By Dr. Diana Bitner
I have to admit, when I started writing this blog, I had a bit of writer’s block. Not because I didn’t know or understand the topic; in fact, it was just the opposite. I feel like I talk about healthy aging so much every day that I had a hard time condensing it to just a few pages. There’s just so much important information to share when it comes to aging with wellness that I want to make sure I don’t leave anything out!
When I discuss this topic, I often start with a story about a patient who was very deliberate about how she wanted to age. When she came in for her yearly exam, I asked her how she wanted to “be” in a year. She seemed a little confused by my question, so I expanded and said, “How do you want to feel and look one year from now?” She understood the question a little better but said she would need to think about her answer. She left my office that day and I didn’t see her again until nearly one year later.
In fact, as I was rushing down the hall of my office that day, I ran into a woman (literally) and had to apologize for being in such a rush. She looked at me and said, “You don’t recognize me, do you?” I was embarrassed and had to admit that I didn’t know who she was. She reminded me of her name and said, “Last year, you asked me how I wanted to “be” in a year, and I decided I wanted to be HOT!” I couldn’t believe she was the same woman who had sat in my office a year earlier contemplating the question I had asked her. In her quest to be “hot,” she had lost 25 pounds, completed her first triathlon, and felt better than she had felt in years. And, it was all because of that one question I had asked her to think about that day in my office.
In the earlier years of my work as an OB/Gyn, I would often get questions from patients that I would have a difficult time answering. Most of the questions centered around midlife and menopause, and I hadn’t had much training on those topics. I didn’t like having my patients walk out of my office without any answers, so I decided to do something about it. The more I researched, the more I discovered how much there was to learn about hot flashes, night sweats, belly fat, and so many other symptoms of menopause. As I became more involved in mid-life and menopause research, I knew I wanted to help women age gracefully, and the phrase “aging with wellness” was born.
When I talk to my patients about aging with wellness, I explain it as “deliberate wellbeing.” When I break it down, I explain that deliberate means with a plan, with a purpose—being “deliberate” about how we age. I think of wellbeing as being able to reach the goal that we have set for ourselves. Unfortunately, many women don’t have a clear goal for themselves on how they want to age, so at true. Women’s Health, we help them develop that goal. In fact, I refer to that goal as your Picture of Self (POS). Think of it as a picture of how you want to look and feel at a milestone event in your future—your child’s graduation, your daughter’s wedding, your fiftieth birthday. That is your POS, your goal. For my patient I mentioned earlier, she pictured herself as being “hot” in one year and she accomplished it.
In order to age with wellness, I believe there are five steps that are crucial to help you along your journey:
- Have a plan/goal—Be clear when you think about your POS at a milestone event in your future. Having a clear goal will drive your actions and intentions, and will help you become the person you envision. As you create your Picture of Self, consider the following nine areas of wellness that I have identified in my book, “I Want To Age Like That!”:
- East of Coping
- Phase of Ovarian Function
- Good Bones
- Heart Disease
- Income Security
- Think about what is hard for you—What do you struggle with every day? Painful intercourse? Weight gain? Fatigue? Whatever barriers you have that might deter you from reaching your goal, name the barriers, and flip them around to have them become your goal. If weight gain is something you struggle with, think about how you can overcome that issue and take power over the weight gain. To help you understand this better, check out the Symptom Circle®. The Symptom Circle® is something I developed that lists the symptoms of midlife and menopause and shows you what you need to do to improve those symptoms.
- Assess your habits—You’ve probably heard me talk about the Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success (SEEDS) in my live chats or in some of my other blogs. I talk about it a lot! These daily habits make a huge difference in our journey to aging with wellness. I refer to the SEEDS as getting back to the basics. Click on the link above to find out more about SEEDS or to refresh your memory if you have read about them before. If you are a patient at true. Women’s Health, you get access to our App where you can track your habits every day to see how you’re doing.
- Understand where you are in your life right now—I call this your Place in Process (PIP). How well are you doing on your journey at this point in your life? Just like you thought about your Picture of Self in Step #1, think about where you are currently in the nine areas of wellness listed above. Are you (A) Active? Do you have (D) Diabetes or pre-diabetes? Are you at high risk for (H) Heart Disease? It’s so important to know your family history and share that with your healthcare provider to help you understand exactly where you are within some of the nine categories. At true. Women’s Health, we help you chart your current PIP and your POS (goals), and assist you in getting where you want to be!
- Make a plan—I call this your Life Action Plan. Once you have figured out where you are and where you want to be, it’s time to put your plan together and work on aging with wellness. If you decide to join true. Women’s Health to help you on this journey, you will have access to our entire team, including me, our registered dietitian, our coaches, and our affiliated colleagues who provide services that can help you with your barriers to aging with wellness.
I know that’s a lot of information about such an important topic, but I hope the five steps help you figure out where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there. I encourage you to really work on each step and create a plan that works for you. As always, we are here to help you on your journey!