For those who don't know about Blue Zones, I am an avid fan and totally sold on this approach to living our best lives.
I had already been experimenting with fasting as a significant strategy for managing my food, health and weight when I came across an article in the New York Times:
"The Island Where People Forget to Die"
The article follows the story of a man from the island of Ikaria, Greece. He came to the USA as a young man, but in his 60's he was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. His doctor estimated that he had about six months to live and suggested that he make arrangements as to how he wished to spend his final days.
The man decided to return to his homeland on Ikaria. As most of the residents have done for many generations, he planted his vegetable garden, fully not expecting to reap any harvest.
The years came...and passed, however he continued to not only live, but THRIVED!
During a tour of the island, researchers were very curious to interview people living on the island as they were dubbed by researchers as members of what they determined were "Blue Zones:" unusual pockets of humanity where people lived inordinately long, healthy and happy lives. They hoped to discover their secret! Was it something in the soil? How did these people accomplish such a feat?
The researchers came across this man, who was now in his 90's! They asked him: "Why do you suppose you didn't die from the cancer?"
He said he didn't know, perhaps he should call his doctors back in the USA and ask them?
Which is what he did. Problem was: they were all dead!
How sweet a story is this?!? It piqued my curiosity so much that I read up some of the books written by Dan Buettner, who was the primary inspiration for this research.
Blue Zones have been discovered in areas such as the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica; the island of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and here in the USA, Loma Linda, California.
So what is it that all of these places have in common? No, it isn't the soil, lol.
1) Plant-based nutrition: while not all of the Blue Zones are vegetarian, most of them are, and those who do consume meat eat small quantities of meat, almost as a condiment.
2) Physical activity is woven into their daily routine. Whether it is walking to their neighbors down the road, working in their garden or dancing in the community hall with their neighbors at night...moving one's body happens naturally, fluidly with no fitness center required!
3) A period of contemplation or meditation is woven into their daily routine as a matter of course. Prayer, meditation, perhaps an afternoon tea...all of these cultures practice a form putting one's life on pause, achieving a period of stillness that fuels the soul.
4) The attitude of gratitude permeates the lives of people living in Blue Zones. These are not opulent, wealthy communities. But there is a sense of contentment with what each person has, along with a sense of community and having each other's back, knowing that if one's vegetable garden crop should fail, that others would be there to help and support them through such difficulties.
5) Heartfelt meaningful connection is the thread throughout the Blue Zones that gives residents a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
The awesome thing about these ingredients? Each of us has the capacity to replicate our own Blue Zone within our lives. There is no "magic" that we don't already have the potential to create every day.
I signed up for the Blue Zones e-mail list where further discoveries are routinely shared as well as efforts made by some communities to gather together and undertake incorporating a Blue Zones challenge for themselves.
Just today I discovered that on the island of Ikaria, Greece, for religious purposes they practice fasting around 150 days of the year! So this brings me full circle back to my own discovery of fasting as an essential strategy for managing my health.
“As research into autophagy has expanded, it has become clear that it is not simply a response to starvation. It also contributes to a range of physiological functions, such as inhibiting cancer cells and aging, eliminating pathogens and cleaning the insides of cells. We have also begun to see a small explosion in research that demonstrates a new function with the knocking out genes that contribute to autophagy. However, there is still much we do not know about the mechanism of autophagy and this calls for serious study. I hope to go on to study autophagy at the molecular level, to tackle the mechanism head-on. That is my mission.”
I have found much SPARK to celebrate through my readings and understanding about the Blue Zones around the globe and enjoy paying it forward by sharing this with others.
Keep the SPARK everyone!