Dan Buettner Blue Zones

Dan Buettner
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Kelly: [0:00:04] Hey everyone, I’m Dr. Kelly Starrett.

Juliet: [0:00:06] And I’m Juliet Starrett.

Kelly: [0:00:08] And you’re listening to The Ready State Podcast.


Juliet: [00:00:17] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by our friends at LMNT.

Kelly: [00:00:20] I want to talk about pre-workout strategies. Oftentimes, I see adults, myself excluded, getting ready to go train and they basically have had some coffee, they go-

Juliet: [00:00:34] Right because after you sleep a full night, you wake up dehydrated already.

Kelly: [00:00:38] Let’s call it hypo-hydrated. You probably haven’t had any salts, who knows if you’re in the sauna, whatever’s going on.

Juliet: [00:00:43] And then if you’re like someone named Kelly Starrett, you’ve had lots of coffee and very little water.

Kelly: [00:00:48] You don’t know me. But one of the things that is miraculous is that I will chug a very dense cup of LMNT before I go and it’s like I just top off my electrolytes. I preload a little bit and then really try drinking some water. But instead of drinking an entire bottle, I’ll make a really dense LMNT, and it’s salty, but I know that I’m going to go out into that aerobic effort on the bike, going hiking, and I’ll be feeling different. And the results are in the watts. I mean I really just can’t point that out. You think you’re working as hard as you can, you’re not because you’re not salty AF.

Juliet: [00:01:23] Yeah. I mean I will say that I have proclivity to just drinking coffee and then training, but if I just have a cup of water with some LMNT in it before I train, it really does dramatically change how I feel when I’m training. And so it’s been a go-to change for us to give up our coffee only routine.

Kelly: [00:01:39] I know, it’s true. But really, think about preloading some of your training, especially hard days, with some salt and especially something that tastes like watermelon salt. And lo and behold, you will shred.

Juliet: [00:01:51] We literally drink it every day. Right now, if you order through our link, you get a free sample pack with all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to drinklmnt.com/trs.

Juliet: [00:02:01] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is supported by Vitruvian. 

Kelly: [00:02:06] The Vitruvian system lives in our garage and this is important: You can have heavy, heavy loading, all of the equipment you need in a very small package. We’re seeing now a lot of high school kids realizing they need to start strength training. Parents are a little bit overwhelmed. Which barbell do I get, do I get this trap bar, do I need a squat rack? All of those things are removed with Vitruvian.

Juliet: [00:02:28] Yeah, I mean we’ve been pretty lucky because we’ve owned a commercial gym and we’ve had-

Kelly: [00:02:32] Did you say lucky?

Juliet: [00:02:34] Well, we’ve had access to a lot of free weights and easy equipment and so it makes sense for us. But I think for a lot of people, building out a whole home gym is overwhelming and really expensive, and one of the amazing things about the Vitruvian is you can get so much work done and actually real heavy loads-

Kelly: [00:02:51] Heavy loads.

Juliet: [00:02:51] On a single really easy to store device. And that’s pretty miraculous for most people who want to get some work done at home.

Kelly: [00:02:58] Yeah, if you live in an apartment, if you live in a place where you couldn’t even have an outside or access to outside, suddenly in your kitchen you slide this thing under your couch in your living room, in your kitchen, you can have a legit training set. There’s a famous Russian lifter who sometimes lifts in his kitchen. And it’s horrifying to watch him lower heavy snatches down because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Juliet: [00:03:18] Because they’re going to roll.

Kelly: [00:03:18] But this, no problem. The last thing that I want to say that’s really remarkable about this is that it’s really intuitively set up where you can set range limits. So if you are strong in a certain position, if you’re trying to avoid a position, it’s like having a rack built in, a fail rack, so if you fall, the Vitruvian loses its power. All of a sudden, you’re just there. So failing on the Vitruvian is the safest way to fail I’ve ever seen.

Juliet: [00:03:42] To learn more and for more information, go to thereadystate.com/Vitruvian.

Juliet: [00:03:47] We are very excited to welcome Dan Buettner to The Ready State Podcast today. Dan is an explorer, National Geographic fellow, award winning journalist and producer and New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world dubbed Blue Zones Hotspots where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Buettner now works in partnerships with municipal governments, larger employers, and health insurance companies to implement Blue Zone projects in communities, work places, and universities. Blue Zones projects are wellbeing initiatives that apply lessons from the Blue Zones to entire communities by focusing on changes to the local environment, public policy, and social networks. The program has dramatically improved the health of more than five million Americans to date. 

In his new book, The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer, Buettner returns to Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula; and Loma Linda, California to check in on the super agers living in the Blue Zones, and interprets the not so secret sauce of purpose, faith, community, downtime, natural movement, and plant based eating that has powered as many as 10 additional years of healthy living in these regions. And Buettner reveals an all new Blue Zone, the first manmade Blue Zones yet explored. Buettner also holds three Guiness World Records in distance cycling.

Kelly: [00:05:11] I think this is such an extraordinary conversation. If you haven’t heard of Blue Zones, welcome to the team. We reference them a lot.

Juliet: [00:05:17] Yeah. We are obsessed with Blue Zones.

Kelly: [00:05:20] What I really appreciate is that he has taken the next step. It’s easy to be a journalist and be like look at this problem or look at this extraordinary thing. But then to be able to go into municipalities, change people’s BMI, save money, help people restructure and think about their world, is pretty extraordinary.

Juliet: [00:05:36] Yeah, I mean Dan is doing a lot of amazing work but the fact that he’s able to take his work and expand it on such a large scale in communities and governments is just really astounding, and it was really cool to hear about the work he’s doing there.

Kelly: [00:05:50] I also love that you see siting down and cooking as a central tenant. Both our daughters, we sit down with them. One of our daughters is a master cook; she makes us dinner all the time. I love that he’s talking about very basic materials that people make into extraordinary foods, which means that we can feed our families with simple seasonings, simple foods—he calls them peasant based foods—but here it is once again the intersection of so many aspects of our lives that we think are seemingly disparate.

Juliet: [00:06:24] Yeah, I mean I am a huge fan of Dan and his work and it was a total honor to have him on this episode of The Ready State Podcast. And so enjoy our conversation with Dan. Dan, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. We are really excited to talk to you today.

Dan Buettner: [00:06:37] Well, I’m in a state of readiness.

Kelly: [00:06:41] Like a sprung leopard ready to go.

Juliet: [00:06:44] So we obviously have a lot to cover related to the Blue Zones and your latest book. But before we do that, I can’t help, as a lover of adventure myself, at least having you tell our listeners a little bit about your prior life as a Guiness World Record holding-

Kelly: [00:07:02] Three time.

Juliet: [00:07:03] Three time transcontinental biker.

Dan Buettner: [00:07:07] Yes. Call it mild insanity or whatever. But when I graduated from college, at a time most people are off doing useful and productive things with their life, I biked from Alaska to Argentina, I biked then around the world, along the 45th parallel, and then I biked atop the length and width of Africa. And that took about eight years. Three separate world records.

Kelly: [00:07:34] The length and width.

Juliet: [00:07:35] Length and width, yes. And including biking through Russia, which wouldn’t even be possible today.

Dan Buettner: [00:07:41] It’d be hard. Africa, I biked across the Sahara to Nigeria right through where there was a big coup over the weekend and then I took a left and cycled through the Congo to East Africa and then down to the southern tip. And it’s actually kind of a miracle I’m still here to talk about it. 

Kelly: [00:08:01] And that your bum is still here to talk about it. That’s a lot of time in the saddle. I’ve got to find out, first of all, we are huge cycling nerds, we love all things bike racing. What bike did you do that on?

Dan Buettner: [00:08:12] Argentina was a Raleigh. At the time, there were no real touring bikes. So we took a touring bike. Around the world we got a Cannondale. And then also across Africa we had Cannondales. They’re some of the first mountain bikes, actually.

Kelly: [00:08:31] One of the things that happens when you’re on a bike or walking versus riding in a car is you have a chance to look around, you have a chance to absorb the environment. It’s much more conducive. You have to get off and talk to people. Do you think that that initial framework, coming out of college, spending so much time, just made you more curious about the environment you’re in, and that led you to this lifelong project of trying to understand health and humans’ happiness at this kind of system, ecological level?

Dan Buettner: [00:09:05] I think I have more than my share of curiosity and I think curiosity was an engine for both projects. I wasn’t thinking about health when I did the long bike rides. I was in my early 20s, mid 20s, and just craved to see the world. It does teach you self-sufficiency. It teaches you a certain empathy to the rest of the world. I mean the hospitality we got in these countries, Latin America and Africa and South Asia, was off the charts. So it’s very hard to ever be prejudiced or feel like somebody else in the world is less than we are worthy of here in the United States. I’m comfortable in all cultures. That ability to quickly make friends and quickly and empathetically approach a situation was also very useful in doing the Blue Zones work. 

Juliet: [00:10:03] So that’s a perfect segue. I’ve been obsessed with your work in the Blue Zones since your first book came out, which I think was in 2007 timeframe, if I’m not mistaken. But could you define for our listeners or explain for our listeners who aren’t familiar with your work what are the Blue Zones?

Kelly: [00:10:20] And why are they important?

Dan Buettner: [00:10:21] Well, they’re important because they provide a manifester, a real life human example of longevity. So much of what’s popular now in the longevity space or anti-aging or biohacking, whatever you want to call it, is extrapolating from petri dishes or test tubes or some sort of a genetic model. Very few, if any, have actually been proven out in human populations. And I approach the whole problem from the other end of the spectrum. National Geographic and thanks to funding from the National Institute on Aging, I hired demographers to find the area where people live statistically longest. 

And it’s fairly complex equation. But to just make it simple, these are places in the world where people have most eluded the diseases that shorten our lives. So these are places where people aren’t suffering from heart disease, diabetes, cancers of the GI track, breast, prostate cancer, dementia. Any of these diseases that are lumping about 10 years off of American life expectancy, they’re not experiencing them or they’re not experiencing anywhere near the rate where we are. So I simply said, all right, here are populations have achieved the outcomes we want – how are they doing it? What’s the common denominators? And I tried to approach the problem as scientifically rigorously as possible. And my books and cover stories for National Geographic and The New York Times have all come out of that research.

Juliet: [00:12:02] So one of the things I read as I was preparing for this interview, and I think we talked about this briefly in advance, I even love this phrase you use, it’s the ecology of health, the idea that the key to success is focusing on the environment versus individual behaviors. And I think that’s one of the things we’ve gotten very wrong in the health, fitness, wellness community, is that we have been solely focused on these individual behaviors and assuming that it’s all about you and you change your behaviors and that equals health. And that’s something we’ve come to believe is truly a mistake and these behaviors really have to start in the household and the community and be reinforced in those environments.

Kelly: [00:12:42] Almost structurally.

Juliet: [00:12:42] I wanted to talk about your first Blue Zones project, which I read ran for about 18 months, and you raised the life expectancy of the average citizen by about three years and shaved about 30 percent off that city’s year over year healthcare bill. And I think you said that the reason it was successful is that you helped to change people’s surroundings, their environment, it wasn’t about focusing on the individuals. So could you just talk a little bit about that ethos of the ecology of health and what you are doing with the Blue Zones project in particular?

Dan Buettner: [00:13:16] Yeah, so just to rewind a little bit, we found these areas where people live the longest in places like Sardinia; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece among some of the Adventists. And so I went looking specifically for what these places were doing. And you look for a diet or an exercise pattern or a supplement they’re taking consciously or unconsciously. And it turns out that nowhere where you’re finding extreme longevity are people trying to live a long time. In fact, it’s the opposite of our… We pursue health in this country. We pursue health like diets or finding super foods or supplements or exercise programs, CrossFit, following Instagram influencers, whatever it is. People in the Blue Zones don’t do any of this and they’re living 10 to 15 years longer without disease. How do they do it? 

Well, it took me about six years before, duh, they’re not doing anything. They are a product of their environment. They live in places where every time they go to work or a friend’s house, it occasions a walk. They all have gardens out back so that unconsciously they’re weeding or watering or harvesting. Their houses aren’t full of mechanical conveniences. They’re moving every 20 minutes or so but not in a structured calendar in and you’re out look type of way. The cheapest, most accessible, and most delicious foods, as my books I believe chronicle, are peasant foods. They’re cheap, the lowest shelf in the grocery store type food like beans and whole grains and nuts and tubers. They just know how to make them taste delicious. The option of being lonely isn’t there. They haven’t imploded into their handheld devices yet. When they go outside, they’re bumping into their neighbors, there’s village festivals, they go to church and temple. And they have vocabulary for purpose. Those are the general ideas and people kind of yawn at them. But there is way more academic literature showing the power of being socially connected, the power of knowing your sense of purpose. Each of those are worth somewhere between seven to eight extra years of life expectancy. If you could put it in a pill, it’d be a blockbuster drug. 

So to get to your question, and I’m sorry for the cul de sac here, but instead of trying to change people’s behavior, I just took the Blue Zone cue and created a project that would change people’s environment so the healthy choice was the easy choice. And Albert Lea, Minnesota, that’s the first Blue Zone project, they’ve actually been doing it now for 12 years. We went into the city and instead of trying to convince 18,000 people living on the prairies of Minnesota to change their diet and how much they move, we worked with city council to kick a policy that favored healthy food over junk food, that favored the pedestrian over the motorist, that favored the nonsmoker over the smoker. We worked with almost all the schools, restaurants, grocery stores, work places, and churches and got them to optimize their design of their policies, to nudge people into moving more, eating better, living their purpose. And then we got about 25 percent of the adult population to agree to optimize their homes and their social networks. Yes, we told them what people in the Blue Zones ate and how they lived, but we know that’s short lasting. But once they set up their environment so those micro decisions, those unconscious micro decisions, are ever so much better over time we could see in the population data people got healthier. Their weight dropped. We shaved two tons off their waistline in 18 months. And the big ah ha is they didn’t even have to try.

Kelly: [00:17:24] When did the people in this experiment start to feel like it was changed? Because intuitively, logically, all the things you’re suggesting, shaping an environment, we call it an environmental constraint where people don’t have to make a right decision, they just make the decision that’s better for the environment, better for the community, better for interactions. It’s easy to buy in, it’s hard to see when that pendulum starts to change direction or when that teeter totter starts to tip. What point did people start to say, wow, there’s really something to this? Because what you said is 18 months, people really started to lose a lot of weight. That has to be very, very powerful. But what about the other aspects because it’s hard to quantify social loneliness, it’s hard to quantify communications or feeling like I belong in my community, the aggregates of those things, or did it just show up in the death data and the sickness data of this community?

Dan Buettner: [00:18:16] We work with Gallup. They have something called the Well-Being Index and they ask people questions so that they can determine the BMI of the community or you can actually measure loneliness. People rank their level of loneliness, how much they socially interact. They also self-report their life satisfaction, how many fruits and vegetables they eat, how much physical activity they get. So our Blue Zone project, we put our fees at risk. Now it’s a regular company. It started out as an experiment, but we grew it into a company. And we get a report card by Gallup and they tell us are people less lonely here, are people losing weight here. Fort Worth, Texas lost three percent off their BMI, which occasioned about a quarter of a billion dollar in healthcare costs every year. You can’t necessarily go up to the person on the street and say, “Hey, do you feel a lot better?” But when you measure populations as Gallup does, you get a very clear signal. And of course, you can find lots of anecdotal examples of people saying, “Oh, I lost 30 pounds,” or “I feel great.” But the tires hit the road, I think the most important measurement is BMI and population level, basically the lowering of the obesity rate and then how much they’re saving in healthcare costs because at the end of the day, our healthcare system, it’s all money. They’ll tell you something else. Its’ all money. So if you can show them how to save money, they’ll pay attention.

Kelly: [00:19:50] I love it. That has been our experience massively working with big organizations like the Navy. When we can show people that we can reduce injury risk or pain or musculoskeletal or lost days at work, they pay attention to that. You said a quarter of a billion dollars for Fort Worth?

Dan Buettner: [00:20:07] For Fort Worth alone. But yeah, if you lower the BMI of a population of a million by one percent, that occasions about 9,000 fewer heart attacks per year. A heart attack in America costs over $100,000. You don’t have to lower BMI very much before it starts adding up into the hundreds of millions of dollar stage. And that doesn’t even get at productivity and absenteeism, value of living in full health or without pain or disability. 

Kelly: [00:20:40] That’s a perfect segue that I love about your new book is the case studies that you have going back to these places. You actually focus in on specific individuals and all of them don’t look like they’re on life support in a hospital. They look vital. And I think sometimes for Juliet and I, we kind of shake our heads a little bit when we’re having these really very privileged, very upper middle class conversations about biohacking, as you say, and there’s not really a conversation about what that last 20 years of your life looks like. And the pictures of people in their 80s and 90s flexing and diving into the pool and sitting at the head of the table at 102, those people are living lives and really are functional. And I almost think it’s how do we quantify that because that is really the long goal of all of us dreaming of having a life and continuing to just live a life and then hockey stick at the end.

Juliet: [00:21:40] Yeah, versus the long, slow, rot theory of aging.

Dan Buettner: [00:21:43] That’s the majority of America right now. We’re going to die in hospitals, not at home or on our way to the hospital. And that’s because almost 70 percent of us suffer from a chronic disease in middle age. And those chronic diseases, they come on slowly and insidiously and we can survive them but not in full health. And in Blue Zone, as I said, these people don’t have superior genes. They have the same set of genes as the people listening right now, on average. They don’t have some secret supplement or any other secret. They’re simply doing the things that keep them from getting heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and they live a long time. 

But eventually our bodies are programmed for obsolescence. Mammals are programmed to live two and a half times the age of procreation. So whether you’re an elephant or a mouse or a human in between, our bodies are engineered to make it… Let’s just say procreation begins at 16 for humans, multiple that by two and a half, at 40, our bodies are meant to go to about age 40. Well, sure enough, until 1900, humans never made it past 40, on average. And then it’s hockey sticked upwards largely due to vaccinations and antibiotics. But we’re pushing the human machine well past its capacity. At a certain point, it’s just going to break down. And right now, for the maximum average life expectancy for humans is about 95. So everybody listening right now, if you do everything right, and I would argue my book gives those secrets for living longer, will show you how, experience of real populations, you can make it to 95. Not 100, but on the average, 95. But after that, the body, there’s so much built up of molecular and cellular damage that there’s catastrophic event happens and the machine doesn’t run anymore and we die. But the value proposition’s 95 years and Americans are getting about 80 right now. So it’s a big value.

Juliet: [00:24:02] So I thought the data was so stark during the COVID pandemic about how poorly we did as Americans in being able to survive that pandemic, that maybe that would be sort of like a system level notice, like okay, we need at a government, whether it’s federal government or city, state level, that we really need to rethink a lot of our policies around healthy behaviors. And it doesn’t seem that that came to pass in any way, shape or form. In fact, in many ways it seemed like people didn’t actually really want to talk about poor health and poor outcomes related to COVID, that somehow that was like a forboden topic. But hearing about the city you worked with in Minnesota, I know you’ve worked with a ton of other cities, and then I also read in your book that Singapore has something called the Healthy Living Master Plan. First of all, I was wondering if you could tell our listeners a little bit about what they’re doing in Singapore and how we can all, those of us who are in this universe trying to help people feel better in their bodies and live longer and feel better while they’re living longer, how can we duplicate what it is you’re doing in our own communities, in our own cities, in our own states.

Kelly: [00:25:19] I don’t think there’s enough of you going around.

Juliet: [00:25:20] Yeah, there may not be enough of you.

Kelly: [00:25:24] Too many cities in the United States need your help.

Juliet: [00:25:25] Yeah. So it seems like other countries are starting to get the message. The Singapore Healthy Living Master Plan, the work that you’re doing in cities around our country. The Europeans always seem to be a bit ahead of us in thinking about these things. So how do we solve this problem or duplicate what you’re doing on a mass level? How do we get Americans to care on a macro level?

Dan Buettner: [00:25:48] Well, that’s a lot to unpack. But I will say our Blue Zones projects, if you want to know about Blue Zone projects, go to bluezones.com and there’s a community. Any community in America can apply. We’ve worked in 72 cities since we started. Albert Lea and Naples, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida. I mean big cities. And the thing you have to realize, the cost of doing nothing is enormous. We have a $4.4 trillion dollar healthcare bill right now that just keeps going up. The number of Americans who are obese or overweight continues to skyrocket. So does Type II diabetes. And all of the money we shovel into the healthcare system, which is all to fix a problem after it happens, it just can’t keep up with it. The first thing to do is realize that doing nothing is not an option. So that means trying new things at the population level. 

And I argue why not just look to populations or cities who’ve achieved it? Singapore in the book Blue Zones Secret to Long Life, we announce that Singapore’s a Blue Zone 2.0. Why? Because they started out as a very average, kind of unhealthy place in the mid ’60s and they’ve added almost 25 years to the life expectancy. And they have the highest healthy life expectancy in the world right now. And that’s not because they got lucky. That’s because Singapore, largely under Lee Kuan Yew, first of all hired really smart ministers of health and education and the economy, and he’s sort of a tough guy. I mean he said we’re in charge here and we’re going to have a 30 year plan. Not a four year plan to get elected again, a 30 year plan. And we’re going to make some unpopular decisions because we know it’s good for our country. 

And they were able to tax cigarettes very high and put these horrible lurid pictures of what it looks like to suffer from mouth cancer or lung cancer right on the package. They have the courage to label food properly, to tell us where there’s excess sugar or it’s full of processed food, something our lobbyists keep from happening. They had traffic congestion. It was completely gridlocked. They slapped about 100 percent tax on buying a car and they charged more than $15 a gallon for gas. But they took all that tax money and they put it into a fantastic public transportation system that’s super easy and fast and safe and clean and it crisscrosses the entire country. So people are walking instead of biking. They recognized the fact that over 50,000 people in a country like America die because of gun death. We in America want our freedom to have guns but in Singapore it’s not an option for an individual to own a gun and so they’re not getting that 50,000 people dying from accidental gunshots or people opening fire in schools and so forth because nobody has a gun. You can’t own one. Similarly, they’re very hard on drugs. We have about 100,000 Americans die from overdoses of drugs. In Singapore if you’re caught with more than 15 grams of an opiate, you’ll be put to death. But only about 15 people die a year of having more than 15 grams of opiate and only 18 people die a year of overdoses. So you have to decide do you want to make health a priority or do you want to make political agendas a priority. In Singapore they’ve had the courage to say no, we’re going to make health a priority and safety, and they’ve achieved it, you can even see it in the numbers. 

Kelly: [00:29:48] I was in Singapore right before COVID hit and even just as you start in the airport, the amount of greenery, the conscious public design that’s in there, you start to come in through this portal and say, hey, this feels different. I remember being aware, as you pointed out, around smoking, my Singapore friends pointed out how expensive it was. But even outside, they had corralled the smokers into these very small areas outside making it very difficult to smoke. And you couldn’t just smoke anywhere outside. If you were in a public place you had to smoke in a very tiny place outside, otherwise face a very steep fine. So I appreciate what you’re saying. 

My undergraduate degree was in cultural geography, really understanding environment to person interaction. I became a physio, but I think ultimately the thing I’m most obsessed about is we keep applying these complex solutions to very simple problems that tend to be more easily solved upstream. You’re taking this systems approach because you keep describing multiple aspects of these different societies. What aspect was the biggest surprise to you? Because let me give you an example: With some of the organizations that we work with, those organizations that eat together every day at lunch tend to be very successful. And that was a real surprise for me that it was a competitive advantage to have people to eat lunch together, for an example. What surprised you the most about some of these individual Blue Zones?

Dan Buettner: [00:31:16] Well, riffing off of that, in Okinawa, they have this beautiful practice of the Moai. It’s spelled M-o-a-i. And it’s a committed social circle and it’s often formed in childhood. It’s four or five people who get together and they pledge to support each other through life. They meet about once or twice a week sometimes. Many of them are organized. They bring some money, everybody brings money to the meeting that goes into a pool. And if one of the meeting members, if one of the Moai members falls on hard times, that money’s for them. But it becomes a social construct that precludes loneliness. Okinawans aren’t lonely because they’re born into a place where they have their circle of friends. 

Here in the United States something like 25 percent of people report that they’re lonely, which shaves about eight years off their life expectancy. Similarly, Okinawa, no word in their vocabulary for retirement. Instead, ikigai, or sense of purpose imbues their entire adult life. So they wake up every morning not in an existential crisis, what am I here for, what should I be doing? No. Tip of their tongue, they know what their position in society is and what their responsibility is to that society. And similar to your very good observation about eating lunch together, there are these subtle things that have evolved over the millennium, which are there for a reason. Similar eating with your family, very powerful. We know people who eat with their families tend to eat fewer calories, less junk, more nutrition. And that’s a great time to build a more cohesive family.

Juliet: [00:33:02] Hey, Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.

Kelly: [00:33:10] If you’re loving on this episode as much as we are, you can thank our friends at Momentous Nutrition.

Juliet: [00:33:15] So what we want to talk about today is our love of Momentous Protein Powder and the way in which you have created a new protein recipe that is now your daily go to. What is it?

Kelly: [00:33:26] First of all, let me just say shoutout to all the kids who have been chugging protein shakes since pre-Vietnam. I have been drinking-

Juliet: [00:33:35] I’m one of those people.

Kelly: [00:33:37] I feel like you’re a Johnny come lately. You literally just discovered it in the last five years. You don’t even have protein shake fatigue.

Juliet: [00:33:43] I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

Kelly: [00:33:44] The point is I take a scoop of chocolate—not two scoops, not three scoops—a scoop of chocolate, into some yogurt, preferably-

Juliet: [00:33:50] Skyr.

Kelly: [00:33:50] Skyr. But some kind of Greek yogurt, some kind of thing. It makes the most delicious pudding. Then I smash some berries in there. And I am waiting to get over it and I’m not over it because I’m like oh, look at this pudding dessert ice cream that I’m having and it’s not, hey, let me put this brown water in this cup and shake it up. This will get you to add protein grams to your life. The Momentous protein grass fed whey from cows, from German cows—noted. Also they add digestive enzyme, which means I never have belly issues. Sometimes other proteins have made me sick and that’s why I kind of went away from it. So I was like, can’t drink that. And now in this protein berry amalgam of awesomeness, my life’s changed.

Juliet: [00:34:37] So give Kelly’s protein yogurt a try and go to livemomentous.com/trs and use code TRS for 20 percent off your first purchase.

Kelly: [00:34:49] Through The Ready State Podcast we love to do dope stuff with dope people. This episode is brought to you by our dope friends at YETI.

Juliet: [00:34:56] So what we wanted to talk to you about today in this episode is the fact that our daughter Georgia is headed off to college. And her college packing would not be complete without some YETI products.

Kelly: [00:35:08] Fact. True fact.

Juliet: [00:35:08] We’re sending her with some tumblers and a coffee mug and a couple other awesome things. But one of the things that we were so excited to do is actually customize her YETI bottles. And we put her name and you can put the school logo on the bottle. And not only is that cool and looks awesome-

Kelly: [00:35:27] We didn’t do school logo.

Juliet: [00:35:28] But it increases the chances that this bottle will stay in her life and not get lost as she heads in her college life.

Kelly: [00:35:35] Apparently, I’ve asked YETI not only for the customization but could I put an air tag in there, like an app, that I could have so that I could track her secretly, she goes around to all the parties. Look, we know our daughter is going to be able to drink coffee and stay hydrated. And her name on there or at least gigantic G. So if you’re at Michigan and you see a really tall blonde walking around with a G on her bottle, say hey. 

Juliet: [00:35:57] Say hey. That’s Georgia. Yeah, I mean it looks cool and it’s just an awesome feature that you can do any YETI bottle product.

Kelly: [00:36:04] In fact, it’s one of our new go to presents for our friends because it feels very customized, like I didn’t just get you this bespoke YETI product that’s going to change your life, but it has your name on it. 

Juliet: [00:36:17] If you want to get some customized YETI stuff as we head into the school year or otherwise, go to thereadystate.com/yeti.

Juliet: [00:36:27] So on this community piece which has been threaded throughout this conversation and I know is so important, in fact, I remember going to some kind of health and fitness conference seven or eight years ago and there was a graph shown about all the things that are going to help the most with longevity, and of course, being socially connected far outweighed diet and exercise and all these other things that we put so much attention to. One of the things I’ve been thinking about because we have a daughter who is headed off to college in actually shy of three weeks and it seems like this decidedly American construct where we don’t live nearby our close family, that we go off and raise our kids on our own and often live very far away from our parents and our extended family. And that’s something that is not done in the Blue Zones. People seem to stay very tightly connected to their immediate family and their communities. I actually talked to my daughter about this and said, “Hey, it’s great that you’re going off to college and you’re going to go learn new things but it seems to fly in the face of what humans are supposed to do for you to stay gone forever.” Maybe it’s just my selfish mom self hoping she comes back and lives nearby us and raises her kids near us, but it does seem like this very American construct that we don’t value-

Kelly: [00:37:50] The nuclear family.

Juliet: [00:37:51] Staying close by and connected to our immediate family.

Dan Buettner: [00:37:56] I think that’s a very valid observation. And certainly, in Blue Zones, it would be insane for example to put your aging parent in a retirement home. Older people are always living with their children. But they’re not just recipients of care. They’re helping with the garden or they’re the ones who know how to [inaudible 00:38:17] or they keep the family recipes and continue to cook and help take care of the kids, thereby transmitting their wisdom and their resiliency. Their value’s really harnessed, where ours is just sort of let them dither away on the golf courses of Arizona or Florida. And it’s really a good idea. And some of the obvious policies that would help that is just another example from Singapore: If your aging parent lives with you, you get a tax break. Even if your aging parent lives within 250 meters of your house, you get a tax break because they know the parent will be going to see the grandparent, so to speak, and vice versa. But this idea of mandatory retirement I think is a big mistake. I think there should be real incentives keeping families together under one roof. And we see that in the most successful populations on earth when it comes to health. You don’t even have to necessarily say why. You just say it is and here’s the proof, now let’s replicate it.

Kelly: [00:39:28] Juliet likes to say sometimes that human beings really do two things together: We move together, whatever that is, walking or gardening or a sense of purpose, exercise, play. And we eat together. And one of the things that has become really stark for us in the human performance side is that we find that a lot of athletes that we were working with, high performers, weren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables and fiber. And then simultaneously, we trickled down, we started to ask those questions about kids. There was not any fruits and vegetables and fiber. And we’re seeing crazy colorectal cancers in young kids, we’re seeing the things that are coming up are pretty profound and it turns out that vitamin dinosaur pill that we took as a kid maybe was insufficient. I think the Okinawans, you noted in your book that they always have two vegetables at every meal. We are just fresh back from Norway and Germany, and we were just flooded with the amount of small choices around fruits and vegetables around all these meals.

Dan Buettner: [00:40:33] What do you mean flooded with small choices? There was a lot of choices or not many?

Kelly: [00:40:38] Yeah, a lot of choices. You could eat peppers or cucumbers or fruit. Little salads. In Norway one of the places we stayed there were probably 12 different kinds of small salads to eat during breakfast. And it seems to me that one of the pieces that we’re misunderstanding is not that a blueberry or a walnut is a super food but that these need to be bigger parts of not trying to lick this rail of what nutrition is, but it’s very plant forward in a lot of these places where people are living a long time.

Dan Buettner: [00:41:12] Yeah. The book you have, Blue Zone Secrets to a Long Life, I go through very carefully to show you what people have eaten over time. They did eat meat, but only five times per month. The vast majority of what they eat, whole grain, greens, tubers, nuts, and beans. That’s what they’ve been eating. I work with a lot of cities and if you lead with fresh fruits and vegetables, you scare some people. They think, oh my God, I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods. To your point, you’re right. We do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and fiber. I wrote a story for National Geographic on diets of longevity around the world and it became very clear that the most important ingredient was fiber. And lots of kinds of fiber. The fiber in beans is different than the fiber in grains, et cetera. And almost every culture, whether you’re Asian, Latin, African American, even the US here, beans and a grain, those two together make a whole protein and if you’re having a regular serving, give you about half of the fiber you need for the day. So if you’re eating beans and rice or beans and corn tortilla or pasta fagioli or an Asian rice dish with tofu, you’re getting all the protein you need and most of the fiber. And just to start there, you can make it culturally delicious, it’s easy to make, and everybody can afford it. That gets you 95 percent the way there. I’m a big believer if you start your day… I just happen to have this at arm’s length. I start my day with a Sardinian minestrone. Yeah, savory breakfast. No fat. Well, there’s olive oil. There’s no sugar. It’s not the eggs and bacon most Americans eat. High in fiber. Gives you long-lasting energy, doesn’t spike your insulin. I mean that’s the way to start the day, I think. 

Kelly: [00:43:21] Our daughters really love the savory breakfast.

Juliet: [00:43:23] They love the savory breakfast.

Kelly: [00:43:24] It’s true. 

Juliet: [00:43:26] So I have to read this quote from your book. We’ve covered some of this. But we just had our book come out, Built to Move, and we included exercise in it but sort of as an after effect because we, I think like you, have come to realize that while exercise is important, especially if it’s something that you enjoy doing, it seems like the people who are faring the best in terms of longevity aren’t actually strapping on their shoes and going to their CrossFit class. They’re just moving a lot throughout their day.

Kelly: [00:43:53] Sardinia’s huge into P90X.

Juliet: [00:43:57] I have to read this quote from your latest book. It says, “Despite the $160 billion per year Americans spend on trying to exercise, only one-fifth of all adults get the recommended amount of rigorous exercise. That means exercise is not working for more than 200 million Americans. Similarly, diets are a well-intentioned but colossally ineffective approach to staying healthy and living longer. They fail for almost everyone all the time.” And so I think this is something that Kelly and I have been on our podcast circuit talking about our book, talking a lot about, is that we are spending a massive amount of money in the health, fitness, wellness community and the data’s clear that it’s not working. And we’ve found in our own lives, in our own community, is that we happen to love to exercise. We were both athletes as kids like you. So we find a lot of joy in doing that, but what we’ve found is that for the vast majority of people who either don’t relate to or haven’t found something they love from an exercise standpoint, just walking a lot can really be the difference that they need. Just trying to focus on getting a lot of movement. And speaking of coming back from Europe, we just were in Europe, and all their cities and towns are set up so that it’s easy to walk and move. And again, we seem to have this structural problem in our communities where it’s actually in many places not easy to walk and it’s not set up to walk and our communities aren’t focused on that. But I don’t know, talk to me a little about your thoughts on health, wellness, fitness. Kelly and I like to call it the fitness industrial complex. Seems like we’re getting a lot of things wrong, but what are the big things that you see that we’re getting wrong there?

Dan Buettner: [00:45:35] Even though exercise is a colossal public health failure, it’s got a great business model. I mean people get fatter every year and sicker every year. And desperation usually around January 1 they reach for the thing they hear about the most and exercise programs are relentlessly marketed to people as the answer. Instagram’s full of them. So people give it a try. But they fail. By January 19, the vast majority of people with a New Year’s resolution have already failed at it. So it’s a good business model, just a bad health model. 

To your very good observation about Europe being more walkable and bikeable and walking gets you about 90 percent of the physical activity of training for a marathon. I would say 90 percent of American cities are five years away from being walkability paradise. We’ve done it in many cities. All it takes is political will and for people to see clearly. People think they want to drive everywhere but driving to work and back is shown statistically one of the least happy things we do in a day. It detracts from our happiness the most. It erodes the air we breathe. Thousands of our children die every year in traffic accidents, not in walking to school accidents. We engineer physical activity out of our lives. Business people think, well, no, I don’t want sidewalks here and fewer parking spaces, I’ll lose business. But the reality is the slower an automobile moves past your business, the more likely that automobile is going to stop and shop. People don’t realize that. And most politicians have this inclination to widen streets and increase speed limits and move as many cars through a roadway as possible and all that does is induce more demand. It makes it easier for people to buy that second and third car and then the problem just gets worse in the next five years. 

What you really want to do is adopt something called a Complete Streets Policy for cities. You can google that if you want to know what your community can do, google Complete Streets and lobby your city council to adopt it. And all Complete Streets says is, the next time my street gets redone, which it gets redone once every seven years on average, that it has to be assessed for a sidewalk and a bike lane and some trees. And that’s how you make a city walkable or bikeable. And by the way, it’s very easy to see the correlation, the higher the walk score, the lower the BMI of the city. And most of the time, the most walkable cities have the highest tax base and they’re the most livable. And I’ll point to Santa Barbara, California; Boulder, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; these are all places that are very walkable, and people are fit, healthy. New York City, half the BMI as the rest of the country. It’s walkable.

Kelly: [00:49:01] We were just driving to the Munich Airport and it’s unlimited on the freeway and then as soon as you hit the outskirts, Juliet’s like why are you going so slow. And I was like the speed limit is 30 miles an hour.

Juliet: [00:49:11] Yeah, and also, we have some friends who live in Munich and you can’t drive into… There’s a ban now there’s certain cars you can’t drive into the city anymore because they’re trying to-

Kelly: [00:49:21] One of the things that you keep talking… There are all of these key principles and then there are all of these follow along ancillary benefits. And one of them is something that we’ve been talking about with our friends at Outside Magazine about the lack of actual sun exposure, environmental exposure. We’re seeing in some of the research that children are only spending a maximum of 40 minutes outdoors every day. You are sort of an advocate for sensible sun exposure. How important is just being outside?

Dan Buettner: [00:49:50] Well, all the Blue Zones, they’re all at about the 20th parallel, which is above California or Los Angeles. And they all have gardens, often two or three growing seasons. And they’re not slathering on sun screen. They’re getting some sun exposure every day. We know their vitamin D levels are very high, relatively speaking. And vitamin D levels combined with calcium usually in their water supply makes for stronger bones. Yeah, I think Americans… Now, it’s complex. People from Scandinavia, they’re more susceptible to skin cancer and sunburns and so forth, and people who live in the 20th parallel. So it’s hard to make a blanket recommendation. But I will tell you that 20 minutes of summer sunshine for your arms and your legs will give you more vitamin D than a gallon of milk. So I’d much rather see you tanning in your shorts and short sleeved shirt than drinking a gallon of milk. 

Kelly: [00:50:49] Almost like we’re a vitamin D factory. It’s that important.

Juliet: [00:50:51] Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Kelly: [00:50:53] Pro hormone.

Juliet: [00:50:54] So Dan, I want to take a moment to say your book is amazing, it’s beatifically done, there is a ton of actionable information for anybody who wants to pick it up and read it. And this may be way too large of a question to wrap this up, but if there are a couple of things that anyone listening to this today can start with or talk to their community about, what would be some… And again, I know everything is important but what would be some of the few key takeaways that you would leave our listeners-

Kelly: [00:51:24] At that community level. Not the individual level.

Juliet: [00:51:27] Yeah. Where can people start?

Dan Buettner: [00:51:30] Well, I mean not to plug a Blue Zones Secrets to Long Life, but there’s a chapter in there about what it takes and most people are misguided as to what it takes. But at the community level, you have to think not silver bullet but silver buckshot. Where are all the places where you can reshape the places we live in and the policies to nudge people into healthier behaviors. And you want to think about what’s feasible for your town and what will be effectual in your town. And I think that you get your biggest bang for your buck with policy change over trying to change anything else. And then I think at the individual level, it’s trying to think of your immediate community, the four or five people who you spend most of the time with. We know if your three best friends are obese and unhealthy, there’s a 150 percent chance that you’ll be overweight. So curating those few friends around you so that their idea of recreation is playing pickleball or walking or gardening or they care about you on a bad day. That’s really important; they’re not just gossip friends. And it’s not a bad idea to have a vegan/vegetarian in your immediate social network because they’re going to show you how to eat plant based and make it delicious. Those are lasting influences that you should put to work.

Juliet: [00:52:49] Well, again, the book is The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer. It’s available wherever you buy your books, Amazon and all the other spots, I assume. 

Kelly: [00:52:59] You said bluezones.com for all links and information?

Dan Buettner: [00:53:03] Well, danbuettner.com. But specifically for cities, it’s bluezones.com. But I have a free newsletter at danbuettner.com. If anybody has questions, my Instagram @danbuettner, I answer all questions. I’ll answer them personally. So if you have follow up questions, I’m happy to engage with you.

Kelly: [00:53:24] I love this. Honestly, we work with a lot of people who are trying to take a real and nuanced and important swing, but you’re the first person we’ve talked to who has been working at this-

Juliet: [00:53:36] Yeah. Policy level.

Kelly: [00:53:36] State level, policy level. Hats off. It’s so important. And we’ll see how far you can get in another 10 years. We’ll come back around and understand. In the meantime, this is an incredible, beautiful resource. I’m so thrilled that you put this out into our community. Thank you so much.

Dan Buettner: [00:53:54] Thank you.

Juliet: [00:53:54] Thanks so much, Dan.

Dan Buettner: [00:53:56] It’s a pleasure. I’m now in the ready state.


Kelly: [00:54:04] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at thereadystate.com. And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. 

Juliet: [00:54:15] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.

Kelly: [00:54:20] Until next time, cheers everyone. 


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