Your Messages

If you could pass a message on to your younger self about keeping bones healthy what would you say?

It’s so important to build good bone strength in early adulthood. By the time we get into our thirties the opportunity may have passed. Share the message you would give to your younger self with the next generation – and help start conversations about bone health.

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A Message from our President, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall

When I look back to my younger self, I was blissfully unaware of the causes and debilitating effects of osteoporosis.  I was not alone in thinking that it only affected 'old' people.  Like most 'young' people lucky enough to be in good health, it didn't seem relevant to me as old age was a lifetime away.

Sadly, as I grew older, I learned a great deal more about osteoporosis at first hand, as I watched both my mother and grandmother suffer the pain and ignominy of this agonising disease.  It was my mother's early death, at the age of 72, as a result of osteoporosis, that made me want to find out more about it.  This path led me, in 1994, to the National Osteoporosis Society which I have been involved in, first as a Patron and then as its President, ever since.

So what message would I send to my younger self, now that I have learned so much more about it?  Eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D, and take plenty of exercise: both are crucial for strong and healthy bones.  We can only build bone strength up to the age of 30, so I would tell my younger self to make the most of that opportunity to build up credits in the bone bank!

That's the message, as President of the N.O.S., that I want to send my children, grandchildren and young people across the U.K. - remember that now is your chance to build up healthy bones which will keep you out of pain, and active in that far-off old age.

Photography by Chris Jackson/Getty Images©

“Dear Liz, Things are so simple for you growing up now. It’s going to be much harder for the next generation with the pressure they will face from social media. You are lucky, you have a cook-from-scratch diet of home cooking that features all the food groups, which will serve you well in the years to come and ensure you build healthy bones. Fast-food and things out of packets have yet to appear on your kitchen shelves – aside from Angel Delight (which I suggest you don’t get a taste for!). I know you love to dance – this is great! It’s a weight-bearing exercise that’s the other essential component in building strong bones. Your walk to school and college is also good for your bones too – and why not try a bit of running? You don’t fancy the idea now I know, but if you try it, you may well find you do actually like it after all (instead of discovering it in your fifties). Regarding eating well and taking exercise, my message to your bones is please don’t put it off! Leaving it late increases your risk of developing osteoporosis in later life – by the time you’re in your late twenties it will be too late to store any more calcium and build bone density. You will care about this when you’re older. Getting a little bit of sunshine is also important! You’ll grow up to be part of the beauty world that shuns the sun, but don’t lose sight of the fact that just ten or twenty minutes a day during the spring and summer months will help your body to produce vitamin D, an essential for healthy bones. Remember to take a note of those favourite family recipes we have – they’ll come in handy for your future work. Cooking and eating together is such a good and social way for families to build healthy habits – and you’ll want to pass that love of healthy food and wellbeing on to your own children too. And it will be even more important for your children than it is for you, as they face the pressure to match what their idols on Instagram are eating. This thing called ‘social media’ will cause a lot of confusion over what is ‘healthy’ and the next generation will need to get their understanding of the best nutrition from the wise who deliver good information and not just a pretty image on the screen.”

Liz Earle

"PLEASE, either look up about diet, exercise etc. to keep your bones as healthy as possible and/or ask YOUR MUM, who's quickly becoming quite knowledgeable! You are already in an "at risk" category, so when you have the chance - research, then support a group. Thank you. Lots of love, Darling Daughter, Mum xx PS. Avoid broken bones if you can - broken hips are so common, and painful... Love you. x"

R Griffiths, Leicestershire

"...These are a few of the things that I wish I had known when I was young and so I am sharing them: Be careful with your diet - eat your vegetables; drink your milk too. No matter what you feel about exercise, do remember it really is good for you - and just ten minutes brisk walk will do you good..."

Liz Hayes, Wiltshire

"You really shouldn't have carried on smoking for as long as you did and should have gone easier on the alcohol but well done for taking up yoga seriously and staying with it and for being a happy pedestrian."

Carole James

"Eat calcium rich foods. Do a 10 minute walk every day. You need to protect your bones from a young age."

Joan Smith, Wiltshire

"I am sorry that I did not do more walking and specific exercise. Although I went dancing quite often and roller skating I could have done more. I wasn't aware of the nutritional values of various foods but nowadays there is a lot more information on a healthy diet and the value of exercise. I was not a regular smoker; only an occasional one but I would not recommend anyone to smoke. Also I did not drink alcohol excessively and now understand the harm it can do, therefore I would recommend anyone in their teens and twenties to drink in moderation and do not smoke at all as it can easily become an addictive pastime. The young don't take information from adults easily but we do talk a lot of sense, if only you knew it. Don't leave taking good advice too late - it's in your interest."

Barbara Lane, Lancashire

"Dear My Younger Self... (...and my younger self's parents): You shied away from the competitive sport offered at school, being poorly coordinated and not very strong. You gave up entirely too easily when running races. Hiking, which you now love, wasn't encouraged and walking on the narrow roads too dangerous. You wish now, witnessing how your daughter and her husband have encouraged their son, whose build and preferences are similar to yours, that there had been indoor climbing walls and similar activities where you challenge yourself in a safe environment. You also needed to know how important a strong skeleton is. (Perhaps that's a wish too far - would I have heeded the advice?). It's possible, but so much harder, to adopt a better lifestyle later."

Lynne Adams, Warwickshire

"Do plenty of weight-bearing exercise. Get out in the sunshine but avoid midday sun - be sensible. Enjoy your food but be aware of calcium rich foods and include them regularly in your diet."

Sylvia Kent, West Yorkshire

"Dear Mary... Don't worry so much about being useless at sport and gym (ignore that sinking feeling before PE lessons!). There are plenty of forms of exercise which are enjoyable and fun, can lead to new friendships and help boost your future bone health. How I wish I'd discovered Tai Chi years ago. Enjoy being young, fit and healthy - so easy to take it for granted."

Mary Wyatt, West Sussex

"Dear Younger Self, I’ve spent most of my career studying bones - some in living people, a lot of them from archaeological sites. It’s very easy to think of bones as inert objects - but, inside your body, they’re living tissue - and they respond to the mechanical demands placed on them. There are living cells that make bone, and other cells that take bone away. If you put more load onto your bones, they respond by making more bone tissue. If you reduce loading, bone tissue is removed. You can make your bones stronger by eating a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D - but how much you use the skeleton, how much load you place on those bones - is also crucial. Every time you take weight-bearing exercise your skeleton responds by building bone. And we know that it’s the bone strength you build in your younger life that will help to protect your skeleton when you’re much, much older. Your bones need to be able to carry you into old age - and as people are living longer and longer we’re all asking more and more of them. If you don’t look after your bones when you are in your teens and twenties you put yourself at risk of developing osteoporosis in later life - and suffering fractures that will affect your quality of life and possibly stop you doing all the things you want to do. Walking is a great form of weight-bearing exercise - and there are so many wonderful places to walk and enjoy. So my message to my younger self, and to all the young people reading this, is to get out there - walk every day to build strong bones that will last a lifetime. Alice"

Alice Roberts

"If I told you you would break your leg doing a triathlon aged 36 you would probably keel over in hysterics! Believe it or not you will learn to really love sports for pleasure not just for weight control, which is great because it is so great for your bones. I know you recognise the risk you are at, given Gran's osteoporosis, but you definitely need to develop a better relationship with food as well. Who knows maybe you might not have ended up with the bone density of a 75 year old at 37! That body you hate so much just now will take you kayaking, hiking, running, climbing, diving and cycling all over the world! It is strong but it needs some TLC. You will learn to love yourself. Your value in this world is not measured by your dress size. You are so much more than that - you are smart, kind, fun, independent and adventurous. All the things your family and friends tell you - believe them. Food is not something to be controlled by, to avoid or make yourself sick over. You will worry and be so anxious that you will cause yourself so much mental misery and physical pain, denying your body vital nutrients when it is already struggling with eating disorders. Please be kind and gentle to your body - nourish it, treat it, fuel it, enjoy it but most of all please please accept it and love it. Don't strive for perfection - it doesn't actually exist! This unhealthy relationship with food will dominate and control your happiness for a long time, too long! Trust yourself, follow your big dreams instead of being stuck thinking about your weight and screw what other people think. You have survived and overcome a lot so far and you will continue to thrive no matter what life throws at you. You are stronger than you can ever imagine possible. Oh and eat your blimin' veggies and stop drinking so much Coca-cola"

Karen Dowers, Dundee

"It was when my dad had his first heart attack. I was 15, and suddenly my secure world seemed precarious. I became withdrawn, made less contact with friends, and slowly but surely became convinced that I had to control the food I ate - everything else seemed to be careening out of control. I discovered an iron will I never knew I had - what a shame I did not use it for a positive purpose. I went from 9 stone to 6. My periods stopped. I was anorexic for just over a year but the effects were huge. I went through an early menopause at 23, and have osteoporosis. Now I'm 51 and wish I had had someone who understood anorexia to talk with back then - my parents loved me and helped me every way they could, but there was no professional help to avail of (just horror stories about hospitalisation). I cured myself but carried the anorexic mindset with me for years. I wish I could tell my younger self the damage not eating can do. If telling my story will stop one other girl from falling down the dark hole of anorexia, I'll shout it from the highest rooftop. Life is too precious for the negative horror of anorexia."

Gillian Martin, County Down

"My message to my younger self would be to have confidence in myself and not allow others to dictate what you should do. If you want to go down a road that may be different to the one your peers are travelling, don’t be scared or intimidated into not taking that path. This may be something as simple as wanting to play football or cricket as a girl, or as important as not to smoke or take drugs just because everyone else is. I wanted to be an actor and it was quite hard when I was a teenager to stick to my guns and try and do something which was quite out of the ordinary then. I wanted to do it so much that I dredged up the confidence from somewhere, even though I was quite shy and a bit too eager to please. Unfortunately there were a few other areas in which I wasn’t so single-minded! I definitely wish I’d never taken up smoking - I had to force myself to start, even though I initially hated it, largely because all my friends smoked. It took years to break the habit."

Trudie Goodwin

"Don't ever forget, what you do now will affect your bones in the future."

Linda Ferraby, England

"If you are lactose intolerant and can't have dairy there are so many alternatives. Coconut milk almond milk rice milk to name a few. We need calcium and vitamin D to keep our bones strong and the alternative milks have both of those. Vegetables and fruit are vital too. Oh how I wish I had been told all this when I was younger and maybe I wouldn't now have osteoporosis and be afraid of what the future holds."

Gillian Haselden, Lancashire

"This campaign is coming at a very 'telling' time for me; I have always been weight conscious and, at the same time, keen to make healthy eating and exercise choices. However, if a choice had to be made I would, I am afraid, choose the former (down to vanity, I cannot shift the responsibility for my decisions elsewhere, e.g.: blaming the advertising world for promoting all those slender bodies, although this I am sure did not help !). I am now 70 and was diagnosed in June 2016 with osteoporosis in my spine and osteopenia in my hips. As it is a 'silent' disease (i.e.: most of us only find out when we break a bone) I was devastated - this could not happen to someone blessed with such good health all her life, etc, etc. It is definitely a case of 'if I knew then what I know now'. Please help the younger members of your family not to make the same mistake - take steps now with your nearest and dearest to help prevent this avoidable disease."

Christine Joss, Suffolk

"I wish I'd started going to a gym much earlier than 60. The sense of mental and physical well being is tremendous. My stamina has improved plus I can eat what I want and burn any unwanted calories off over the following week."

Catherine Coales, Cambridgeshire

"My message would be not to diet excessively as you will get osteoporosis and live in fear of breaking your hip and spine and being disabled and dependent on others for everyday needs. You will ruin your figure as muscle cannot be replaced and you may be at risk of heart attacks at a young age. If I had known about osteoporosis it would have scared me into being sensible about dieting. Have self confidence and believe in your self. Be independent and take responsibility for your life. Don't let others think they know better. They are only people themselves like you. You are as special, important and valued as they are. Don't look for approval from others. You don't need it. You only need approval from yourself. Don't always think others know best. Don't think your life depends on what other people think. If only I could go back 40 years."

Tarah Page, Middlesex

"Stop eating Ready Meals. I know its hard as a working mum. Try to cook your own nutritional meals. Osteoporosis is in our family."

Shirley Reader, West Yorkshire

"You understand nutrition for goodness sake so stop eating so much cheese, you'll hate that fat tummy when you're 45! Eat more oranges, rocket, hummus and baked beans and find an exercise you enjoy that increases bone density :D"

Rebecca Jones, Sussex

"You are going to live longer than the feelings that you have now. Your body, your food and your emotions are there to be enjoyed. If you had looked ahead to the years over 30 when your zest returned then you would have packed your young years with caring for yourself with food and friends just like you wish for those around you. In later life you can repair so much but not all. Look after yourself."

Katie Wadia, Surrey

"Do more exercise."

Judy Lustigman, Middlesex

"Think of the future. Yes, your hair and skin are what people see but it's no good to just look after what's on the outside, you need to be aware of and care for your skeleton as well. Don't wait until your 30s and 40s to start eating sensibly and taking exercise. Do it now while you're young. Make it a habit you will never, ever break. And then maybe you will never, ever get osteoporosis and you will never, ever fracture your vertebrae. (Which hurts a lot by the way!)"

Jenni Kelly, Essex

"Little did you know that when you had to drink that little bottle of lukewarm milk in the playground every day at Junior School that it was laying down the most amazing foundation for your bone health. When you played outside doing all kinds of physical activities, not only were you strengthening your muscles and bones you were also soaking up lots of Vitamin D from the sunshine which also helped your bone health. Life in 2017 is very different with social media tempting you inside and to be less active. So, please, drink plenty of milk and eat cheese and yogurt for your bone health. Be as active as you can and spend time outdoors whenever you can too."

Rosemary Conley CBE DL

"I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at 36. The Consultant asked if I had ever been vegan, vegetarian or anorexic. My mother died when I was 14 and my diet suffered as a result. I had dieted in my early 20's and restricted my dairy intake. And I'd never liked cheese as a child. So now I've got two replacement hips at 61 and joint degeneration and bone pain. I am sure that a balanced diet incorporating all food groups would have meant my bones were stronger. No excuses today not to eat well, even on a budget!"

Jane Palma, Great Britain

"At 17 I was too busy enjoying life to waste time and money on eating. I had a fantastic job at Harrods and I was hoping to travel the world as a fashion buyer. I started passing out on the tube so I left my job. Then my teeth started to break. I spent hours at the dentist and still do. I enjoyed being thin because I could wear beautiful clothes and for years I looked really good. I started eating again but the damage had been done. I am 75 now. The weight started to go back on at 50 then I found I had osteoporosis. The good news is I did travel the world, in a different job which was less demanding and paid better."

Gillian Johnston, Surrey

"I only wish that I had known how important it is to eat healthily to protect my skeleton in later life. My two daughters now understand how important it is to protect themselves for the future."

Fizz Thompson, Hampshire

"Dear Younger Self, I know that as you read this you are battling with anorexia nervosa. I know that it feels like it will never get better. I know that health professionals are telling you about osteoporosis; they are telling you that in the future you will regret your actions as your bones fracture and crumble; they are trying to scare you into 'curing yourself' from anorexia. You feel guilty that you cannot just 'be better'. You feel scared of what the future holds. You hate yourself for destroying your body, but the hatred pulls you deeper into the anorexia. You feel hopeless. But I write to you as your future self. A future self who still battles with anorexia, but has reached a healthy weight and enjoys running with a group of new and supportive friends. A future self who is eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising sensibly. A future self who is doing everything she can to strengthen her bones. This will be you - have hope. You need to know that I do not blame you. I do not look back at you and wish you had 'cured yourself' as you fear I will. I look back and see a person doing her best. You will get there. My one request to you is: accept help from professionals, family and friends, you do not have to do this on your own. With love, Your older self P.S. pick up that phone and ring the National Osteoporosis Society, I know you won't regret it! ;-)"

Ellen Devine, Gloucestershire

"Nobody ever thinks they will get old. Or if they do, they don't want to think about it. Not worrying about such things is one of the great joys of being young. But there are messages about things that can happen when we get older that we all really should learn and take heed of. I don't mean we should worry about it, but just take note of it. A bit like always putting on the burglar alarm rather than waiting until after we have been robbed. Taking care of our bones should be just like taking care of our skin. We don't want wrinkles but neither do we want fragile bones. So eating sensibly, exercising by doing something we enjoy and getting outside into the fresh air should just become one of the things we do."

Carol Hufton, Cheshire

"I know you would rather sit and read indoors but exercise more and learn to love the sun, but do it safely. Eat a balanced diet instead of being so picky."

Ann Waudby, Hampshire

"As a child I drank lots of sweet drinks and the worst thing of all, I drank Cola every day right into my twenties... I look back now and think of dropping a penny in a glass of cola, the penny comes out clean because all dirt has been eaten away and this is what it does to our bones, it eats them away. I might not be in such a state now with 13 collapsed vertebrae and very thin hip bones. I say sorry to myself for being so irresponsible."

Susan Kelk, West Yorkshire

"Dear Diana, It is only now, at 77 that I finally understand that my father had a reason for making me do the things I hated. Because he loved me and wanted me to be healthy and strong. Don’t make my mistakes. This is your chance to learn from what I did as a child – and act on it now. Embrace his advice – look after your body now, and it’ll look after you for the rest of your life. Looking back, I can now say that I should have listened and learned much more from my very strict Father than I did. All those long family walks he made me do, those trees he had me climb with my brothers, and the daily running across the fields to my West Country junior school in all winds and weather…. were for my own good. I should have appreciated there was a reason that he insisted on the warm bottle of school milk, that fresh orange juice, plus the daily, and compulsory, spoon of cod liver oil. They were to help build my healthy body, strong bones and muscles. I didn’t appreciate my Father’s insistence that I ate only fresh healthy foods including chicken and fish, plus seasonal fruits, vegetables and nuts from his own garden. And I was unaware that physical activity combined with good food would benefit my health and well being in my adult life. I know now and say….thank you Dad!"

Diana Moran

"I started school in the fifties when free milk for school children was available but unfortunately in the summer months, warm full cream milk tasted a bit rancid to me so I gave it a miss, now in my sixties having recovered from a very dangerous hip fracture two years ago I would recommend all young people to have a balanced diet and exercise to avoid osteoporosis in their golden years."

Susan Partridge, Hampshire

"I wish I cared more about nutrition than getting thin. Eating healthy and an active lifestyle is so much more important than being a size 8."

Mary Mattock, London

"I wish I hadn't starved myself when I was younger (14 - 17 yrs old). I have since discovered that up to 25 years of age is the essential building time for bones. It's too late now. I really look after myself now, but I'm still low in weight, as I have other health issues, which may also have been triggered by the anorexia. I have poor absorption, so even calcium intake is compromised. Anorexia is a disease of the mind, which manifests itself physically. I can't turn back time, but I would like to warn other young women to eat a healthy, balanced diet, take a little exercise and be happy with themselves. Also, DON'T compare yourself to others. Best wishes."

Louise Oram, East Sussex

"I wish I had been more interested in exercising and got out there to improve my bone health."

Kathryn Holmes, Yorkshire

"To all family and friends under 30, eat a healthy balanced diet your bones will thank you for it. Don't go on fad diets and don't forget to check if any medication you are prescribed could have an effect on your bone health."

Jacqueline Manning, Middlesex

"Dear younger self, I now know you need to think much more about your diet and bones so you don't get osteoporosis later in life. Eat more foods with calcium and vitamin D. Don't get drunk any more on a regular basis as alcohol isn't good for bones. Do more walking and enjoy your life more. Care about yourself. You'll be glad when you are in your 50s. love from Helen"

Helen Douglas, Cumbria

"How I wish someone had encouraged me to drink my school milk (even though it was either luke warm or icy cold) eat cheese and polish off my cabbage and greens! My poor calcium diet for many childhood years was a silent indicator of the disease that was brewing in my body. Sadly, have learnt today from my G.P. that I have osteoporosis in the neck of my femur. So my message to my younger self would be: Eat a varied diet that includes calcium rich foods, exercise and enjoy careful sunshine exposure"

Gillian Glover, Surrey

Embrace who you are, by developing healthy eating habits and keeping moving you will have a long happy life. Consider limiting the amount you watch TV/ spend on social media. "You can make good food choices by reading food labels and eating fresh food including plenty of fish and green leafy vegetables. Include dairy in your diet via milk and cheese. Always consider the planet, don't be wasteful. Consider every opportunity that comes your way and don't worry too much about what others say. Make your own decisions, be in charge of your own destiny."

Diane Ferraby, Bristol

"At 20 I had everything but no experience or confidence to use it effectively. I wish I could put the priceless youth and my life experience together. I certainly would have worried much less about what I looked like to others, it seems so silly now . I would tell myself how great I looked and to hold my head high. I have osteoporosis now in my 50s with three fractures in recent years. As an adult I tried to follow a low fat diet in keeping with the advice given to us all. I avoided much dairy and red meat in favour of heart health. I would tell myself not to stress so hard to be perfect in my job and as mother and never beat myself up over the inevitable failures. My digestion would have thanked me and my physical and mental health would have been better."

Candy Matterson, England

"The majority of us who live in this part of the world have a choice as to whether or not we eat well.... take advantage of that option by making sure you care for your young body and thereby take responsibility for your health as you age. Regrets are a waste of time and energy!"

Alison Dacomb, Surrey

"How I wish I had a time machine. I would go back to talk to my teenage self and let her see me as I am. She would definitely change her eating habits and she wouldn't have to suffer the things I do now. Hi Val, you are so proud of that 18 inch waist, wanting to be a Twiggy look alike but living on crisp breads and beef stock cubes is so bad for your bones. I know you want to stay slim but you need to eat a balanced diet with protein, fruit, vegetables and most importantly vitamins and minerals, especially calcium. Look at me now, my bones have become so brittle I'm afraid to do so many things that I loved to do. I have osteoporosis. I've had a broken wrist, a broken hand and a humerus so badly broken it needed a plate and nine screws to put me back together. No longer can I go skating or skiing, I often worry about going out on icy conditions in case I fall and break something that can't be repaired. You never expected to hear this from your future self so please take notice and eat a healthy diet. You will still be loved whatever size you are. Valerie, what you don't realise is that your bones are being starved of the calcium that is needed in your teenage years to give them strength in later life. Oh how I wish I could really say this to myself and all the young people who work so hard to be size zero. If they only knew what damage they are doing. Eat your greens, drink milk and eat a cube of cheese a day. Make strong bones and save yourself pain and anguish in later life from broken bones. Enjoy sitting up to the table with the family and eat with them, not only will the food do you good, the sharing of the day will build you emotionally so you will be strong and happy in yourself. If you look after your body now it will serve you well for a long life and you have GBBO to look forward to - but no spoilers!"

Val Stones, Somerset

"Eat well at a younger age. More calcium non-dairy foods like green leafy veg. Do not lose weight unnecessarily for a job or because someone says you are fat."

Anita Jacob

"Make sure you get enough calcium on a daily basis."

Suella Postles

"As a teenager, never mind the diets or the appearance, make sure to eat healthily."

Leo Hickey

"Dear Me! Don't give up weight bearing exercising, or any other activity you enjoy, or are good at, if you can possibly afford it - and can take time out, just for a couple of hours a week (I'm including travel and changing time here!) when the children are really little i.e. before they start proper school. With love and good intentions, Yourself!"

Beryl Cooke

"My message to my younger self would be to make sure I walked every day for no less than 40 minutes a day. I have always drunk a good amount of milk, but didn't realise that I needed weight bearing exercise on a regular basis to aid prevention of osteoporosis in the future. As there is a familial tendency to osteoporosis I would ask that my children do the same."

Donna Godfrey

"Your skeleton is alive and growing, not a dead coat hanger for your body's organs to hang from, so feed it with a varied diet from all food groups including milk and dairy, bread and cereals, fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and fish to form a calcium rich diet. Fresh is avoid takeaways, limit sugar and fried burgers and chips, and don't smoke or drink much alcohol. Regularly do weight bearing and body flexing exercises that you enjoy and get out into the fresh air with friends. Parallel to this, give yourself a good dose of resilience, open-mindedness, hope, compassion, faith ...and a good sense of humour...and you'll have a rich package for life."

Sue Meadows

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