Exploring Human Potential

Staying Healthy for Less

Posted on | March 15, 2009 | No Comments

Our country is experiencing a financial downturn. People are jittery and scared. You can feel it in the air. What we need is a bit of a boost from people who have weathered adversity in the past.

My nominee is Elfisio Farris, a first generation American from Sardinia, the large island off the western coast of Italy.  Elfisio, a chef, arrived in Dallas some 20 years ago and opened his first restaurant, The Pomadora.

Elfisio’s grandfather lived to be 107, and that’s not unusual in Sardinia.1 The island is one of 4 “Blue Zones” on our planet, sites identified under a National Geographic grant that support unusually prolonged life spans. Here people routinely live beyond 100, with full functionality.2

Sardinia is no stranger to adversity. Over the centuries the native people have been invaded by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Moors, and the Spanish, before officially becoming part of Italy in 1861. In fact, Elfisio says that because of the invaders, the sea developed a very bad reputation. His words, “The sea was ugly, nothing but trouble. That was where the invaders came from. They kept coming, so people moved inland where there were better pastures anyway.”1

It was inland where the Sardinians developed their unique way of living. Here they shared four characteristics with the other “Blue Zones”: close family and community ties, heavy socializing especially around the dining table, constant low impact movement, and a predominantly plant-based diet. Their cultural imperative: you are always welcome at the dinner table. And what you will find there is as predictable as the hospitality. As they say, “Sa cuchina minore no timet su fuste” (Simple cuisine makes the home great).4 Studies of the four “Blue Zones” found that they were sustainable, interdependent and remarkably efficient at delivering a high quality life.

So here are five recommendations straight from the “Blues” that will allow you to live better while spending less during these difficult times.2

1. Quit the gym and walk everywhere you can. Sardinians routinely log 5 to 6 miles a day – walk, don’t run.

2. Save on the meat. Meat is expensive and unhealthy in large doses. Make small portions of it an occasional treat, not a three times a day staple. Find a farmer’s market and fill in with fresh vegetables.

3. Commit to family. Spend time with each other. Eat together. Sacrifice for each other. And care, especially for the very young and very old. While you care, listen and absorb what they have to say.

4. Celebrate with a simple inexpensive glass of wine with your meal. It improves digestion, lowers stress, and aids socialization.

5. Laugh at adversity. Maintain a sharp wit. There is great strength in laughter.

The silver lining of this situation we find ourselves in is that a long, high quality life doesn’t cost more, it costs less. Take advantage of the tough times to re-equilibrate and reorder priorities. Keep it simple. Keep it light. Keep it close to home.

For Health Commentary, Im Mike Magee


1. Eber, J. May you live to be 100. Cooking Light. 2009 March.

2. National Geographic. Quest For Longevity: Blue Zones. 2005.

3. Sardegna.Net. History.

4. Farris, E. Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey: The Mediterranean Flavors of Sardinia.  2007.

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