For 25 years, Joanne McLeod has been “keeping fit and having fun” alongside co-star and husband Hal Johnson. Here, the 55-year-old speaks with health writer Kasia Wind about healthy aging and her skincare secrets (and sins).
Kasia: Can you tell me a little bit about BodyBreak? You’ve just celebrated your 25th anniversary of co-hosting segments and helping stay health. What has your philosophy been?
Joanne: The main message is that you should keep fitness, nutrition and health as simple as possible. Attempting to clean up all your bad habits at the same time can be overwhelming, so we have always strived to make it easy and fun.
How does it feel to know that you have been a part of people’s lives for decades; that many have grown up with you, know the BB theme song by heart and get excited when they hear your name?
We are definitely overwhelmed by the response that we have gotten from people. BodyBreak is us – we do everything for BodyBreak. We just kind of work away and it’s not until people come up to us and say, you know, “I’ve grown up with you, I’ve appreciated this tip or that tip”, that we really realize that we’ve had an impact. We just started using social media this year for the first time and the response has been overwhelming. We feel very appreciative that people have taken the message to heart. It’s funny, because it has been across different generations – people older than myself and Hal and the older generation remember us, the middle aged group remembers us, the 30-somethings remember, and even the under 20-year-olds are familiar with us because of their parents or they’ve seen us on the Amazing Race. We really hope that we can continue to make an impact. If we all make little efforts to be healthier, we’re all going to benefit in the long run.
Twenty-five years is a long time. Have you noticed any changes in the approach people take to staying healthy and fit since 1988?
It’s been very steady over time. We’ve never bought into fads; we’ve always kept it down and homegrown: You put in the work, you watch what you eat and you’ll get results. Over the years, we have seen trends come and go. But our message has stayed the same. How we get the message out has definitely changed with the internet, but the message has always been simple and straightforward.
On Getting Older…
You’re obviously a wonderful example of how to stay fit, energetic and healthy throughout life. (It’s so great that you went on the Amazing Race!) What’s your secret?
I don’t think I’ve got the full secret yet! I think fitness and nutrition solve most health problems associated with aging, though. Hal and I just try to keep moving and keep challenging ourselves. If there’s something we want to do, we just do it. We have a 14-year-old daughter and it has forced us to stay young to keep up with her. We want her to remember us as being active and going for it and not being afraid, just because we’re older, to try new things.
So, do you and Hal “keep fit and have fun”, in your fifties?
Oh, absolutely. We just try to be kids again. So often people stop having fun and playing. It’s like, when you were a kid, and you just hopped on your bike and went for it, or got your skates on and took that first step on the ice – there’s a thrill that comes with doing that that we forget when we get older. You have to keep it up! I just signed Hal up today for a second hockey team and he’s often playing against players in their 20s and 30s and he’s able to keep up with them! We’re also avid golfers – we love golf! We love to rollerblade, too, and I’m training for a marathon – not to lose weight but to feel good about myself and challenge myself. It’s funny, running to me is difficult, and that’s why I do it.
Did it become more difficult to maintain your healthy habits and results after age 40, or was it all smooth sailing?
I had my daughter when I was 40 and the combination of having her, plus entering into my 40s, made sleep super important. I go to sleep around 10 p.m. and get up around 6:30 a.m. and I try to maintain a really consistent sleep pattern. Sleep, as you get into your 40s and 50s, is so important; your body needs time to repair – it’s crucial for your memory, your moods, your heart and everything. That was the biggest change during that time. But also, I am entering the menopause years and, as much as I know I have symptoms, my mental attitude is helping me get through that. My mental attitude is that I’m not going to let that stop me from doing what I love, and that is exercise. And the exercise, funny enough, is what helps you through aging. As far as weight goes, I used to be able to eat anything I wanted and not gain anything, but – yeah! – after forties, things changed. You also need to keep your muscles strong, because your muscles are the engine that burn the calories that you eat. So, as you get into your 40s and 50s, if those muscles aren’t being used or challenged, you might be eating the same or healthy, but your engine isn’t burning at the same rate so you have to key into weight training, as well as cardio. I do more now than I did when I was in my 30s. Your body starts to slow down and you have to be a pace ahead of it.
What’s your nutrition like?
Now that we are older, we have gotten away from the traditional breakfast – bagel or cereal – and we make smoothies. I find that smoothies give you the most bang for your buck as far as caloric intake, plus they provide your body with fiber and protein, both of which are important as you get older. You’re not always going to eat all those chicken breasts!
I use a Blender Bottle with a stainless blender ball and add 1.5 cups of orange juice and one full scoop of high-quality vanilla protein powder. It tastes so refreshing and reminds me of being a kid eating a Creamsicle.
What about other nutrition strategies for aging?
When we are busy and on the go, we have pitas and wraps instead of burgers. We enjoy hearty vegetable soups too. For dinner, we grill our protein and we drink water throughout the meal. At restaurants, we ask for extra vegetables and keep the sauce on the side. On the surface, it seems like we’re just trying to be difficult, but it makes a huge difference. Most importantly, we try to limit the amount of sugar we eat because it just makes your body work harder. From an aging perspective, it can really slow your body down, and it’s not going to work as well as it did at 20 or 30. You need to be careful because sugar is found in everything, even bread.
Can you tell me about the changes in your skin after age 40 and 50?
The biggest change is that I had more wrinkles! When I grew up, we would put baby oil on our skin and lay out in the sun. We didn’t care if we burned or if we tanned, and I think that, because of those years of neglect and not being knowledgeable about skincare, I’m seeing the effects now. I would definitely advise anyone that, when you’re going to be outside, you need to put sunscreen on.
What is your skincare routine like? Has it changed over the years?
I don’t wear a lot of makeup. I’ve done a lot of television with barely any on and I am what I am. I keep it simple with just mascara and I wash with a mild soap and use moisturizer – the basics. I’m a believer, though, that you are what you eat. When you eat poorly, you can see it in your skin – you can see that it’s puffy or that it’s dry.
Have you ever tried any non-invasive skincare treatments such as microdermabrasion or foto facials?
I think I’ve had two facials in the last 50 years! I think they’re great and if I could afford one every month, that would be wonderful. All the services that are available serve a purpose, and hey, if I had the opportunity, I’d be there too. I don’t see dermatologist on a regular basis. Not that I wouldn’t want to, because just as everything else in your body is very important, checking up on your skin is also important.
Thoughts on plastic surgery?
I totally understand people getting facelifts and eye lifts and whatever – I totally get that – it’s all about trying to feel good. But just like everything else, I believe in everything in moderation.
What’s the one thing you want people to learn from you about healthy aging?
You should embrace aging and know that you can do more with it than you think you can. It doesn’t necessarily get better as you age, but you can make it better. You can age and enjoy it! Go for it, keep fit and have fun!
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