Good morning. Welcome to the Blue Zones. The Blue Zones are small geographic pockets inhabited by the world’s longest-lived populations. In each of these regions, people reach age 100 at rates significantly higher than the rest of us, and on average live longer, healthier lives. They also suffer about one fifth the rate of heart disease and cancer found in America. I first learned about the Blue Zones through Dr. Oz when he reported on them on one of his old Tuesday appearances on Oprah. As I watched him travel from one small pocket of the world to another, I kept announcing “I want to move THERE.” The inhabitants of each living long, healthy, connected and purposeful lives. Those other areas are being researched and considered Blue Zones, as well, the original 4 spots studied by Dan Buettner, are Sardinia, Italy, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, Loma Linda, California and the one we will look at today, Okinawa, Japan.
My son Derek has had the opportunity to travel to both Japan and Costa Rica, through his work in the music industry. He, a vegan and quite interested in different lifestyles, happened to fall in love with both of those places. In Japan, though food was challenging as a vegan who did not speak the native language, he was immediately in awe of the culture. He expressed how much people respected one another and how they all waved to each other as they rode their bicycles to get around. He felt a general feeling of ease and of course was impressed with beautiful environment. In fact, the lifestyle in all the Blue Zones have many commonalities.
Studies show that in these areas there are nine key factors that are shared and that we should learn from. They are:
- Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full (there’s that hara huchi bu again!)
- Eat more veggies, less protein and fewer processed foods
- Drink red wine, in moderation
- Have a sense of purpose in life
- Maintain a spiritual or religious belief system
- Work less, slow down, take vacations
- Make physical movement a vital part of each day
- Create a healthy social network
- Make family a priority
Though the daily diets vary greatly from one pocket to another, the actual breakdown of nutrients is very similar. In Okinawa the protein comes from fish, such as tuna and daily bowls of miso soup with a few ounces of tofu (soy). A side serving of cabbage provides high doses of Vitamin A. Half a cup of purple sweet potatoes is loaded with Vitamin C and whole-grain brown rice is the source of carbohydrates. This combination of food makes for a colorful plate (which we know is important) and is all washed down with a cup of green tea, proven to lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. I do think looking at the plate of beautiful, but small portions of food, hara hachi bu, immediately comes to mind.
Though I am not a big girl by any standards, I have always been a big eater. I empathize with those of you who have issues with portion control. My girlfriend Joy and I have often discussed the fact that we are missing the ability to feel full! I think, though, we control our eating, it does NOT control us! Tiny lifestyle changes can be made that, over the course of time, lead us to a place where we need less to feel satisfied. (This concept, by the way, goes way beyond food.)
Using smaller plates, taking smaller portions, and eating more slowly (it takes around 15 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it has had enough) are all good idea. Remember to eat small, healthy snacks such as nuts which provide healthy fat and curb our appetites. Keep snacks as close to raw as possible as they usually provide essential dietary fiber which is the key to obtaining that sense of fullness and also provide longer lasting energy. Finally, STAY HYDRATED!!!! Keep in mind that thirst is often confused with hunger.
I will be repeating the mantra hara hachi bu regularly until it becomes second nature. It’s working for the Okinawans, so there’s no reason it won’t work for me…or YOU!
On a local note, Fusion Fitness and Yoga will be celebrating their grand opening tomorrow night. You can link to them through my link page and see what the agenda is. I am sure Debbie and Steve will be putting together a fun-filled evening. They will also be celebrating YOGA DAY this Saturday, the 23rd with free Yoga classes and a fundraiser for the Haiti Earthquake victims. Wherever you are, you can celebrate Yoga Day by searching the net for an event near you. Tonight I will be at Tamarac Fitness Center for my 2 evening classes. After an hour of extreme cardio-sculpting fusion, we will hit the mats for Pilates sprinkled with a heavy dose of yoga.
Thanks so much for all the feedback. I have received gifts of peace and wonderful words and appreciate all your support. See you tomorrow for more about the Blue Zones, Biggest Loser updates and more. Peace!