It was a perfect Lake County Fall evening. You know the ones I’m talking about, where the air is still as a portrait, the idyllic picture of a clear blue sky against the waning sun and golden orange and yellow leaves on tree branches not too long after a rain. Yes, fall in all of its glory. It also happened to be Peace and Plenty’s last Farm to Fork Dinner, where good food and conversation served as the main courses of the evening.
“Hi guys!” came a familiar voice from behind as David and I chatted with friends. There stood Abby Leutholdt, a bright smile on her face. “I just wanted to tell you,” she said, “I was just hired by Sharecare, who is working with Adventist Health to bring the Blue Zones Project to Lake County.”
“I think I saw that on social media,” I smiled back. “You’re a great fit! I’m so happy for you!” I exclaimed.
Over the past couple of months, I’d heard through the grapevine that Lake County was being considered for the project. For qualifying communities, the Blue Zones Project has a proven track record of changing its chosen location’s overall health and well-being by researching and collecting data on the region’s general needs and implementing changes in the community. And it works through projects like building trails to encourage walking or biking. In addition, it is educating people about lifestyle choices, influencing policies that support healthy choices, and strengthening social ties. And the results? People in these zones overall live healthier and happier lives.
“So you already know what is then?” Abby affirmed.
“Well, I know the basics,” I laughed.
“Good! I want you guys to be a part of it,” she continued. “Have you taken the RealAge Test yet? It’s a chance to see how old you really are, not just your birth age. I tested two years younger!
“Would you be willing to do the test? We need seven hundred surveys finished to get a baseline to know what our community needs. And don’t worry; I can assure you that the data collected from the survey is confidential and HIPAA compliant. Only aggregate community data will be collected by the Blue Zones Project team.”
“Of course, David and I can do that for you!” I replied.
A day or two later, I found myself sitting in front of the computer fulfilling the other half of our promise to Abby. To my surprise, the questions on the RealAge Test seemed to move beyond the normal vitals and information taken at routine doctor’s appointments. It asked me if I felt happy with what I do for a living and if I felt valuable. It even asked questions about my social life, hobbies, and other interests.
The RealAge Test is unlike any other “health” test I’ve taken before. It got me thinking, like really thinking.
I felt empowered. I realized I didn’t have to change my entire lifestyle; the test told me how good I already am doing and helped me take an honest inventory of my life and routine. It saw what goals I had already been working towards and gave suggestions for what I could change or improve.
First, I cleaned out my pantry and hid all salty and less healthy snacks. I thought the whole out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing might be a good idea. Then I filled up the vacated snack space with mason jars of beans, brown rice, (healthy) granola, lentils, nuts, and other dry goods.
Second, when I want to bring home a treat from the grocery store, I skip the snack and soda aisles, and I choose fruits, figs, dates, or pistachios instead.
Third, I’ve replaced sour cream with nonfat Greek yogurt, which is a near-perfect substitution. And I’ve swapped unsweetened almond milk for milk and almond butter for peanut butter.
Lastly, I try to actually do the things I said I do on the test, like exercising for thirty minutes four to five times a week, eating fish once a week, and cutting back on my meat portions.
Do I expect miracles? No, not at all. I’m a mom who has come to embrace my age and not try to be or look like someone I am not. That being said, the healthier I am, the happier my life will be. And who knows, maybe I’ll find more changes along the way to continue to improve my overall well-being.
Incidentally, the RealAge Test results show my “real age,” and it turns out I’m four years younger than my driver’s license says I am. So that’s gotta make a person feel good! If you have a minute or two, be sure to take the test; if not for yourself, do it for the community so the Blue Zones Project can get the information it needs to benefit all of Lake County.