I recently had someone come to me, a smoker in his early thirties. He was of average weight, around 23% body fat, which was well hidden in his calves, hamstrings and around the belly so it actually looked like he was of average build. What struck me about him was his extremely poor well-being, or shall we simply say ill-being.
He has gout, he has a diagnosed thyroid problem, his hair was prematurely greying, his skin looked sickly for his age, and he looked like he was in his forties. You see, a thirty year old is right at the cusp of health, in that all the bad habits of the twenties are just waiting to come home to roost. When you are in your twenties, you can get away with eating and drinking a lot of junk, sleeping little and exercising even less. But sometime around the magic age of thirty, the metabolism slows, your energy levels drop, and taking care of your body becomes essential to a long and healthy life.
Scientific consensus is that there is something called chronological age, and something else called metabolic age. The former is what we celebrate with candles and cake every year, and the latter is actually how old we really are, biologically speaking. Until the age of thirty, our chronological and our metabolic ages roughly keep pace with each other, for most of us. But after that, there is a divergence, one way or another, based largely on lifestyle, exercise and diet.
What this means is that if you don’t quit smoking, give up eating sugary carbs, and don’t develop a regular exercise and sleep habit by the time you are in your early thirties, you are essentially going to age twice as fast as average, and four times as fast as people who really look after their bodies. It’s as simple as that. This is the reason why some fifty year olds look like they are seventy, while others look like they are thirty!
I have recently been attending my high school reunions annually in India, and I am really struck by the fact that many of my school classmates and even a lot of my juniors could pass for my uncles! These guys have just rapidly aged in their thirties so they look like they are a couple of decades older. They don’t simply look older, metabolically speaking their bodies are really much older!
The good news is that metabolical aging is reversible. If you make the right changes to your life, starting now, you can take the years off your life, and regress back to up to two decades below your chronological age. Yes, it is possible for a fifty year old to not only look like a thirty year old but to metabolically actually function like one. We can just look around and see many examples of people who look and physically perform like they are twenty years younger than their chronological age. Put another way, someone who lives to be a hundred years old is simply someone whose metabolic age is twenty plus years below their chronological age, which explains how they lived to be a hundred in the first place!
The goal of someone who seeks a healthy lifestyle should be to freeze their metabolic age at thirty, and keep it there for the next twenty years. Beyond fifty, you will of course age in all sorts of ways, but if you start with a metabolic age of thirty when you are fifty years old, you are most likely going to live a healthy and active life all the way to a hundred!