Why Summer Can Be Public Enemy #1 For Those Worried About Aging

From the sun to the food on your table, summer may be aging's enemy.

Summer is every teenager's favorite season. It's filled with long lazy days where you can sleep in, stay up late, and homework doesn't exist. Utopia. And then along comes middle age and suddenly things change. Summer, it seems, can be Public Enemy #1 for those concerned about aging.

1. You only thought the sun was your true love forever.

Well, maybe it once was when the two of you got together and somebody brought along the baby oil to slather all over you. It was hot, for sure. But then along came a few zillion studies that convinced you the sun was really up to no good. Who needs skin cancer? Still, the sun just makes us feel good. That's because ultraviolet radiation from the sun releases endorphins -- those "feel-good" hormones, which are actually pretty addictive.

So we admit that we are occasional sun-cheaters. We continue having a silent affair with the sun when we think no one is there to lecture us about using sunscreen. We tell ourselves that we need Vitamin D or else we will join the three out of four Americans who suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency

But alas, the sun has its own way of aging us. Those same blessed rays that we credited with clearing up our teenage acne now cruelly ages our skin. Wrinkles and sags? Yes, it's that no-good, two-timing sun. UV rays account for up to as much as 80 percent of wrinkles and diminished skin elasticity. And let's not even discuss sunspots, those little brown patches that dot your face, arms and hands. At our age, you'd think we'd have outgrown the bad boys.

2. Summer is a middle-age foodie's worst nightmare. 

One of life's greatest unresolved questions is: Do we eat more in summer in winter? We side with the theory that says early man bulked up in the summer when food was in abundance and then ate less in the winter when the plants went fallow and the animals hibernated.

We eat more in summer because summer food is better than winter food. Grilling is better than deep frying. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables come summertime. But then there is all the rest of it: Salt seems to be ever-present in our summer diet. How can you eat corn on the cob without butter? And what's a summer evening without ice cream? Sangria, anyone? Are those chips and sour cream-onion dip on the BBQ table? Summer's temptations are mighty -- and summer invariably is our season of weight-gain. 

We know that summer's more moderate temperatures should be getting us out on the hiking trails, tennis courts and in swimming pools. Still, we gain weight. And if the extra pounds don't kill you, they sure as heck will make you feel older.

3. Vacations are synonymous with over-indulgence.

Summer is vacation season. And increasingly, we try to cram too much into our time away from the job. We simply may have lost the art of relaxation. We eat too much, drink too much, race around too much. We come back to work more tired than when we left and call this state "refreshed." In reality, we return from most vacations jet-lagged, exhausted and unable to focus clearly. First day back at the desk is spent counting how many more hours until we can go back home and resume the sheet show. It may be fun, but is it healthy? No, why no, it is not.

4. Jet-lag knocks you for a bigger loop.

Jet-lag becomes more hideous as you get older. Our bodies just don't adjust as quickly to changing time zones. It can take days -- even weeks -- to recover from a trip. You wake up in the middle of the night, fall asleep in the middle of the day and in general, walk around feeling pretty much awful. The answer is not to stop visiting exotic places when you get older, but to learn how to manage jet-lag. Lay off the booze, eat carbs just before you want to fall asleep, and do your best to reset your circadian rhythm. Planes can be noisy and bright, but if you can shut out the world by using a night mask and earplugs, it can help your body tremendously. 

 5. Summer is clothing-optional time.

So even if you've never been to Black's Beach in San Diego -- a bucket list item if ever there was one -- summer clothes are skimpier. We wear less of them. This is the season where we expose our arm flab and varicose veins in all their glory. Feh, who cares? Go forth with confidence, which is the only thing you really need to wear to be dressed well.



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