Most of the health focus of the boomer Generation is on how we’re living longer. The assumption is that we are healthier, take better care of ourselves, and make healthier choices, including diet and exercise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The health facts are actually not good for boomers. According to Healthworks Collective, the key stats are unsettling:
• 52 percent of us report leading a sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise.
• 39 percent of us are obese
• 43 percent of us have high blood pressure
• 72 percent of us have one or more chronic diseases
On the “plus” side:
• Only 35 percent of us get at least some moderate activity on a regular basis each month.
• Only 13 percent of us characterize our overall health as “excellent.”
Enter Ed and Ann-Marie Stephens. This Virginia couple had worked for decades as chemical engineers for mainstream consumer products companies including Proctor & Gamble, Avon, and Pepsico. A former Marine, Ed worked on developing better coffee roasting techniques at P&G, and then developed more efficient soap production technology for Avon. Ann-Marie followed up a chemical engineering degree from CUNY with a MBA from Wharton, and worked in research and development at P&G and then Frito-Lay before winding up as a senior vice president at Circuit City.
When type 2 diabetes struck Ed’s older siblings, the couple was galvanized into action, researching the importance of diet and nutrition in dealing with the disease. In 2006, they launched typefreediabetes.com, a clearing house and retail website for information and products related to the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Their goal was to build community and provide information that afflicted families could share and use to develop healthier lifestyles. One of the key takeaways was the concept of portion control. As Ed explained to Cooking Light magazine, “As a nation, we are facing a nutrition crisis that has led to an obesity crisis. The idea of a portion has become so distorted that consumers lack awareness of food groups and proper sizes and nutrition.” But even though people understood the value of portion control, the couple realized that more help was needed. As Anne-Marie added, “Most people would just get a smaller plate, but if the T-bone steak takes up most of the plate and the leafy veg is only a very small portion, that’s not any better. The balance is the key.”
Combining all of their accumulated experience and ability from their corporate work, they figured out a way to address this problem with a simple yet powerful solution. In 2010, they launched the Precise Portions Nutrition Control System, a line of porcelain dishware whose designs indicate the proper proportions for healthy eating — right on the plate! As explained on their website, “In a time when ‘supersize’ has become the normal size, we have lost the ability to judge what a right-sized portion actually looks like.” The Precise Portions product lines include travel dishes and food storage, and disposable/compostable products as well, leaving no stone un-turned, and eliminating any excuse for not eating sensibly.
And the Stephens’ top tips?
1. Use the USDA MyPlate Guidelines. They’re a great way to start.
2. Veggies First! Prioritize and plan your meals around the healthy stuff.
3. Portion Everything! No more snacking out of the package. Define and create your portion no matter what, where or when you eat.
Boomers have a great deal of advantages in developing new careers in mid-life or later. The Stephens display a level of confidence that many boomers are often surprised to discover in themselves. As we are seeing in this series, our years of experience, our understanding how things get done, and our ability to visualize the results of our efforts all contribute to our successful career reinventions. In the process, we reap a reward that is increasingly important to us at this age — making a meaningful difference in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
For the Year of the Boomer — 2014 is the year the youngest Boomers turn 50 — the Huffington Post is featuring this survey of 50 Over-50 Boomers across 10 career categories who have reinvented themselves within the last 10 years.