Honestly – is this something that I have thought about much? No, of course not really. I mean I will admit a few times, but only because longevity seems to run on one side of my family tree. So the thought crossed my mind over time as I met a great, many times over, aunt that lived to be 105! But really we don’t think about this. However, it’s not about the number, but about how these people lived an active life for so many years!
The idea that we can live in a certain way that increases our quality of life for more years is fantastic. Who wants to think they will have limited quality of life and only a few more years?! Nobody!
What is a Blue Zone?
The Blue Zones Solutions book was recommended to me by a friend. It is about years and years of research done, on what is called now, the Blue Zones. These are areas of the world where there are pockets of people living to be over 100 years old. Statistically, it’s rare to find just one, but to find a town with several is amazing. So the way of life has been studied in these pockets and their findings are reported in the Blue Zones books. (Researched by National Geographic).
What really made the difference for those from a Blue Zone?
Of course, whenever I talk about this idea with anyone the very first thing they say to me is that these people must be genetically superior, or it’s all about genetics.
There were some differences genetically of the people in these areas, but only 25% of your genetics is related to your life longevity and quality of life. So you know what that means? You have some control over 75% of it! That is overwhelming for many people because it’s much easier to think that the majority of it lies outside of our hands.
Want to see your life longevity predictions based on the Blue Zones research?
Check out this cool tool here to see what you can do to increase your quality and longevity!
As always – food is one of the biggest components of what was found to make the biggest difference in quality and longevity of life. People ate simple, very clean, and minimal meat and dairy products in every blue zone. Meat was considered a special treat and may have been had a few days in a month in most regions. Some regions enjoyed fish on a more regular basis, but for the most part their nutrition was based from beans, carbs and certain types of dairy products made only by themselves.
How could this possibly relate to today then?
So granted we are not making all of our dairy products from our animals in our backyard (well not all of us anyway). But what it does mean that certain products are better in proteins and fat content than others, and some sources are certainly better than others. Organic and grass fed are certainly superior to processed meats and dairy. Nobody ate any type of processed foods in any region. It also means that consuming more plant-based foods and fewer meats, with the exception of fish on a multi-time per week basis, is a cleaner alternative to full meat every day of the week multiple times per day.
Focuses on adding more nuts (if you can) to your diet is also beneficial and heart healthy. These are healthier sources of fat for your body than the animal fats we are leaving behind in this model. Picking only certain oils is also critical – and olive oil is one of the primary oils that was used by the people in these zones.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, along with beans and nuts were staples and primary sources of food for most people in Blue Zones. They did of course make their own bread, and some sheep and goat cheese from their own animals.
Foods That Changed Blue Zone Cultures
Over time as the cultures changed and became more modernized (especially after WWII) the introduction to a Western (aka American) diet and culture creeped in. This changed the way people eat and has changed their quality of life and longevity. Introduction of fast foods, take out style meals, and more animal-based products and more processed foods has increased waist lines and health problems in some of these formerly healthy cultures.
Been loving the yummy things I post and tag as Blue Zones recipes?
Check out their whole collection here!
Designed Towns for Easy Healthy Movement
Our current towns are very rarely designed for ease of food traffic and walking, or biking. Most of our towns and cities are designed for car use, or subway or other public transportation that is a ridden vehicle that requires no physical activity. Our work is in a chair at a desk – is very rarely active and mobile.
Blue Zones had people working in the fields, and labor types of jobs. They also had public systems and towns that encouraged food traffic or bicycles that required active movement.
People living in these zones had lower risks of heart disease, stroke and other related diseases.
Connected to the Community
The other important key component besides natural movement daily, and food was having a feeling of contentedness to family and your community. In these towns the elderly stayed with their families, and helped raise generations of children. They still had jobs in their home and on their property that gave them a sense of purpose daily.
On top of that, when asked about their history with friends, they had a community connected with people they wanted to talk to every day. They often had walking groups, or active living types of activities they would do with their friends or community members daily. The women were especially tied to their relationships with others in the community. It was vital to their feelings of purpose.
People living in these zones had lower rates of dementia and other diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What can we possibly do now to make any difference since we don’t live like this?
I am sure this idea and concept has been met with much skepticism. As I work with people trying to make change, what I have learned is that the reason that change has become so hard and nearly impossible for some is that you need ALL THREE of these things in place with SUPPORTS throughout your life and community to make them occur. It is nearly (and truly requires you to defy human nature) impossible to make the change without some or all of these supports. Let me frame it up from what I have learned from people and apply it to this concept.
- If your spouse isn’t on board with changing food, it’s nearly impossible to do it unless you only cook for yourself and leave them on their own. Your willpower will fade and you will not follow through with your plans as they nag you to stop what you are doing, or give you a flat out hard time about it. (aka – no community support)
- Your community is not set up (and you don’t live in a nearby place) to make walking to work an option, or walking to the store, or walking at all for that matter. (aka no community support)
- It is difficult for you to find good sources of fresh food, or you don’t even know where to start because you have never known anything other than what you eat now. (aka – you do not know how to cook, do not understand the difference between fresh food sources and processed food)
- Your community offers many many many fast food and take out options, and your work schedule (seemingly) prevents you from feeling like cooking (aka community doesn’t support family or healthy food choices, and encourages fast food options and long work hours).
So you are probably like YES that is so true all of that so what can I possibly do? It is hard to do it on your own – but you can! If you can start to change at least your at-home support you have hit one step in the right direction. If you have another person at home that is on board with you in changing your physical activity (or maybe a group of moms who want to walk and talk daily!) you have started two things from above. You have developed the support and the physical activity. If your spouse says yes to home cooked meals and no more processed food, you hit one of them.
The bigger picture here really is that we need to change our culture, and that happens through finding other people with the same ideals and getting them on board with change. Imagine if you just found three other moms who want to change? Then you got together with them and supported each other, then they tell another mom who tells another mom and before you know it – you have community change. Consider officials you elect and their ideas on community development when voting – that is making change.
I would LOVE to put together a group of people that want to work on this as well! I work with a group of people already in an online community that work on their nutrition and fitness to try to follow these ideals. But if you want to learn more about Blue Zones and making your/our community a Blue Zone type of community – I would love to be a part of that and start with you.
Here are the books (and I am not affiliated just strongly believe this is the way to change our culture to a healthier one): (there are also 2 other books I haven’t read but you can check them out on the site also).
Comment below about your feelings on these ideas and changing our communities health!
And if you want your own Blue Zones Cheat Sheet Guide – enter your email below and grab it now. This guide gives you the 9 Things You Can Do to Be Like a Blue Zones community – they call it the Power Nine!