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