Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Health

Sparkling Vintage Health: Getting Better All the Time

Hello, Sparklers. I’ve been laying low following a recent operation. But I’ve not forgotten you! I’m doing well on the proverbial road to recovery.

While I’m resting up, I thought I’d treat you to what some people of the past had to say about convalescence. The state of convalescence itself is a rather old-fashioned idea in this era of minimal hospital stays and up-and-at-’em pressures toward returning to productive work. Gone are the days of a lengthy recuperation, preferably in the sea air or desert sun, such as the Victorians might have enjoyed.

I was especially tickled by this advice from 1877: “Sickroom visits should be very short, and the conversation should not be very serious, for in convalescence, a cheerful face on the caller is more welcome than a face that looks like the dividing line between the grave and the patient.”

A 1913 writer had this to say: “The convalescent takes such abnormally keen delight in being remembered, that it is obligatory upon the rest of the family and his friends not to forget him. Kindly messages should be frequent.”

And this little gem from none other than George Washington: “In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.”

Of course, the patient is not entirely off the hook. In 1912 Dr. A. J. Sanderson wrote, “In the maintenance of health and the cure of disease, cheerfulness is a most important factor. Cheerfulness brightens the eye, makes ruddy the countenance, brings elasticity to the step, and promotes all the inner forces by which life is sustained. The blood circulates more freely, the oxygen comes to its home in the tissues, health is promoted, and disease is banished.”

The Bible says it best, and without wasting words: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Cheers!

Sparkling Vintage Health: Steps on the Journey

tennis2Last week I wrote about wanting to improve my health and what the pre-World War II ladies magazines call “vitality.” I looked up “vitality” in the dictionary. The first definition is, “the peculiarity of distinguishing the living from the nonliving.” That’s telling it like it is!

So far my old-fashioned approach has been two-pronged: walking a lot and choosing fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible. In the May sunshine, walking is pleasant and I actually look forward to it, but making time for it can feel like a hurdle. Twice in recent days I’ve been stuck “in town” between appointments (“town” being about 15 miles away from our rural home) and have used that time to walk in a park. I told myself I didn’t need workout clothes or athletic shoes (although, note to self: keep a pair in the car). I was already wearing comfortable flats, so off I went.

Walking in the park is fun for two reasons: (1) the terrain is flat–a nice break from the steep hills around my home. (My husband figured out that walking from the bottom of our property to the top is like climbing eight stories!) and (2) there are people around! Baseball and lacrosse teams, kids and moms on the playground, tennis players, other walkers . . . such fun to people-watch. I love to nature-watch, too, and soak up the peace and solitude of the woods surrounding my home, but for a literal change of pace, it’s enjoyable to switch to the park. Bonus: I felt like that interval between appointments wasn’t wasted.

Feeding myself well is harder. It’s so easy to grab whatever’s at hand and call it a meal. I’ve made a deliberate effort to concentrate on protein and vegetables and limited carbs. A typical breakfast is coffee, an egg, and a quarter of an avocado on toast. Lunch is soup or salad and a sandwich (trying to limit to half a sandwich). Dinner is meat or fish and vegetables for me, plus bread or potatoes for my husband. And water, water, water.

So where does the “vintage” part come in? Eating fresh, minimally processed food and walking have been human activities since forever. I don’t need a gym or any special gadgetry (although I got a nifty fitness band for my birthday that tracks my steps and heart rate–definitely not vintage, but kind of useful). The foods I’m eating are not much different from what a woman would have eaten 100 years ago.  My fitness is centered around typical human activities: walking, bending, stretching, putting some muscle into housework and yardwork. Drop me into 1916 and my food and activity wouldn’t look that different. Except, of course, from jumping on the Internet to talk about it!

First week’s results: two pounds down, high energy, and rosy cheeks from being out in the sun.

Sparkling Vintage Health: Shaping My Future

Hikers, 1940s.

Hikers, 1940s.

This is going to be one of my more vulnerable posts, but I’m sharing it with you because I know that at least a few of you struggle with a similar issue: health and fitness. My doctor, my scale, my own eyeballs in the mirror, my recent birthday, and the summer clothing I’m pulling out of hibernation (not necessarily in that order) have convinced me for the umpteenth time that it’s time to Do Something About My Health.

I lost a few pounds last summer, but over the winter they came wandering back. They missed me! So now I’m back to having plenty of pounds to lose, if the standard BMI calculators are to be trusted, which I think they are, more or less. But I also know that my weight is not the real problem, but a symptom of other problems. Middle age and its attendant physical changes have hit me with a whallop. I’ve also become increasingly aware that the foods many of us eat these days are quick, convenient, tasty . . . and detrimental to our health. A heart-to-heart with my doctor, plus research into the way most Americans ate and moved 50 or 75 or 100 years ago vs. today, has gotten me interested in pursing a “vintage” lifestyle of smaller portions, more seasonal and local produce, and fewer processed foods.fat ad

As far as exercise goes, I’m not a gym rat. In fact, I’m about as far from a gym rat as you can get. I’m one of the most uncoordinated people I know. My muscles seem improperly strung and most standard gyms make me feel profoundly ungainly and out-of-place. Plus, I live on a mountainside surrounded by steep hills and endless trails, literally outside my front door. There’s fitness in them thar hills! So for now, with the weather turning nice, rambling over the hills will be my main exercise, along with some simple bodyweight exercises thrown in for strength and flexibility. At some point I may need to join a gym to gain access to certain equipment (and a swimming pool!) but maybe I’ll think about that in the fall. For now, dickering over the gym question would just be one more way to procrastinate.

"Exercise With Gloria" Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

“Exercise With Gloria”
Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

My earliest memory of exercise was as a preschooler, moving along with my mom as she watched “Exercise With Gloria” on our old black-and-white TV. I only remember doing this a smattering of times, so I don’t think it caught on with my mother, who was naturally slim and not much of an athlete, although she walked a lot and enjoyed dancing and swimming. Still, I remember the joy of swinging my arms and legs and moving my body, and I did enjoy ballet classes as a very young child, until I switched teachers to a fearsome woman who yelled a lot, and that was the end of my ballet career.

I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I found “exercise” to be fun. School gym class is something I do my best to forget, Nevertheless there are a million and one reasons to “just do it,” as the Nike people say.

fat ad2Because I’ve been immersed in vintage reading materials, doing research for another project, I’ve decided to take a journey this summer, researching old-fashioned health and fitness advice–the good, the bad, the laughable, and the downright cuckoo (tapeworms, anyone?)–and adopting those practices that make sense to me and my doc. I would love to have some companions on the journey! I should state right now that I am not a doctor, nurse, health specialist, exercise guru, nutritional know-it-all, or any other type of professional. Just a woman interested in approaching health and fitness the way it used to be, when it was less of an obsession, and seeing what I learn along the way. If you’d like to join me, or even just offer a word of encouragement, comment below or e-mail me privately at jennifer (at) jenniferlamontleo (d0t) com. Once in a while I’ll report in on this blog and let you know how it’s going.

 

Sparkling Vintage Habits: Get a Good Night’s Sleep

sleeping“Sleep, thou that knittest up the ravel’d sleeve of care…” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits recently. I’m not much of a New-Year’s-resolution-maker, but I do find great value in establishing good habits and dropping unprofitable ones–not just in January, but at any time of year.

One habit that seems to prop up just about everything else in my sparkling-vintage life is a good, old-fashioned night’s sleep. With sufficient sleep, I’m calm, optimistic, pleasant, and productive. Without it, I’m . . . well, none of those things, with a decided lack of sparkle besides. To mangle Shakespeare, let’s just say that without proper sleep, my sleeve of care unravels at warp speed.

In many ways, our ancestors had an easier time of sleeping than we do. Before Mr. Edison unleashed his electrical genius on the world, nighttime meant darkness, and darkness meant sleep. Today, just because the world keeps going 24/7/365 doesn’t mean that we should. Our circadian rhythms benefit from cues like darkness and quiet to help us get the rest we need. A lack of television, computers, and other electronic screens in the olden days was also a boon for sleep. Today our addiction to wireless devices keeps us wired way too far into the night.

In my quest for rest, I toured the Internet to collect words of wisdom to sleep on. Here are some tips to help you slumber like it’s 1899:

*Go to bed in a dark, quiet bedroom. Use a sleep mask if it’s impossible to eliminate all light, and ear plugs if a noisy environment keeps the sandman at bay.

*Develop a nighttime routine to help you settle down and to signal the brain that you’re heading for bed. The specifics are up to you—maybe choose tomorrow’s clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth, smooth on some hand cream, change into sleepwear, read, pray, and do some light stretching exercises. Nothing too strenuous.

*Speaking of sleepwear, do you have something decent to wear to bed? Throwing on any old tee-shirt and sweatpants, while comfy, is not very Sparkling Vintage. And don’t tell me it doesnt matter if “no one sees.” YOU see, and so does your spouse if you’re married, and any housemates you might have. So treat yourself to a pretty nightgown or pajamas in natural fabrics for a comfortable night’s sleep. I like cozy flannel in the winter and crisp cotton in the summer. Some of you slinkier types might appreciate silk. Beware of one-hundred-percent synthetics if you tend to be too warm, too cold, or of an age when you’re prone to hot flashes.

*Did you know that lavender is conducive to sleep? Pour a little lavender oil in a warm bath at bedtime, or put a few drops on a cotton ball and slip it inside your pillowcase.

*Warm milk and chamomile tea are time-honored remedies for wakefulness. Just don’t drink a lot too close to bedtime–you don’t want your slumber to be disturbed by frequent trips to the bathroom. Avoid heavy meals and caffeine late in the day.

*Turn off the TV and other electronic screens at least an hour before bed. The evening news report is not likely to help you relax, anyway. Read, talk with your loved ones, or cuddle up instead.

Nighty-night!

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