In Jason Fitzgerald’s recent podcast with Heather Caplan, I was glad to hear her bring up the book, Blue Zones, because I also thought about this book when I was reading Intuitive Eating. There is a lot of overlap between Intuitive Eating and Blue Zones – particularly with regards to moving your body and eating.
I learned about Blue Zones when it was featured on Oprah many years ago. But after hearing author Dan Buettner speak at a corporate event in 2013, I read the book right away because it all seemed so fascinating. Dan studied the areas in the world with the highest concentrations of people who lived past 100 and he identified what they have in common. A few things caught my attention: be active, eat well but don’t restrict, move your body, have a sense of purpose, and be part of a community. My initial thought – we’re really doing it all wrong here in the US.
We’re so focused on ourselves that we’re losing any sense of community that could have – including ties to religious organizations and relationships with our neighbors. Just look at how we treat the elderly and most vulnerable among us – many end up in skilled nursing facilities and lonely. The elderly in Blue Zones have a role and some responsibility within their community which helps them maintain a sense of purpose and connection with their community. A sense of purpose is critical for our longevity. Without it, we don’t have much reason to move ahead and enjoy life.
In the US, we’ve become a sedentary population – even among those of us who are “active”. We sit in our cars while we commute, sit in our desk chairs at work, shuttle the kids to and from activities, and finally veg on the sofa at the end of the day. That’s a lot of sitting even for those of us who log some miles in the morning before the day begins. People in the Blue Zones move throughout their day. It’s not “exercise” or anything intentional that they do. Instead, they walk, tend to the fields, and are generally active as a normal part of their life.
I was also shocked to learn that many folks in the Blue Zones didn’t stick to a strict diet. Much to my fascination, they didn’t restrict anything. Some ate pork and red meat on occasion, and all of the communities ate a well-rounded, varied diet. Like Heather Caplan points out, a well-rounded diet is key to preventing injury and I would imagine it promoted overall health, too.
I try to take a page out of the playbook from those in the Blue Zones and surround myself with a community of people who care about me and share many of my same values, and continue to pursue meaningful goals to fulfill my sense of purpose. I will move for the sake of moving, and I will eat lots of really good, natural food. This sure sounds like a ticket for a happy life, if you ask me!