How to Age Well
I’m not afraid to admit it, I’m turning 60! Today, I’m celebrating the opportunity to be a strong, powerful women, all while sharing my tips on how to age well, healthfully and beautifully with a plant-based lifestyle.
I’m celebrating a very important birthday today—my 60th. That’s a picture above of me sitting at the beach, sporting a freshly scrubbed face, no makeup, no filters, no hair styling, no photo editing. I’m putting it all out there today to keep it 100% real. Yet, saying “60” out loud gives me pause. After all, we live in an agist, sexist society, where women (not so much men) have an expiration date. Instead of valuing our wisdom, experience, and a few wrinkles, the world puts pressure upon my fellow sisters to hide our biological ages and stay as young as we can possibly be—especially in this world I live in, as an author, speaker, blogger, media expert, and health influencer. Does “coming out” with my age put me at risk for being irrelevant? And if it does, is that fair or even realistic? After all, people born between 1946-1964 (1961 for me) spend the most money compared to any other demographic in the U.S. Yet, the Harvard Business Review reports that 28% of ads portraying those over 50 are negative, compared to only 4% of ads for younger people. Here are just a few amazing people who will turn 60 this year: Barack Obama, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Amy Sedaris, Melissa Etheridge, and Nadia Comaneci. See what I mean?
I’m encouraged by so many powerful women who are bringing it—into their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. These are the women who truly inspire me! I plan on bringing it for a long, long time, too. I can honestly say that I am at my peak at 60. I really mean it. Let me run through this little checklist of amazing things that have happened to me this past year: I moved to my dream place of Ojai, published my third book, signed a contract for my fourth book, relaunched my blog and social media (with more than 400K in my community), co-founded Food and Planet, started teaching in the Prescott College grad program (thanks to my newly acquired MS in Sustainable Food Systems, which I received at age 58), shot a TV episode, started my weekly Instagram Live Plant-Based Cooking Show in my kitchen, presented at several large webinars, and I’m just getting started. I am at the top of my career, looking at plenty of room to grow on the horizon. I’m not trying to brag here, I’m just celebrating the fact that at 60, we can be our best selves. So, I think it’s about time that we shout out from the rooftops that we are just getting better with age!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to leave out all of you Gen X, Y, and Z in my community; in fact, most of you reading this right now are in the 25-34 age demographic. And I love that! In fact, some of my dearest, closest friends are almost half my age, and we like to hang out. Being around people of all ages brings value. I keep it fresh with the help of my millennial friends, and they gain a lot of knowledge from me as one of their older pals. It’s a win-win. In fact, in many cultures the relationships between young and old are sacred. In the Blue Zones, where people live the longest, elders are deeply involved with the next generation, sharing their acquired knowledge and providing support for their children, grandchildren, and communities. Not so much in the U.S., where older people are out of sight and out of mind.
One of the benefits of getting older is that you are kinder to yourself, and you have more confidence. If you miss a day of your workout, meh, you’ll be ok. If your jeans feel a little snug, just shrug your shoulders because next week they’ll probably fit better. If your hair is a mess, put it up in a bun. The important things in life outweigh all of those little things. I’d rather spend half an hour petting my dog Teddy then worrying about my hair. That walk by the creek seems more soul-satisfying than a grinding workout in a fluorescent-lit gym. Digging in the vegetable garden is one of life’s top pleasures (I come from a long line of farmers, after all). Enjoying a square of good dark chocolate rivals just about any fancy dessert. And simply cooking and eating a humble, yet amazing plant-based meal based on local foods with my family—Peter and my sons Christian (24) and Nicholas (22)—is life at its very, very best.
I got up the muster to share a no fuss photo for my 60th to remind you that those images you see on Instagram and Tik Tok have been run through filters and apps that sculpt bodies, smooth skin, enlarge eyes, and narrow noses—all in an attempt to make you feel like you have to keep up to be “good enough”. No matter your age, please don’t fall into that trap. Take a moment to value the mind, body and soul that you are so fortunate to have. Those legs that have been powerful enough to carry you through your life, the eyes that have gazed upon so many memorable events, the nose that breathes in the scents of life’s experiences, and the lips that have smiled upon so many moments.
OK, I’m not saying that loving myself nullifies my desire to feel and look my best. All of those years of eating and living healthfully are paying off. People consistently tell me that I look a decade younger than I am, and to be truthful, I feel great! I live the way I want, whether it’s spending a day bending over my garden, hiking nine miles, or biking to the beach. Sure, there are a few little aches and pains that weren’t there a decade ago, as well as some new lines working their way across my face, but they serve to remind me of all that I have experienced.
I firmly believe that my plant-based diet has kept me feeling healthy and vibrant, all the way up to this special day today. I’ve been eating some kind of a plant-based diet my whole life, given that I was raised in a semi-vegetarian home. I have been pescatarian, then vegetarian, and finally vegan for the last 10 years. My diet is filled with whole plant foods and contains no animal foods—it’s a diet packed with fiber, vitamins C, A, K, and E, potassium, folate, healthy fats, plant proteins, and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. My latest exams show that my blood cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate, and CRP (biomarker of inflammation) are all low, and my iron and bone status are excellent. This is not to boast, but to inspire you that you can be your best with a healthy plant-based eating style. Research shows that 85% of chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle, such as diet, and that diet alone is the most powerful tool you possess in the quest to age healthfully. A plant-based diet can even make you feel happier!
So, what are the “secrets” I’ve learned to healthful aging? I’m sharing them today to celebrate my birthday. Let’s all be the best we can be as we ripen and mature into amazing, powerful people.
Sharon’s Top 5 Tips for Aging Well
1. Eat a Plant-Based Diet. Whether it’s vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, just get on the bandwagon. Reduce your animal food consumption and eat more plants to reduce your risk of age-related diseases, increase the quality of your life, and lengthen your lifespan.
2. Include Whole Plant Foods at each Meal. It’s not just about what you don’t eat—it’s what you do Include berries, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds in your diet every day. Aim for 6 servings of veggies a day. Eat fruit for dessert. Add one or two servings of soy each day. Include mushrooms a few times per week. Eat pulses every day. Focus on whole grains instead of refined grains.
3. Move Meaningfully Every Day. Exercise doesn’t have to be brutal and punishing. People who live the longest incorporate activity into their daily lives—working in a kitchen garden, walking to work, hiking, biking, yoga. These kinds of exercise can have double benefits—keeping your heart, lung, and muscles humming along well, while also providing brain and emotional bonuses.
4. Keep the Brain Buzzing. The worst thing you can do as you age is to wind down your cognitive challenges. Your chosen profession can help your brain stay engaged and active, so don’t feel the pressure to retire unless you really want to. Consider working part-time instead. And if you do want to retire, find some meaningful activities to challenge yourself, whether it’s volunteering at a community organization or spending time at your grandchild’s school reading at story time. Your wisdom is valuable—to you and the world.
6. Practice Self-Care. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Indulge in activities that soothe your soul. Here’s how I do self-care.
- Visit my farmers market each Sunday, where the aromas and colors of seasonal produce astound me and make me smile, plus set me up for healthy, delicious eating all week long. This is my “church”, really.
- Attend a Pilates class, where stretching, breathing and moving are restorative.
- Visit a local art gallery or museum to be inspired by the creative work of artists.
- Stroll through my small-town Main street, popping into shops, talking to neighbors, supporting them with my dollars, and appreciating their contribution to my community.
- Take a bubble bath with a book and a glass of bubbly (this ranks pretty high).
- Sit in the shade in a comfy chair with a book and a dog.
- Walk in a natural ecosystem, whether it’s a forest, beach, or desert.
- Breathe in aromas, whether it’s essential oils, a cup of herbal tea, or a bouquet of freshly picked flowers.
How are you living your best life? What are your activities of self-care? How are you aging healthfully? Let’s share and inspire!
Eat and Live the Goodness,