Ah yes, nothing like a friend who calls you up at 6:00 A.M. in the morning with alarm and fear in her voice as she says, “I just got out of the shower and realized my body is really, really getting flabby!” In a half dream-state I say, “Fran, what in the world are you yelling about! Do you realize it’s 6:00 A.M. in the morning?” Her apologetic voice replies, “Oh, I am so sorry, but would you please call me later and help me with this issue?” Click!
Still staring at the phone in my hand, the total humor of her call hits me. I’m virtually bending over with laughter until…I stop and look at my own arms with equal dismay! What happened? Wasn’t it just last year that I was proudly wearing my sleeveless clothes with such aplomb? I have to admit that my alarm bells went off, and I was soon on a journey to discover not only why our arms and bodies get flabby, but also what we can do about it. (Despite the fact that many of us already do all sorts of exercises!)
I dug further into the subject, posing the question to some of our great Weston A. Price chapter leaders, searching through my Standard Process information, and looking back at my seminar notes. It occurred to me that there’s much to be said about why the flabby phenomenon takes place. However, much of the information is scattered, and what exists is primarily used to induce us to buy exercise equipment, DVDs, and other paraphernalia to help us beef up our sagging muscles. Although certain exercises are of great importance, I discovered other facts that I later shared with Fran. And I thought that you, my dear readers, would also like the information.
My discussion will center on these seven topics:
1. Reasons for flabbiness
2. Genetics in the aging process
3. Lifestyle factors
4. Muscle tone and exercise
5. Internal and external stressors
6. The collagen connection
7. Favorite Standard Process supplements for collagen support
Reasons for Flabbiness
According to MedlinePlus, after the age of 30, body fat has a tendency to increase just as lean muscle typically decreases. This is partially due to hormonal changes that occur as we age and partially because we tend to become less active. The hormonal changes cause our metabolic rate to decrease, which means we burn fewer calories throughout the day. A slower metabolism combined with a lack of exercise—and fewer calories burned—creates a significant risk of weight gain. Gravitational pull also takes its toll, constantly pulling on the back of arms and thus facilitating flabbiness. See my blog post “Belly Fat—Simplified!” for a closer look at hormonal changes.
Genetics in the Aging Process
So how did your mom or other close relatives age? Did your mom ever have the flab problem to an obvious degree? Was she overweight or was she a skinny Minnie? People who are fat generally tend to have fewer wrinkles than thin individuals, but looking back on our family genetics can help us see how we too may age. (Darn it anyway—there’s very little we can do about that one cause!)
If your grandmother and mother had upper arms that were prone to flapping every time they lifted them, chances are you do too—or you will. Some people have excess flab surgically removed, but it may be dangerous and cause lifelong scarring. Instead of such drastic measures, I’d like to suggest some of the recommendations below to help relieve the onset or deter the progression of flab to whatever extent possible.
Just for kicks, here are a few other genetically inherited traits I never knew of:
- Flabby arms
- Nose and ear growth
- Female pattern baldness
- Senile acne
- Dowagers humps
Your genetics may or may not be a for sure indicator that you will inherit flabby arms and/or a flabby body, but it should come as no surprise that lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking should definitely be avoided. Smoking causes a severe deprivation of good, clean oxygen to the bloodstream, and drinking alcohol introduces ether into the system. Drinking also increases blood pressure and brain disorientation and is responsible for other chemical changes that unfortunately do nothing to genuinely relax us in the true sense of the word. Ingesting high sugar foods or processed fats like vegetable oils—even using many cosmetics—contributes to poor circulation and clogs pores that we need to release toxins we accumulate on a daily basis.
Muscle Tone and Exercise
Many people advocate that doing certain types of exercises is the only way to strengthen and bolster sagging areas so they’re less pronounced. In some cases, exercise can actually restore the muscle tone to its normal state. Although I believe that exercise is a valuable tool, I advocate a rounded approach that also includes nutrient dense foods and supplements. These are, in my opinion, the mainstay of preventing physical deterioration. I nevertheless like these six easy exercises to prevent jiggly arms—and even I’m willing to do that much in combination with my other recommendations.
Internal and External Stressors
Stress has both internal and external causes, but both types will wreak havoc on your body as you age. We must develop ways to deal with stress in order to lessen its disastrous effects. Let’s define internal stressors first. This is the type of stress we experience when we’re overly consumed with our personal goals, the expectations we place on our children, and other worries over which we have no control. In other words, internal stress comes from within. Remember: your physical heart feels these things!
External stressors are things we face daily: no hot water for our morning shower, traffic jams on our way to work, a misunderstanding with our boss. Whether it’s an internal or external stressor, both types can weaken and age the body. Much has been written about the damage that stress does to our skin when we’re generally impatient or lack a method for getting our thoughts in perspective. Such dangerous habits can be the foundation to premature aging. For a good read on this topic, see my blog post titled “Ironing Out the Wrinkles.”
I always feel special satisfaction when my research on a subject shows that the best and most natural results come from whole food and whole food supplements. And not just because I love cooking and eating nutrient dense foods—there is also so much science to back up the quote Adele Davis once coined: “You are what you eat.”
The Collagen Connection
All that being said, now let’s talk about the amazing substance known as collagen. Here is some general background:
“Collagen and aging: Collagen production in the body slows with age and ill health, causing skin, joints and other body parts to become drier, less pliant, thinner, and weaker. The glue dries up and loses its stickiness, so to speak. This breakdown is the most visible as sagging skin, but it can occur throughout the body. Tendons and ligaments lose elasticity, bones weaken, muscles atrophy, and cartilage cracks.”
—Nourishing Broth, Chapter 1
“Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It helps connective tissue to be strong and provides cushioning for various parts of the body.”
—“What Is Collagen, Definition, Types and Diseases”
And finally, on the important relationship between collagen and gelatin:
“Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish. During hydrolysis, the natural molecular bonds between individual collagen strands are broken down into a form that rearranges more easily. Its chemical composition is, in many respects, closely similar to that of its parent collagen.”
—Wikipedia entry on gelatin
So collagen is the tough stuff that holds the body together, and gelatin is the Jell-O-like substance derived from the breakdown of collagen when you simmer bones, skin, and gristle to make a broth. This, in my opinion, is what Mother Nature intends you to get plenty of to keep that beautiful body from the “Great Sag.”
Note: Gelatin is a very concentrated type of protein, and it shouldn’t be taken by itself for prolonged periods of time. Gelatin-rich broth is best used in soups that include vegetables and/or meats, beans, and legumes. (Read more about gelatin in your copy of Nourishing Broth.)
However, as Shakespeare would say, there’s a rub. Your body doesn’t slap collagen onto your ligaments or cell walls like cosmetic companies claim collagen skin creams do. The body has to make collagen. And it makes collagen the same way it makes all substances, by first breaking down food into its elemental components. The body then assembles those components into whatever it damn well pleases according to the materials that are available to add to those amino acids.
Summing It All Up
Collagen is a protein. The building blocks of protein are amino acids. When you eat food, your body breaks it down into its basic parts. A bowl of collagen will become amino acids your body will then use to build skin, muscle, bone, and hair. But without the presence of all 22 essential amino acids and other key nutritional chemicals, there’s no guarantee those amino acids will be assembled properly—or at all.
See for yourself! A search of “collagen” in the Selene River Press Historical Archives yields many articles on the critical role that vitamin C and vitamin P complexes play in degenerative diseases due to loss of intercellular cement factors such as collagen.
Favorite Standard Process Supplements for Collagen Support
- Cataplex C – A powerful whole form of the vitamin C complex (ascorbic acid is not the whole C complex). Among many other nutritional effects that vitamin C complex has on the body, it’s critical in assembling amino acids in the formation of collagen.
- Cyruta Plus – The vitamin P complex is the antihemorrhagic factor of the C complex. The most potent source is from rutin derived from green buckwheat juice. It strengthens capillary walls, prevents protein (collagen) degeneration, and reduces harm from X-rays.
- Zypan – Collagen can only be digested in the presence of pepsin. Zypan from Standard Process combines HCL, pepsin, pancreatin, and more to aid the digestion of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Calcifood Wafers: These supply all 22 amino acids (which includes the 8 essential amino acids) in a raw veal bone formula. The body needs all 22 amino acids to form protein and collagen, but many of them are destroyed by heat. The raw form removes the extra steps caused by having to break down already formed protein from food.
Food Sources of Collagen-Forming Nutrients
Whether or not you take supplements, your diet must support your goals. Here’s a quick list of some of the foods that will support collagen formation.
- Bone broth, and all whole protein foods such as meat, fish, etc.
- Partial protein foods in combination, such as legumes and whole brown rice.
- Raw milk dairy products. Cultured raw milk dairy and cheese products contain higher protein levels because the protein is more concentrated by the culturing and cheese-making processes.
- Nuts and seeds, particularly Sally Fallon’s “Crispy Nuts.”
- Any protein food that is not heated above 117 degrees will provide amino acids in their raw state.
- All seafood.
- Ceviche is a great way to eat raw seafood because it’s “cooked” in lime juice. Traditionally it’s made with conch, calamari, squid, lobster, or scallops, but you can use just about any fish once you know how it’s done.
- Oysters, raw.
Vitamin C and P Complex Sources
- Apples: Great for both C and P complex.
- Citrus Fruit: White part inside peels of citrus fruit are high in P complex (bioflavonoids). Grating lemon zest into your food is an easy way to consume this substance. It’s great combined with grated ginger root and a bit of raw local honey for an immune boost.
- Fresh lemon juice is higher in P complex than oranges and grapefruit juice.
- Red peppers: High in P complex.
- Paprika: High in P complex.
- Buckwheat: Not as high as green juice and green seed but still a good source of P complex.
- Mushrooms: Used raw, mushrooms are very high in the C complex. Dr. Royal Lee liked to liquefy them into shakes.
- Potato juice, just a few ounces a day, is very high in C complex.
- Berries: All berries are a great source of C complex.
Take apple cider vinegar with meals. Through lowering the pH, ACV encourages the stomach production of pepsin. Good minerals in the diet will also help the body create digestive enzymes.
The Traditional Cook’s Favorite Anti-Sag Broth
I’m always happy to point you to Nourishing Traditions and Nourishing Broth. However, this time I’d just like to tell you how wonderfully thick and rich is my own simple gelatin rich broth. Vegetables I like to add to my gelatin include minced cabbage, shitake mushrooms, diced onion, cubed potatoes with skin, shredded carrots, a bit of kelp, and some finely diced celery. This is definitely nourishment a cut above the rest, and it will help you deter the “great sag!”
1 pig’s foot
1 large package chicken feet
Apple cider vinegar
- Wash thoroughly, then allow the pig’s foot to soak in 1-2 cups of apple cider vinegar overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse thoroughly, and place both in a large crock pot with spring water filled to cover about 2 inches above the ingredients. Cook on high for an hour, then turn to low and cook an additional 6–8 hours. Add more water if the liquid cooks down. Be sure to skim any scum that rises to the top.
- Remove the pig’s foot and set aside in a separate dish (it makes for some very tasty snacking). You may discard the chicken feet or continue cooking them in another pot until soft enough to macerate into a fine paste. The paste contains marrow from the bones, which can be eaten, added to a soup, or fed to your pets.
- Ladle the warm broth into a large glass bowl. Cover the top with Saran wrap and refrigerate. Next morning you’ll be ready to store broth into smaller containers or make a great soup with the broth in place of water.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo from iStock/mheim3011>
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.