[vc_row][vc_column el_class=”j-like-to”][vc_column_text]I’m going to tell you what it feels like to be 70 years old. But first, a quick story.

My brother is a therapist, and he once told me of a client who said to him, “Mr. Bowden. I’m a single mother of two, I’m black, I’m poor, and I’m young. How could you—a white, middle-aged, middle class Jewish man—possibly understand me?”

A reasonable question.

My brother replied: “What you say is true. But even if I were a poor, black, young, single mother of two… I still wouldn’t know what it was like to be you having that experience. So why don’t you share that with me?”

There’s a great lesson there. Circumstances—young, poor, black, privileged, white, rich, blind, short, seventy—don’t determine your experiences of those circumstances. Two kids grow up in the same neighborhood, same brutal poverty, same lousy environment, and one kid becomes a career criminal and the other becomes a judge. Go figure. You can be blind and sell pencils on the corner outside Macy’s, or you can be blind and be Stevie Wonder.

Which brings us to the title of this article, What it feels like to be 70, a bit of a misnomer since I can only tell you what it feels like for me to be 70. With metaphysical certitude, you will have your own unique experience of being 70, which is exactly what I wish for you one day. Some of the things I’ll share with you might be part of your experience as well, many will not be, and you will have plenty of your own that are completely different from mine.

And let it be very clear… I share this with you for one reason only. Because the lessons I continue to learn don’t just make me a better person, they make me a better understander of the human condition. I’m passionate about sharing the lessons I’ve learned—both about nutrition and about life– only because I’ve experienced their effects in my own life.

So here’s what it feels like to be me on my 70th birthday.

You start to get clearer on what matters, and what doesn’t, really.

You realize that some battles are worth fighting and some are not. And you hope for the wisdom to tell them apart.

You finally begin to understand the profound meaning of acceptance, (which feels very different from resignation).

And…you come to accept something that you have been avoiding thinking about, which is this: the majority of your years are behind you.

Now, I realize that could sound pretty depressing. And it could lead you down some slippery slope of self-pity—- “ah, the good old days, it’s all downhill from here…”

Except I don’t look at it that way on my 70th.

Sure, mathematically, if you’re 70 like me, you’re going to remain on this planet many less years than you’ve already been here. So what? The past 70 years had some stunning highs and some awful lows, but I’d hardly think of them collectively as “the good old days” that I wish I could go back to.

Truth be told, my life started getting really awesome for me in my 60’s, which has been my greatest decade (so far), both professionally and personally. I have more passion now than I did 30 years ago. My business went to a new level. I met Michelle. And my tennis game finally improved (except, of course, for my serve. But don’t get me started.)

The fact that most of the years of my life are behind me doesn’t mean that most of my living isn’t ahead of me.

And since we’re on the subject of acceptance… let’s talk about bodies. And aging.

When I was in my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s a big part of how I defined myself—how the world saw me and how I saw myself—was that I was extremely fit and had a really good body. Not bodybuilder good body, or Olympic gymnast good body, but very decent everyday good body. (Think Mick Jagger with definition.) While people my age around me were frequently getting sick, fat, tired, and depressed, I remained lean and mean, defined and committed to my health.

Now, nearly two decades later, I lift weights twice a week. I play hard competitive tennis 12 hours a week. And I take walks. So I think I have the exercise thing covered. And while I don’t always live up to my own standards of eating, for the most part I eat pretty well. And my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than about 5-10 pounds in over 20 years, and anytime it creeps up into the higher range of that 5-10 pounds I know how to bring it back down, and I do.

That said…here’s the truth: my body just doesn’t look the same as it did twenty years ago.

Not even close.

To be honest—this has been a source of shame for me. I almost never take my shirt off, even at the beach. I’m consciously comparing what I look like today with what I looked like then, and I haven’t felt good about it.

Until now.

So here’s the unvarnished truth about my body.

One, I have a big structural/ muscular imbalance so that my pecs—far from being symmetrical and defined—look very different from one another.

Two, I have a lot of fat around my chest, which may have been less noticeable when I was more muscular than I am today.

Three, despite the fact that I’ve been working out for 31 years, my skin sags. It just doesn’t look like 30-year-old skin, no matter how much collagen I take. (Sure, collagen supplements probably slows the process of skin aging considerably—but they don’t eliminate it. Sylvester Stallone looks amazing and muscular at 70 but you wouldn’t mistake him for the Rocky lll version.)

So today, on my 70th birthday I looked in the mirror, and instead of seeing what I wasn’t (my 30-year-old self) I saw what I was.

And I decided that it was going to be OK.

I’m always going to train, always going to try to get better, to look better, all that good stuff, but the fact is that this is who I am now, and, at least for today, I decided to make that be OK.

And that included accepting some saggy skin, some body fat I’m not fond of having, and the fact that I’m asymmetrical (some might say weirdly shaped) as hell.

And that I’m probably not going to be anyone’s second choice if Ryan Gosling’s not available.

The silver lining in that is that my view of what’s sexy and attractive has grown enormously. If I had but one legacy message to leave, one thing I believe from the bone marrow of my soul, it’s that sexy comes in all sizes and shapes. What makes someone really hot is what goes on between their ears. Size 4 or size 24, doesn’t matter. That’s just details.

As many of you know, I was a fat, overweight, smoking hot mess a mere 35 or so years ago, and didn’t start getting it together—really—till an age probably older than some of you are right now. I did it slowly—with nutrition, with exercise, with workshops and seminars, but nutrition was always the core of my program. That’s why I know that it works and that’s why I’m passionate about it.

One of my favorite writers in the world—Jennifer Weiner—says that as we get older, we all learn that there isn’t a finish line… or maybe there is, but it keeps moving.

At 70, my finish line keeps moving, my acceptance keeps growing and my awe keeps expanding. I wish the same for you. The songwriter Allen Stone has a beautiful lyric that expresses it perfectly:

Keep your dirt on the surface and just love where you’re at.
The best part of learning is just lovin’ where you’re at.

I know how my own investment in self-healing turned out— my life turned around. For me, the process started with what I put into my body, how I treated my body, my relationship with my body, my relationship with other bodies in the universe and ultimately my relationship with the universe itself.

I have no serious regrets (and that includes about two decades as a hard-drug addict and active alcoholic). I’m deeply in love with Michelle and my passion for her has only grown stronger in seven years of being together (and don’t think that doesn’t get top billing in my gratitude list). I truly think I have the greatest circle of friends anyone could possibly, possibly wish for. I love where I live. I love what I do. I live with two dogs I adore, and they apparently feel the same way as demonstrated by aggressive kissing and cuddling.

And I love that beautiful people like you care about what I write and listen to what I say, and that I can make a living with words, teaching the lessons I’ve learned about how to discover—and ultimately accept– self.

Life is good.

Life is not perfect.

But what is perfect is that that’s OK.

Let the games begin.

With love,
Jonny

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74 Comments

  1. Donna

    Thank you – I needed to read this.

    Reply
  2. Susan Dorman

    Beautifully put. From one ‘senior’ to another, thank you.

    Reply
  3. Walter S

    Now that I am 70 just wish that i had your advice sooner.
    My regrets are in the past but hope that, those I have hurt will sense my heart-felt apology

    Reply
  4. David

    Thanks very inspiring

    Reply
  5. Val

    Happy birthday! I hope I look as good as you at 70- well the female version that is! Thanks for pointing out what is important – being alive and healthy, not whether or not you have some sags and wrinkles.

    Reply
  6. Dawn

    Beautiful post! Happy Birthday!!

    Reply
  7. Marguerite Barnard

    Thanks for the letter, I love myself and nearly 10 years older than you are. Not bragging but I just keep on trucking. I eat we
    but am not able to exercise much right now but plan to when the ice is off the street or more snow is there so I can use my walker. so happy birthday Jonny and hope you have many more.

    Reply
  8. Jeff

    Johnny, it sounds to me that your “experience” has taught you the same thing it has taught me; Invest in relationships – it pays the best dividends! And while you may not be symmetrical, you are very well balanced. I wish you a happy 70th and many more!

    Reply
  9. Kim miller

    Happy Birthday Johnny. I’ve been following you for a long time! You look awesome and yes you got that sexy brain thing going on that I like even better. Congratulations on a letter that I am sure will positively affect many people.

    Reply
  10. Larry

    I will turn 76 on December 27 … I really appreciated this article! Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Kelly

    Thank you-much needed, appreciated, and keep up the inspiration!

    Reply
  12. Ann c

    Thanks for sharing. Happy Birthday.
    I turn 70 in February and this next season of life has been on my mind.

    Reply
  13. Judy

    Happy Birthday! I reached 70 a couple of years ago and your experience felt familiar — and good. I wish you many, many happy returns, and your years will surely be enriched by your awareness, acceptance, achievements and gratitude. God bless & get goin’!

    Reply
  14. Kathie

    Happy Birthday to you, Jonny. I’ve been following you for years, and appreciate your wise words. I’m 61, and the 60’s is a difficult one for me. Thank you for so many wise reminders!

    Reply
  15. eleanor

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Loved you post………..lot of good thoughts.

    Reply
  16. Laura

    Dr. Jonny, this is a beautiful piece you’ve written. From the heart, uplifting, and with caring and compassion. Happy birthday to you! Thank you for taking the time to share your important message with the world!

    Reply
  17. Andree Nadeau

    Happy Birthday. I am myself a 77 year old woman who enjoys every minute of her life. Being slim and fit and interested in many projects help of course. But never do I think of the time that is left and never do I think and cry over the good old days. As a single mother of 4, they were not all rosy, although there was a lot of positive. Everything is in the attitude. If I were you, I would not spend one minute feeling sorry about it.

    Reply
  18. William

    Feeling thankful

    Reply
  19. John

    Happy Birthday to you. The thoughts you expressed are somehow very familiar to me. I also achieved the same age milestone earlier this month and went through my own thoughts. Thank you fir sharing.

    Reply
  20. William

    Everyone is so concerned with what they don’t have, to be happy with what they do have, natural human instinct is to always want what you don’t have!!!

    Reply
  21. Anita

    Thank you, Jonny for all that you’ve done to help people become healthier versions of themselves. I am deeply grateful for all that I have learned from you. Best wishes for all the great living that is ahead for you!

    Reply
  22. Donna

    Happy Birthday Jonny! Well said! I agree with everything you said. You are amazing and wise!

    Reply
  23. Catherine

    Happy birthday Jonny! I turned 61 this year and have had to come to terms with a few wrinkles here and there, but went paleo this year and lost 15 pounds which I’ve kept off for 7 months.I have all your books and respect your advice; keep telling us the truth about nutrition not what is the “hottest” diet going today!

    Reply
  24. Gail

    Boy did I need to hear this message! Thank you so much for your take on the getting older thing. I’m 65, well 130 lbs overweight, but I am NOT going to give up, regardless. I was getting a little down in the mouth, but reading this today has really helped me. Thanks Jonny.

    Reply
  25. Nikki

    Any words of wisdom for being 80? Or even references that might be helpful? I eat well ( most of the time), take supplements, and do Tai Chi regularly, but I am really slowing down, walk slowly, can’t run, and have a lot of stiffness that did not seem to happen when I was 70.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Nikki, please read Goddesses Never Age by Dr. Christiane Northrup! There are many things you can do to regain your mobility and strength. I also love the book No Grain NO Pain by Dr. Peter Osborne. Gluten and grains and other inflammatory foods hurt us! Also there is an epidemic of vitamin B12 deficiencies that are not being recognized by conventional doctors. The book Could It Be B12? by Sally Pacholok is very excellent! We live in a very ageist society. There re many people all over the world who are active into their 100’s. Best in health!

      Reply
  26. arie

    Very happy birthday Jonny, way to go! Well written, I liked it. Still has not figured out what is really important to you – for me it is caring about and taking responsibility for humanity (all of us) and the world we live in. Sending you my love.

    Reply
  27. Barbara

    Many more happy birthdays are in store. A great article written from the heart that is inspiring

    Reply
  28. Connie

    Happy Birthday…………..I agree!

    Reply
  29. Elaine wickstrom

    Jonny– the best thing about you, in addition to your indefatigable energy and good will, is how you’ve applied yourself to your profession. Your relentless attention to nutritional information and the DETAILS of why something does or doesn’t work, your acquired expertise that is the envy of so many, and your remarkable ability to make that available to a broad range of people — it’s really a huge talent. I’ve admired you for years and see you as a paradigm for what’s possible. THANK YOU, and a warm and hearty Happy 70th Birthday to you!!! <3

    Reply
  30. Lynne

    Just what we need to hear. Happy Birthday Johnny

    Reply
  31. peter

    Great Blog Johnny ! One of the best Health inspirational stories i have read all year !! Thanks for sharing your workout regime , very balanced and a good example of training for one’s age to enhance health and have some fun at the same time . Look forward to hearing more gems from you . They say a good wine gets better with age !!

    Reply
  32. Peggy

    Happy Birthday Jonny Bowden 🙂 You are an inspiration. Continue doing what you do and Thank you

    Reply
  33. Mike Parker

    Happy Birthday, Jonny. First started listening to you with the “Unleash Your Thin” program several years ago which led to Jade Teta’s Metabo;ic Aftershock, then Metabolic Prime. I am 78 and in really good shape for my age (not as good as my paratrooper days – but). Want to thank you for your wisdom. Ain’t recovery wonderful!

    Reply
  34. Lisa

    Happy Birthday, Jonny! Thanks for the great message!

    Reply
  35. Hughie

    Awesomely inspiring….THANK YOU

    Reply
  36. Elaine Moore

    Happy Birthday ! I’ve been following you for a long time and have !earned a lot. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  37. Louise

    A brave post. A hopeful message. And if you give your readers nothing else, that’s a great deal. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Lovay

    Great message. Having just turned 76, I agree with all you’ve shared. Life is a journey and we keep moving forward.

    Reply
  39. Kathleen

    Jonny,
    Happy Birthday and thank you for writing this. It was beautiful beyond words!

    Reply
  40. Susie

    Happy Birthday! What a great message and just what I needed to read today!

    Reply
  41. Mike Bannister

    Jonny,
    Thanks for sharing! My best friend is 83 and he is in incredible shape, which I admire and know what can be accomplished if you eat right most of the time and exercise. You have also shown this. In addition, I find it inspiring to know that one can change if they want to, but only if they want to. I am 60 and started to look at this life as if I’m in the 4th quarter and hope to have an extra overtime or two. So now is not the time to be safe and squander, but to take life’s lessons and give it your best. It definitely gets easier to laugh at life and and to be grateful for what is and isn’t.
    Again, thank you Jonny for being here and sharing your thoughts!
    Happy Birthday!!!

    Reply
  42. Dan

    Happy Birthday Jonny… Really hits home… And encouraging to those with some form of health challenge that has affected their life as they see themselves getting older… Guessing you have some aches and pains as well despite everything you have done to nourish your health as you hit 40… We just do not live forever and as we age things change, as hard as it is to “accept”… Thank you for the inspiring words and the reminder that things are not going to be “perfect” … Spending time to “discover and ultimately accept self” as things change are just great words of wisdom… May be challenging, but it seems it is what we have to do…

    Reply
  43. Sharon

    Happy birthday. You are an inspiration to us all.

    Reply
  44. Denis S

    Happy birthday! Very heart-felt and well said.

    Reply
  45. Gayle

    I love the wisdom that comes with age. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Reply
  46. Majella

    Happy Birthday. I’m still working on my growth but you give me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Reply
  47. Steve

    Happy Birthday Jonny! Thank you for all that you have dedicated and committed to towards your best understanding of health and happiness. I thank you for continuing to share your scientific knowledge with all of us who choose to continue to research how to live a long and productive life. The best to you and yours always!

    Reply
  48. Anita

    Happy Birthday Jonny! Thank you for your years of wisdom and teachings. All the best to you 🙂

    Reply
  49. Tami

    It’s never too late to accept “self”- physically, mentally and spiritually! Cheers to you on your 70th!

    Reply
  50. Donna S.

    Happy Birthday Jonny!!!! and many more God Bless you for writing this today, needed to read that…Now I feel better cuz I’m also 70 yrs young this year. Just last month BTW, you look gorgeous for 70. I’m sure Michelle is proud of that too!!!! Well written blog. Many more bdays for you…

    Reply
  51. Mark

    Happy Birthday Jonny!

    Reply
  52. Trisha

    Jonny~Celebrating you in the world and the very important work that you do. Your sharing of information and continued work to bring accuracy to topics that have been so confounding has without a doubt saved lives! Happy Birthday to you and thank your u for the gift that YOU are!

    Reply
  53. Marion

    You look awesome….what an inspiration!

    Reply
  54. Rosemarie

    Happy Birthday Jonny! Thank you for all the great advice. I hope you live to at least 100. You make this world a better place. Good health.

    Reply
  55. Dale

    Happy birthday and many more. I’m only a couple of years behind you!

    Reply
  56. Karen Skeffington

    Thank you Dr. Jonny and Happy 70th Birthday!!! You are truly a great educator and inspiration! For all you do, I am grateful!!!

    Reply
  57. Trish Delahanty

    Thank you for your candor, and inspiring Birthday message….I was actually moved to tears!

    Reply
  58. Kim

    So inspiring, Jonny! I am 45 and I strive to be like you in 25 years’ time. I only wish my parents – who are a little older than you – would feel the way that you do. It makes me sad to think that they have given up on bettering themselves every day. My grandmother lived to almost 99 and her attitude was very similar to yours. Happy birthday to you, and thanks for sharing and inspiring so many!

    Reply
  59. Diana

    I turn 70 in two weeks, and love my age – how I feel, and look. Most of all I love the wisdom I have gained from life experience. Thanks for you post.

    Reply
  60. Sandra Smith

    Happy Birthday Johnny, You are such a real person. I will be 68 in January, so I am right behind you. Every 10 years I look back on me, and think wow, I know so much more now, I am finally all grown up, but then another 10 years go by and I look back and say the say thing, I am so much better now. We just keep getting smarter and learning! thanks for all you do!

    Reply
  61. Michelle

    Thank you for a very candid and uplifting message. Johnny you are a true gem. Happy 70th!

    Reply
  62. Karin

    Thank you for the message. I just had my 76th birthday still trying to figure out the human condition. Happy birthday to you, you truly inspire people! I still wear a bikini without having to be embarrassed. I mostly eat healthy food and take supplements. But I do feel a difference between my sixties and my latest birthday. Thanks again for your article!

    Reply
  63. Sally

    Happy Birthday Jonny. I will be 70 in Feb. and am having some of the same thoughts you brought. You are an inspiration to a lot of people. Keep up the good work you do.

    Reply
  64. Brenda

    As one whose theme song this year has been the “soon I’ll be 60 years old” verse from Lukas Graham’s latest song, thanks so much for your vulnerable and lovely words. I too am a nutritionist and credit what I’ve learned and lived about a healthy lifestyle to be a huge factor in the wellness with which I’m blessed. Your words today encourage me forward to the next decade and the one after and the . . . . thanks so much. Enjoy your 70th celebration and may the next year be full of many good gifts!

    Reply
  65. Carol

    Thanks for your very sincere message. I’m turning 75 in December and live a pain free drug free life. I supplement a lot, power walk as my exercise choice, get a good night sleep, operate an Icommerce with my husband if53 years and enjoy my children and grandchildren. I am extremely grateful to God and happy with a life filled with lovely friends. I still have goals of more exercise such as weights but have maintained a healthy body weight staying within 5 pounds since my wedding although some of it has shifted a little. I keep striving to be better spiritually, physically, financially relationally but am very grateful for the life God Has blessed me with.

    Reply
  66. Maha

    Very inspiring. Happy birthday.

    Reply
  67. Marianne

    Happy Birthday! We live in a very ageist society driven in part by the allopathic medical community telling people their aches and pains are due to age and not what they are putting in their bodies in terms of toxic foods and products, the air and water, and prescription medications including vaccines. I just turned 72 on Thursday and am grateful for healing a severely arthritic hip without prescription medications and surgery, by changing my diet and finding prolotherapy. I was using a walker and a cane for several years, but thanks to my new lifestyle, I just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and other National Parks out West. I applaud your message and wish you much luck for the future! Onward and upward! Gods and Goddesses Never Age!

    Reply
  68. Phyllis Jones

    “With age comes wisdom”. You made it clear to accept the transition, not as loss, but as light on a new dawn with greater inspiration and ability to truly enjoy life and love. XO

    Reply
  69. Nancy

    Thanks so much for your message. I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Very inspiring. Happy Birthday!

    Reply
  70. Liene

    Thank you for this post! <3 Happy New year! <3

    Reply
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