fitness · sleep

Can leaving the light or TV on at night make you gain weight? Shining light on the subject

This week in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers published an article analyzing the relationship between artificial light at night (which they call ALAN– hi, Alan!) and increased risk of weight gain among women (they used a large cohort of women for the study). They say that exposure to ALAN does increase the risk of weight gain, and “further prospective and interventional studies could help elucidate this association and clarify whether reducing exposure to ALAN can promote obesity prevention.”

In other words:

As you can imagine (or even saw), the popular press was all over this.

What should we make of this? Before reading the study (yes, I read through the original, so you don’t have to), I thought, “of course they’ll find an association between ALAN and weight gain. Light exposure disturbs and disrupts sleep, reduces quality and duration, etc. We know all this can contribute to weight gain.”

But, it turns out that their results are (as usual, in science) really complicated. Here are some of the complex results:

  • The association between ALAN and increased risk of weight gain was stronger for women with lower BMIs (< 25 and <30) than women with higher BMIs (>30);
  • The association between ALAN and increased risk of weight gain was stronger for women who ate healthier diets and for women with increased leisure-time physical activity;
  • Women who slept with no light in the room, who ate a less healthy diet and/or who did less leisure-time physical activity had increased risk for weight gain;

So women who weighed less or who ate more so-called healthy diets or who were more physically active were more at risk for weight gain from light sources while sleeping than those who weighed more, ate less so-called healthy diets, or who were less physically active. Could this be because the added factor of light pales, as it were, in comparison to other potential factors? Reading the details did not shed much light for me here. The researchers also didn’t offer an explanation.

Here’s a less surprising result from the article:

Women with greater exposure to ALAN had higher mean BMI… and were more likely to be non-Hispanic black. They were less likely to have consistent waking and bedtime patterns and more likely to have less sleep, take a longer time to fall asleep, wake up at night, and take naps. They also used less sleep medication.

How we sleep and how we eat are related in a bunch of ways. How we sleep and how our bodies respond are also related in a bunch of ways, which include socio-economic, geographic and other external features outside of individual eating and activity behaviors. Women who sleep less, have less control over their sleep schedules, have regular sleep disruption, but don’t take sleep medication are bound to experience increased stress and other behavioral effects. And we know that black women, according to many sources, are more likely to sleep less and also suffer from sleep disorders (like sleep apnea), even controlling for BMI.

The researchers know this, too, and admitted as much (although they focused on individual factors rather than the social determinants of health, which I think diminishes their analysis):

We were unable to disentangle the temporal relationship between exposure to ALAN and other factors, including unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and other sleep characteristics. Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility that the association between ALAN and obesity is not causal, despite multivariable adjustment and various sensitivity analyses.

So no, ALAN is not good for us (sorry, Alan!). But the reasons why we sleep with light vary a lot, depending on the constraints and realities of our lives. We may have control over some of these factors, and no control at all over others.

My main takeaway is this: sleeping in darkness is a necessity, but for many of us it’s a luxury we can’t have as often as we might need it. Here’s to blissful darkness for everyone.

Readers, do you sleep in darkness? Do you use a sleep mask? I do. Do you want light in your room when you sleep? Do you have to deal with light sources that you’d rather not? Do light sources provide comfort or company? I’m curious about what your habits are.

fitness · trackers

Things I’ve learned about tracking from Fitbit and Facebook

About a month ago I decided to take the plunge and invested $29.95 on a knock-off Fitbit. I was skeptical that measuring steps each day would be useful to me. It turns out it has been useful, but not in ways I might have expected. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. My Fitbit really only needs three settings— sedentary, regular and lots of walking 

Setting one: Under 5K. I have noticed sometimes when I’m working from home and too anxious or busy or stressy to move much, I get low step numbers. It definitely doesn’t feel so good to my body, so I try to do some yoga — even 7 minute yoga in the morning or evening makes me feel more comfortable in bed. I’d like to reduce the number of days like this. 

Setting two: 6–8K. If I’m teaching and moving around campus or even puttering around the house or doing errands I get this many steps. It doesn’t get my heart rate up though.  I do try to extend the steps whenever I can, taking longer ways to get places. Again, if I add in some morning or evening yoga (or both), my body seems to feel better.

Setting three: More than 10K. These are days when I’m doing a lot on foot or taking public transport or sometimes traveling (you can cover a lot of ground in airports), as well as taking walks or hikes. I tend to work up a head of steam these days.  I find that just adding in a half-hour walk to one of my setting two days really adds to the step count, so I think more setting three days are within my grasp.

2. Fitbit doesn’t measure what I’m really looking for, which is consistency and variation in activity. 

Of course I paid only $29.95 for my Fitbit so it doesn’t measure a lot of things. Its data collection is minimal and it only display steps and sleep (and is really inconsistent in its sleep measurements, so I ignore them).

3. I’ve got a much better and free measurement tool that I use all the time— the 219 in 2019 Facebook group.

I decided at the beginning of the year to measure number of workout days, not number of individual workouts. My goal is to be more active over the course of a week, or a month. What have I learned from the Facebook group? Here’s a list (do y’all like lists as much as I do?)

  • I really like doing at-home yoga workouts.
  • I’m averaging about 15 workout days a month. 
  • I haven’t been cycling much.
  • I’m more likely to do out of house activity when it’s with friends. 

Some of this information I already knew, but other info (like the 15 days/month of activity) is only possible through regular tracking. And writing down what I do every single time (along with a little commentary) really gives me a sense of how I am or was doing emotionally or logistically or work-wise, etc. for that period of time.

4. If I want to be more regular in my activity, I need to plan it in my schedule.

I know– duh. But I’ve typically resisted scheduling, preferring to stay open to what inspired me that day. However, I’m finding that for more cycling to happen for me, I’ve gotta plan it. Ditto for yoga classes.

5. In order to do some non-regular but fun activity this summer, like pond swimming, kayaking, hiking, etc., I’ve gotta schedule it.

Fitbit and Facebook won’t help me with this. That’s up to me. So I’m working on weekly schedules for the summer, and planning (or writing in where they’re already planned) other fun activities.

How do you plan your activity schedules? How do you work in non-scheduled exercise or activities or workouts? How do you approach your schedule– as a must-do, a to-do, an it-would-be-nice-to-do? I’d welcome your suggestions.

fitness · self care

What’s so great about more? Less is just fine as it is.

Samantha recently posted this picture on FB from one of the YMCAs near her– it’s a cute veggie-bicycle graphic with an encouraging health message.

A picture of a cyclist (made from vegetable images) with copy: more water. more veggies. more protein, etc, ending with more happy and fit.
A picture of a cyclist on bike (both made from vegetables) saying: more water. more veggies. more protein, etc, ending with more happy and fit.

Now, I love vegetable-collaged images as much as the next person. Here’s another cute one:

A fruit/veggie/crack collage of a giant flower and butterfly.
A fruit/veggie/cracker collage of a giant flower and butterfly.

Parenthetically, we should give due credit to the master of produce-collaged art, Giuseppe Archimboldo, whose famous Vertumnus is below:

Rudolph II of Habsburg as Vertumnus, by Giuseppe Archimboldo.
Rudolph II of Habsburg as Vertumnus, by Giuseppe Archimboldo.

But I come here not to praise vegetable art, but to crab about all this “more” talk. Yes, the good people of the YMCA mean well when they encourage us to do more of this and that. But we are always being told to do more of the things we are already doing.

Move more live more. Really?
Move more live more. Really?

I am moving some these days– not as much as I would like, but more than I did in the winter. And yes, I want to move even more. I’m trying, I’m trying!

As for living, I think I’m doing the same amount of that as I always have. “Living more” rubs me the wrong way, as if I’m not living enough now. Honestly, these days I’m doing absolutely as much living as I possibly can; trying to squeeze more living out of me is just going to make me start yelling. Hmmm, at least I will be doing “more” of something. This is starting to sound rather appealing.

More yelling (actually cut from a "no more yelling" graphic, but this suited me better).
More yelling (actually cut from a “no more yelling” graphic, but this suited me better).

But you might be thinking, hey Catherine, “more” is out and “less” is in. Didn’t you read or watch Marie Kondo? More causes stress, and less can bring joy.

It’s true– there are lots of folks out there rhapsodizing about the joys of less. But the stealth message they are sending is IF you do less of X, THEN you will get more of Y. Less isn’t good unless it’s tied to more in the end.

Even many of the mindfulness folks cannot keep their eyes off the prize– more productivity once you let go of [insert something here] and embrace [insert some other thing there]. Like the title of this blog post below:

I'm going to start yelling now.
I’m going to start yelling right now.

The world (or rather, the world of self-help and self-improvement) can’t stand it when we just scale back and do less. Our doing less has to be in service of some payoff, like increased success through fake-o less-doing.

Again with the "less, but"! What about "less" with no "but"? Will the world end? I think not.
Again with the “less, but”! What about “less” with no “but”? Will the world end? I think not.

What’s my point here? My point is that I sometimes I just want less.

  • less anxiety
  • less work
  • less self-judgment
  • less time feeling cornered by life circumstances
  • less sleeplessness
  • less coping with the above through overeating, avoidance, etc.
  • less shame about doing less when I want or need to

I’m not claiming that getting and doing less will create more of anything. Maybe it will, but we don’t always need it to. Sometimes we may just need it to be less. Period.

less is just less.
less is just less.

Readers– friends: what do you need or want less of? I’d like to know. I’m listening.

fitness · food

Activity snacks: what’s your favorite?

This week is sort of feeling like the first week of summer. I say “sort of” because today the high was 53F. Brrr… But the temperature on Monday was fantastic for cycling– mid 70s and sunny. My friend Pata and I met up and then headed to our favorite coffee place in Lexington, MA to snack and caffeinate. We rode in the afternoon, so both got forms of ice tea with lemonade, and she ordered banana bread.

Two ice teas and one slice of banana bread, with two bikes waiting patiently behind.
Two ice teas and one slice of banana bread, with two bikes waiting patiently behind.

I know from our many rides that Pata loves the right baked good to keep her going during a ride. Me, I generally prefer to stick to clif shot bloks, or clif bars, or luna bars (my favorites).

My two bike bottles (with orange gatorade) flanking two packs of clif shot bloks. The bikes are still waiting.
My two bike bottles (with orange gatorade) flanking two packs of clif shot bloks. The bikes are still waiting.

Of course, these specialized energy bar/block/gel/drink products can be pricey. I try to order in bulk, and often can get them through athlete friends who have pro deals or other discounts. But, in the end, they work for me on rides, so I don’t mess with what works.

However, I was reminded of how some of us (meaning me) can be overly fussy about how we refuel during breaks in activity. Sitting on a bench across from us were this nice woman and her two kids. She was roller blading and they were biking. On a break they indulged in a bag of multicolored jelly beans, bought from the local drug store. I am sure they cost less than one of my packages of clif shot bloks.

A nice woman and her two kids, enjoying a jelly bean break during a cycling/skating outing.
A nice woman and her two kids, enjoying a jelly bean break during a cycling/skating outing.

I never got their names, but she said it was okay to use their picture. These folks were eminently practical and economical about getting some energy snacks. In fact, my former sports nutritionist Nancy Clark (who has written several books about sports nutrition for runners and cyclists, including here and here) told me that I could put jelly beans in a bag with some salt, and they would be just as good as these tasty but expensive sport beans.

A veritable cornucopia of flavors and types of sport beans (glorified jelly beans in tiny expensive packages).
A veritable cornucopia of flavors and types of sport beans (glorified jelly beans in tiny expensive packages).

Last summer I really stocked up on energy chewables, so I’ve got plenty to start off an active cycling summer. But I’m giving some thought to trying out more modest fueling fare. Do the fancy products really help more than the plain snacks, or is it just placebo effect?

This is a hard question, and I’ve done a bit of digging and not gotten a clear answer. For endurance, high-octane performance, and recovery, we need different combos of sugars, proteins, minerals and generally not much fats, as they are harder to digest. On the other hand, some studies have shown that chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks ever (if you can tolerate milk and the fat content).

Yes, exercise science is complicated.

I’ll keep looking into this, and when I have something to say, you can read it here first.

What I can say with some certainty for now: don’t eat this:

Yes, this is birthday cake-flavored popcorn, or so it says.
Yes, this is birthday cake-flavored popcorn, or so it says.

In the meantime, I’m curious: what are your favorite during-ride and after-ride snacks? I recall that Cate swore by cheese sandwiches during her bike ride through the Baltics. Dear readers, what gets you through a ride, hike, sail, paddle, run, walk, etc.? Do you make your own concoction? Buy something from the convenience store? Order fancy food online? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · traveling

Airport yoga– why isn’t this everywhere?

This week I traveled to the University of Texas at Dallas for their annual conference on Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. Thanks, Matt and Magda, for continuing to host such a great event!

Since I live in Boston, attending the conference requires air travel.

In short, yuck.

Sometimes planes are not so appalling uncomfortable, but mostly they are. They are stuffed to the ceiling with people and baggage, with ergonomically disastrous seating for (almost) everyone. I wrote about it awhile back– Fat Flying: the Holiday Air Edition

Then there are the inevitable flight delays. According to some information I found online (what I got without clicking on a site, just asking “how many planes are delayed”), 11.74% of flights were delayed in November of last year. My 8:50pm flight to Boston was delayed about an hour (the departure time kept changing, which did not inspire confidence about ever leaving the airport).

Given that I had a lot of time at the airport, facing 4 hours of sitting on the plane and having sat at the conference that day, I decided to keep exploring (or at least cruising around) the airport. I made it to the end of terminal D, and spied this intriguing sign:

A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.
A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.

So left I went. The area was not your usual terminal scene, with shops and gates and people milling around. There wasn’t anything– just several people-moving motorized carts parked and waiting quietly along the wall. One was still on duty.

A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.
A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.

I kept going, and soon spied this sign:

A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying "yoga studio".
A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying “yoga studio”.

Oh boy! Could this actually be a place to do yoga? Turns out it is!

The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.
The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.

This was perfect– it was set up in a practical and relatively low-cost way, while at the same time perfectly well-equipped for people who want to stretch or move a bit. Here’s what it looks like from the inside:

DFW's yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.
DFW’s yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.

A woman was there when I arrived. I set up my mat and got on my hands and knees for some cat and cow stretching, then on to other gentle movement. They have wet wipes there for cleaning the mats before and after, and also a guest book to keep track of visitors and solicit feedback.

The other woman left after a few minutes. We spoke briefly– her flight had been canceled and she was stuck at the airport for 5 hours. Ugh. She was thrilled to find this place. So was I. Before I left, another woman showed up and started moving into warrior poses. I smiled to her, and she said don’t forget to sign the guest book. So I did, praising the place lavishly.


I found an article about 5 airports that have yoga rooms. There’s one, for instance, in San Francisco, that I visited once.

A friend told me about a lovely yoga room at Chicago’s Midway airport that she visited. However, the sweet little Dallas yoga alcove, in a quiet hallway near the cart parking, shows that authorities can make a little effort and create quiet and happy spaces for people to move, to stretch, to rest and relax and endure the difficulties of modern travel.

I’m going to write/contact the folks at my local airport (Logan in Boston) to ask them to get moving on this. I encourage all of you to do the same.

Have any of you encountered yoga or movement spaces in airports? I bet there are more than 5 of these places around. Any outside the US? What about Canadian airports? Let us know, and I’ll compile a list and post it.

fitness · sexism

On vibrators as athletic trophies, or when a prize is not a prize

I’ve played in a fair number of competitive athletic events— tennis tournaments, squash tournaments and league play, bike races of various stripes, and even a couple of triathlons (there was also that one disastrous intramural D league volleyball match, but I’d rather not discuss it).

In the course of competing, I’ve won a few medals and ribbons, the odd trophy (tennis tourney when I was ten), and of course swag— bike gloves, cans of electrolyte drink mix, even a blinkie on one occasion. Usually these non-money prizes are donated by sponsors or local sporting goods stores, so they tend to be sport-specific and sport-themed.

It turns out, though, that I’m a bit behind the times, as some tournament promoters have expanded the range of their prize offerings for women competitors to include vibrators.

Yes, that’s right. Vibrators.

At the recent Asturias Squash Championship tournament in Oviedo, Spain, the top four women received trophies, as did the top four men. But for the women, there was a little something extra for them: a vibrator for the winner, and for the others, either a hair removal kit or electric foot file.

An instagram photo of the trophies plus the other special prizes offered to the top women squash players.
An instagram photo of the trophies plus the other special prizes offered to the top women squash players.

From the article in Newsweek: The athletes wrote to the Royal Spanish Squash Federation demanding answers over the treatment, which they felt promoted sexism. The organization then instructed the local federation to launch a formal investigation, along with the Asturian Women’s Institute.

“We were very surprised, very shocked,” Sadó was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We think it’s very sexist. We wanted to explain it to everybody because we think […] there’s a lot of discrimination [against women in sport] and things have to change.”

It’s worth noting the various responses to their formal complaint. 

From the regional federation: “It’s the height of sexism,” Maribel Toyos, a spokesman for the Asturias Squash Federation, was quoted as saying by Spanish daily El Pais. “We had no idea the women were going to receive these gifts.”

They appear to be shocked, shocked to discover this happened.

Then there’s the local club, whose officials actually went to all the trouble of selecting, obtaining and proffering the vibrator and depilatory aids. Here’s what they said:

“We understand the reaction and deeply regret this unacceptable incident,” said official statement signed by president Nacho Manzano and acting president Barbara Fernandez.

This is weird. It’s the kind of reaction you would have if say, a dog had gotten loose in the club and chewed their squash rackets. It’s as if it had nothing to do with them. And they joined everyone else in denouncing it as unacceptable.

There weren't pictures of dogs eating squash rackets, but this dog apparent made a mess and then denied it by looking away.
There weren’t pictures of dogs eating squash rackets, but this dog apparent made a mess and then denied it by looking away.

Except they’re the ones that did the unacceptable thing, which required ill-intentioned forethought and planning.

Then comes the non-apology apology:

“The club reiterates its apologies to players, the Federation and people or entities offended by the discomfort caused by inappropriate gifts and that should never have been delivered.”

Let’s unpack this. They apologize to those offended by the discomfort caused by the inappropriate gifts; and then say they shouldn’t have been delivered.

First, they’re trying to put the blame on the gifts themselves, which strikes me as grossly unfair. I mean, some vibrator was just sitting around, minding its own business, when it gets bought by a sexist and malicious squash tournament promoter. That’s not its fault.

Second, vibrators aren’t inappropriate; people who buy vibrators as athletic tournament prizes for women athletes are inappropriate. Likewise the other products.

Finally, there’s the bit about “should never have been delivered”. Again, it’s a weird attempt to distance themselves, as if it’s the fault of UPS for delivering these items to the club for distribution.

It's totally not this guy's fault.
It’s totally not this guy’s fault.

The responses all around are a tour de force of the passive voice.

But this wasn’t passive at all. It was actively mean, an attempt to humiliate women who had the temerity to excel in squash. Why didn’t the person whose idea this was take responsibility and say they were sorry? This is what I’d like to read:

Wow. Yeah, this was a total dick move on my part. I thought it would be funny. We all did. But of course it’s not— it’s insulting and demeaning. Squash is largely male, and I guess we haven’t owned up to how toxic this environment is for women. And here we are.

Now it’s time to apologize and get some help on making structural changes to squash organizations at the local, regional, and national level.

I am sorry I thought this, said this and did this. Our club will be sponsoring a free girls’ squash clinic every year, with the goal of recruiting girls into competitive squash and supporting them. We hope this program will be a first step in addressing the harms suffered by women in squash.

Now *that* would be a prize worth claiming.

Readers: have you encountered any misogynistic shenanigans like this in your competitive experiences? Let us know, and we will rain scorn down on the perpetrators and support you.

ergonomics · fitness

Is life really rosier in the Blue Zones? On health and community

Is health something that we are born with (or not), something we work for (or not), or something that just happens to us (or not)? Or is it something we can get just by relocating to the right town or neighborhood?

This last idea has become popular in the last decade or so with the advent of the notion of Blue Zones— actual places where there’s been documentation of people living well over the age of 100. Where are these places, you ask? No problem– here they are:

  • Sardinia (Italy)
  • Okinawa (Japan)
  • Loma Linda (California, Seventh-day Adventists)
  • Nicoya (Costa Rica)
  • Ikaria (Greece)

If you prefer pictures, they are here:

The world with Blue Zones located. Although the whole world is blue. Hmmm...
The world with Blue Zones located. Although the whole world is blue. Hmmm…

Hmmm. Okay. Next question: what is going on in these places? According to this article (and the book by Blue Zone guy Dan Buettner), these things:

  1. They have a strong sense of family.
  2. They eat very little meat and processed foods, but instead eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, especially beans, and have a moderate caloric intake.
  3. They do moderate exercise every day as a function of living – they walk to work, garden, climb hills, etc.
  4. They have a moderate amount of wine per day with friends and family.
  5. They have an active, strong social life.
  6. They report less stress, sleep well, and nap.
  7. They have a strong sense of purpose in their lives.
  8. They have a strong faith basis to their lives.

As Miss Manners would say, “how nice for them.”

Seriously, though, there is a big question here: can we/how can we shift some of the work of creating conditions for a healthy-to-us (or in this case healthy-to-experts) life to the communities where we live? There’s a ton of work being done in public health, urban planning, environmental architecture, you name it– lots of fields want to see how we can make healthyish and happier living easier for people. For instance, Buettner and company work with cities to help them develop say, infrastructures to make biking and walking commutes safer and easier(from this article):

Buettner and his team at Blue Zones have personally worked with dozens of US cities over the last decade to make them more walkable and bikeable. He points out that in almost every case, the BMI and obesity rate in those cities have dropped as a result.

“We have hard evidence that when you optimize a city for walkability, bikeability, public transportation, and cleaned-up parks, you can raise the physical activity level of a whole population by up to 30%,” says Buettner. “There is no gym, CrossFit, or exercise program that can get those types of results at a population level.”

I’m extremely skeptical about the drop in BMI claim. There have been many extremely well-funded multi-prong programs (like this one near me) to make environments more conducive to healthy-to-experts living and eating and moving. They have worked well on a lot of markers, but BMI doesn’t tend to be one of them.

But I digress. This idea of the Blue Zone has taken off in some circles; there are dozens of websites devoted to making your own Blue Zone, what are the advantages to Blue Zone living, etc. One website seems to suggest that Blue Zone living brings with it physical well being for as long as you live. At least this is what their illustration is telling me.

In some Blue Zones, everyone knows how to do crow pose.
In some Blue Zones, everyone knows how to do crow pose. She’s awesome, btw. It’s this website I am having a little fun with.

Even in a Blue Zone, we can’t protect against everything. I mean, eventually someone is going to have an anvil fall on them.

Wile E. Coyote. Don't worry, he'll be fine.
Wile E. Coyote. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.

Again, digressing. So, short of moving to Sardinia or getting our city to overhaul the enture urban landscape, how can we create our own Blue Zones? You’re in luck– here’s a list:

  1. Walk your children to school 1 day a week (or more). Take turns with other parents so that it is more feasible with busy work schedules.
  2. Let your children play in the street (with discretion). Not only will your children enjoy it, but it creates a community of neighbors, slows traffic down, and encourages elderly neighbors to come out of their houses.
  3. Build a community. It doesn’t have to be with a religious group, although it may be for you, but it could also be around a volunteer position, your neighborhood, a hobby, or your children’s school.
  4. Eat more vegetables – period. You don’t have to become vegan, but try to incorporate at least 1 vegetable at every meal of the day with a goal of at least 5 servings per day.
  5. Eat with friends at work instead of at your desk. Perhaps go for a walk together every day. You’ll keep yourselves accountable and lower your stress burden.
  6. Add more fiber to your diet. Most of these communities ate more beans per day than average.
  7. Create a family mission statement about what you and/or your family wish for the world. Having a positive sense of purpose in how you are making a difference satisfies us and feeds our psyches.

But this is ill-conceived advice.  First of all, it’s of the buy-low-sell-high variety.  Everyone knows all of this. The thing that is supposed to be magic about the Blue Zones is that people don’t have to make a huge effort to put these systems into place or do it on their own—just living in the community creates a context that has systematized these practices (supposedly; I’m skeptical).

Also, this is kind of saying be richer and very lucky. Have more time to move, cook, eat. Pay more money for all of this. Have a supportive family and community that you’re an active part of. Don’t have mental health issues. Live close to your work and don’t spend too much time working. Develop a palate for certain kinds of foods, learn how to make recipes with them, take the time to shop for and prepare and eat them, and maintain this over time. Have a stable long-term relationship, stable and happy family situation, and lots of happy stable extended family and neighbors.  Right. Oh, and be a member of functional clubs that hike, prepare communal meals, etc.

In short, go forth and be privileged, and you’ll live longer. Thanks.

What we in the Zones of All Colors have to deal with is creating connections, leveraging the ones we have, working within our individual and social and financial and political constraints, and loosening those constraints by any means available when we have the energy and time and resources to do so. Which is what we already do.

What sorts of programs do you see in your communities for make them more Blue-Zone-like? Are you seeing more bike lanes? Green space development? All-ages crow pose workshops? I’d love to hear from you.