Unique lifestyle choices for well-ageing –
The so-called ‘green lifestyle’ is a broad (and overused) term that can be applied to almost every aspect of human activity. It’s a catch-all used to categorise how we eat, the kind of work we do, our family interactions, what we do to keep fit and healthy and the ways in which we commute and travel. It can even describe our spiritual practices and explain our political views. You needn’t belong to some Green Party to live a healthy, fulfilling, ‘green’ life, though.
While truly ‘going green’ encompasses an all-round approach to mindful living, I’d like to focus on food. Because food – proper food – is where it all starts. Our lives revolve around it, in fact. Whether it’s the familiarity of having three meals a day. Or the pleasure and comfort derived from gathering with friends and family to bond over it. Or the sheer life-affirming thrill of it after a period of fasting – or after intense exercise. Food is at the heart of so much of life.
The problem is that these days it’s too easy to get caught in a system whereby eating is the objective. So we exist in order to eat, rather than eating in order to thrive.
We live at a time when much of what’s packaged and labelled as ‘food’ is anything but nutritious. Some so-called foods lack any nutritive value at all, some are toxic, some are little more than cleverly-assembled flavours designed to satisfy cravings.
Food should fuel, nourish and energise us. It is not there simply as a source of calories, to make us feel full, or put taste in our mouths.
Sadly, much of what we eat these days is just empty calories – enough to keep us going, but lacking the sort of nourishment we require to prevent our deterioration. Instead of energising us, it actually promotes decay because the empty calories take the place of proper food that the body really needs in order to be supplied with vital nutrients that are live and regenerative.
These empty foodstuffs also dose us with random additives that may be harmful, while many ingredients that might once have had nutritional value have been over-processed into something toxic. And so the food we consume in hopes of fuelling ourselves turns out to be a source of physical decay.
It needn’t be this way.
Anyone who is serious about longevity and who wants to stay active well into their 90s needs to eat clean, vibrant, energy-rich food. I’m talking, of course, about food that is primarily plant-based and typically raw, because plants capture those vital, regenerative nutrients that truly energise us.
A personal eating plan
There is a common misconception that ‘raw’ and ‘plant-based’ are lifestyles that can only be followed by Yoga teachers or Hollywood celebrities. Or that, if you train hard every day or work 14-hour days, there isn’t time in your schedule to eat a healthy, balanced vegan diet.
But I’m here to tell you that it is possible. Hell, that OTT working regime has been my schedule for the last two-and-a-half years. And I’ve been a husband and father and tried not to compromise on outdoor activities, either. But I believe that I’ve been able to keep it all up primarily because of what I eat – following an eating pattern that keeps my mind clear and energy levels firing without coffee.
My personal ‘diet’ (not a great word, but you know what I mean) is vegan, and 70 per cent of what I consume is raw, with a focus on nutrient-dense ingredients. Any cooked food I eat is 80 per cent vegetables and the rest legumes and rice or quinoa.
My daily meals include a morning juice (a blend of carrot, celery, beetroot and apple) and most days I pack a smoothie for breakfast-on-the-go. Other days I’ll eat a chickpea scramble with mushrooms or spinach and tomato, or an activated buckwheat and chickpea pancake.
Lunch is typically a salad with falafels or lentil burgers, quinoa or toasted seeds. My salads usually include home-made sauerkraut. To bridge the gap until dinner, my late-afternoon snack is usually a few pieces of fruit. Dinner could be anything from curry to tofu wrapped in nori with a chickpea flour batter, with air-fried sweet potato chips on the side.
Of these ingredients, the only one that’s bought pre-made is nori – edible seaweed pressed into wafer-thin sheets – which is additive-free and undergoes minimal processing.
While self-preparation of ingredients is ideal, there are, of course, great additive-free products on the market that can make life easier in time-constrained periods. The most processed foods I consume are the falafels, burgers and pancakes made using premixes made by my own company, Outcast Foods. I know that the ingredients are clean and I know what processes were involved.
Using either reliable premixes or your own recipes, you can make batches of home-made vegetable/legume patties that keep well in the fridge.
Legumes provide nutrient-dense, protein-rich, plant-based food that is filling and comforting. There are endless ways to prepare them and if you are preparing them yourselves, soak them first to activate or sprout them. When you soak legumes you activate phytase, an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid which binds minerals like iron, calcium and zinc, so that they’re more freely available for your body to absorb. By soaking and activating your legumes, you also reduce cooking time.
Obsession? Hell, yes!
What sparked my obsession with healthy eating (and living) is a combination of things and, probably more than anything, it comes down to internal wiring. And – yes – it is an obsession. Because, if I hope to be the thriving human being I want to be when I am running after my great-grandchildren, then I need to be obsessed with that goal.
So what else can we do to make this sort of goal a reality? We have to nurture our nervous system or – if you want to put it another way – take care of our spiritual self. Yes, they are, in my opinion, linked. If we go deep into our breathing we go into meditative spaces and the body releases tension, this eases our nervous system. We can eat all our greens and drink potent juices and smoothies, but if we can’t breathe properly and we hold onto excess tension in the form of stress or negative conflicting emotions, we will end up sick.
I have first-hand experience. Five years ago, before my son was born, I developed pseudogout. My foot swelled up and turned flaming red. Walking was excruciating. For the first time ever as an adult, I went to a doctor to look for answers because I couldn’t understand how my ‘no meat, almost zero alcohol’ lifestyle could land me in that kind of pain.
The doctor ran some tests and reported that my body was excessively acidic. The doctor was also a homeopath and I was given tissue salts. The symptoms eased and, after 10 days, the condition had cleared.
Upon reflection I realised that what had happened had been brought on by rage – a gnawing anger that existed because of personal politics at work. I recognised it because it had happened once before in my early 30s when I went through another emotional hell ride.
So I worked out that I am predisposed to developing acidity in my body when I get emotionally fired up and stressed. No amount of meditation oreating alkalising food will fix it.
But I do believe that meditation and exercise and healthy eating can assist in balancing those emotions that can lead to a physical imbalance which can cause disease and other negative symptoms.
In my case it had manifested physically – and that was a wake-up call, a message to stop and pay attention. And, yes, to become obsessed with treating my body and my mind with greater respect.
The final requirement for longevity and vibrancy into old age is finding a healthy blend of exercise, purpose and passion, creativity and that hunger to keep improving, growing and learning new things.
Exercise is key. We are physical beings, we were designed to move, not sit on a chair for eight hours of the day.
You have to counter all this unnatural sitting with exercise that suits you, keeping in mind that comfort isn’t the goal. You need to challenge yourself. I am a terrible swimmer, for example. Yes, I can swim, but it has taken me years to get to the point where I can swim 40 lengths. Stick me on a bicycle without having cycled for years and I can cycle for hours. But swimming hurts. And yet I knew I needed to improve my swimming in order to enhance my surfing. It was a key to nourishing my inner happiness and moving towards my goals. So I stuck with it. Learning to swim gave me a lot more than improved cardio fitness and better paddling ability. It taught me that I can conquer things that I know are good for me despite how challenging I find them.
The point is that sometimes you need to move beyond your comfort zone.
Next? Passion and purpose. For me, these include following and promoting a plant-based lifestyle, sustainable farming, crafting and playing didgeridoo. Or, in fact, anything to do with music and surfing. These might sound like hobbies or interests, but the fact is that they drive me, keep my synapses firing and keep me interested. If you don’t have purpose – reasons for getting up in the morning and heading into the world – how can you expect to be vibrant into your 90s? Who wants to live until they’re 90 without passion? I believe that passion and purpose are what keep us alive and thriving.
Finally, there’s that desire to keep learning and the need to include creativity in your life. Creativity and curiosity together help us to form new neural connections which, in turn, foster happiness and mental clarity which both keep us vibrant. That feeling of being alive comes from the achievement of taking new knowledge or skills on board as well as creating something new, whether by drawing or painting, writing or making music, cooking or designing an outfit.
A Quick Q&A with Guy Greenblat
Your longevity goal in a nutshell?
To be able to surf comfortably into my 90s. If I can do that I know that my physical, mental and spiritual health will all be good too. There are many things I plan to be doing in my 90s: Crafting things, reading, maybe mentoring, running after great-grandchildren. Yes, running. Literally.
What kinds of choices have you made in order to achieve that goal?
I chose to eat a predominantly plant-based diet from early teens; over the years this evolved into 100 per cent plant-based diet. I have practised some form of daily meditation or Yoga.
What advice can you give to someone looking for a daily practice?
I don’t believe you need to hunt down the perfect solutions for your lifestyle by trying everything under the sun. It helps to have a reference point, so start by getting recommendations from people you know and trust – and then take the time to understand the choices you make for yourself before committing time and money. There are many freely available resources on breathing and meditation techniques so you can go pretty deep without spending six months at an ashram, for example. The trick is to find the techniques that feel right for you. Remember, too, that this is a journey – allow your rituals and practices to evolve over time.
How do you mitigate against the lack of time in your schedule?
Right now, time for daily exercise is almost non-existent. But I have made a (good) habit of running on a mountain trail once a week. It’s an easy way to combine a nature fix with exercise and meditation. The meditation for me comes from the heightened awareness required when running off-road – you need to stay absolutely focused on each step. I never imagined being ‘a runner’ but this practice has become critical to my weekly schedule; it keeps me charged, buzzing and ready to take on anything.
What kind of choices will you make when you get to 90 and beyond?
I will use the time to find those paths that were cut short. Writing and journaling with my non-dominant hand, learning to play those instruments I have always wanted to play. Hopefully jamming with some good friends. Lastly and most importantly, hopefully, I will spend a large part of my day nurturing the garden where my home-grown fresh food grows.