Bernard Salt on the future; Natasha Robin­son on ex­er­cise and long life

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - NATASHA ROBIN­SON WEEK­END WORD

I HAVE a friend who wears a most an­noy­ing T-shirt when ex­er­cis­ing. “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP”, says the logo em­bla­zoned across her vis­i­ble six­pack. Th­ese days, it seems, I can barely escape this kind of mo­ti­va­tional mantra, which the zeal­ously fit in­sist on broad­cast­ing from any avail­able medium.

How re­fresh­ing, then, to wake up one ropy Sun­day morn­ing re­cently to a back­lash of sorts from a girl­friend who had posted on her Face­book news­feed: “Sure, sure ... you’re all RUN­NING and em­brac­ing FIT­NESS,” said my friend Kate. “Mean­while, I have wo­ken up with France Soir spe­cific food crav­ings. If only they did home de­liv­ery steak bernaise and frites …”

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the Parisian bistros of Mel­bourne’s South Yarra, France Soir is a den of food in­iq­uity where sat­u­rated fat is con­sumed by the kilo­gram and wine flows freely be­fore mid­day. A place where giv­ing up and giv­ing in is delectably and de­light­fully fun. A place where you might even eat cheese. Luck­ily on this win­try Sun­day morn­ing, Kate had a rare friend who was not star­ing into a mir­ror at the gym or post­ing mo­ti­va­tional mes­sages, who hap­pened to fancy a big fat steak too.

Next thing, the pair was post­ing pho­to­graphs of juicy steak, gourmet fries and but­tery sauces, with the cap­tion: “And this, my friends, is called giv­ing in to your de­sires.”

That this kind of rit­ual is seen as some­how coun­ter­cul­tural says a lot about how ob­sessed we have be­come. I know we’re all so much fat­ter than we used to be. But is flog­ging our­selves to train harder, eat cleaner re­ally the an­swer? The truth is that those who have man­aged to crack the code of suc­cess­ful age­ing have not been those who fol­low a pre­scrip­tion of 45 min­utes, four times a week of huff and puff, which is ap­par­ently what women over 50 are sup­posed to do th­ese days.

Look to our cen­te­nar­i­ans. The Univer­sity of NSW re­cently stud­ied a group of Aus­tralians over 100. And al­though this group was far from couch pota­toes, none of them had a track record as a marathon runner ei­ther.

Char­lene Le­vi­tan, the aca­demic who headed up the project, says per­son­al­ity fac­tors are key — those who grow to a grand old age tend to be low on neu­roti­cism and high on op­ti­mism. And they’re prob­a­bly not the kind to heed the mes­sages of mo­ti­va­tional posters.

“They are peo­ple of mod­er­a­tion, they are not peo­ple of ex­tremes,” Le­vi­tan says.

“They would not be ad­vo­cat­ing vig­or­ous aer­o­bic ex­er­cise. None of them would say take ex­er­cise out of your ev­ery­day life, but it’s rather some­thing that needs to be in­te­grated into your life­style.”

In other words, get off your bum and take your kid to the park. Or go take a walk to your lo­cal France Soir. There’s noth­ing that in­spires an op­ti­mistic out­look quite like a block of creamy camem­bert.

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