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Hydration

HYDRATION: Excerpt from “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired”

woman in stripes swimsuit pouring a water in plastic cup
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Imagine the first creature that crept from the watery sea onto land. What a great change of scenery, but now the creature has to figure out what to do about water, since it is not as readily available. Every cell requires water to stay alive, so we need to know how to meet that need. It turns out that our bodies have many different mechanisms in place to retain water when it is low and to prioritize and direct water to allow our most important functions. The problem is that we don’t always recognize when our bodies need water. Sometimes we gulp down liquids that don’t really satisfy that need.

While lack of water isn’t the cause of every human problem, increasing water intake to the ideal level (and, yes, you can die from drinking too much water!) is cheap and easy and doesn’t hurt a thing.

Fun facts about water:

  • Water is needed to create life. Take that, Dr. Frankenstein.
  • Like a vitamin deficiency, lack of water can cause many chronic conditions in the body. The cure is to replenish the missing nutrient—water.
  • Water is the vehicle that delivers necessary nutrients to all of your cells, even in your little toe.
  • Where there is not much water, blood vessels contract to accommodate the smaller volume. Don’t we want our blood vessels to expand to keep our blood pressure at bay? But blood vessels can’t expand unless there is liquid to fill them.
  • Seventy-five percent of the body and 85% of the brain is made up of water. When we lack sufficient water, our body plays favorites and gives more water to the most important organs.

  • Dry mouth is the last symptom of thirst, so don’t wait for that before you drink. As we age, we don’t recognize thirst as readily. Maybe grumpy elders aren’t grumpy; they’re just thirsty.
  • Histamine is released when the body doesn’t have enough water, just like it is in an allergic reaction. Excess histamine can manifest as asthma, vasomotor rhinitis, allergic skin disorders, excess stomach acid, and certain types of vascular headaches.
  • Heartburn is a result of not enough water intake. The stomach is accustomed to acidity, but it dare not release the acid content into the small intestine unless there is enough water to de-acidify the stomach’s content once it reaches the small bowel.
  • Body pains may be a local thirst of the muscles. Water washes away the acidic toxic waste of metabolism, which can trigger the nerves to send messages of pain. It never hurts to drink a little extra water in order to relieve pain.
  • Overeating may be a result of thirst. While natural foods do hydrate the body, water does it more efficiently.
  • Water aids digestion and helps to make motilin, a substance that stimulates the movement of the colon to keep us regular. (Barmanghelidj 2008)

Which of these symptoms have you experienced that may be related to not enough water? Which of these fun facts were new to you?

Oral Health Month

As June is Oral Health Month, I’ve been thinking about gum disease and the frightening impact it can have on your life. Thanks to New Image Dentistry in San Antonio for helping me with information about gum disease and nutrition.

Having gum disease means more than suffering from bad breath or having to put up with a little bleeding whenever you brush or floss. Many cases of untreated gum disease lead to tooth loss, meaning you could end up needing dentures or dental implants far earlier than you thought you would. Even worse, though, is the impact it can have on the rest of your body.

Gum disease is an infection that has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s asthma, osteoporosis, and cancer. It’s not completely clear that gum disease directly causes these problems, but I think it goes without saying that when it comes to your health, it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

So how can you protect yourself from gum disease? Having a good dentist can help, obviously, but there’s also your own lifestyle to consider. Eating the right foods can go a long way towards improving your body’s ability to fight back against gum disease. 

You’re probably already well aware that too much sugar is not good for your mouth. When oral bacteria come in contact with sugar, they consume it and turn it into harmful acids that attack the teeth and gums. So when you’re looking for ways to protect your gums, you should look at the sugar content of the foods you eat on a regular basis and cut down where possible. 

Here are some of the nutrients that you’ll need plenty of if you want to prevent or fight back against gum disease:

  • Co-enzyme Q10, an antioxidant that gives the cells energy to function properly and has been associated with a lower risk of gum disease
  • Collagen, which often breaks down as a result of the gums trying to deal with inflammation
  • Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and makes it easier for your body to deal with the bacteria that cause infections. Vitamin C is also needed to form collagen.
  • Catechins, substances from plants such as tea, cocoa and berries, which actively inhibit harmful bacteria and gum inflammation
  • Beta Carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A, a key anti-inflammatory agent
  • Omega-3s, which are needed for a healthy immune system

The above nutrients can be found in plenty of common foods. Nuts and salmon, for example, both contain high levels of Omega-3s. Grass-fed beef has plenty of collagen, while you can get co-enzyme Q10 from chicken and other muscle meats. Shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes are considered good options for maintaining a healthier, happier mouth. 

Of course, nutrition is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. You also need to brush at least twice a day, especially around the area where the teeth meets the gums. Since your toothbrush can’t fit between your teeth very well, you should also start flossing if you don’t do so already. Don’t make my mistake which is brushing too hard and damaging the gums. And if you notice oral bleeding, swelling, or other possible warning signs that you might have a case of gum disease in San Antonio, you should set up a dental appointment as soon as possible.

Stress Less

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I am not a mental health professional, though I do talk with people about managing stress.

In talking with people I have found that some stress is due to their circumstances (time, deadlines, etc.) and mindfulness and/or deep breathing and relaxation along with talking, journaling, exercise, etc., can be of benefit.

For others, the cause of their stress may be due to unrealistic thinking.  That is why I included a whole chapter in my book, “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases”, about stress.  I have found personally and professionally that the principles of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are useful in helping people bring truthful thinking to their situation.

In honor of this month and as a hope that it may help some folks out there, I am including an excerpt of my book. 

I have been privileged to coach people who have gone from being unable to even talk about food/eating/diet because it was such a painful topic, to being very realistic about eating.  I have talked with people who would beat themselves up for eating a cookie and then proceed to eat the whole package.  I know they have “gotten it” when they report that they can eat a cookie, enjoy it, but not beat themselves up.  They have added healthy food and are enjoying that, and an occasional deviation from that is not a shameful event.  Progress not perfection.  Realistic thinking instead of ‘all or none’ thinking.  It works!

EXCERPT FROM “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired

Self-Stressors

What situation recurs in your life and causes you to feel upset?

It is important to recognize your self-stressors and keep them from robbing your health. Dr. Albert Ellis, who developed Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), offers the ABCD method. (1) (2). The ABCD method helps you stop feeling victimized or stressed by your own thinking.

A = Activating Event

“A” is the Activating Event that causes stress. Pretend you are sitting on your own shoulder, watching your response to a situation. There is no right or wrong, only non-judgmental observation. This exercises your no-guilt thinking.

For example, you decide to eat a healthier diet, but at a friendly gathering, you are encouraged to partake in the fabulous buffet. You decline and decline until out comes the triple-fudge brownie with mocha chocolate fudge frosting, which you devour. From the perch on your shoulder, ask yourself:

•What do you think happened during this event?

•What would a nonjudgmental camera see?

*  What were your emotional responses to the event?  

Maybe you noticed that you were hungry or that you were feeling stressed from the day. Maybe when a killer brownie appeared, you wavered: “I want it, but I really shouldn’t.” Maybe the person encouraging you to eat the brownie was pushy not only to you, but to everyone else about everything else. Remember, there is no right or wrong here. Simply notice.

Write  down your non-judgmental observations about the stress-triggering event.

B = Belief

The second step to reduce stress is to examine the beliefs that underlie your action/reaction in the Activating Event. As explained by the REBT Network, “[t]he beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs. Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as “The Three Basic Musts.”

  • I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
  • Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
  • I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.” (2)

Here is how The Three Basic Musts might sound in your mind:

•My unhappiness is caused by things that are outside of my control.

•I must worry about things that could be dangerous, unpleasant, or frightening.

•I should become upset when other people have problems.

•I must have approval at all times.

•I must succeed at whatever I do.

•The world and other people must be fair and just.

•Things must be the way I want them. (2)

The thoughts that rumble around in our mind feel true. Closer examination may reveal that these thoughts are irrational. This faulty thinking distorts reality as it relates to you and to others. Irrational thoughts cause distressing emotions that keep us from achieving our goals.

Consider this about those negative self-talk statements:

  1. Is it all or none, it is absolute? (I must be perfect.)
  2. These thoughts cannot be fulfilled. (No one is perfect.) 
  3. These thoughts aren’t realistic. (There will come a time when you make a mistake.) 
  4. When your inner thinking and beliefs are challenged by reality, you become stressed. (Your belief that you must be perfect is challenged when you make a mistake.)

Are you feeling stressed just reading some of those beliefs? Do you recognize any of your own self-talk from this list? As Dr. Phil often asks, “How’s that working for you?” Are your beliefs helping or hindering you? 

My expertise is nutrition, not psychology. But as a student of life, I have noticed that we craft beliefs to meet our need to feel safe, to feel loved, and/or to feel we have a purpose in life. If I am beautiful, rich, powerful, etc., I will be loved. Our beliefs stem from our experiences and the influence of those around us. Beliefs stemming from childhood experiences may come with our limited understanding as a child, and may not be relevant to adult life. For example, if someone pushed you down on the playground, you may have developed the belief that to feel safe, I must fight anyone who is aggressive. Someone once told me they were still fighting their childhood bullies every time they drove on the freeway. Some beliefs need to have an expiration date.

In the Activating Event example of wanting to be healthy but feeling pressured to eat unwisely, some beliefs may include: If I don’t eat the brownie, they won’t like me. I can’t control myself when it comes to eating sweets. It’s not fair that I have to deprive myself of brownies.  


Write down what you notice about your thoughts from your Actual Event. Use these questions to evaluate your thinking. Remember: There is no right or wrong. Simply notice your thoughts.

1.Does my belief help or hinder me? Rational thinking is thinking that helps you. Irrational thinking is thinking that hinders you.

2. Is my belief consistent with reality?

3. Is my belief logical? For example, if I would like to succeed at something, does it logically follow that, therefore, I must succeed?

4.Are my thoughts about the event accurate?

5.What objective evidence/objective facts support my view?

“Brownie-Gate” may have you thinking, “I must be perfect in my diet,” or “I am a failure because I ate the brownie.” You might also be thinking, “I am responsible for how others feel, and I must not hurt their feelings by refusing the brownie.” How do those thoughts hold up under the previous set of questions?

C = Consequences

This is your chance to recognize how your thinking in your Activating Event has not been helpful. Many people notice that their stressful situations lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, aggression, fear, worry, frustration, etc. How we handle situations may strain our relationships. Are you willing to continue to live with these feelings?  

In our brownie example, possible consequences could be eating the brownie, feeling like a failure, then eating a second or a third brownie as consolation. Or maybe feelings of guilt and shame caused you to take it out on another person or act in a self-destructive way. These are not patterns we want to continue.

Write down the consequences of your Actual Event.  

D = Disputing Statement

The final piece of the ABCD method is to bring in Disputing Statements that help shift us from faulty belief to truer thinking.

Ask these questions:

*  If your belief is illogical, what rational belief is more logical?

*  What are alternative ways you can view the Activating Event?

*  What is the worst that can happen if your view of the Activating Event is correct?

•What is the worst thing that could happen to me or my family, and how does this event compare to that? 

Some disputing statements for our pressured brownie eater might be:

  • Even though I ate one brownie, I can continue to choose healthy foods the rest of the day.  
  • I don’t need to please another person by eating something I don’t want to eat. I would like to be friendly with her, but if she chooses not to like me because I won’t eat the brownie, that won’t be the end of the world.
  • I am choosing to nurture myself with healthy food. I choose not to eat the brownie, or I choose to try only a small bite. 
  • My choices may not always be perfect. A slip can be a learning experience. A slip doesn’t mean that I am a failure. 
  • I like it when people support me in my efforts to eat healthier, but it’s not in my power to rule how others behave. Other people have their own issues. Maybe the brownie lady only feels loved when people eat her brownies. I wish she didn’t pressure me, but I can’t change her. I can explore ways to handle the situation next time.

The Three Musts might look like this after you redecorate your belief system:

  1. Regarding yourself, unconditional self-acceptance:
  • I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
  • There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
  • Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.
  1. Regarding others, unconditional other-acceptance:
  • Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
  • There is no reason why others must treat me fairly.
  • The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than anyone else.

3.  Regarding your life, unconditional life-acceptance:

  • Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
  • There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to.
  • Life is not necessarily pleasant, but it is never awful, and it is nearly always bearable. (1)

I will add that I think that everything in life happens as it is supposed to. We live, we learn, we grow.

Do those statements feel less stressful compared to the irrational statements you read earlier?   

Beating the Belly Blues

May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month (bet you didn’t know that) and because I am getting my routine colonoscopy done this week, the gastrointestinal tract is on my mind.  

It’s also on my mind because I’ve run into several people lately having issues with gas and bloating.  It is not related to celiac disease, but for those who might be interested, I wanted to share my own gastrointestinal story.

I was having issues with gas and bloating and decided I needed to find out if I had SIBO (Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth).  We have a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and the balance can turn bad with a bad diet.   The good bacteria help make nutrients we need and help feed our colon cells.  The bad bacteria take the bad food we eat (especially sugar) and ferment it causing excess gas.  Actually, even healthy foods with natural sugars, like those to be avoided on the FODMAP  diet, can be fermented.  

I went to a gastroenterologist to see if I had SIBO and was tested by a breath test (hydrogen) that was supposed to show if I had bacteria that were fermenting and creating hydrogen.  Here is where it gets controversial.  They took the baseline right after I had eaten a meal of foods that were probably being fermented.  With that questionable baseline, the results of my test showed no problem and I was sent home to suffer I guess.  

Fortunately, I had access to testing that took a baseline after a low fermenting diet and looked for both hydrogen and methane gases.  The results showed that I had an excessive level and the doctor I was working with said that was the first she had seen a level that high.  I started using a series of supplements by Biocidin for 6 months.  I had used those supplements in the past but not long enough obviously.   I was determined to beat this problem and give my body and brain a break (there is a gut-brain connection – inflammation in the gut = inflammation in the brain).  I now have no problems, but do still need to be careful with certain foods. 

I share this story as a caution because the people I have run into recently need to know to keep searching for options and perhaps even a different medical opinion.  If you want to know more about the Biocidin protocol, you can read on EmersonEcologics.com or look at wellevate.me/abby-wilson-kurth.  

Be Old AND Bold

Happy Older Americans Month celebration.  We just celebrated my mother’s 106th birthday so I am making her queen of the celebration.  She will attribute her long life to having good people around her, but experts give credit to:

  • Diet. Eat plenty of fresh, non-processed foods, drink 64 ounces of water every day, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. (Actually, coffee does have some health benefits in moderation)
  • Exercise.
  • Sleep.
  • Socialization.
  • Having a primary care physician.

A team of UK researchers, as reported by CNN Health, found that a very healthy lifestyle is associated with up to 6.3 years longer life for men and 7.6 years for women, regardless of the presence of multiple chronic conditions, compared with those given the lowest lifestyle score.  

In the U.S., chronic disease may become an issue for most in their 40’s (the age is getting younger and younger unfortunately) but poor health can be delayed until the last few years of life generally with a healthy lifestyle.  

My mother has been relatively problem free up to her 90’s, but would anyone want to live from age 40 to 106 with diminished, health?  

Metagenics First Line Therapy suggests that 50% of disease can be prevented with lifestyle, but the Harvard School of Public Health takes it even further by stating that, “The good news is that type 2 diabetes (as well as pre-diabetes) are largely preventable. About 9 in 10 cases in the U.S. can be avoided by healthy lifestyle practices, including controlling your weight, following a healthy diet, staying active, and not smoking.”

There is great power in adopting healthy lifestyle practices, so start planning how you’ll celebrate your 106th birthday!!

Stress Awareness Month

April is Stress Awareness Month (like we didn’t already know we were stressed??). To celebrate I am including an excerpt from my book, “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases” about the benefits of deep breathing. I included several chapters related to stress management because that is such a key component of health. Enjoy!

“Breathe, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.”  Unknown

Breathing. I know, you are already breathing or you wouldn’t be alive to read this. The problem is that stress can cause us to stop breathing with our whole abdomen and only breathe shallowly in our chest. Have you ever noticed yourself holding your breath when stressed? I know I have.  

It seems silly to talk about learning how to breathe, since we all do it from the day we are born, but consciously breathing more deeply and fully reaps great physical and emotional benefits. Research breathing techniques to discover different kinds of breathing: with mouth open, with mouth closed, or with tongue behind the teeth. Count to ten, count to three, breathe fast, or breathe slow. Use the technique that works for you. Plain old deep breathing will work just fine and offer benefits such as:

Physical:  

  • Deep breathing brings oxygen to the blood. Why get three miles to the gallon when you can get thirty? Our cells make sixteen times more energy in the presence of oxygen than without.
  • Deep breathing removes wastes from the body. Taking out the trash is a good thing, and your lungs can do that for you.
  • Deep breathing massages the internal organs. Who doesn’t like a good massage?
  • Oxygen counteracts many harmful bacteria in the body.
  • Oxygen brings circulation and relaxation to stiff muscles.

Mental, emotional, and spiritual:

  • Allows relaxation. The nervous system switches from I need to fight a lion (sympathetic nervous system) to I’m going to digest this delicious asparagus sandwich (parasympathetic nervous system).
  • Some breathing techniques help release emotions from past traumas. Our aches and pains are a result of stored negative emotions.
  • Increases mental activity. 
  • Circulates brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that bring relaxation and calming.
  • Lifts our spirits.

Why I became a Nutritionist.

Why I Became a Nutritionist.  Everyone has a back story – mine is not all that thrilling, but maybe this will help anyone wondering why I am such a Nutrition Nerd!  

I was interested in nutrition as a Biology major in college and I even tortured poor rats by depriving them of protein for my senior thesis.  While getting my Master’s in Public Health I took a few courses around nutrition and health education, my other love.

In 1985 I developed chronic fatigue, which wasn’t well known at the time.  After visiting many doctors who couldn’t give me any answers, I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands and my own kitchen.  “Let food by thy medicine” (Hippocrates) became my new motto.  

I eventually enrolled to get my Master’s of Science in Nutrition and have been helping folks ever since.  I appreciate all my learning about functional medicine because there is usually some way nutrition can help improve almost any condition.  Even the genetics issues can be improved with nutrition as I learned from Dr. Kendall Stewart in Austin, Tx.

Even with my nutrition knowledge, I realized that I needed to understand why people were successful or not with making lifestyle changes.  My training as a wellness coach has helped me understand how I can help people truly adopt healthy behaviors for life.  “The client knows the answers” is the health coach’s motto and my job is to help them find their own answers.  That’s why I wrote my book-  so people could be their own health coach and write their own successful back story.    

KNOW YOUR NUTRITION

Since this is Nutrition Month, I thought I might share some the ways nutrients affect our health or lack of health.  I put a list of Nutrient Deficiency Signs and Symptoms in my book, not because I am Debbie Downer, but because people don’t realize that their poor health might be due to lack of specific nutrients.  

Nutrition Nerd that I am, I want people to realize that EVERYTHING the body does is done with nutrients we get from food, and if needed, from supplementation.  Because food is ideal, I also have a chart of nutrients and their food sources.  Knowing what I need ALWAYS gets me eating more of the healthy foods that will provide that nutrient.  

Here are a few symptoms that might be of interest to you:

  • Itching ears = Need for vitamin A, C, B5, zinc and quercitin
  • Vision loss = A, zinc, omega-3 fats, B1
  • Hypertension = magnesium
  • High cholesterol = B vitamins, CoQ10, magnesium, B3, fiber
  • Hypothyroid = iodine, copper, selenium, B5, fatty acids
  • Inflammation = A, B vitamins, C, D, E, quercitin, turmeric, essential fatty         acids, CoQ10
  • Muscle Cramps = magnesium, taurine, 5-hydroxtryptophan, inositol, calcium, potassium, biotin
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome = B6, B2, magnesium, quercitin
  • Depression = Magnesium, B vitamins, 5-hydroxytryptophan, tyrosine, choline, omega-3 fats, biotin
  • Fatigue = Magnesium, B vitamins, B5, tyrosine, CoQ10
  • Memory = Magnesium, B vitamins, B12, fatty acids, B6, Omega-3 fats, choline

Source: Dana Laake as cited in “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases by Abby Kurth, MPH, MS

Find anything interesting??

Another Year, Another Diet

It’s been a year since I posted about my diet mania and I’m ready to report on another diet this year.  I’m determined to find the answer for people having a hard time losing weight (myself included).  I’m ready to admit that a 2 weeks trial might not be enough to find success – consistency and persistence are something I’ll need to work on. 

My most recent attempt at the end of last year (2020 was NOT our favorite year, right?) was a low carb diet.  I refuse to do a diet that doesn’t include vegetables so I found a plan that was basically protein and low carbohydrate vegetables.  Did this truly qualify as a ketogenic diet?  Probably not, but it met my standards of what I was willing to try.

So why did I pick this plan to try?  Well, I’ll summarize a recent study review I read where participants were given a very low carbohydrate diet consisting of whole, non-processed foods like leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, olive oil and coconut oil.  The results showed that, compared to those on a low fat diet,  the low carbohydrate group had:

  • Greater weight loss
  • Greater loss of total fat mass (fat is inflammatory, so good to have it go away)
  • Greater loss of visceral adipose tissue (VAT), the intra-abdominal fat that is located around the internal organs
  • Improved HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
  • Decreased triglycerides (another blood fat that is raised when eating too many processed foods – white flour, white sugar, alcohol, etc.)
  • Decreased insulin resistance

Besides the research, I knew based on genetic testing, that a lower carbohydrate diet was appropriate for me and my genetics compared to a balanced diet, the Mediterranean diet or a low fat diet. 

Since I really don’t like the word “diet” I really need to talk about lifestyle.  Did this method fit my lifestyle?  Would it be sustainable? 

I have not been as strict lately, but I really do prefer some of the substitutions I found as part of a lower carbohydrate lifestyle.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Zucchini spirals instead of pasta
  • Almond flour for making muffins, pancakes, etc.
  • Cauliflower pizza crust or cauliflower rice (just put cauliflower through the food processor)
  • Keto bread (I like the Base Culture brand)
  • Keto waffles (Birch Benders brand) with melted butter, cinnamon and nuts on top
  • Date palm sugar or monk fruit for baking.  (I once had aching pain all over after drinking a green tea latte from a famous coffee chain.  Refined sugar is NOT for me but these forms of sugar don’t bother me.)

What were the results you may be asking?  I did have a drop of two pounds almost immediately.  Carbohydrates will be stored in the muscle as glycogen and that holds onto more water, so it was likely a loss of water weight.  I should have been more scientific and taken my measurements before and after, but I did feel like my middle section, which has been growing in recent years, became smaller.  My clothes would tend to agree with that assessment. 

Is this eating plan for you?  Basically, a whole foods plan will always be the right thing for any human being.  I don’t like vilifying any particular food group, but watching the amount and quality of carbohydrates seems to fit my body’s needs at this age in my life.