Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if we never had to obsess over what we eat or how much we exercise? What if we could design a life where maintaining a happy life and healthy weight were effects of an environment we created for ourselves? 
What we can learn from the world's blue zones | Zen & Spice
Good news! We actually can re-structure our environment to be more conducive to better health. Have you heard of the Blue Zones? 

The Blue Zones are locations on the planet that live the longest, healthiest lives.  The people who inhabit the Blue Zones have common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their long lives– the blue zones are in cities in Italy, Japan (some of the longest living people in the world), California, Costa Rica and Greece. One of the traits they all have in common is a sense of community and balance.  Let’s take these observations about these long living people and try to really learn from them. 

  • Family – put ahead of other concerns
  • Less smoking
  • Semi-vegetarianism – except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
  • Legumes – commonly consumed
  • Moderate calorie and moderate alcohol intake, especially wine
  • Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
  • Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
  • A sense of life purpose
  • Engagement in spirituality or religion 
A Blue Zone experiment was done here in the US in a small town in Minnesota. Opportunities to become healthier were weaved into the fabric of the community. Residents were encouraged to use smaller plates and move the junk food up to hard to reach places. Grocery stores and business displayed healthy snacks and restaurants added healthy options to their menus. The town even designed a sidewalk loop around the lake and encouraged kids to walk to school.  
Town residents were encouraged to form moais, the Japanese word for groups of people who support one another for life and walk or exercise together in person instead of “connecting” on social media. The researchers didn’t tell the residents to exercise more or tell them what to eat. Their immediate environment was simply changed. The town was restructured to make it easy for people to do the right thing. 
As a result, the town saw a 28 percent reduction in health care costs and a 10 percent decrease in body weight, without trying to lose weight. The city built 46 new community gardens, and 44% of the adults participated in walking moais, logging over 75 million steps in one year. 
So what can we do?  We can intentionally design our environments to make it easier to do the more healthful thing. Here are some more things we can do to help create a more healthful environment:   
  • Engage ourselves with our family and friends, IRL (in real life). Call them. Visit them. Make making plans to catch up with good friends or family a priority. 
  • Stop smoking. There’s really nothing more to say about this. I’m surprised that we still see so many people smoking in this day and age, haha. 
  • Go meatless, on more days than just Monday. Challenge yourself and eat a meatless breakfast, lunch or dinner for a full week straight. It’s a lot easier and tastier than it probably seems! 
  • Learn to love legumes. 
  • Embrace your inner intuitive eater
  • Glass of red wine here and there does the body good. And the soul. 
  • Put the phone/laptop/iPad down and actually engage with people. 
  • Explore your spirituality. If you’re not particularly religious, look into mindfulness. It’s a Buddhist concept, but you don’t have to be Buddhist to practice mindfulness
  • Buy a pedometer or use an app on your phone, try to hit 5,000 steps every day (that’s 2.5 miles!). 
  • Choose physical activity that you actually enjoy. Don’t force yourself to run if you hate running. Don’t make yourself do yoga if you can’t stand yoga. Find the activity that truly brings you joy. 
  • Make your life easy by meal planning. The goal is to prevent yourself from ending up in a food emergency in which the only thing open is a fast-food restaurant or convenience store. 
  • Make grocery shopping a ritual. Heck, turn it into a peaceful mindfulness practice. 
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Your bedroom should be a peaceful, stress free environment that promotes rest. What do you need to do to make it more peaceful? Maybe it’s clearing clutter, getting blackout shades, an eye mask, or taking the television out of the bedroom. 
  • Self care is essential. What are three things you can incorporate into your life that will help with relaxation? Maybe it’s taking a bath, doing your nails, reading a peaceful book. 
Diet and exercise are not the answers to a healthy, happy life. Focusing entirely on dieting and exercising takes the focus away from a healthy social life, romantic life, self-care practices, positive self talk, the list goes on and on. Maintaining a healthy weight is hard when you’re stressed out, mentally and physically. We have to take care of ourselves and treat our bodies with respect, and the healthy weight will come naturally. 
What do you think? Did you see something on this list that you want to work on? 


  1. I am a woman who is obsessed with the BLUE ZONES.
    The biggest gift in my life is the notion of DECONVENIENCING!

  2. What a lovely post! Thank you so much, much to be learned! :)

  3. I think these Blue Zones are fascinating. I wish there were far more Blue Zones all over the world! But at least people are taking notice and shifting their lives accordingly.

  4. I love everything about this post! Such good guidelines for people to live by! I could try to eat fewer meals with meat. I try, but need to make sure I’m incorporating the right kind of carbs for protein sources!

  5. I’m obsessed with the Blue Zones research! My favorite fact is that in many of the communities, there is no word for “retirement”. You keep having a purpose, a reason to be involved in the community, so important. Awesome post!

  6. Great post!!!

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