Why You Appear Differently As You Age

by Tom Furman

“There is a natural order. The way things are meant to be. An order that says that the good guys always win. That you die when it’s your time, or you have it coming. That the ending is always happy, if only for someone else.” — Way of the Gun

They say that youth is wasted on the young. That having not just knowledge, but wisdom, with a youthful, beautiful and healthy body would be the ideal. However reality is virtual. It’s never quite as it seems. If we had to go back to inform our younger selves to alter behavior, our younger selves would tell our older selves to get lost.

While individuals may be highly skilled and competent in their chosen professions and passions, the glaring lack of logic, reasoning and middle school science is massively apparent when it comes to health. Myth’s perpetuated in the 1950’s and 1960’s still exist in day to day conversation.

With the aging Baby Boomer population, the idea of delaying aging, maintaining youth and even reversing aging has become popular. Some things are possible, some are not,…yet.

The question remains, why do we look so differently as we age? The answer in some pedestrian level talk, is that things change, priorities change and chemistry changes.

The most distinctive difference between the young and the old is the loss of muscle. This is due to less activity and a reduction in hormones. The use of resistance training to build or maintain muscle mass is the most potent anti aging tool at our disposal. If you are in the longevity field and you don’t mention resistance training as priority,…get out. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.

Resistance training also maintains bone mass. The loss of posture that we see occur as we age is part of the loss of bone and muscle. If you haven’t done resistance training before, the reversal of posture issues may be difficult but getting there is half the fun.

The other powerful aging issue is the loss of hormones with age. With men, it’s usually a gradual loss called, “andropause”. With women it is more rapid and called, “menopause”. Both men and women lose muscle mass, gain fat more easily and the quality of their collagen and connective tissue recedes. They become more like each other in a way. Men gain fat around their breast area and women get thicker bellies. The sexual desire diminishes. For men in their twenties, skipping lunch to play touch football may be a thing. In their forties, skipping racquetball for a lunch buffet seems perfectly fine. Hormones affect the brain. The solution is proper blood work and consultation with a physician skilled with hormone replacement therapy. A physician who treats the person and not the numbers. Restoring hormones to optimal levels extends the health span and benefits the quality of life. Don’t fall for anything hokey or unfounded in dealing with hormones. Miracle cures and secret vitamins are only effective at emptying your bank account.

Externally and visually, aging is usually accompanied by a gain of fat and wrinkled skin. Hormones aside, (which they never are), these are easy to explain. You get fat because you eat too much. Let me say that again. You get fat because you eat to much. While metabolically you are not the man or woman you were in your teens, it is a matter of eating enough to sustain health and vitality and not so much as to be featured in, “My 600 lb Life”.

An increase of body fat adds weight to the knees, hip and back. The stress can shorten the lifespan of those joints. It also stretches the skin. That skin in youth can probably snap back. As we age, not so much. When you add in the effect of falling hormone levels, that beer belly or wine pooch gradually become a fat apron that can potentially cover the genital region. The fix for this is surgery and a fat reduction program. No creams, jams, jellies or marmalade's will suffice.

Moving on to the skin, the factors that accelerate aging in everyone are weight gain, sun exposure, alcohol and cigarette smoking. (As I said earlier, hormones aside). Add all of them together and it creates a massive source of wealth for dermatologists. While Cosmetic Surgeons will use surgery, laser, peels and other methods, many physicians have a nice source of income from creams made by private labeling companies they meet on the convention center floor at medical conferences. For example, Perricone hydrating creme is 179 dollars for a little jar unless you get it delivered monthly. I’m not sure if it comes with directions to stop sun bathing, smoking or over consuming adult beverages and Banana Barge Ice Cream.

External alteration in the appearance of the facial skin is a product of speaking, expression, chewing and some hormonal factors. The buccal fat in your cheeks diminishes while fat elsewhere, with increase caloric intake and diminished activity increases. The outcome is less than desirable. The solution, if you want one, is dietary discipline and cosmetic technology. This logic can be applied to hair loss in men and after menopause, in women. Surgery is an option as are the chemicals, Rogaine and shampoos with ketoconazole. The bold one is shaving your head.

The disturbing look of things as we age is an emotional issue. With emotion, logical thinking is often thrown out. Of course logic might not be in the mix. Most of the things you need to separate fact from fiction were taught to you in middle school. Unfortunately in the cocktail hour of life the memories of basic science is not the strongest tool in the bag. Astrology and conspiracy hold greater weight than physics and chemistry. Buying gas station fat burners and baking rhino hide skin with a pitcher of margaritas is more common than balanced workouts, sunscreen and sensible diets.

Of course one can use deflection. “It’s ALL genetics!!!” Let me tell you something cupcake, genetics don’t get you out of bed at 6 am. Discipline does.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and now. The best time to resist aging is now. A bit of discipline, some basic science and adult decision making skills can go along way to have healthspan equal lifespan and do so looking better.

For more personalized training I am available for Online Fitness Coaching. Please contact me at physicalstrategies@gmail.com

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. With an early background in wrestling and a student of the methods of the York Barbell Club, Tom immediately separated fact from fiction growing up outside Pittsburgh. Eleven members of his family were combat veterans, the most famous one being “Uncle Charlie” (Charles Bronson) His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. He gives credit to hundreds of hours of seminars, training sessions, and ‘backyard’ workouts, including training time with many martial arts legends. He also credits his incredibly gifted training partners who came from varied backgrounds such as Exercise Physiologists, Airborne Rangers, Bounty Hunters, Boxing Trainers and Coast Guard Rescue Divers. His best selling ebook, “Armor of War’’, is available at tomfurman.com. His current book, “Seasons of Temper” is available at https://www.tomfurman.com/product/seasons-of-temper/

Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and fitness most of his life. He’s currently a fitness coach and been blogging since 2005. www.tomfurman.com