If we want to live a life that is full of health and vitality, what are the secrets to living long and well? What habits do we need to develop today to make sure that happens?
First, let’s start with the basics: diet. There is so much conflicting information available today deciphering what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat and how to eat can be confusing. It’s a puzzle that needs to be solved.
What should our eating habits look like? We can start by thinking about and learning from people who have lived long and healthy lives.
Evidence-based research is the best place to start, I think. For the past 10 years, Dan Buettner has been studying the lives of people around the world who live to be 100 years old and older. Not only has he studied their eating habits, but the way they move, handle stress, socialize and love.
As I faced more challenges in my life, raising three children alone and trying to figure out how to empower others instead of enable them, I realized that I needed to be healthy first, and that included a healthy diet. So I started reading. That always seems to be my first line of defense.
I became fascinated by Dan Buettner’s research for National Geographic and devoured his first book The Blue Zones. I have to confess: I’ve read it several times. My goal at the time was not to live long, but to be healthy while I’m here.
In his research, he uncovers five areas in our world where people live long and well because of the habits they have developed. It doesn’t seem like these people intentionally developed these habits, but that living a long, healthy life was a byproduct of their habits.
Recently, Dan Buettner published another book called The Blue Zones Solution. In this book, he gives practical advice for “eating to 100” as he calls it.
Below are three evidence-based food rituals based on Buettner’s research that we can all adopt in our own lives. These are easy-to-follow tips. Try incorporating at least one (or all three) of these habits into your daily routine and experiment to see if you feel better, lose weight or enjoy better health!
1. Eat Like A King In The Morning
Make breakfast the largest meal of the day, or at least eat most of your calories by mid-afternoon. If food is the fuel that we need to keep our bodies going, then it makes sense to fuel our bodies early in the day.
Make sure you eat breakfast. People in the Blue Zones eat a huge breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and save their smallest meal for last. Many of us in America either skip breakfast altogether or eat a small breakfast and save our largest meal for the end of the day.
Having this bad habit may not be your fault at all: Sometimes we are products of our environment and/or our culture. It may take some adjustment, but if you experiment with your diet and change your mindset you can adjust to this way of eating.
Change your ideas of what breakfast foods are. People from the Blue Zones eat beans and corn tortillas, miso soup or bread and beans for breakfast. By changing our minds about what breakfast foods look like, we can start to veer away from cereals, muffins and other processed foods.
Be sure to include a protein, complex carbohydrate and a plant-based fat in your first meal of the day.
2. Hara Hichi Bu
This 2,500-year-old Confucian adage reminds Okinawans to stop eating when they are 80 percent full. Many Okinawans say this quietly before they begin eating, to remind themselves to stop eating when they are full.
It takes our bodies 20 minutes to tell our brains that we are full. It has been shown the the average American would lose around 17 pounds in the first year alone by simply following this suggestion.
Saying grace before you eat your meal also reminds us to slow down and be thankful for the food that we eat.
Eating is a time to relax, enjoy your meal and release stress. To be mindful of this practice, you may try quietly saying Hara Hichi Bu to yourself before your meal begins.
3. Eat With Family and Friends
Enjoying a meal with others gives us a reason to slow down and relax during the meal. As a rule, people in the Blue Zones never eat alone, never eat standing up and never eat with one hand on the steering wheel.
Eating with family and friends, enjoying the conversation, telling stories and bonding with the people we love not only results in stronger bonds with our family and friends but also healthier bodies.
Studies have shown that eating fast can increase your risk of obesity. Eating on the run, standing up or in the car allows stress hormones to interfere with digestion and lowers food metabolism.
If you do eat alone, make sure that your only activity is eating. Don’t read, watch TV or peruse the internet. Doing these activities while eating increases the likelyhood of eating mindlessly which leads to overeating.
With all of the information available today about food and diet, looking at evidence-based research is a great place to start when thinking about what our eating habits should look like. People who have lived long and healthy lives have secrets that we need to uncover and make part of our lives.
Question: What eating habits do you have that contribute to your overall heath?
I would love to hear your comments!