Nature versus nurture is a topic we could discuss for hours in Grannie’s case, but genetics aside, this 100-year-old fiery woman has some topical things to say about food, community, and lifestyle. Talking to her really reinforced for me how significant the "nurture" part is.
Katie: As someone who has seen many diet trends over the last 100 years, is there one food you stay away from regularly?
Grannie: Candy…and bourbon. Well, mostly don’t marry someone who drinks a lot of bourbon.
Katie: Is there one food that has appeared almost every day in your diet over the last 100 years?
Grannie: Coffee with half and half and sugar and high-fat Breyer's ice cream in my adult years.
The functional medicine nutritionist within me was thinking, "You are KILLING me, Grandma," but I continued with the questions anyway, knowing there was some deeper insight.
Katie: If you had to pick a few health and lifestyle habits over the last century that helped you live such a long and healthy life, what would they be?
1. I have always moved physically and then the second I stop moving, that’s when I got crazy.
2. I have always stayed intellectually stimulated with academic discussions, politics, asking about people, nightly Scrabble, and bridge.
3. I pray every day.
4. Every day I made it a point to interact with family.
I’d like to note she did not say exercise; she said physically moving. I lived with my Grandma when she was 93 and 94. She was still living alone and has managed to keep her marbles intact. Prayer, meditation, spirituality, whatever you want to call it—connecting to something bigger to yourself daily is a powerful and beneficial practice. And of course, the community. Then, I had a lightbulb moment. Did Grandma just preach the core of functional medicine to her functional medicine granddaughter? Does Grandma even know what functional medicine is? The key to longevity and healthful aging was just reiterated to me as the core of what I tell my patients.
Stress over food—something many of us struggle with now, thanks to information overload—was not "a thing" during her time. My grandmother grew up learning to garden and forage berries, dandelions, and herbs and fishing. She was cooking for eight people at all times. Every week she went to the farmers market and Sicilian market to load up on cases of fresh produce that she would keep on the porch and proceed to use for every meal.