Aging with “Gusto” at the Faculty of Health Lunch and Learn

Harvey Skinner and Michael Gravelle The Faculty of Health hosted its third Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Michael Gravelle, a retired Managing Director for a company specializing in psychometric assessment and talent management and currently a fitness instructor, certified personal trainer, triathlete, writer, and speaker, spoke to faculty and staff in the Faculty of Health about healthy aging.

Dean Harvey Skinner (left) and Michael Gravelle

Gravelle’s presentation Where’s the Reset Button? looked at five ways to slow the aging process and started off with a game that he referred to as “Two Truths and a Lie.” In answer to three questions, participants had to fill in the blanks with two honest answers and one lie, and the other attendees had to guess which answer was the lie. The questions, including “The last time I exercised was…”, “The last time I ate McDonald’s was…” and “In university, I weighed __ lbs more/less than I do today” were humorously punctuated by Gravelle by the fact that “being in university” didn’t mean right there and then in the Stong Master’s Dining Room, and “McDonald’s” also referred to every other junk-food restaurant in town.

The icebreaker warmed attendees to a harsh reality: that most people’s “A-Ha!” moments of feeling the need to lose weight and get healthier often involved heart attacks, strokes, or pregnancy. However, the presentation was meant to support people’s  choices to get healthy without the scary moments of realization.

Attendees at Faculty of Health Lunch and LearnIronically, Gravelle used a Grecian myth to make people aware of  modern realities. He told the story of the immortal goddess Eos, who asked for immortality for her lover, Tithonus, but had forgotten to ask for his eternal youth. As a result, Tithonus lived forever but as a frail old man. This is the modern Canadian reality, said Gravelle: “Canadians live to an average age of 81, so we live longer, but we live sicker.”

In order to improve your odds of living healthy in your later years, Gravelle proposed 5 steps: Set a bold goal (like a triathalon!), take active vacations, make your daily life more active, use technology to make exercising fun, and start a life-long habit. Groups broke out to discuss ways to make their daily lives more active, and ideas such as Dean Harvey Skinner’s “walking meetings” were brought up, as well as having meetings at someone else’s office, starting a walking club, and getting off transit a stop before your stop or parking at the far end of the parking lot.

“There are two ways to make your habits stick: work out in the morning, and work out with others,” said Gravelle. He cited examples of thousands of runners waking up at 5am all across the city to get their jogging time in before their days “start.” Health is a part of everyone’s life that they have to make time for, and sometimes it means going to bed early and starting your day the same way.

Motivation was another important theme and Gravelle cited technology as a way to keep exercise fun, specifically social media platforms such as strava.com that show how much exercise your friends have been doing and allow you to network with people with similar interests.

Attendees enjoying activities at Faculty of health Lunch and Learn

“Expect to suffer tremendously,” said Gravelle, “if you want to lose weight. And don’t wing it or expect miracles. Exercise alone won’t work, you need to eat less. Keep track of what you eat, weigh yourself often, and avoid restaurants.” On that latter point he stressed the importance of eating normal serving sizes. “I haven’t ordered a full-size main at a restaurant in about 5 years – I order appetizers and share mains.” He added that diets don’t work – you will gain back the weight unless you make permanent changes to your diet involving healthier choices, including fruits and vegetables, coupled with normal serving sizes.

He recounted an active European vacation he took with his wife, one week of which was spent touring wineries by bike, and the other, by car. “My wife gets asked all the time (and loves telling) about the bike tour because it was unconventional, and such a great way to see a new country – and unlike Toronto, many European cities have great biking infrastructure.”

Another key point, said Gravelle, is you are never too young or too old to start exercise, citing the story of 101 year-old Indian-born runner Fauja Singh who ran his first marathon at age 90. That seemed to inspire a group at one table to mention that they are starting a walking club at lunch. “That’s great, so when are you going to have your walking meeting?” asked Gravelle “What time? What day? How often? Make a plan and stick to it. Use strava.com and (Dean) Harvey (Skinner) will keep track.”