Counterclockwise: One Midlife Woman's Quest to Turn Back the Hands of Time by Lauren Kessler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Reviewer’s note – I am an independent writer. I am also a freelance reviewer. On occasion, I receive advance copies of books from publishers, for review. My reviews are based solely on the merits of the book, and I receive no remuneration from the publisher or author, other than a copy of the book, in exchange for posting a review on my blogs. Through a contest sponsored on Goodreads.com, I recently ‘won’ an ARC of Lauren Kessler’s latest non-fiction book, COUNTER CLOCKWISE. The following is my review. Disclaimer: I have taken care to not, with a couple of minor exceptions, directly quote from the book. Please note that the opinions and any 'claims' the reader may infer from this review are mine, and not necessarily those of the author. Thank you – vmls)
“If I could turn back time… if I could find a way…”
In Diane Warren’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”, Cher sings of love and of regret over things said and things done… wishing to turn back time and take away the hurt. But as we all know, time moves in one direction.
Or, does it…?
In Lauren Kessler’s Counter Clockwise, the author writes of ‘turning back time’ in a more literal and profound sense… in a way that will change your life… in a way that will improve the quality of your life, not just now, but as one grows older… chronologically, that is. With solid research and testimony from experts in their respective fields behind her, Lauren explains that while ‘age’ may be something measured by passing of years on a calendar, how we age… the speed at which we ‘grow older’ is something that we have much, much more control over than one might think.
Lauren’s “Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging”, as Counter Clockwise is subtitled, is an odyssey of discovery… and a search for the truth behind the hype… through the anti-aging ‘realm’. A market that some estimate, in the next couple of years, will exceed $200 billion in revenue.
Lauren explores the pills, supplements, creams, lotions and assorted devices pushed on a largely unsuspecting public that is in search of the fountain of youth. She tackles fitness and exercise regimens that would make even the most hardcore Marine boot camp drill sergeant toss in the towel and head for the lockers. The lure of cosmetic surgery, guaranteed to take years off your body (if not your mind), along with thousands of your hard-earned dollars, sings its siren song to Lauren. Does she succumb? Ha! If you’re expecting spoilers from me, you haven’t been reading my reviews.
Diet. When we hear that word, most of us think in terms of losing weight, but remember this… ‘diet’ is not just a verb. Diet, in the noun form, is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and if your quest is to ‘turn back the hands of time’, what, when and how you eat is even more important. Lauren’s research - I would have loved to be her research assistant, at least for this part - takes her through the science of food and nutrition in search of the right foods and combinations of foods that will promote optimal health and get those narrow black hands winding backward around the clock face. Think you know what a superfood is? Want the real lowdown on dark chocolate and red wine? Pay particular attention to that chapter.
Even a good diet doesn’t mean your body, and mind, can’t use a little help from the supplement market. Lauren has done a great deal of research in the area of supplements and come up with her own list. I think this is a list worth paying attention to.
Exercise… how important is it? Lauren gives us the ‘sweaty truth’. After reading Chapter Eleven, I am rethinking my current exercise regimen… which presently consists of a daily five-mile run - more if my stress level is up. Deadlines and commitments; what are you gonna do? - and thrice-weekly visits to the gym. Yeah, yeah, I know… there are seven days in a week. But, I’m young. I’ve got plenty of time, right? Hmmm… might want to be re-thinking that ‘philosophy’, Veronica.
There is a philosophy, a sound one, by the way… unlike some of the hoke and hype surrounding some diet, exercise, and supplement ‘stay young’ regimens… that explores how the mind contributes to whether we age well, at a ‘normal’ pace, or age quickly.
Lifestyle, diet, attitude… the wrong combination of these can give a thirty-year old the body – inside and out – of a sixty year old. And vice-versa… the right combination… well, imagine being 60 in calendar years but with the outside body of a 50 year old - without the benefit of cosmetic surgery - and the inside body of a 40 year-old? (My words, not Lauren’s – vmls)
In Counterclockwise, Lauren shows us how we can not only slow down the march of time, but even reverse it, to some degree. Has she found the fountain of youth? No… there is no such thing. Forget all those infomercials and so-called ‘experts’ on ‘midnight’ television, hawking the latest ‘key to eternal youth’… it is for the most part little more than ‘snake oil’.
Want to know a secret? You have the key… not to eternal youth, but to living longer… to living younger than the age on your driver’s license.
I hesitate to say that there is one single thing that will ‘turn back time’, that will slow down that clock and turn you into an ‘anti-ager’… but in a very real sense there is.
One thing, from which everything else flows…
Attitude. As is pointed out in the book… “expectation rules outcome”. This is a simple, yet deeply profound truth that it seems, humans need constant reminding of. What we think… how we think… is what we become.
Getting into the proper mindset. Why does anything fail? Diets… exercise… jobs…. relationships… all have one thing in common for not succeeding. Our attitude. If you don’t ‘expect’ to meet that weight goal… if you don’t ‘expect’ to finish that marathon or 10K race… if you don’t ‘expect’ to get that job you want… you won’t! It’s that simple. You can’t just want something to happen… you have to make it happen. All of the research and advice Lauren offers in Counter Clockwise will help you make things happen.
My wife, Christina, has on more than one occasion remarked that I “act like a twelve year-old.” Well, pardon me for not always acting my age, but as Chapter Twelve - unless they get renumbered; I am reading an advance reader copy, not the final ‘to-market’ book – points out, that may not always be a bad thing. If I had only five seconds to summarize the ‘message’ in Chapter Twelve, it would be this…
Think young… live young… be young.
Fortunately, I don’t have only five seconds…
In the 21st century job market, more so than at any other time perhaps, youth… the perception of youth, that is… ‘rules’. Wisdom, experience and knowledge take second place to a pretty face and a ‘fit and trim’ body. You can take the band aid approach to ‘youth’… cosmetic surgery and the latest fad diet, but if what you really want is to look, feel and live not just younger, but longer… with a better quality of life….
Read Counter Clockwise. This book is not 230 pages of opinion and conjecture. The author has, through exhaustive research and at times, incredible self-sacrifice, written a roadmap, if you will, to a happier, healthier and longer life… a life “increasingly disease-resistant and increasingly energetic”. Lauren has consulted with some of the top experts in their respective fields, subjecting her body and mind at times to total strangers, and come away with some very good news.
We can ‘turn back time’. But remember…
You can’t just want something to happen… you have to make it happen.
I’ve read a book or two on self-help, diet and exercise… and wasn’t terribly impressed. I’ve listened to a spiel or two at conventions, fairs and such… and was more impressed with the free water bottles and key fobs than the product or the pitchman’s speech. After reading Counter Clockwise, however… I recommend it without hesitation. I don’t say this about a lot of books I read, but this one… it will be life-changing. Lauren covers all the bases here with good solid advice, as well as some resources, to set you on the path to a more fulfilling life.
Lauren's keen sense of humour, and occasional snarkiness - gotta love it! - made this a thoroughly enjoyable read, as well as being very informative and educational.
There was one thing missing from the book, though.
I didn’t see the chapter on the health benefits of Sonic’s Texas Toast Breakfast Sandwich or Five Guys’ Bacon Jalapeno Cheeseburger (yes, with the cajun fries!)… I’m sure they will be in the final version of Counter Clockwise. Right, Lauren?
One final thought…
“Lauren, I have to side with your daughter on this… don’t mess with my smoothies!”
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
12 May 2013
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
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