I know, I can’t quite let this topic drop yet. It’s too intriguing. In spite of a voracious appetite for all things related to healthy lifestyles, I’m picking up new and different tips in Blue Zones. New discoveries in a crowded field is very exciting!
After taking the Vitality Compass I discussed a couple of days ago in “More on Blue Zones” (have you taken it yet?), I moved on to the last few pages of the book that discuss the lessons patterned after the lifestyles of the Blue Zone centenarians. Dan Buettner calls these the “Power Nine”. You guessed it, there are nine of them. They’ve even been arranged into a pyramid.
The book contains lots of details and delicious reading on oodles of strategies. What I wanted to do here is highlight a few that were particular grabbers for me:
Lesson One: Move Naturally. Be active without having to think about it. In other words, we’re not talking about another Pilates class or additional weight lifting regimen.
Strategy → Inconvenience yourself. Eliminate some of the labor-saving or exertion-depriving alternatives in your life. If you have a doable option that requires more effort, then choose that. Our lives are full of these things … remote controls, elevators, electric mixers, etc, etc, leave them behind. Make it harder.
Lesson Two: Hara Hachi Bu. Painlessly cut calories by 20%. This smacks of misery and deprivation to me. Sounds like walking away from every meal 20% hungry. Nothing painless about that. However, innovative research by Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, reveals that we can actually eat 20% more or 20% less of what we need, without really being aware of it. That 20% swing is the difference between losing weight and gaining weight.
One experiment described was especially convincing. They invited a group of people to view a tape. At the viewing they gave each one either a 1-pound bag of M&Ms or a 1/2-pound bag of M&Ms, and told them to each as much as they liked during the film. At the end, the M&M bags were collected and their consumption counted. The people with the larger, 1-pound bags had eaten 137 M&Ms and the people with the smaller, 1/2-pound bags had eaten only 71 M&Ms. They had all eaten as much as they wanted. The size of the bag mattered … a lot! The bigger the bag, the more they ate.
Strategy → Buy smaller packages. I don’t think this means stop shopping at Costco and Sam’s, but rather buy smaller packages when you will be directly serving yourself from the package itself.
Strategy → Use small vessels. Move big dinner plates and big glasses to the back of the cabinet. Perhaps not at dinner parties, but daily family meals is where most of day-in-and-day-out damage is done.
Lesson Three: Plant Slant. Avoid meat and processed foods. Really? … something new in this one too?
Strategy → Limit intake of meat. The key here is limit and not eliminate. Maybe I’ve read too much about vegetarianism, so this one did surprise me. Keep the portions small and no more than twice weekly, but cutting meat out all together doesn’t buy you anything. I will eat that turkey and occasional bite of steak with much more pleasure in the future.
Strategy → Eat nuts every day. There were several studies quoted in the book demonstrating significant health benefits of nuts. Pretty much any kind of nut, except for Brazil nuts, cashews (bummer – a big fav), and macadamias. There is a caution about the calories associated with nuts, so go easy. I weighed out my almonds and found that 1-ounce (approx 200 calories) equals 22 nuts.
I’ll share some more strategies in a future post. In the meantime, try out some of these strategies yourself. Do they make any sense to you?