Saturday, March 31, 2012

A sustainable life in Hawaii

We thank everyone that has bought our book, Your Ideal Hawaii Home, and the readers that have taken the time to write reviews and send us email.

One of our reviewers pointed out that we do not have a financially sustainable solution to living in Hawaii in the book. Though we have been downsizing our expenses and stuff since moving to Hawaii Island, we have yet to achieve a sustainable lifestyle.  There have been many times in our life when our lifestyle was unsustainable and we struggled to pay bills and amassed debt.  These times were followed by changes that suddenly swung us into good times where we had excess money. We have gone through these cycles over and over and find comfort and humor in remembering how one year in Santa Fe we hung our clothes on a line in the kitchen to save the $15 a month it cost to run the dryer and the next year in Silicon Valley we received a bonus that was more than our entire budget the year before. If we had known that cold winter in Santa Fe that good times were coming the next year, would we have worried so much?

Now, as we are working on our next books about moving to Hawaii and how Hawaii improves health, we are resolving to not worry about our sustainability this year. We do, after all, live in world where governments and companies are insolvent and most things seem unsustainable. We are focused on our health and happiness in Hawaii and waiting for the cycle of good things to come, for us and the world.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Obesity Paradox

local, caught Hawaii Ahi (Tuna)
A recent study on health and obesity had the usual finding that obese people had better longevity than normal weight or thin people. For over a century insurance companies have been using weight as a way to determine longevity; people within the BMI (Body Mass Index based on weight and height) range of 18 to 24 have historically outlived obese people by a decade or more. Now a new study claims the opposite to be true; people with BMIs up to 40 are living longer than people with BMIs under 25. This health paradox of increased longevity for obese people began less than 20 years ago.

As strange as this new finding seems to us, there are things about it that ring true with our own experience of obesity. When we moved to Santa Cruz County in the mid-1990’s we were able to buy fresh foods from local farmers.  Over ten years, the farms were replaced by housing developments and our sources of fresh fruits and vegetables disappeared. At the same time that our nutritious fresh foods disappeared, our appetites became insatiable. Even after huge meals, we were often still ravenous. We were hungry for something that we used to get in our food but was lacking no matter how much we ate. On vacations to Hawaii, however, our experience of hunger was different. After a few days of gorging ourselves on fish and fruit, we felt full even after small meals and if we were able to stay in Hawaii long enough, we started to  lose weight.   We suspect the foods we were eating in California had less nutrition as compared to the foods in Hawaii.

If foods are less nutritionally dense than they use to be, then it makes sense that people that over eat will be healthier than those that do not because they are actually getting the nutrition they need. Thin people, living on box foods and fast foods, may actually be significantly under nourished which leads to disease and susceptibility to illnesses. Interestingly,  anorexia nervosa has become a more deadly eating disorder, possibly because of less nutrition in food.

Since moving to Hawaii Island, we are able to get the fresh foods that we use to get in Santa Cruz plus many other fresh foods like fish and grass-fed beef that were harder to find there.  Eating local foods has allowed us to eat substantially less than we use to eat in California and have a wonderful feeling of fullness.  We are convinced our highly nutritious, small meals of fresh local foods allows us to be healthy even though we are no longer obese. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Weight loss living in Hawaii

Before Hawaii 2007
Living in Hawaii 2012
We moved to Hawaii four and half years ago and after taking six months to get set up and settle into island life, we focused on losing weight, our diet, and exercise. In those four years we have each lost over 50 pounds and increased our strength and fitness. Reflecting back on the long and often frustrating path we have taken to get to our goal, we identified ten things that we learned along the way that helped us to lose the weight.

  1. We kept trying and never gave up. Sometimes we were able to make great progress on losing weight, but other times we went backwards. We tracked our weight loss, waist size, and kept a record of what we ate and what we were doing each day. We kept asking ourselves what was working when we lost weight and what changed when we put weight back on.
  2. We learned how few calories we need to eat each day. Everything we thought we knew about calories and how many we should eat to lose weight turned out to be wrong. The 2000 daily calories for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and nutrients are based on young men during military training and are too high for people our age. We started making progress when we wrote down every calorie we ate and realized how few calories we need to eat to lose just a half of a pound a week. Our friends joke that we simply learned to live without eating food and sometimes it feels that way.
  3. Restricting calories makes the food we eat very important. The upside of eating less is that it takes less time to cook, everything tastes delicious, and it costs less. The challenge is to make every calorie count by eating foods that are dense with essential nutrients and vitamins. We spend a lot of time researching health studies from around the world to select healthy foods for our meals and we take supplements to make sure we are getting the right nutrients. Fortunately, living on Hawaii Island makes it easy to get local fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and grass-fed beef.
  4. We thrive in sunlight and year-round warmth. When we lived on the mainland, every winter we put on weight and got out of shape when the weather was cold and overcast. In Hawaii we still notice weight gain in January, but the progress we make the rest of the year more than makes up for the month that we slide back. Sunshine, food, and a low stress life style makes all the difference in our ability to keep focused on our health.
  5. Moderate daily exercise works best for us. In the beginning we tried to “exercise off" our fat. However, whenever we workout really long or hard we get so hungry we cannot keep from overeating. Excessive exercise also leads to strained muscles and other injuries that force us to take time off from exercise. Though extreme exercise worked for us in our 20’s and 30’s, it now backfires on us. We have learned that exercising and being fit in our 50’s is a different challenge from our younger years.
  6. The time of day that we eat our calories makes a difference in our weight loss. We can eat a high-calorie breakfast, medium-calorie lunch and a small supper and lose fat. But if we eat the exact same calories in reverse, with a small breakfast, a medium lunch, and a big supper, we gain weight. Calories we eat in the morning are burned off during the day. Eating fewer calories at night and being slightly hungry makes us sleepy and our bodies work on burning off fat while we sleep. On nights we eat lightly and have nothing to eat after 7PM we tend to make progress on our weight loss.
  7. Experiencing the emotions stored in our fat has been part of our weight loss. We got fat during stressful times for us in California and we avoided our feelings of fear and frustration by overeating. As we burn off the fat, we experience the “avoided” emotions that overwhelmed us when we were putting on the weight. Getting thinner has required that we let go of the past and live in the present which is a wonderful thing since we are living in Hawaii.
  8. An alkaline diet helps us deal with our hunger. Cutting calories has made dealing with hunger a necessity. We found that eating foods that were highly alkaline helped us control our hunger and made us calm. We have also learned that studies are showing that highly alkaline foods seem to provide protection from cancer and heart disease.
  9. Sleeping more allows us to eat less. We always assumed that getting older would mean that we would need much less sleep. Instead if we exercise moderately, eat a low calorie diet, and are slightly hungry at night, we go to bed early and stay asleep all night. We realize now that we were using food and TV to stay up in the evenings.
  10. Staying calm helps our weight loss. We have learned that staying healthy and happy results in better weight loss. Being overly worried or upset about things that we have no control over feels like eating bad food; it gives us a stomach ache. To keep calm and happy, we stay away from upsetting people and news programs that rile us about things we cannot change. Our focus is on doing what we can to make a better life for us and others.