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If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast/The Blue Zones
There’s a new HBO Documentary out made by Carl Reiner about aging called If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast. It focuses on many people over the age of 90 and why they were thriving! It featured such names as Mel Brooks, Tony Bennett, Betty White, and Dick Van Dyke.
What is your vitality score?
A prominent interview in the movie was with author Dan Buettner, who wrote The Blue Zones. This is a book that I wrote a Newsletter for back in 2010! So I dug it up to take a look at what the book said. For those who don’t know about the book, it looked all around the world to see what cultures had the highest percentage of people living to the age of 100 and tried to figure out why. First the cultures:
Sardinia (island near Italy) where most of the men are shepherds, they garden, they drink red wine, celebrate others, eat mostly vegetables, and make meals events where happiness is shared.
Okinawa (island near Japan) where everyone gardens, elders have purpose in life (like watching over the younger ones), they meet with friends every day to gossip/enjoy each other’s company, they eat on the floor (constant getting up and down), eat mostly vegetables, and eat until 80% full.
Loma Linda (area near Los Angeles) where everyone belongs to the 7th Day Adventist Church, they eat no meat and tons of nuts, have purpose in life, eat their biggest meal for breakfast, go to church and rest for 24 hours during the Sabbath.
Nicoya (in Costa Rica) where they have a purpose in life (sense a trend?), have a focus on family, eat little meat, garden, get some sun, and celebrate family.
There was a whole chapter to each region, with much more info, but that’s a good summation.
So what did the author say they all have in common? Here’s what he’s got and what he calls the “Power 9”
Overall, they all have a positive outlook on life. Nothing will get you down quicker than depression.
- Move naturally. Meaning garden, walk, bend down, build all the muscles of the body. My grandfather (who lived very healthy until he had a stroke a the age of 91) used to call it “Free Exercise”. Parking in far spots to walk through the lot is an example. It’s why Okinawans eat on the floor and get up and down, building the core muscles of the body.
- Eat Less. Okinawans pray before each meal and remind themselves of a Confucian saying which translates to “Eat until you are 80% full”. Some simple strategies to this are serving food in a different area than where it is being eaten, and then putting the food away then so seconds are not tempting. You can eat slowly. Using chopsticks also slows one down. Another basic rule is “no seconds”.
- Eat veggies, less meat, more nuts. Peanuts are not nuts.
- Daily drinking. Sardinians drink red wine daily. Okinawans drink sake. As long as it’s 1 or 2 small glasses, it’s good. These drinks can be anti-oxidant rich! Make sure drinking is an event, you’re not drinking alone or drowning sorrows with alcohol. Drink with friends or family. Moderation is key here. You cannot “save drinks” and drink a week’s worth on sat night.
- Have a purpose in life. Why do you get up in the morning? The book kept referencing the fact that a lot of older people died shortly after the turn of the millennium. They probably wanted to see the year 2000, and that was their purpose. Make sure you keep your brain sharp and do things. If you can’t work, volunteer.
- Take time off. 7th day Adventists have the sabbath where life stops for 24 hours. This is time to reflect and socialize.
- Belong to something. In the book, he talks about belonging to a religious group, but I think it’s more about belonging to a group. My friends are great for this. Have somewhere to go, people to rely on.
- Family first. Respect and love your family. Have a “home” and people to share deep inner thoughts with. People to rely on again. If your friends are your family, so be it.
- Have a social connection. Okinawans have a gossip group. One of my favorite weekend activities is to go to my friend’s house and burn wood in a fireplace on his back porch. We relax, unwind, have a drink, and connect. Keep up with each others’ lives. It’s a wonderful experience.
How can you lead a happier and longer life? The above 9 suggestions are a good place to start….