Less is more as it relates to your aging health.
“One of the reasons people get old — lose their aliveness — is that they get weighed down by all of their stuff.” — Richard Leider
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
I wrote an article some time ago relaying the fact that as I’ve aged I’ve come to the realization that I don’t need anywhere near as many calories each day as I thought I did.
For someone who used to consume as many as 1000 calories in one meal EASILY, the fact that I now typically eat between 900–1200 per day is hard for some people to swallow (pun intended).
However, there are a few very good reasons why I’ve made this change in my life, as well as a few easily followed strategies that can help someone do so as well if they are interested.
It is, by no means, as hard as it originally may sound, and yields a number of different benefits that can make a ton of difference in the future.
The main reasoning behind this decision was based on reading a book some time ago that truly fascinated me.
It’s titled The Okinawa Program and talks about research done by two brothers on individuals living in what are called Blue Zones and how these individuals live, on average, much longer than any other part of the world.
They decided to focus explicitly on an area in Okinawa, Japan due to its unique diet and lifestyle. They decided to spend time really diving into what were the consistent behaviors and practices that could give some clue as to why this phenomenon was taking place.
They recognized a number of different things that were rather unique related to how each of the centenarians they interviewed lived, but they found three consistent behaviors among all of them that gave them themes into what was the cause of their extended long lives.
- Eating mostly a plant-based diet
- Consistently engaging in physical activity
- Eat less food.
There is probably a lot of literature out there about items one and two, as the plant craze has taken over the world for some time now, and it’s impossible to deny the benefits of exercising to improve one’s overall health.
However, it was the third tip that caught my eye and made me think more about how the Okinawans lived and the different benefits of it.
The Okinawans practiced something known as hara hach-bu, which means to eat until you’re only 80% full.
The reasoning behind this involved the fact that the digested food would expand inside of your stomach automatically after some time. Therefore, if one would stop eating when one was about 80% full and then wait awhile, the food in their stomach would expand and they would then feel full.
This would prevent individuals from overeating and kept the Okinawans slim throughout the year.
The other, somewhat underlying reason, that this practice could’ve contributed to long lives by the Okinawan population is related to the concept of free radicals and how this has a bearing on decreasing the chance of cancer forming in our bodies.
The concept is something that has not completely been figured out, but it has been proven that when we metabolize the food that we eat, our body produces something that is known as free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that do not have enough electrons in their outer shells to be considered “full.” When this happens, it could potentially bond with an atom close to it and create what is called oxidative stress.
This oxidative stress is a process that can damage the other cells in the body and has been linked to various signs of aging, as well as the creation of a number of diseases.
These diseases can range anywhere from Parkinson’s disease to cancer and have been related to the oxidative process caused by free radicals. While there is still a fair amount that individuals are trying to figure out about this, there is a connection between the volume of food one eats and the number of free radicals produced in the body.
Following this line of thinking, the more food that one eats, the better chances for these free radicals to bond with other atoms and increase our chances of developing one of the many diseases associated with them.
Therefore, as it relates to the Okinawa population, the fewer calories they consume could be the cause of having fewer instances of many of the diseases that are prominent in the Western culture, hence increasing their lifespan expectancy dramatically.
The how around this is actually pretty easy and only takes one or two lifestyle changes to make this a simple reality.
For me, the practice that will just help someone consume fewer calories altogether is intermittent fasting, so I would start there if one is interested in reducing daily consumption.
It’s a lifestyle change that is pretty easy to do and the increased energy and focus one receives as a result of it is an easy trade-off in my opinion.
Next, one needs to identify foods that are dense while still being calorie-light to help one feel food after a meal. While you have to be careful to not overdo it, the top food of choice will probably be carbs to help fill you out and keep you from being hungry between meals.
The secret is to make sure to have more of the food with fewer calories and more density and less of things that are wasted calories.
Therefore, things to eat would include:
- sweet potatoes or brown rice
- whole wheat bread
- grilled chicken or salmon
- vegetables or salads
- vinegarette-based salad dressings
Things to stay away from:
- white rice
- white bread, croutons, tortilla strips
- fried anything
- cream-based salad dressings
The top list tends to be healthier for you overall by giving your body loads of nutrients it needs, having fewer calories, and keeping you full without all the negatives of the bottom list.
I will admit at first this may be a bit tough for you if your body is used to consuming lots of calories per day. Going from over 2,000 per day to going to only 800–1200 seems like a big jump.
Therefore, don’t try to do it all at one time.
Instead, I would suggest trying a graduated approach in which you adopt a new practice for about four weeks to make sure you are in a good space with it before moving on to the next one.
Maybe you start with intermittent fasting, but have a snack around 9 am or 9:30 am if you can’t make it all the way to 11:30 am.
Then, once you are good with only the snack, then try to make it all the way to 11:30 am with anything other than coffee.
Next, adopt the 300–400 caloric restriction with only one meal per day instead of two. So, one meal will be what you would normally eat, while the other meal would stay within the 300–400 window.
Once, you’ve gotten the one down, then you can try both meals to see if you can handle it.
It’s not something you might be able to do tomorrow, but with a focused 3–6 month plan, it is something that can definitely be accomplished without a dramatic lifestyle upheaval.
And while I can’t promise that your body won’t be a bit hungry at times once you adopt this, it will definitely thank you in the long run when it’s still humming like a fine-oiled machine as you mature into your golden, disease-free years.