Fountain of Youth

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Four Laguna locals reveal their secrets to looking and feeling young.

By Somer Tejwani | Photos by Jody Tiongco

LBM_43_Youth_Craig Strong_Juicing_By Jody Tiongco-17
Executive Chef Craig Strong of Montage Laguna Beach’s Studio restaurant stays healthy with the help of his wife’s fresh-squeezed juices—and his 9-month-old baby.

What makes someone forever young? You know the type—that person who doesn’t seem to age and always has an envy-inducing glow that just can’t be mimicked. We all know at least one of these lucky ones who seem to defy age, growing more energetic and youthful with each passing year. But how do they stay so young, so effortlessly effervescent?

Looking to drink from the same wellspring of robust vitality, Laguna Beach Magazine tapped five youthful locals—ranging from a gourmet chef and a pro mountain biker to a cosmetic surgeon, an open water swimmer and an energetic 80-something-year-old—to share their secrets and recommendations for eluding Father Time.

Positive Mentality

Perception just may be the key to remaining young at heart. In fact, the one defining trait that all of our youthful locals seem to share is a fantastic attitude regarding the realities of aging. Maintaining a positive outlook about the growth process provides a wealth of benefits related to mental and physical health—a concept repeatedly proven by top researchers like Dr. Becca Levy of Yale University’s School of Public Health. In a study of hers published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was found that participants who had internalized positive stereotypes about aging, such as equating increased age with wisdom, lived an average of 7.5 years longer than peers who upheld negative views of the same process.

And perhaps more importantly, our personal perceptions related to aging often affect others’ interpretations of our supposed youthfulness.

“We all know people who project youth with how they think, speak and act,” says Dr. Aaron Kosins, a cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon at Laguna’s Obagi Skin Health Institute. “I think that your state of mind and attitude toward life defines how other people will perceive you.”

LBM_43_Youth_Obagi Skin Health_By Jody Tiongco-16
Dr. Aaron Kosins recommends ZO Skin Health products for combating visible signs of age.

Open water swimmer Lynn Kubasek, 55, is just one example of a Laguna local who’s taken a similar approach to growing older by proudly embracing her age and the diverse experiences that accompany growing older. As Lynn tells it, maintaining a positive outlook and a sense of joy has allowed her to remain youthful and active.

“One of my favorite sayings is from Jeffrey Briar of Laguna Laughter Yoga,” she explains of her attitude. “Unless I am misquoting, he says, ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.’

“I would recommend checking out Laguna Laughter Club,” she continues. “It’s a combination of yoga and laughter. This is one of the best, [most] energizing activities I can recommend because laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter yoga, a Laguna phenomenon since the 1990s, combines laughing with deep breathing techniques and light stretching. Local participants praise the homegrown practice for its therapeutic effects, which include decreases in stress, depression and anxiety, but the activity is also purported to yield poignant physical health benefits such as lowered blood pressure.

LBM_43_Youth_Lynn Kubasek_Laughing Yoga_By Jody Tiongco-2
Laguna Laughter Club has been a local tradition since the 1990s.

Lynn, a strong proponent of the practice, adds that it’s important to live in the moment on a day-to-day basis as much as possible and avoid dwelling on things that can’t be controlled. “I love my age and enjoy the textures and variety of adventures I have been blessed to experience, and every decade has gotten better,” she says.

For Laguna’s Jean Ann Drake, who is in her upper 80s, each decade has brought more and more joyful experiences and friendships. “I love going to the senior center and have built great camaraderie there with the other people. Being around friends and family keeps you feeling young. My grandchildren and daughter are close by, and that really helps,” she says.
Rich adventures and experiences typically contribute to youthfulness by keeping people aware and engaged. Aaron notes that both internal and external stimuli are integral to remaining alert. “Stimulating your mind on a regular basis keeps us sharp,” he adds. “A balanced diet and exercise will convince your body that it needs to stay in shape to perform daily tasks. It is never too late to start.” For Jean, keeping her mind stimulated has meant ongoing classes in art and even ukulele, which have kept her feeling youthful and energized. “It’s great for the mind and keeps you going,” she says. “I like bringing experiences from my past forward by taking classes in things I’ve been interested in.”

Physical Fitness

Most people would agree that the mind and body are intrinsically linked, and studies have shown that people who exercise regularly tend to stay both physically and mentally healthier as they age. In particular, regular physical activity has been shown to have profound anti-aging effects on the cardiovascular system, aiding in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Laguna local and professional mountain biker Brian Lopes, whom USA Today has referred to as “undisputedly the best all-around world-class cycling athlete,” can be considered a prime example of the merits of staying active with each passing decade.

Professional mountain biker Brian Lopes rides Laguna’s Car Wreck Trail.

“I don’t think I have ever stopped doing all the same things I did when I was a kid,” says 42-year-old Brian. “I ride my bike every day and ride my motorcycle to go to the gym; I’m still doing bike jumps and hanging with kids.”
Likewise, Lynn still swims most days and credits her youthful vigor to her dedication to routine exercise. In 2009, she successfully crossed the 20-mile Catalina Channel, and in 2011, she added bridging the 12-mile Santa Barbara Channel from Anacapa Island to Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard, Calif., to her sterling list of accomplishments.

“I definitely feel younger than my age,” she says. “I remember when I was in my 20s, I thought people my age now were half-dead—and now it’s like I’m double-alive. Though, admittedly, I see that there are some folks my age that act like they are done with it.”

Craig Strong, executive chef at Montage Laguna Beach’s award-winning Studio restaurant, echoes Lynn’s sentiments, remarking that remaining physically active has helped him to stay youthful. “In general, I try to live a balanced life,” says the 42-year-old gourmet, who adds that he tries to find time to stretch or do yoga before work each day. “I also love to exercise,” he says. “I love mountain biking and being outside. The ocean air really rejuvenates your soul.”

Open water swimmer Lynn Kubasek conquers the waters off of Laguna’s coast. Scott Sporleder.

Craig, who has worked in some of the most acclaimed kitchens across the country, also understands the influence of a balanced diet on cultivating youthfulness. “What you put in your body is important; it gives you fuel and energy,” he says. “My wife keeps me young. She makes these great morning juices that really make you feel good.” Craig also tries to use produce from his own home garden as much as possible and  vary his intake of meat and fish each week. “Balance is key,” he explains. “Any chef will tell you that starting with good ingredients is important, not only for taste but also for health.”

Meanwhile, for Lopes, who is an ESPY Award-nominated athlete and a two-time winner of the World Extreme Sports Award for Mountain Biker of the Year, adhering to a gluten-free diet that still allows for the occasional indulgence has proven advantageous.

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s more about the quality of the food I eat,” he says. “Sure, I’ve liked cookies and candy since I was a kid, but I don’t live on it. I really do recovery shakes and protein shakes a lot.”

For Jean, staying healthy also means sticking to a solid fitness and diet routine, even well into her 80s. “I do yoga twice per week and have been doing it for more than a year and a half, and I follow the usual healthy diet,” she says. “I follow all the rules!”

Preventative Action

In addition to remaining mindful of one’s health and physical fitness, looking youthful requires a degree of preventative care. “When we look in the mirror and see a reflection that looks refreshed, we feel young and vibrant,” Aaron says, emphasizing the importance of taking care of one’s skin. The UC Irvine School of Medicine-trained doctor adds that there are several steps locals can follow to ensure that skin looks and feels its best throughout the aging process.

“The worst thing for your skin is the sun, so wear sunscreen daily—and remember, recent literature shows that it only works for two hours at a time, so reapply,” he advises. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays. As far as specific skin care products, Aaron recommends Dr. Zein Obagi’s popular skin care line, ZO Skin Health, because “every product serves a purpose, whether it’s to stimulate, stabilize or strengthen your skin.”

He continues, “The second worst thing [for skin] is sebum, or oil. A common misnomer is that oily skin ages well—wrong,” he remarks. “Oil causes inflammation and is the basis of acne, rosacea and damaged skin. It also will make any pigmentation issues worse. So oil control is very important, and an astringent like salicylic acid is very important.”

Aaron says that the percentage of salicylic acid needed differs depending on the person and his/her unique skin profile. When assessing a client’s skin, he takes into account color, thickness, oiliness or dryness, and the fragility and laxity of the skin. “I then try and build healthy skin, even texture and color, free of disease, well hydrated, no volume loss, minimal laxity,” he continues. “All patients at the very least should cleanse, exfoliate and control their oil on a daily basis.”

Aaron also advocates against using moisturizers, explaining that they teach your skin that it doesn’t need to hydrate itself. “Also, it prevents exfoliation of dead skin cells, which is the main function of your outer cell layer besides being a physical barrier. Moisturizer serves no purpose except a quick fix, and [it] weakens skin. It teaches your skin cells to go to sleep because they no longer need to hydrate your skin. Think about it—if you want to strengthen your heart, the doctor does not tell you to go sit in the corner. You have to exercise. The same is true with your skin; you have to put the cells to work. So you need products that are going to stimulate and strengthen your skin.”

Still, he is quick to point out that aging physically and mentally isn’t a bad thing, adding, “As we age we also mature, and the brain becomes filled with experience.” It’s this vibrant tapestry of life experiences that trumps the immaturity and insecurity of youth any day.

So, is age really just a number? “I live my life pretty close to how I lived it when I was younger,” Brian comments. “There are a few things I have to take into consideration, like the amount of rest I get and warming up more. The only time I really feel my age is when I’m injured. A year ago I had back issues, and those will make you feel old real quick.”

Craig agrees, adding, “The only time I feel my age is after a long week in the kitchen. I have a 9-month-old, so that keeps me young too.”

Executive Chef Craig Strong of Montage Laguna Beach’s Studio restaurant raves about the benefits of drinking fresh-squeezed juices daily. Cop a youthful glow of your own with his two recipes for pre- and post-workout juicing, and don’t be afraid to play around with the amounts of fruits and veggies in the recipes until you find your perfect balance.

LBM_43_Youth_Craig Strong_Juicing_By Jody Tiongco-22Pre-workout:
Use apples, carrots and beets as your base for this delicious pre-workout juice, then add kale and parsley—Craig gets his from an at-home garden—along with fresh ginger. Chef Craig uses the combination as a detox tool and for an energy boost before a bike ride or other activity.
2 apples
2 carrots
1 beet
3 stalks kale
1 bunch cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
Process ingredients in a blender.

For a healthy post-workout beverage, blend together fresh berries, fruit juice (Craig prefers orange juice), banana, protein powder (the chef recommends vegan protein powder, which can be found at Whole Foods), spirulina and a touch of a spice such as cinnamon, which, according to Craig, boosts circulation.
1 cup berries
1 cup orange juice
1 banana
2 tablespoons protein powder
1 tablespoon spirulina
Pinch of cinnamon
Process ingredients in a blender. LBM

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