The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four

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The Blue Zones Challenge week four…completed! I’ve finished the challenge and I’m excited to share the results. Truly what began as a month long shift became a Blue Zones lifestyle that I intend to continue.

Check out the other weeks…One, Two and Three…and then let’s discuss Week Four.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four title meme

The Blue Zones Lifestyle

The Blue Zones lifestyle is based on the information gathered by Dan Buettner while studying regions in the world with the highest proportion of people who live to 100 years old. They are:

  • Sardinia, Italy – an island in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Ikaria, Greece – an Aegean island with the lowest rates of dementia
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California – a community of Seventh Day Adventists who on average live ten years longer than other Americans

The challenge presents a shift in health practices that changes life for the better. It’s not just a diet or a fitness plan. Rather, it focuses on behavior, habits and environment.

The long term benefits of living a Blue Zones lifestyle include:

  • a longer, healthier life
  • more energy and increased strength
  • better sleep
  • weight loss and then weight maintenance
  • nurturing, supportive relationships
  • purpose
  • a better local community

Week Four Activities

Expanding on the last three weeks, week four focuses on food, connection and environment.

Review Purpose Statement

During the first week, the Blue Zones Challenge guides you to discover your purpose. Living with purpose is a key element for those in the Blue Zones. Okinawans call it ikigai – “reason for being”. Costa Ricans call it plan de vida – “life plan”. All recognize that a strong sense of purpose in older adults acts as a buffer against stress and helps reduce inflammation. That in turn helps to prevent Alzheimer’s, arthritis and strokes. Embracing a purpose in life…having something to get up for in the morning…can result in a longer, happier lifespan.

My purpose is to inspire others to live life beyond the edges, of fears, comfort zones and limiting beliefs, and to be healthy at any age.

I used this week to review my purpose statement and reflect on  how I am living that every day.

Eat at Least Three Blue Zones Meals

This week I tried three more new recipes from the Blue Zones Cookbook:

  • Ikarian Longevity Stew
  • Pasta with Fresh Tomato and Basil (I used gluten free pasta)
  • Veggie Hash

I haven’t eaten a Blue Zones recipe yet that I disliked! All taste delicious and they are filling and healthy.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four veggie hash
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – veggie hash

Walk with Buddy

Grateful again for Greg’s willingness to serve as my buddy and complete the challenge with me.

Designate a Space in the Home for Quiet Time

I’m working on this activity still. I’ve selected the space and began clearing the room to create a quiet corner where I can sit on the floor, read, meditate and journal. More on this project another time.

Get Blackout Shades or an Eye Mask to Improve Sleep

I don’t like wearing an eye mask and I didn’t purchase blackout shades. However, I do keep my room dark and cool to help me sleep soundly.

Declutter House

This is another ongoing activity that began several weeks ago, actually. I’m very sensitive to clutter and like the “place for everything and everything in its place” practice. However, it’s a good time to do another sweep through the house and clear away items that I no longer use, need or want.

Listen to Others with Deep Attention

I’m considered a good listener. This week I practiced greater awareness when listening to others. Often we are so busy thinking about what we are going to say next, that we don’t fully listen to the one talking.

Enjoy an Okinawan or Costa Rican Breakfast

Breakfasts in the Blue Zones look very different from the typical American meal. Beans are a common breakfast food in Costa Rica. And in Japan, miso soup and rice are popular. Breakfast looks much like lunch or supper in the Blue Zones

I’ve enjoyed this change for breakfast. Every morning we eat oats with berries, walnuts and chia seeds OR a bowl of rice and beans, in addition to celery juice and a fruit smoothie.

The Blue Zones breakfast basics are beans, cooked grains, fruits and veggies.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four breakfast
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – a typical breakfast, red beans and brown rice

Start a Container or Outdoor Garden

In the Blue Zones, people continue to garden well into their 90s and 100s. Gardening naturally encourages movement, from planting the seeds to weeding and watering to harvesting. Plus there’s the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air.

I have a large backyard garden, full of plants and herbs, and a raised bed garden for veggies. This week provided the perfect opportunity to work in my garden, planting flowers in containers and tucking some new herbs into the apothecary garden.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four garden
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – get into the garden

Consider Adopting a Dog or Cat

I have three rescue cats, Shy Boy, Angel and Rilynn, so I did not adopt another. My feline trio would not appreciate a new fur baby in the house.

I checked off all of the activities, or continue to work on them, except for enroll in a savings or investment plan and volunteer for a new group or organization.

Bonus Activities and Daily Check Ins

These remained the same as the last two weeks. See Week Two for a reminder of what those are. I exceeded the daily goal of 12 points. The goal for the entire four weeks is 400 points. I met that goal with a total of 512 points for the challenge.

My Results for the Four Week Challenge

My results for the challenge are so encouraging. I lost 8.2 pounds over the four weeks. My energy came up, joint stiffness improved and I love eating the Blue Zones way.

My biggest win from the challenge is the change in blood pressure. I began the Blue Zones challenge with the hope that I could control my blood pressure, which has crept up the last few months. Although I eat a plant based diet, I know I consumed too much salt, sugar and processed “healthy” foods.

During the challenge I eliminated salt, sugar and processed foods. I carefully adhered to the “rules”, eating 100% whole food plant based with an emphasis on beans, grains, vegetables and fruits. I walked or moved every day for at least 30 minutes. And I worked to reduce stress through meditation, movement, connection with others and relaxation.

Week One my blood pressure was 150/96. This week it was 118/77. That’s a remarkable improvement that I’m so happy about!

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four ikarian stew
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – Ikarian stew

What’s Next?

Now that I’ve completed the four week challenge, what next? I’m celebrating my results, not with sugar laden foods or a heavy meal at a restaurant but with the determination to continue this lifestyle.

I appreciate the simplicity of the foods, the nudges to move and the connections with self and others. The book has a Part Five, Sustainability. It encourages the reader to turn the challenge into a lifestyle. I love that the remainder of the book includes monthly activities to continue the Blue Zones way of life for a full year.

I really appreciate the Blue Zones Challenge. What began as a way to lower my blood pressure and improve my eating habits has become a wonderful way to boost health and extend my life.

I leave on a trip tonight. While away I’m committed to following this lifestyle and making it work even while traveling. I’ve already planned out meals. One of my stops, before checking in to my Airbnb, is a grocery store to stock up on nutritious, healthy, simple ingredients.

Join Me?

If you are interested in the Blue Zones Challenge, pick up a book HERE. And make sure you visit their website. It is full of helpful suggestions and information.

I’ll post occasionally, to let you know how this Blue Zones lifestyle is going. I’m excited to continue trying new recipes and finding ways to better connect with others who are on health journeys of their own.

Do you have any questions about the Blue Zones challenge? Ask in the comments below.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four cindy

 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

 

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I just completed the Blue Zones Challenge Week Three!

This four week challenge is flying by. Check out Week One and Week Two if you haven’t yet, and then read on to see the activities for Week Three and how I’m doing with this new lifestyle.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three title meme

The Blue Zones Lifestyle

The Blue Zones lifestyle is based on the information gathered by Dan Buettner while studying regions in the world with the highest proportion of people who live to 100 years old. They are:

  • Sardinia, Italy – an island in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Ikaria, Greece – an Aegean island with the lowest rates of dementia
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California – a community of Seventh Day Adventists who on average live ten years longer than other Americans

The challenge presents a shift in health practices that changes life for the better. It’s not just a diet or a fitness plan. Rather, it focuses on behavior, habits and environment.

The long term benefits of living a Blue Zones lifestyle include:

  • a longer, healthier life
  • more energy and increased strength
  • better sleep
  • weight loss and then weight maintenance
  • nurturing, supportive relationships
  • purpose
  • a better local community
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three books
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three – my guide books

Week Three Activities

This week’s activities focused primarily on connection.

Eat Three Blue Zones Meals

After six years of living a plant based lifestyle, I have plenty of delicious recipes to rotate through. However, I’m really enjoying the recipes provided in the Blue Zones Challenge book and the companion book, Blue Zones Kitchen.

The recipes are simple and yet full of flavor and very filling.

This week I chose to prepare Big Batch Adventist Vegetable Soup, Adventist Brown Rice Salad and Okinawa Three Minute Noodles. I loved all three! The vegetable soup is full of veggies in a rich, vegetable broth, flavored with thyme and oregano. I’ll make this soup often.

The brown rice salad is so unique. Served cold, the married flavors of rice, black olives, peppers and cucumbers in a lemon, turmeric dressing is fantastic. It makes the perfect lunch meal, served with a single slice of sourdough bread.

And you know I love noodles! The recipe called for tofu however I rarely eat soy products. I chose to add a mix of stir fried veggies to the three minute noodles instead. Yum.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three soup
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three – vegetable soup

Join a New Social Group

I confess I don’t really have time to join such a group in real life. It’s a busy season of my life. However the emphasis on connecting with others during the challenge…and beyond…impresses on me the importance of getting together with people more frequently than I currently do.

For now, I joined a social group…on social media: The Thriving Multipassionates. I love it. It’s for coaches, consultants and creatives on a mission to have it all.

Walk with  Your Buddy at Least Once

Greg is great to walk with me. We are making use of the tip to park as far as possible from stores.

Volunteer to be an Organ Donor

The Blue Zones is all about helping ourselves to better health and helping others in all kinds of ways. I love that. And I’m already an organ donor.

Call Text or Email Someone I Haven’t Connected with in a While

I selected my friend Lu Ann Cahn, the author and speaker who encouraged me, via her book, to start a blog. I sent Lu Ann a message via LinkedIn. Pick up her book and discover the incredible value of trying new experiences.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three book
Click photo to check out or order book

Plan a Vacation

I leave Sunday for South Carolina! I’m enjoyimg planning what I’ll do while there. Catch the post later about that trip on Cindy Goes Beyond.

I agree that it’s so important to plan and schedule down time. We need it so that our bodies, minds and spirits can refresh. I’m building in plenty of down time while away.

Start a Meditation Practice

I began a meditation practice many years ago. Even during the busiest weeks, I try to spend five minutes a day meditating. There are many ways to create such a practice from walking meditations to quiet times focusing on breath to coloring with soft music playing in the background.

Check out these ten benefits of meditation. And then set up a time to destress and downshift, in a quiet space with a supportive environment.

Put a Lavender Plant in the Bedroom

The scent of lavender relaxes the body and soothes the mind. A lavender plant in the bedroom promotes sleep. My bedroom doesn’t get direct sunlight, something the lavender plant needs. I’ll keep this wonderfully scented plant in my room overnights and put it on the front deck during the day, so it can receive necessary sunlight.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three lavender plant
The Blues Zones Challenge Week Three – lavender plant in the bedroom

Write a Thank You Note

Expressing gratitude in the form of a thank you note blesses the receiver and the giver. I took advantage of Mother’s Day this weekend to write a thank you in the card to my mom.

I didn’t do two activities this week: volunteer for a new organization and schedule a meetup with a friend. Volunteering is something I want to do in the future. And the meetup up with a friend came apart twice, due to changes in both of our schedules. We will get together when we can.

Bonus Activities and Daily Check Ins

These remained the same as last week. See Week Two for a reminder of what those are. I exceeded the daily goal of 12 points. The goal for the entire four weeks is 400 points. I’m on track to meet that goal.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three salad
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three – brown rice salad

How I Did for Week Three

I feel like I’m in the Blue Zones flow this week, even though it was an extremely busy seven days. That presented a few challenges…during the challenge!

Batch cooking helps me keep healthy ready to eat food in the fridge, which is great when I’ve had a long day. I can reheat a prepared meal in minutes and there’s no temptation to cheat.

Greg and I also attended an out of town track conference that two of the grandkids participated in, that turned into an all day event. I seriously miscalculated on the amount of food to pack along. We ended up eating CHIPS (low sodium for me) and TATOR TOTS for lunch because I didn’t bring anything beyond apple slices and cashews to eat. Lesson learned. Better preparation is necessary when away from home.

Otherwise, it’s been an incredible week on the challenge. My blood pressure is back in the normal range. I lost more weight this week than I did during the first two weeks. The weekly grocery bill is much lower, eating these simple meals. And I feel so, so good. All of those things encourage me to keep going.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three noodles
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three – Okinawa 3 minute noodles

On to Week Four

When I began this challenge it was with the intention to do four weeks and then evaluate whether I could continue with this lifestyle. The book continues it for me, with a full year of activities and suggestions. I’m in. This lifestyle is an easy one for me to embrace and yet it also challenges me to shift in the way I eat and connect more with others. As a happy loner who enjoys solo activities and travels, this is an area I can improve in.

If you are intrigued by the Blue Zones Challenge, pick up a book HERE. And make sure you visit their website. It is full of suggestions and information.

I’ll check in next week for the end of the four week challenge…a day early as I prepare to leave on my trip. And when I get back, I’ll let you know how I did with the Blue Zones lifestyle while traveling.

Do you have any questions about the Blue Zones challenge? Ask in the comments below.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Three mother's day photo
My end of week three photo, a Mother’s Day shot.

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

 

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Last week I introduced the Blue Zones Challenge, a four week guide to creating a longer, better life. See Week One HERE. I’ve just completed the second week and I’m loving the positive effect this shift in lifestyle is having.

Read about the new activities in the Blue Zones Challenge Week Two and the changes I’m making.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two title meme

The Blue Zones Lifestyle

The Blue Zones lifestyle is based on the information gathered by Dan Buettner while studying regions in the world with the highest proportion of people who live to 100 years old. They are:

  • Sardinia, Italy – an island in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Ikaria, Greece – an Aegean island with the lowest rates of dementia
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California – a community of Seventh Day Adventists who on average live ten years longer than other Americans

The challenge presents a shift in health practices that changes life for the better. It’s not just a diet or a fitness plan. Rather, it focuses on behavior, habits and environment.

The long term benefits of living a Blue Zones lifestyle include:

  • a longer, healthier life
  • more energy and increased strength
  • better sleep
  • weight loss and then weight maintenance
  • nurturing, supportive relationships
  • purpose
  • a better local community
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two blue notenook
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two – my blue notebook

The Next Seven Days

Week One focused on setting up my environment for success. The next three weeks include activities that build on each preceding week and expand the challenge. As with the first week, I recorded my weight, blood pressure and heart rate. All were lower than Week One.

Week Two Activities

Put walking shoes in an easily accessible place

There’s a continued emphasis on walking at least 30 minutes a day. When shoes are out in an easily seen place, I’m more likely to put them on and get my walk in.

Stop eating when 80% full

I continued to wear the blue bracelet this week. I’m getting a better feel for what 80% full feels like, plus my appetite has decreased. Truthfully, I never feel deprived.

Eat at least three Blue Zones meals, using included recipes

I chose three recipes out of the book: Dan’s Dal Palak, Breakfast Cookies and Gallo Pinto. All were easy to prepare, healthy and delicious. The cookies contained only four ingredients: bananas, oats, dark chocolate chips and applesauce.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two cookies
Blue Zones Recipe – breakfast cookies

Walk with my buddy at least once

Greg happily walked with me a couple of times this week.

Fill fruit bowl and leave on counter

This activity is a continuation from last week. I strive to eat at least a banana and an apple a day, along with a couple of mandarin oranges. The fruit smoothies every morning contain an assortment of frozen fruits. And I add fresh strawberries and blueberries to oatmeal bowls.

Limit work to 40 hours

This activity made me very aware of the time I spend working, especially on a computer or my phone.

Drink herbal tea

I do this one already. Herbal teas are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and I drink at least two cups a day. I alternate between green tea and peppermint.

Tape a reminder to car dashboard to park farther away from store

I love this idea. Having the reminder in my car works well as I’m pulling into a store parking lot. I have indeed parked as far from the door as I can, which contributes to my walking time.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two note
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two – place a reminder in the car

Set a reminder to get up and move every hour

I love this activity too! The free StretchMinder app on my phone alerts me every hour, from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, with the reminder to get up and move. Additionally, the app has three to five minute routines to ease tension in my upper body and breathe deeply. I’m so happy with tool!

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two app
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two – stretchminder app

This week included new activities and reminders to continue what I learned last week. I checked off these activities except for three. I did not have time to take public transportation to run an errand or participate in a walking meet up. Hopefully I can work these in during the next two weeks. And although I have recipes picked for the hosted meal, I’ve not done it yet.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two tea
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two – drink herbal tea

Bonus Activities

These activities award extra points for doing them.

  • walk with buddy or a group (3 points each time)
  • volunteer for at least 30 minutes (3 points each time)
  • try Blue Zones recipes (1 point for each recipe)
  • complete other Blue Zones activities (2 points for each)
  • spend 30 minutes engaged in a hobby or passion ( 1 point each time)
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two gallo pinto
Blue Zones recipe – Gallo Pinto

Daily Check In

This week included a list of daily check in items and the requirement to record all food eaten. Research shows that keeping track of what you are doing…and eating…helps with short and long term goals. It’s encouraging to see the progress and it helps with time and meal planning.

Daily check ins included eating a 100% whole foods plant based diet, consuming a cup of beans a day, walking and limiting screen time except when working. Points are awarded for these items or subtracted for eating meat, dairy, processed foods and sweeten beverages. The target is 12 points a day, with the bonus points from the activities above added in. My daily totals exceeded that.

Additionally, I recorded all food eaten daily. It wasn’t hard to keep track of these activities, in my blue notebook. I keep it handy so I can jot down meals and tick off activities throughout the day.

How I Did for Week Two

I continue to greatly appreciate this challenge. During the second week I learned to eat legumes and grains for breakfast and lunch and eat very lightly for supper. Typically that last meal of the day consists of veggies only.

Greg and I both like eating the Blue Zones way. And the lifestyle shifts are so beneficial. Health wise, I feel incredible. I’m leaner, more energetic and my joints are pain free and limber. I climbed stairs this week, with ease. That’s something I haven’t done without pain or stiffness in my legs, in 27 years.

And I love the simplicity of the nutritious, filling meals. I’m excited to try more Blue Zones recipes during Week Three.

I discovered this week that the Blue Zones Challenge book actually provides a year long challenge, if one desires to continue. Yes, I do want to continue. After the initial four week challenge, I’ll post occasional updates and insights, so you know how it’s going.

For now, watch for the Week Three update!

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Two me

 


 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.