Thursday, 15 July 2021

Slow Food and Slow Ageing

Slow Food and Slow Living, the Slow Movement, started back in the late 1980s and 1990s in Europe in part as a reaction to and defense against fast food restaurants like McDonald's. 

The struggle continues. Avoiding fast food is a huge topic. Slow Food is becoming more important in connection with climate change and in reaction to all the take-out food we’ve been eating during the COVID pandemic.

When my children were little, I was a stay-at-home mom. We had one modest income and a very small home with a nice garden. The first foods my babies ate were things from my garden. We tried to avoid spending money eating out and rarely had fast food, but we did indulge in a Big Mac on occasion. Burger King was a fun treat too. 

My mother didn't trust preservatives, additives, chemicals in foods, and didn't like "junk food" (junk food definition varies, right?), and my friends and neighbours were mostly of Italian heritage and their parents also looked down on fast food and junk food, so I was already indoctrinated. Still, the draw of the salty and sweet and fatty and colourful fast food and packaged processed foods is strong, hard to resist. It's harder to resist when your children become aware of it.

Being a stay-at-home mom was already in 1996 an anachronism. All of my friends had full-time jobs. I was not afraid of being different; I was raised to think independently. This choice of lifestyle is something that made it easy for me to embrace Slow Living and Slow Food, although I wasn’t really familiar with them. Without being aware of the term, I was also Slow Parenting. 

I am now discovering Slow Ageing. And, it’s another thing that I am falling into without even trying. I have to read Carl Honore’s 2019 book Bolder: Making the Most of our Longer Lives. It sounds like the perfect thing for me. Carl Honore wrote In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed in 2004 and became the “godfather of the Slow Movement”.

Here’s what Honore says about Bolder on his website:

My first three books took down the canard that faster is always better. BOLDER is about shooting down the myth that younger is always better.

 The Amazon description of Bolder includes this:

We'll embrace the idea that we can carry on learning from start to finish; that we can work less and devote more time to family, leisure, and giving back to our communities in our middle years; and that we can remain active and engaged in our later years.

“Slow Ageing” (corrected to the American spelling aging) shows up on the internet mostly in advertisements for Anti-Ageing products. Anti-Ageing products, attractive things full of chemicals and empty promises, are just like Fast Food. They do not slow down the ageing process. You’re still ageing, you might just look younger. And why would you want to do that? Because it’s flashy and heavily advertised?

The articles I actually looked at were about staying healthy and happy as you get older. Slow Ageing is really an idea that is in opposition to Anti-Aging. Slow Ageing is Pro-Aging. Yes, ageing, let’s do this thing! It’s good and natural and worth doing well. Like Slow Food.

Bring on the grey hair and laugh lines; I don’t mind looking older in that way. But, I don’t want to stoop or walk stiffly (which I currently do sometimes). I want to be able to move without pain, get up out of a chair without feeling old, and I want to dance forever. Pain makes me cranky. I aim to be a cute grandmother, a fun one, not a cranky one. I want to avoid or put off the walker, the pain killers. I joked with my colleagues that my 5-year plan was to be a stay-at-home grandma. To that end, I retired early to start to take care of myself. The desk work and stress were making me unhappy and unhealthy, ageing me in ways I didn’t like.

Basically, Slow Ageing turns out to be a simple extension of Slow Living. From what I’ve read so far, I’ve extracted the following simple ways to help you age gracefully, to help me age gracefully.

1.     Eat well. Avoid (eliminate if you can) fast food, chemicals, processed foods, packaged foods.

Eat fresh food, and eat it mindfully. Drink lots of water. There’s a lot of good information about eating. Choose what sounds best to you. “You are what you eat” is true. Look into Slow Food.

2.     Keep moving. Avoid sitting.

Exercise regularly doing things you enjoy. Be mindful of simple opportunities to move more, like taking stairs instead of elevators or walking to your friend’s house instead of driving, cleaning your own house and gardening instead of hiring a service. Get outside to walk and play, and while you enjoy other benefits of being in nature move your body. Fresh air and exercise will help you to sleep well. Sleep is important. Organized activities are good too. See below. Look into joining the Seniors’ Centre. Look into Slow Living and Slow Travel.

3.     Take care of your mind and heart. Avoid negativity.

Keep learning and growing intellectually and challenge your ideas and beliefs. By keeping an open mind, you can always find something positive in everything and everyone, like Pollyanna. Nurture your relationships and build new ones. Connecting with people is important for lots of reasons. Singing in a choir is a perfect thing to do. In the York Region Community Choir, we are learning all the time and connecting with people (old friends and always new ones too), getting out of our houses moving our bodies, and singing about big positive themes. We grow. We practise mindful breathing. We feel joy. You can also take a dance class or an art class, or join a group of people who practise Tai Chi. These will all benefit your bodies and minds and hearts.

That’s it in a nutshell. There are so many interesting things to learn about what kinds of foods are best for different things and what kinds of exercise are best for different things, and when it’s the best time to eat or move. Research continues to show new ideas. We’ll keep learning, right? And, let’s do it together! I hope to do more socially now, so maybe I’ll give you a call. 

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