According to government studies in America, more than two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of youths are overweight and obese. So what’s the answer? Go on a diet.
The problem with diets is that they’re temporary. When they’re over we go back to our old habits.
What we really need is a change—a lifestyle change.
In The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, Dan Buettner talks with people from Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (California). These individuals range from 60 to 104 and they’re not frail and sickly. They’re active and in good health.
How do they do it?
In each culture, Buettner took careful notes on types of food, preparation, and eating habits. In Ikaria, the people rely on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, olive oil, and a little fish. Okinawans favor sweet potatoes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, and seaweed. In Sardinia, the foods are olive oil, lemons, beans, goat/sheep’s milk, flat bread, and fava beans/chickpeas. The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda emphasize nuts, whole grains, beans, and soy products. The secret of the Nicoyans is beans, corn, and squash.
Food is certainly important, but there’s more to a rich life than what you eat. None of the people interviewed were on a diet. The keys to longevity are a plant-based diet, movement, purpose, family, and community. “They lived in environments that encouraged healthy eating.”
Could this type of lifestyle happen in America? The answer is a resounding YES!
Blue Zone experiments took place in Albert Lea, Minnesota; Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, California; and Muscatine, Iowa. Citizens changed their diets. Local restaurants included more healthy choices. City councils added bike lanes, park paths, and community gardens. Kids stopped taking the bus and walked to school. The results were phenomenal.
Ready to build your own Blue Zone? The book delivers information on how to eat to 100, menus for meals and snacks, and over 70 recipes from the five cultures interviewed. When Buettner asked centenarian Ellsworth Wareham (Loma Linda) to describe how he feels, he said, “Tell them I still feel like I’m 20.”
Remember, this isn’t a temporary diet. As Buettner says, “When it comes to living longer, there’s no short-term fix. Ubiquitous, long-lasting tweaks to your environment will add up to big changes in the rest of your life.”
[Originally published in the Conscious Life Journal, January 2017]