Given the current popularity of Dan Buettner’s Blue Zone Solutions for eating and living like the world’s healthiest people, I had to give it a try. Buettner has traveled extensively, researching what the world’s longest-lived people have eaten over the past 100 years. Then he builds on his key insight that lasting health is “more the result of our surroundings than our conscious choices.”
I bought the book. I read it. I cooked. I began with the meatless Ikarian Stew, a “savory one-pot meal that fuses the iconic flavors of Ikaria with the faintest hint of sweet fennel.” My wife and I both liked the Mediterranean flavors in this dish. Our dinner guests liked it, too, being long accustomed to me trying out new recipes on them at the drop of a hat.
The whole thing got me to thinking about the old nature/nurture controversy. Is who I am/how I think and behave more inborn or more a result of my environment?
As an American and as a developmental psychologist, I tend to come down on the side of my daily decisions being the major factor in my health. Who could and should be more responsible for me than me? Voilà! I’m responsible. Individualism, the rugged American way.
On the other hand, if I’m really going to be honest about it, food advertising and marketing are now so sophisticated that I may develop a craving as a result of something that I don’t even remember seeing or hearing. I’m bombarded with food images all the time, through all kinds of media. And I’m by no means constantly on guard. There is also the matter of my ongoing relationships with the three basic food groups: sugar, fat and salt. So is my environment really more powerful than I am when it comes to what I eat?
I’ve put it to the test. I’ve applied Blue Zones theories to my own life, monitoring my accumulated habits and decisions. I’ve also decided my environment plays a greater role than I previously acknowledged, and will have to drag it, probably screaming and kicking, into that furnished Blue Zone in my head for regular reality checks.
None of this, however, deals with the next two questions which are vexing me:
- Is greater longevity in and of itself a great thing, and desirable for me?
- Just because someone lives much longer, does that necessarily equate to superior health and satisfaction?
Earlier generations would not have had extended longevity on their menu (so to speak) of choices. We do. I need to work on questions 1 and 2. Who knows what recipe I’ll be springing on dinner guests in the future?
Read more about the author and the book here: www.danbuettner.com