At age 59, Dr Jeffery Life was a board certified family practice physician with a health problem. He carried too much fat around his midsection. His cholesterol levels were terrible. Climbing the stairs was torture. And he knew something needed to change.
While many of us might sign up for an exercise class or two, Dr Life took it many steps further. He applied his medical background to a greater understanding of how to eat and exercise for health and disease prevention – with utterly astounding results. He then became interested in the science of hormone replacement therapy, and took everything several steps further. When he got involved in epigenetics, it all fell into place.
Dr Life has authored three New York Times best-selling books, including The Life Plan and The Life Plan Diet, and has been featured on The Doctors, Dr. Phil, and The Steve Harvey Show. At age 74, he was voted one of the “25 Fittest Guys of 2012” by Men’s Fitness. Now almost 78 years old, he feels better than he did in his forties – and looks it, too.
The “Aha” Moment
“I was gaining weight, and I was almost a full-blown type-2 diabetic. Then, one day, I found a magazine that one of my patients had left in my office: Muscle Media, produced by Bill Phillips. I took it home and read it. It talked about how people can eat and exercise in such a way that they can lose body fat and gain muscle mass. This was a whole new concept for me. Physicians back then didn’t have any training in nutrition and exercise.
“That night, I read the entire magazine, and subscribed to it. A few months later, Bill Phillips came out with the winners of the inaugural Body for Life contest. I saw what these people could do over a short time, just by eating right and doing resistance training and cardio. That’s when I decided I was going to do this.”
A Quick Turnaround
“I hired a trainer and a nutritionist and followed what they told me to do. And lo and behold, I started making changes in how I felt and how I looked. After four and a half months, I’d dropped a lot of body fat and increased my muscle mass. My lipid panel went from really bad to really good. I entered the next Body for Life contest and I won for my age group, which was men and women 55 and over. I went on to become a grand champion, and that’s what really put me on the path to healthy aging.”
The Biggest Lesson
“I learned that if I can do this, anyone can do this. I’m not exceptional. I learned that I could make these changes just by consistently eating well and exercising right. What you eat controls so much of the way you feel, how you look, and how healthy you are. Adding exercise takes it to new levels.”
The Constant Struggle
“Eating right is probably the hardest part for most people – I falter all the time. A lot of people don’t like to do cardio; others say they don’t have time. Well, I did it while working sixty hours per week. I made it a top priority in my day.
“What we do is create strategies for staying on track, or getting back on track. It’s always a work in progress. But the payoff is just magnificent in terms of quality of life, energy levels, moods, sexual function – the whole works. I’m almost 78 years old and I feel better than I did in my forties. But if I miss going to the gym, I almost immediately start feeling old. If I eat badly, I feel it within a few hours.”
Changing Mindsets; Changing Behaviour
“When you put something in your mouth, you have to think: it’s either going to help you or it’s going to kill you. It’s really that simple. What you eat and drink can make you healthy, or it can kill you. If you can have that mindset, it can change the way you think about what you eat, and it can
change your behaviour.”
“In my mid-sixties, I started to lose some ground. I was still exercising, but not really enjoying it. I had started gaining belly fat again. Andropause is very insidious for men. Testosterone declines so gradually that it creeps into our lives. Men might go to their doctors and say I just don’t have the energy I used to have, and be told that it’s part of the aging process, so suck it up. But that’s not necessary. We know now that you can maintain a great quality of life just by exercising and eating well, and making sure your hormone levels don’t decline.”
The Hormone Connection
“In 2003, I went to a conference in Las Vegas and heard lectures on hormone optimization. It was brand-new information to me. When I got back home, I checked my testosterone levels, and they were very low. So I became a patient in hormone replacement therapy and was just amazed at how much difference it made in all aspects of my life.
“Within two weeks of taking testosterone, I began to look forward to going to the gym. I felt better, and stronger. My sexual function improved dramatically. And I was getting rid of this gut that I had started to accumulate again. It was easier to eat properly, too – because I was more motivated. Everything began to fall into place, and it didn’t take me long to get back on track. Since then, I’ve continued to maintain. The pictures on my website show that I’ve gotten even better as I’ve gotten older. People tell me they’re amazed, but nobody’s more amazed than I am.”
Hormones for Women
“Women are in the same situation as men, but there is a huge amount of false information about estrogen replacement therapy causing cancer. It’s based on Premarin and Provera, which are artificial compounds that are not bioidentical. Women have been taking Premarin for years and it clearly has been a major cause of cancers. As a result, a lot of women don’t want to take estrogen replacement therapy – which really puts them at a disadvantage. The information about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is not well understood. Women can benefit immensely from it.
“Women can also benefit from low-dose testosterone. It’s very important for sexual function, and helps maintain a lean body. My female patients tend to respond very well to testosterone creams, which don’t work as well for men.”
Risks & Myths
“With any hormone replacement, we want to ensure we use bioidentical hormones. But the stories of testosterone causing prostate cancer in men are a myth that has been perpetuated over the years. Back in the early 1900s, there was a medical journal article that suggested that testosterone was the cause of prostate cancer. This idea made its way into medical schools and was accepted as fact until about a decade ago. It’s now known to be absolutely false. In fact, it is when men have low testosterone levels that they are at greatest risk for prostate cancer. When testosterone is maintained at a healthy level, the risk for heart disease decreases and the risk of prostate cancer decreases.”
A Testament to Testosterone
“Testosterone also improves mental clarity, energy levels, mood and zest for life, and reduces depression. It improves exercise capacity and muscle mass, and helps reduce body fat levels. Loss of muscle mass as people age is one of the biggest reasons they end up in nursing homes. Losing abdominal fat, especially the visceral fat inside the belly, has all sorts of positive health implications as well. It’s very dangerous fat associated with metabolic syndrome, which puts people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart attack, cancer – all the diseases that are killing most North Americans.”
Your Genes and Your Health
“I am planning a book about genetics and the genome diet – how to pick the right kind of foods to eat depending on your genetic information. There are so many different diets out there, and some people do well on them while others fail. The reason is because we’re all genetically different. No one has the same genome as you do, unless you’re an identical twin. If we can tailor your diet and exercise program to your specific genetic information, it makes all the difference in the world.
“With thorough analysis of your DNA, we can be very specific about the best diet for you to follow, based on how well you metabolise fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Are you more suited for power exercises or endurance exercises? How good are you at metabolising caffeine? How prone are you to addiction? These are things that I spent many years figuring out for myself. I’m now able
to give my patients a precise roadmap to get them where they want to go based on their genetics.”
“I’ve become increasingly involved with the Apeiron Center for maximizing human potential, where we do this kind of genome testing and apply epigenetics. Epigenetics is making modifications so that your genes are expressed, or are not expressed. If your genes put you at risk for disease, there are things you can do to ensure those genes are not expressed. We now know that lifestyle plays a huge role in all of this: what you think about, your habits, how you eat, how you interact with your friends. This kind of longevity medicine has been scientifically shown to extend lifespan. If we make these epigenetic changes before we have children, we transmit those changes to our children, and to future generations.”
Within Our Control
“We know so much more now about what it takes to be healthy, yet the North American population is in its worst physical condition ever. The prevalence of processed food, combined with not exercising, has created a whole nation of unhealthy people. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and this is just unheard of. We must start doing things to change that. If I had started what I teach in my books at age twenty, I would have no coronary artery disease. But it’s never too late. I began down this path at age 59, and at almost 78, I am healthier than I’ve ever been.”
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