What do all Centenarians have in common?

My very youthful parents who are not quite there yet....

My very youthful parents who are not quite there yet....

....but almost 80 and going strong!

....but almost 80 and going strong!

Are you a vegetarian? A nutritarian maybe? Or a flexitarian? Ever considered becoming a centenarian?

I was at the Integrative Nutrition Annual Conference last weekend. Out of all the 15 plus amazing speakers ranging from MDs to nutritionists to life coaches, the one talk that really struck a cord in me was Dan Buettner's Blue Zones' Diet.

Dave Buettner was funded by National Geographic to travel to the Blue Zones all over the world - the regions that have the most Centenarians and uncover the secrets of their happiness and longevity. He nailed downed five places - the Barbagia region of Sardinia, Ikaria in Greece, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Okinawa in Japan and Loma Linda, a town 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Why am I so obsessed with the stories of these people?

Maybe it has something to do with turning 40, a few years ago. I have recently attended a few turning 40 big birthday bashes and am surrounded by friends and peers who are all of a sudden awakened by how big the number 40 is, although even a 4 year old can tell you it is only a number that follows 39.

What is so significant about the number 40?

This is how I see it. We are standing at this junction - we can either do nothing, complain about the rapid decline and accept the inevitable demise, or take a turn to go the other way.

What inspires me about these centenarians is not that they live till a hundred years or more, sure who needs quantity if there is no quality? These people are happy, vibrant and healthy till their last breaths.

What are their secrets? If you ask them this question, they would think you are mad because none of them tries to live past 100 years, they just live. They celebrate aging instead of running away from it and they all have these in common: 

  1. They move naturally. They don't go to the gym or run marathons. Physical activities are etched in their everyday routines.
  2. They all have a purpose in life. The Okinawans call it "ikigai" and the Nicoyans call it "plan de vida". Both mean a reason to wake up in the morning.
  3. They have great anti-stress strategies - prayers, ancestor remembrance, taking naps and (even) happy hours!
  4. They eat a plant-based diet with beans and nuts being the cornerstone of their nutrients.
  5. They stop eating when they are 80% full, eat the biggest meals early in the day and smallest meals or nothing  in the evening.
  6. They all drink moderately (except the Adventists).
  7. They all belong to a faith-based community.
  8. They all put their loved ones first and maintain strong family ties.
  9. They hang with the right tribe. They all have strong social circles that support the same healthy behaviors.

Maybe it's not too late to take the right turn? 

I highly encourage you to check out these cool, vibrant beings from the Blue Zones website.