Did you spend your younger days drinking, smoking, sunning, partying and in general – being young? Congratulations, you’re a human being. Most of us don’t realize the damage we are doing to our bodies until it starts showing up in the flesh, literally. All the aforementioned vices have a habit of leaving wrinkles, spots, broken blood vessels and worse.
While some youthful indiscretions cannot easily be undone (like that unfortunate tattoo), it is possible to make up for lost time by proactively taking better care of yourself. You can’t go back in a time machine and tell yourself to wear sunscreen, but you can make changes in your lifestyle and diet that will help you undo the mistakes of your youth.
First step: don’t berate yourself for the mistakes of your past. Our time on earth is limited, and life is far too short for regrets. Leave the past in the past and use that energy instead to focus on a more healthful future.
Sun exposure: If you were a sun worshipper in your younger days, it’s likely that your skin has already been damaged. Start to reverse the damage and decrease your chance of developing skin cancer by committing to a routine of SPF 30 every single morning, whether the sun is shining or not. Don’t stop at your face; be sure to cover your ears, neck, décolletage, arms and any other body parts exposed to the sun. Make sure your diet is full of antioxidants, such as those found in green tea and vitamin C, which help to neutralize toxic byproducts. And develop a relationship with a good dermatologist, who can check your body over once each year for suspicious marks. She can also give you a prescription for a topical vitamin A product such as Retin-A, which is scientifically proven to normalize skin cells that have been damaged by the sun. It also increases blood flow to the skin, sloughs off dead skin cells and revives collagen production.
Smoking: So you used to light up a cancer stick now and then at parties, or perhaps were a regular user. Addiction to nicotine is no joke – give yourself props for quitting in the first place. The good news is that the moment you stop smoking, your body starts to repair the damage done. Your red blood cell count returns to normal in about six months, and you immediately smell better. To further reduce the damage and improve skin tone, lung function and heart health, start a new exercise plan. Smoking narrows your blood vessels, and aerobic exercise delivers nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to areas of your body that were previously restricted – and helps you to sweat out the junk. Drink tons of water to help rid your body of smoking-related toxins and to improve the appearance of your skin. Make sure your diet is rich in nutrients that will help repair your cellular damage, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Drinking: While moderate alcohol intake is actually associated with better health by a number of new studies, the researchers surely aren’t talking about those college benders that involve jello shots and trash can punch. First, find stress reduction techniques that work for you and practice them often. With less stress, your body can focus on repairing itself. Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement of milk thistle, an extract that has been shown to improve and repair liver function. Make sure your diet is full of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, which are natural antioxidants, and start an exercise program to help your body detox even further.