Blog Archives

Living to 100

Here’s a great talk about the blue zones research, which investigates the lifestyle factors in common among areas with the highest concentration of centenarians. Although the map shows a region of Costa Rica, the speaker doesn’t elaborate. That’s a shame, I would love to hear what the Ticos are doing and compare it to the famous Okinawans.

100 Days!

Remember January 1? Whatever happened to those resolutions? Come on, admit it, you’re among friends, you had a few, didn’t you? Even if you didn’t make a big deal about them at the time by broadcasting them to your support network, blogging them, keeping a journal, or even writing them on the fridge, they were there somewhere in your mind. Then what happened? Of course, Life happened. It usually does. Then there were a few slips, you slacked off, and when you started to feel bad, your ever ready ego fired up the Rationalization machine and presto! You absolved yourself of actually making any change. You’re happy now right?

Of course not. You made those resolutions because they meant something to you. So I’m here to say that you are not to late to make serious progress on those goals. We have 100 days left in 2011. That’s a lot of days that you can use to make your goals and dreams come true. So, recommit yourself to the spirit of the goals, even if they were vague to begin with. What can you do right now, this very minute to make some progress? Start small. Very small. Like five minutes worth of small. What can you do right now for five minutes that could help? Maybe write down a plan for tomorrow. Maybe reconnect with what you find inspiring about your goal. Maybe you could close your eyes and for five minutes just imagine what life would feel like when this goal is achieved. Maybe you could just watch your breath for five minutes and let theuniverse talk to you.

Then what? Do something! Maybe the original goal is too ambitious for 100 days. So what? When all else fails, lower your expectations. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Reflect for a moment on what would be reasonable to expect in the final 100 days this year. Now take that goal and cut it in half. If you’re really ambitious, cut it by 75%. You read that right. Some times we get too wound up and anxious and get in our own way. Maybe we get too excited and try to hard to “dream big”. Maybe we can ease up and be kind to ourselves by trying gentler. But you know what? Those small, kind, and gentle actions can add up to great things. And it will happen quicker than you think, because as we all know well, time truly does fly. So perhaps the harder we try and the more tension we create, the quicker we abandon. I am reminded of the old Zen story:

A spiritual seeker came to see a famous Zen master and asked how long it would take to reach enlightenment if he meditated two hours a day.
“Ten years,” the Zen master answered.
“Ten years! What if I doubled my efforts and meditated four hours a day?”
“Probably about about fifteen years.”
“What?! OK, what if I was totally devoted and meditated for six hours a day, every day. How long?”
“Oh, I would say at least twenty years.”
“This is ridiculous! How can it be that the harder I work the longer it will take? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“The harder you try, the tighter you grasp and cling to this idea of enlightenment that you alone created in your own mind. It is not true understanding. To truly wake up you must let go of all those ideas and receive the wisdom around you. Only when you relax your mind and expectations will you see with new understanding.”

Hmmm. Interesting ideas. Go easier to go farther. Sounds like the Maffetone method all over again. So what will I do? Keep practicing. The Maffetone method of athletic training has been a great help. It changes my focus from trying to hit specific targets,to instead putting faith in the practice of daily improvement of my aerobic engine. So I will continue to do that. I will find a few races to participate in to stoke the fires. But not too many, I have learned the lesson of over racing. I will focus less on numbers (weight, HRV, times, pace, poundage etc.) and more on the behavior and habit. Is what I’m doing now going to help me run that marathon in December or Leadville 2014? As long as the movement is in the right direction, I’ll count it a victory. I’m much more more interested in the habit than I am how long it took me to run to the bridge and back or ride up St. Joseph’s Hill.

100 days left! What are you going to do?

Comfort food?

A recent post over at Soulveggie on “comfort food” caught my attention enough that not only did I feel the need to comment as I often do for his posts, but to reflect some and write my own thoughts on the matter. My first thought is that all food should be considered comfort food. Right? I mean, if you’re hungry and you eat, aren’t you comforted? But clearly there is a distinction between being satisfied and being comforted.

A quick perusal of the cooking magazines shows many cover stories on comfort food. The accompanying photos are usually high fat, meat based concoctions we remember from our childhood. What is being comforted? Certainly not our arteries! Yet somehow we ignore the physical consequences of these dishes with an excuse that they comfort us. Where is the disconnect? Why do we choose short term emotional benefit over long term health? After reading Dr. Kessler’s book The End of Overeating, I think I see a reason. He explains some of the new research in neuroscience that shows how bad food, that is, food high in some combination of sugar, salt or fat has a drug effect on the brain quite similar to other drugs like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. So, at a biological level, we truly are being powerfully comforted by food we know rationally is not good. Couple that drug effect with all the residue of past good feelings associated with this food, and you have a powerful brain cocktail.

I say that it is time to rethink what comfort food should be, and make solid efforts to define comfort as how we will feel in our 60s, 70s and beyond. Kessler details other psychological research that gives some suggestions about how to rewire our brains for new habits. But I am just as encouraged by Dr. Esselstyn’s program to reverse heart disease that explains that within three months those brain receptors that respond to fat so enthusiastically can be retrained. Also, Dr. McDougall always refers to his food as comfort food, since it is starch based and therefore very satisfying. My experience has been that if I keep the starch, eliminate the fat, and stick to tastes and flavors I like, I find a different kind of comfort. One that feels good today, and I know will feel good far into the future.