The Best Simple Messages for Last!

7. Belong

Another common ground shared among the centenarians that were interviewed was belonging to a faith-based organization – any faith, because denomination varied. I am not here to tell you what or what not to believe in, but I can talk about all the reasons why this message makes complete sense to me. If we believe that everything is in our control and that we can dictate and plan every aspect of our lives, we are placing a tremendous burden and pressure on ourselves. This can ultimately lead to chronic stress, hopelessness, and a constant feeling of dissatisfaction with ourselves. When we take that power and place it on a higher being or force, we allow ourselves to be relieved of a burden that should never have been ours in the first place.

Faith allows us to believe, and honestly, what do we have in this life if we don’t have something to believe in? Letting go of the need to be in control allows you to free yourself of many things that have been dictating your life – your daily mood, thoughts, feelings, and methods of approaching everyday life. We all know what these stresses and anxieties can do to our health, both physically and mentally, which explains why these messages don’t solely focus on nutrition. Wellness is about so much more than just the foods going into our bodies. The way we view the world, cope with our emotions, and the people we choose to surround ourselves with can become make or break factors in our overall health.

Plus, sharing those same beliefs with others creates a safe, dependable community around you (hopefully – if you’ve found the right place for you). No matter how introverted you may be, everyone has the desire to belong and feel loved in some way or another. You can be the most independent and strong person in the world, but that doesn’t mean these words don’t apply to you. Through the triumphs, good times, obstacles, and days when your world feels like it’s crashing down around you – we all need that safety net support system – in whatever form it may come.

8. Loved Ones First love

Let me ask you something. What would be our purpose without love? I mean when it comes down to it, all of our actions are driven by it. It truly does make the world go ‘round. And I’m not just talking about romantic love, but love for family and friends, too. “Family first” is an essential motto for the centenarians of the Blue Zones. Interestingly enough, when aging parents and grandparents live close by or in the same home as their children lowers not only their own disease and mortality rate, but the children’s as well. To me, it’s not surprising that having the family together – relying and depending on one another – would increase life expectancy. Life comes full circle and when children are raised with love and care, there is a mutual understanding and desire in these societies to then return the favor when the parents age.

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While in an ideal world everyone would have this kind of family dynamic, it is of course not the reality for everyone. But, “Loved Ones First” can translate to more than just family, and should! There’s nothing more important than a true friend and companion. Even if it’s one person, one person that will always be there – and that you will always be there foryou’ll never be or even feel alone. It’s that person who can eliminate your fears and anxieties with a simple phone call or chat, because no matter what happens in this unpredictable world, that love and trust you share is forever constant. Doesn’t it make sense that sharing your days with someone who brings joy into your life (whether in a romantic relationship or not) would increase your quality of life, and in turn, your life expectancy? “Loved Ones First” is a mutual understanding and bond, leaving us with an inner peace we all so desperately need to survive.

9. Right Tribe

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And last but definitely not least …. finding the right tribe! Believe it or not, the people we choose to surround ourselves with each day have a major impact on our health. Research has shown that smoking, obesity, happiness and loneliness are contagious; and while that may come as no surprise, we probably forget to remind ourselves of this in a social situation. I believe this last message plays a major role in the longevity of the people living in the Blue Zones. These people were either born into or find their own tribe that supports healthy behaviors. We constantly influence each other’s actions and justify our unhealthy behaviors by claiming that others are doing the same thing, so it’s therefore okay for us to do them, as well. We feed off of each other’s attitudes, moods, and decisions. I’m sure everyone has experienced this ripple effect in different ways. For example, you might go on vacation and decide that you still want to exercise while you are away. You won’t be missing out on any fun times or enjoying yourself any less, you just want to stay active and know that you feel even better and happier after working out. But then, everyone around you starts teasing you and tells you to just relax, drink, and eat because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. You finally decide to give in and think, “what the heck, I guess I am being too weird/uptight/obsessive” etc etc.

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Now I’m not discouraging anyone from relaxing, eating, and drinking on vacationthat would just be against everything I stand for. However, I also don’t believe that anyone has the right, or that you should allow, someone to make you feel guilty for adopting a healthy habit. Yet the sad reality is, because these behaviors are contagious, that peer pressure tends to push us further away from any healthier intentions we may have set for ourselves.

Happiness and loneliness … that’s an interesting one to delve into as well. Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? Whether with a friend, significant other, family member or peer, this is the first dynamic that comes to mind when I imagine emotions that begin to spread like wildfire among us. Sometimes we get so used to how we allow ourselves to be treated or how we’re treating someone else in a relationship, that we don’t even take a moment to step back and view the interactions from the outside looking in. If this is something you have experienced, the second you finally do get that chance is definitely eye-opening. You might think to yourself, “What am I doing? Where have I been this entire time? And wow, spending my time with this person is making me completely miserable.” This is a real thing, and most definitely a part of our lives worth reflecting on. There’s not much in this world we get to control, but one part that we have total power over is who we choose to spend our time with. Choose the people that you find yourself smiling around, because that smile is not only influencing your inner circle; it’s being noticed by the people and in the places that you least expect. And who knows, maybe it was that random passerby that needed a stranger’s smile the most.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my take on these 9 life lessons from the Blue Zones as much as I enjoyed writing about them! These are all simple steps that can create major improvements in our happiness, quality of life, and overall health. And don’t we all want to make the most of this one life we have to live? I know I do!

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Finding That Balance

As a dietitian, I am constantly listening to individuals’ personal health & wellness journeys, or perhaps their desires/fears/hesitations to embark on the road to a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, oftentimes reflection can bring with it a stream of negative emotions and attitudes about ourselves, our past experiences, and ultimately, how all of that affects the way we look today.

I am always hearing comments like, “and that’s how I got fat”; “I never used to look like this”; “look at this picture of me 20 years ago and how skinny I was!”; “ he/she and I eat the same foods, but I gain weight and he/she doesn’t! It isn’t fair!”. Any of these sound familiar? The problem is, it doesn’t just stop at work – in a safe, private room where the only people are the client and myself. These types of comments and conversations have become commonplace in our world today, and because of that, we are all listening.

Have you ever gone out with a group of friends and suddenly felt awful about yourself because you had intended to enjoy a relaxing dinner and possibly order something other than a skimpy salad? A friend’s simple remark of, “I’m so disgusting today because I ate a piece of pizza,” or “I need to exercise for 3 hours tomorrow to make up for what I’m eating right now” can set at least one, if not everyone, in the group down a dangerous path of body shaming. This kind of talk is contagious. You might find yourself no longer enjoying the night because the only conversation you are a part of is the one trapped inside your mind in response to the one you have just heard. You find yourself silently wondering, “Did I eat healthy today? When was the last time I exercised? Am I gaining weight as we speak? What will the scale say tomorrow!?” I think it’s safe to say that we are all hoping for a fun night out – something we all need as a release from our daily stresses – but thoughts like these can serve as a roadblock to that goal.

So what is it that we can do to fix this? Whatever happened to a simple, casual dinner with friends where everyone orders what he or she wants, even if the person to the left of you is having a skinny grilled shrimp appetizer, and the person to your right is feasting on a Diet Coke? Well, I think a great first place to start is to let go of comparison. And believe me, this is easier said than done. I want you all to know that just because I am writing about this topic, it does not mean that I am suggesting that I never struggle with any of these issues. We are all aware of how we feel or think we should feel about our bodies on a daily basis, whether by the media telling us how we should look, by overhearing a conversation at the store, or by simply sizing ourselves up in the mirror as part of our morning routine; however, we must stop to realize that we are all INDIVIDUALS with our own unique bodies. When we do this, it becomes easier to understand that comparing, for example, a 5 foot 7 inch athletic physique to a cute 5 foot hourglass figure, makes no sense at all. In future blogs, I will further elaborate on why it is that a one-size-fits all image is impossible to achieve, but for now, I would like to describe what I hope to accomplish in this space.

I am a firm believer in educating people and promoting health and wellness based on sound scientific evidence, and of course, I will always advocate for a healthy lifestyle; however, I also believe in body positivity, and sometimes working on this has to be the first step on the road to wellness. Once you treat your body like the gift that it is, it will be easier to nourish it in a healing way. I want you to understand that food is medicine and much of the time we are feeding ourselves to get the nutrients that we NEED…but other times we are feeding it because of tastes or textures that we WANT, and that’s okay too! Yup the dietitian said it … giving into a craving is not the end all be all, and is sometimes better than ignoring it altogether! There is a balance to everything in life, and working on that relationship between our thoughts about food and how it will affect us holistically (physically, mentally, and emotionally) is just what I would love for us to work on. I want this so that we can EAT, DRINK, And Learn to Be MERRY while doing it!