality and my husbands, he’ll be 71 this year, in our heads we’re much much younger, but there’s nothing we can do about time rolling on (very fast) so we have to do as much as we can each day, especially things we enjoy!! But I will admit if I let my mind wonder about my my age I could get quite depressed!!! Grrrr!!!! Love and best wishes xx

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:49 am
      Permalink

      Fish and chips is the finest meal ever! Having it, once a month is, I think, fine!! And so tasty and satisfying! And yes, the more I think about it the critics just went overboard on a book that said something slightly different to all the self-help books out there. Tricia Cusden is right though that we need to take decisions to eat healthily, and doing that will lead to a better quality of life (as in fat in arteries is not a good idea, nor is sugar overloading our pancreas) but whether we can prolong life is another matter as genes do have a say. But her article is quite technical about DNA so maybe….

      I think turning 70 is quite a thing to go through. I’ve been through that and come out the other side at nearly 72! I totally accept my age, and ageing, and face it square on and it’s not a negative. So many things have happened in these retirement years that have been great and I have developed interests that would have been impossible in my younger working years. I am truly looking forward to the future, and so will you! It’s all out there – go for it!

  • 17th April 2018 at 4:03 pm
    Permalink

    I have embraced the American advice that by looking after our bodies we can live better for longer and then die quicker. We shouldn’t be squeamish about this. We can’t know when we will die, but we can do a lot to mitigate or even avoid the chronic conditions which can make our final years so difficult.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:24 pm
      Permalink

      I so agree with you about not being squeamish about our ageing. And yes, we can live better if we look after ourselves. It makes a lot of sense to care for ourselves as we age.

  • 17th April 2018 at 5:22 pm
    Permalink

    I definitely agree with “no matter how well we look after ourselves our bodies could turn against us”. But I think the most important sentence in your writing is “Should we not live as healthily as possible so we are comfortable as we age” I put on almost a stone over winter and I felt dreadful, constantly tired and lethargic, everything seemed such an effort, even feeling tired after having a shower! Now I have to work very hard to return to my default state of more energy and feeling better.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:26 pm
      Permalink

      That’s the key thing – to have energy and feel good. That’s all it is, and if that means you losing weight and me making my core stronger so I don’t feel feeble then that’s what we aim for. It makes such a lot of sense.

  • 17th April 2018 at 6:24 pm
    Permalink

    Interesting post, Penny, and an intelligent perspective from yourself. I am 70 soon, and my health is getting better than it has been in over a decade. It is possible to have a happier, healthier life & I know from experience what I prefer. I recall what 70 was like when I was 40 – 70 looked and acted old. Whilst I do not think that acting & feeling youthful is the ‘only’ way to go, it is, actually, much more pleasant. Why shouldn’t a 70 year old have a good life? On a more humorous note, many years ago, an astrologer told me that I would die at 62, &, if not, about 69. Well, I’m still here, but 2-3 nights before I turned 63, I had a Near Death Experience: I was declined. I can see the humour here.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:32 pm
      Permalink

      Oh wow, your story about the astrologer…! How I agree with you that when we were younger 70 seemed an age away, now it’s our reality, but it is so much more pleasant than I expected as it is for you. I do have a much richer, more creative life now than when I was working, and that I wouldn’t change for anything. So glad you feel the same way.

  • 17th April 2018 at 6:28 pm
    Permalink

    The one thing we do know for sure is that smoking is bad for you.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:12 am
      Permalink

      Absolutely agree with you there!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:32 pm
      Permalink

      It is Nancy, so agree!

  • 17th April 2018 at 10:11 pm
    Permalink

    Does the person who wrote this book about ‘illusion of control’ think that people who do exercise, eat well are doing so to live longer? For me it is not the length of my life that is important, it is the quality of that life.
    So I guess Barbara Ehrenreich amy have been paid by the sugar/saturated fat organisations to ridicule people who choose to try and be healthier?

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:12 am
      Permalink

      Interesting – I wrote about this because the UK press is just full of praise for her. And totally agree with you that eating well and doing the exercise is all about giving us quality of life, and nothing more. And actually an illusion of control is not such a bad thing!

    • 18th April 2018 at 10:25 am
      Permalink

      From what I know from her previous writing and stated views, Barbara Ehrenreich would not have accepted payment in the way you suggest. You need to be careful what you allege without evidence.

  • 17th April 2018 at 11:17 pm
    Permalink

    I think I’m probably of the same mind as what you alluded to. I live a quite healthy lifestyle – I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in recent years, I exercise and I don’t eat sugar or any of the bad “whites”. But, I don’t really do it because I have delusion of prolonging my life. I believe when God is ready to take me, when my purpose on earth is done, I’ll die and so it is. I do it for the QUALITY of my life while I’m still here. I want to be active and be able to enjoy each moment abundantly while I still can!

    • 18th April 2018 at 6:26 am
      Permalink

      Totally agree with you, ewel said .

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 7:07 am
      Permalink

      Absolutely Ronnie, it’s all about let’s do these things because we want a good quality of life as we move on in years. Enjoy!

  • 18th April 2018 at 7:37 am
    Permalink

    There’s an old saying, We are what we eat, which I believe is true. My diet is mainly Mediterranean, because it works well for me, and I get get plenty of excercise one way or another, On the other hand it’s great to have a binge, like your fish and chips, now and again. We have to take care of ourselves, it’s our responsibility, but we have to enjoy doing it.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:35 pm
      Permalink

      I think my diet leans towards the Mediterranean – but gosh fish and chips just now and then is so nice!

  • 18th April 2018 at 10:49 am
    Permalink

    Interesting post. To me, it all about balance and I go to the gym, run and am currently fighting the copeous amounts of weeds in my garden haha. However, I often go to the pub, eat out, enjoy travel and days out and so it is all a bit of a battle. It is a battle that will go on but at least I’m concerned about my health and it continually shocks me how people drink, smoke and eat rubbish with no consideration to their health! Honestly, the best thing you can do is try to exercise, eat healthy 80% of the time and still enjoy life. Thanks for this, it is very thought provoking.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:37 pm
      Permalink

      Yes, I m with you all the way there – exercise and eat well most of the time, it just makes sense.

  • 18th April 2018 at 1:20 pm
    Permalink

    I had a health scare last summer, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a double mastectomy, followed by reconstruction, and took a long hard look at my lifestyle. I look after grandchildren, so am very active with them, but realized that I need to be a lot more mindful about exercising, so joined a gym with a trainer, who is mindful of my age and very encouraging. I changed my diet, (not that it was bad before!) but cut out alcohol and unhealthy carbs. I feel so much better. Have just had a three week holiday in the U.S. where the amount of food people eat is astounding, made me realize that moderation in all things is a key component.
    So grateful for people like you, Penny, and Trisha Cusden, who encourage the rest of us to be the best that we can be. I feel so much more positive about the future, knowing that at 66 I look good and feel great, and also blessed to have a great husband , kids and grandchildren. Life is precious, but it takes effort on our part to be the best that we can be.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      18th April 2018 at 3:43 pm
      Permalink

      Oh Geri, well done you for overcoming your health issues and then going to a gym. And having a trainer who is aware and takes into consideration those issues must be so good. I’ve found it a really positive experience to work with a PT – the whole thing is going to be so helpful to me, but boy do I have some aching muscles today! She found things for me to do all over my flat – I worked really hard. What’s more I think they should be on prescription at the GP surgery!

      Re: the amount of food people eat – saw the same thing on my latest cruise!

  • 18th April 2018 at 2:18 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Penny – as you mentioned my article about eating healthily as we age – I thought I’d chip into the conversation! What became apparent from my research into optimal ageing was that the purely genetic perspective (like that of Ehrenreich) is nearly always fatalistic ‘you’ll die anyway, so what’s the point’. Whereas the people advocating health and fitness always come across as judgemental and, dare I say it, a bit smug. I was proposing a middle way which is to be found in the work on telomeres – neither wholly fatalistic nor wholly judgemental. I know from experience that eating lots of sugar-rich carbs and having no exercise (I too am 70) makes me feel terrible. I just want to feel energetic and well enough to keep leading my very busy life for as long as I can. And maybe (just maybe) my improved diet and my regular exercise sessions will help me to do just that.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      19th April 2018 at 10:19 am
      Permalink

      I’m absolutely with you there. I very much like that you did that technical research so that you can back up what you say. My session with the PT was a very positive experience, btw, and I look forward to improving my core and strength. Turned a corner there, I think. Eating well and exercise should be just part of our lives as we age. Thanks so much for that book you wrote – it’s very readable and good to look at as well!

  • 18th April 2018 at 3:23 pm
    Permalink

    Yes, agree with so much of what you said, Penny. Of course, it’s only a certain section of USA society that is obsessed with combating mortality (as if they could!) for many poor USA citizens don’t have that luxury…

    I think we should all aim to have as comfortable old age as possible and we have to take some personal responsibility for that – genetics notwithstanding. After all, the toast ‘Health, wealth and happiness’ puts health in prime position!

    It sounds like your day at the marathon was a ‘treat’ day. We all need those from time.

    Good luck with your new regime…
    xxx

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      19th April 2018 at 10:21 am
      Permalink

      Do you know, as I wrote I thought I ought to add a sentence or two about exactly that – that good proportion of people in the USA don’t have the luxury of insurance. But I didn’t. So true though.

      That day out watching the marathon was such a treat but a bit cold! Hence the fish and chips!

  • 19th April 2018 at 4:26 am
    Permalink

    A very interesting and timely post Penny. After struggling for a few months I have finally been diagnosed with Adult Asthma, so the trial medications begin, which I hate using but know I must. This has made me more determined than ever to reassess my diet (its not too bad but needs tweaking) and exercise . Looking after our health surely makes for better quality of life and for me that is so much more important than quantity.Wishing you well with your new commitments to exercise.

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      19th April 2018 at 10:33 am
      Permalink

      Sorry to hear about your diagnosis but then again knowledge is power and now you know what’s happening you can take the meds and improve.

      Re: exercise, the most important thing I can advise is don’t join a gym! Both Tricia Cusden, and now me, have benefited enormously by having a Personal Trainer work with us around our particular needs and issues. I’m right at the beginning of the process as I spent a long time searching for the right Personal Trainer but as soon as I came across the ‘chosen one’ (!) I just knew she’d be right. I have exercised in the past but Tricia never exercised and she’s a year ahead of me with her PT and is just a different woman. Of course, we improve at our own pace so don’t take any notice of that. The key thing is to find the right PT, for instance, my PT is a mature woman (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that) and not a buff young man!

      Wishing you all the very best in tweaking your situation.

  • 28th April 2018 at 6:25 pm
    Permalink

    What a very thought provoking post . Let’s forget dying and concentrate on how we live whilst we’re here … and doing it the best we can, because being alive but hugely overweight and sluggish because we’ve assumed that eating healthily is pointless (because we will die anyway) would be a miserable way to live. Being flexible and supple so that we can move around more easily is worth doing the exercise. I hope you enjoy working with your personal trainer. I’ve been a member of my gym (spe,cifically aimed at middle aged women) for nearly 8 years and am fitter now than I was a decade ago.

Comments are closed.