Barbara Waxman shares her thoughts on Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones Solution, and how one little phrase has had a massive impact on her life.

“Hara hachi bu”

Not only does this expression just roll off the tongue, but I think it’s also the pithiest takeaway from Dan Buettner’s excellent book, The Blue Zones Solution.

As a gerontologist and leadership coach, I work with people who understand that in order to have the impact they want (at home, work, and for themselves), they need to choose the right ingredients for their version of a well lived life. Specifically, they need to focus on not just adding years to their lives, but adding life to their years. I highly recommend this book because it not only uses facts and science, but also shares practical advice, and even stories and recipes.

But this book isn’t about diet, it’s about lifestyle. Over a decade ago, Dan Buettner received a National Institute on Aging (NIA) grant to study longevity hotspots around the world. He collaborated with a variety of experts, including anthropologists, historians, dietitians, and geneticists to, in a sense, reverse- engineer longevity itself. What Buettner has found from his study of cultures all over the world is that those who live the longest don’t eliminate things from their diet; they moderate them.

He collaborated with a variety of experts to, in a sense, reverse- engineer longevity itself.

Buettner identified five ‘blue zones’; locations where the lifestyles and environments lead to having the world’s longest-lived people. This book shares the secret sauce that people living in those areas know how to cook up; it goes on to share ways to cook up your own blue zone as well.

So where does “hara hachi bu” come in and how has it changed my life? It is one of two Japanese eating tenants. The first is to eat whole, as opposed to processed, foods. The second is best reflected by the story of Gozei Sinzato, who at 104 years still tended her vegetable garden in an Okinawan village. On the day Buettner interviewed her, as she and others in her community did every time they ate, she sat down, she gazed at her meal for a few long moments and murmured, “Hara hachi bu.” This Confucian adage intoned like a prayer before every meal, reminded her to stop eating when she was 80 percent full.

She gazed at her meal for a few long moments and murmured, “Hara hachi bu.” This Confucian adage intoned like a prayer before every meal, reminded her to stop eating when she was 80 percent full.

Perhaps the most common complaint of any middlescent has to do with the fact we have to be so much more careful about what we eat, when we eat and how we eat. That is no different for people living in blue zones. They manage it so well—this book tells you how.

If you have the goal of creating a ‘blue zone’ in your home, create the environment and lifestyle habits shared in The Blue Zones Solution.

A Look at a Book is a series I’m hosting to help keep you informed about the latest books having to do with adult development and middlescence. A Look at a Book is an efficient, enjoyable way to stay informed. 

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