“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.”
As temperatures begin to decline and we start rolling into the fall season, we have a tendency to spend less active time outside and more sedentary time inside hibernating. This stretch of voluntary confinement is spent reading, getting caught up on our favorite shows or “My List” movies and of course, eating. Opportunities to eat are abundant during the fall and winter months as we feast on baskets of Halloween candies, tailgate before the big game and nosh our way through the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. It’s no wonder we end up packing on a few extra pounds as we navigate these colder temps and shorter days.
However, one of the secrets to a longer and healthier life is maintaining a consistent, healthy weight. To assist you, I would like to suggest a tip from an area of the world with the highest percentage of centenarians, the island of Okinawa. Okinawans are the epicenter for clues on how to live well and live long.
One cultural ritual practiced by the inhabitants of this Blue Zone territory is to site a simple phrase before each meal, Hara Hachi Bu. The expression reminds the diner to stop eating when they feel 80% full, or in Okinawan terms, when I’m no longer hungry. This is helpful because the signals from the stomach’s stretch receptors are a bit delayed in telling the brain, “STOP EATING; WE’RE FULL!” In other words, you are actually full before you feel full. This is even a good year-round tip.
Other guidelines from our Okinawan friends for long and healthy life include:
Daily exercise – Yes, I know, it’s just harder to get outside in the fall and winter months particularly if you live in the northern two thirds of the country. It’s tough to get motivated to walk, bike, or run outdoors in the dark and cold. One idea is to see if you qualify for a gym membership through Silver Sneakers. This is a program for those of us age 65 and over and may be a part of your Medicare program.
Manage stress – Keeping stress at a minimum and under control is a central element to an amazing life. Remember, you’re retired! If something is causing you stress, purge it. If you can’t remove the negative force from your life give meditation and prayer a go. Whether you practice the “eliminate” or “manage” approach, take action.
Eat well – Not only eat less, but eat well. By this I mean an organic plant-based whole food diet. I’m witnessing a shift in the thinking of western medicine health professionals towards this way of eating. Think leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. This is the chosen diet for those centenarians found in the Blue Zone regions of the world were meat is considered a luxury. As such, limit your consumption of animal proteins particularly beef, pork, and lamb and absolutely stay away from processed foods and dairy. And if you do eat a helping of fish or beef, shoot for wild caught or grass-fed.
Sleep well – A good night’s sleep allows the body and mind to repair, rejuvenate, and recover from the previous day’s activities. A vital process for a long and healthy life. It helps you start anew the next morning ready to take on the events in your awesome retired life.
Implementing on all the above discussed considerations; eating, exercise, stress, and sleep will lead to a slimmer, leaner you. Disrupt one and you may find yourself adding pounds that can be hard to lose later. Will this take discipline? Yes. Will it be hard? Maybe. Start small and add new little activities weekly. The Japanese have a word for this – “kaizen”. The term refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small. Make those small continuous lifestyle adjustments on a weekly basis for an improved long-term retired life.
“One cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well.”
P.S. For those of you who think September 12th might be a little early to talk about the coming change in weather, I just read as of today it has already snowed in Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada.
Enjoy your journey!
Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO
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