Blue Zone? – What’s that?
Two years ago I was obese, a type 2 diabetic and on the road to an early grave. Deciding on whether I wanted to be dropped into a hole or, alternatively, being roasted to a crisp was not something I wanted to occupy my thoughts with. There were much better things I should have been thinking about.
Earl Nightingale’s motivational book “The Strangest Secret” provided the kick up the backside I needed. There are lots of little gems in this book that will really help in changing your life by changing your mindset. The one-liner that did it for me was “We become what we think about”.
“We become what we think about.”
It can be the key to success, or the key to failure. Thinking about how to dispose of my earthly remains would surely hasten the process! I switched to thinking about how long I could live. I wrote down all the things I wanted to see and do. It was a long list and would, literally, take years. In fact, the list continues to get longer. I keep adding to it. The more I add, the longer I need to live.
My list became my life goals. I divided my goals into short, medium and long term. “You need to live to 100 to get that lot done” my wife casually mentioned.
And so my life purpose to live well, live longer and celebrate with a centenarian sky dive was born!
I started to research how living longer could be achieved. Others had reached 100 years old – what were the contributing factors that influenced this outcome? Was there a pattern? What were the characteristics? The “Blue Zones” provided a possible starting point.
“Blue Zones is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. Conducted by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain they drew blue circles where people lived the longest and began referring to the areas inside the circles as “blue zones”.
This work was followed up by the explorer Dan Buettner who identified 5 longevity hotspots around the world:
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Nicova (Costa Rica)
- Icaria (Greece)
- And among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
“Residents of the first three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life.”
So what was their secret to longevity? What were the lessons to be learned that I could use to create my own “Blue Zone” around me?
Buettner suggests nine lessons:
- Regular, daily, low-intensity physical activity (at least 30 minutes brisk walking)
- Cut calorie intake by 20%, simply stop eating when no longer feel hungry rather than when feeling full (smaller portions)
- Plant based diet (avoid meat and processed foods)
- Low alcohol intake (one glass of wine a day)
- Life purpose (a clear goal to get up for in the morning)
- Take time to relieve stress (slow down, meditate)
- Engagement in spirituality or religion (a meaningful activity involving transformation)
- Make family a priority (loved ones first)
- Active social life (be likeable)
These provided an excellent blueprint for my personal “Blue Zone”. I worked through each one creating a complete change of lifestyle. The results so far have been impressive. I’ve lost 84 pounds, dropped from a 52 inch waist to 36 inches, and reduced my BMI from 36.5 to 24.3. My blood pressure is normal and with HbA1c at 28 and blood sugar at 4.9 mmol/L, my type 2 diabetes is in remission.
Not an overnight success
But it was not an overnight success. It’s taken over two years and requires a permanent change of lifestyle. I am constantly on the lookout for any straying from my new habits. The danger of relapsing into my old lifestyle habits is very real. This was brought home to me recently with a short video blog by the noteworthy Dr Michael Greger.
Only 5 minutes long it shows how the traditional diet of Okinawans (one of the Blue Zone groups) helped increase longevity and how, within two generations Okinawan longevity is now a thing of the past.
Why? Modern Okinawa now hosts a dozen fast food outlets. Their saturated fat tripled; cholesterol went from zero to 159mg; their sodium intake tripled and their potassium intake dropped to less than half the recommended daily intake. In two generations the Okinawans have gone from the lowest BMI to the highest amongst the Japanese population. All as a result of shifting from their traditional diet to a modern “junk food” diet.
Source Dr. Michael Greger: The Okinawa Diet: living to 100
I watch this video often. It is a constant reminder of how important a permanent change in lifestyle is. Two years ago I created my own “Blue Zone” and it has considerably improved my physical and mental health.
It can do the same for you. Create your own “Blue Zone”. Live well and live longer.