Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It is multifactoral....

The other day Skyler mentioned a book he was reading. He said:

Lessons from “The Blue Zones.” I think there’s some good information here, especially for those who wish to impart a black and white view into diet and exercise.

I was intrigued. I looked around and found the relevant website, and also ordered the book from Amazon.

The book tries to pull out some lessons about living a long healthy life by looking at the factors which some really lon lived communities around the world have in common:

Here at BlueZones.com, we've organized these behaviors into four main categories:

Move Naturally – Make your home, community and workplace present you with natural ways to move. Focus on activities you love, like gardening, walking and playing with your family.

Right Outlook – Know and be able to articulate your sense of purpose, and ensure your day is punctuated with periods of calm.

Eat Wisely – Instead of groping from fad diet to fad diets, use time-honored strategies for eating 20% less at meals. Avoid meat and processed food and drink a couple of glasses of wine daily.

Belong to the Right Tribe – Surround yourself with the right people, make the effort to connect or reconnect with your religion and put loved ones first.
It is worth digging around the site, there are some fascinating ideas in there.

It is an interesting book. What it brought home to me is the importance of thinking multifactorally.

We often tend to think in terms of a single factor - diet, exercise, stress, sunshine vitamin D or whatever. It is however simplistic to think about a single factor. We don't live like that - we are not in carefully controlled experiments with one variable at a time changing - there are lots of things at play. We need to think more broadly. It is not X or Y....usually it is X & Y & Z & A & B etc.....

The idea of there being lots of factors to bring into the mix came up in my interview with Keith and was raised in a recent comment by jleeger on this blog:

I'm always curious as to the value-judgments (and reasons behind them) that we place on things.

"Paleo" or "EV" is no different.

Were humans "freer" in a "paleo" tribe? Is one technology "better" than another? Does "paleo" as a practice extend the lifespan beyond basic, "simple-living?"

I'm still unconvinced that all or any of these "methods" we find today - from Xfit to Z-Phase to Paleo/EV to HIIT - are in any way "single" answers unto themselves.

They reveal the results a person can expect on their own basis, but also, necessarily limit development in other areas.

For instance, none of those hobbies asks its participants to become a better singer, or to learn to sew/knit, or carve wood.

Similarly, none of them teaches people how to be better at business, or how to make a living.

Taken for what they are, they all have value. But in the end, all of these "methods" are just different lenses through which to view a larger reality.

Restricting yourself to any one of them is madness.

Keep thinking......


Skyler said...

I'll be the first to say that: I've taken voice lessons for 18 months. I've become a better singer.

Check that box on hobbies list. ;)


Skyler said...

In all seriousness (put this into one post if you must) I agree wholeheartedly with the comment. It's beyond simple to look into any hobby/health endeavor/activity and look for "the answer." I know I did it with my strength training early on, eventually went out and experimented, and later came back to something similar to how I started.

This dovetails into Martin's recent list at Leangains about 10 things he's gained as wisdom about training.One of them is temperament. Understanding your temperament will go a long way toward making ideas about training and health fit what you can handle.

Theory to practice doesn't mean one answer and that's terribly important.


pieter d said...


just letting you know the author of the 'blue zones' has an interesting TED-talk on the blue zones:



Anonymous said...

Love it!
I am really tired of blogs that contain good info, whose followers become dogmatic & defensive of their position as the "correct" one & regard everyone else as a fool....
If someone comments "but i have done the opposite for x years and i am really healthy" the reply is always: "yes, but if you followed OUR rules, you would be so much healthier, happier, bla bla bla"
or: my grandparents ate this or that & lived to 100 years: reply": Yes, but the affects of your grandparent's bad way of living are epigenetic, and you will eventually suffer from what your grandparents & parents did". how can you answer such foolishness? you just can't. unless you wait 40 years & then thumb your nose at them.

anyhow, i like your measured approach. i am thinking you must me a middle child like me, not one of those dogmatic oldest or youngest kids ;-)

Steven said...

Great post! I have read the Blue Zones and it's a wonderful read. It really puts into perspective the ease and simplicity with how these people live their lives. Strong family ties, daily movement, real, whole, natural food and a positive outlook on all that they do goes a long way. Sometimes it seems with all of these "communities" whether online or offline in our society, we're constantly and desperately seeking the answer to the perfect program, health, fitness, diet, etc., etc., when such people from that of the Blue Zones had figured it out eons ago. We can certainly stand to learn something from them.