Diet and exercise aren’t working for you. The question is: what else is there to try?!
Three years ago, on my birthday in mid-August, I found myself in a remote Maasai village, about three hours from Nairobi. There was no need for cake or ice cream or balloons. I received the most FANTASTIC present, first thing. I was given the opportunity to sit at the feet of a 100+ year old man and hear about his life. Dickson, my Maasai host, introduced me to Sankau Ole Sirote. He seemed weathered, but well. Sankau gave me permission to interview him, recording our exchange on my phone. I could hardly wait! What had his eyes seen, over the course of those many decades? And what secrets might I learn (and pass on to my readers and friends) about how to live a healthy, long life?
I was also eager to see for myself if the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) principles would hold water. Did a diet of traditional, unprocessed foods sustain this man to 100 years of age and beyond?
Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
- what he did as a child and youth
“When I was young, there was no school by that time. So my life was just to go and handle the cattle. That was my daily activity. Getting the cows, and going hunting."
- on hunting
“When we were morans [young warriors in training], we would really hunt lion, and rhino, elephant, buffalos. We would hunt for fun, not really to eat the meat of the lion or the elephant or the rhino. We would just hunt for fun.
One time we also went hunting, and...[a] companion of mine was attacked by a lion and killed. So I...came back to help the family, to raise the children of my departed friend."
- what he would eat as a child
“When we were children...our diets were milk, fat, meat, and also sometimes honey. There was a lot of rain. Wild fruits were available and the milk was plenty. And the cows also were healthy. So everything, when we were young, everything was just healthy."
- regarding his health today
"I'm getting old because of my eyes and in the morning sometimes I have joint aches. It's just age."
- regarding his health across the years
No surgeries? "No." No medicine? "No." Any shots? "Recently, because of this hand. It is swelling, so I got an injection. Because of the swelling."
- regarding the community's health in the past
“There was no one who was sick. We were all very healthy.”
- regarding the community's health today
“There are so many changes. People are getting sick. There are diseases which…there are many, many diseases, which I cannot even describe. There are a lot of diseases coming, but before, as I said, there were no diseases.
During my days, there were no injections but right now every time, they just say the people need to be vaccinated because a disease is coming, people need to be injected. But when I was a young man I never had an injection.”
- what people are eating today
“Even food they have changed. Because you have to buy food. Everything you have to buy from the shop so… And during my time you would depend on what is coming from the livestock. But now you have to go and buy."
- how his diet has changed
"I started having tea in 1916."
- what he recommends eating for good health
"If you start with milk exclusive, or cream made from milk, just that. That is it. Up to 7 years [of age]. Children were breastfed up to 5 years. Everything [we ate] was from the cow: milk, blood."
- about his family
"I have more than 17 children. And 5 grandchildren. They are good, good health. I have three brothers. They are still alive. I have one sister. She is still alive."
- about wealth, cattle and goats
"My sons have taken them."
- final thoughts
"I am also thankful to God that I have had that opportunity to do good while I have been in this world. I am alive because of God. God formed me in the womb."
There you have it! To me, it's crystal clear that Sankau's traditional diet has contributed to his good health and longevity. And as I see it, the secrets to a healthy life from this centenarian include eating plenty of raw milk (and cream), taking opportunities to do good, and giving thanks to God. What do you see?
Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast professional who helps holistic health practitioners launch their own shows! She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is an integrative nutrition health coach, a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.
"Simplicity is gourmet." This is a statement that my dear friend Hilary Boynton said one day that I simply can't get out of my head. Hilary is the author of the "Heal your gut" cookbook and she has a penchant for meeting people, especially folks she calls our "elders," to pick their brains and learn from their wisdom, and, particularly, their culinary wisdom. One day, she connected with a French woman who was over 90 years old and the words "simplicity is gourmet" were uttered. They resonated with Hilary and they resonate with me.
Far too often we over-think things. We get caught up in the weeds of life. We stretch ourselves beyond our limits. We are exhausted trying to meet the demands of life, and the demands of those around us. How can we keep our sanity amidst the push and pull of the daily grind?
I suggest that the answer may lie in the wise words of the nonagenarian. And, specifically, in the first word of her coined phrase: "Simplicity."
To be honest, I went 'round and 'round as I tried to figure out what to post today. I was definitely over-thinking it and my anxiety rose as the new month commenced and I started to feel pressure. What would I tell my friends about health and wellness? I started to get tied up in knots, which was leading to some unhappiness and stress. But then I remembered the old moniker: K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, Sunshine! (Okay, I've taken some liberties with the last word of the phrase, but I find it's friendlier that way!)
A light bulb went off as a I realized that the best tips are the ones that are simply bringing me joy and helping me manage my oh-so-crazy life. And I'm going to use the acronym to help you (and me) keep it all straight.
Keep it simple - (See what I did there?) Just focus on food, real food, I mean. There are so many trends out there for getting that perfect "beach body." Fuggedaboutit! If you have a body you can get on a beach. Scales are for fish...and no body's perfect, literally! Simply stay the course by focusing on eating food that nourishes and not just filling up with whatever junk food (there's a reason they call it that) that is handy or appealing in the moment. And if you "slip up," don't beat yourself up. That only adds insult to injury, just keep pressing on. Go to farmers markets, Trader Joe's; connect with friends who care about where their food comes from. Fuel your body to the best of your ability (financially and otherwise) and let the other stuff go. A singular focus can help you achieve your health goals.
Initiate - Consider well how you choose to start your day. Do you immediately get on your phone? Read the paper? Check emails? Maybe you are roused by a little one who wet the bed. Or the alarm reminds you that you have an early meeting. Not everything is under your control, but to the extent it is possible, make an effort to get some quiet, meditative time without the newspaper, without my computer. I take space, I make space to breathe. The world can wait. So let it do so.
Sleep - Scientists are finding more and more that sleep plays a critical role in our wellness. It's the time our brains "take out the trash" of all of the stressors and pressures of the day! So do not shortchange yourself on this piece. (I am talking to myself, too! This has often been a weak spot for me.) If you have a lot of work to do, rather than working on it late at night, stop at a decent hour and pick it back up again in the morning. It will still be there, and you can face it with a fresh(er) perspective, when you'll be more focused and less likely to make mistakes, too! (For more on this, check out one of my early podcast episodes with Sandra Van Gilder, "The myths and truths of sleep and exercise.")
Sunshine - I am convinced of the benefits of early morning light. It helps set the tone for the day and gets your circadian rhythm in proper sync. So I combine "Initiate" and "Sunshine." That is, I get outside as early as possible to walk my dog. I don't take my phone, so that my mind and heart can be free to sing, pray, absorb what's going on around me, and just be present.
So, that's it! In an effort to K.I.S.S. this post, I am stopping right here. I believe if we apply these simple hacks to our lives, we'll have a happy, healthy summer (and autumn, winter, and spring, too)!
Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast professional who helps holistic health practitioners launch their own shows! She is also the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is an integrative nutrition health coach, a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.
I've observed this heartbreaking trend, as well. In the past six months, four of my friends have lost boys to suicide. They were all in their twenties and struggling with depression. One of the moms likened it to swimming in the ocean. She said her son would be doing fine, until the undertow would catch him and drag him under.
“How do you get your family to accept a real food diet when all they want are chicken nuggets?” “My kid is a picky eater. He eats cereal three times a day. What do I do?” “I want to eat ‘healthy’ but I crave a sugary snack every afternoon (and evening, if I’m honest)!”
The struggle is real! You are now convinced of the basics: that eating a healthy diet means eating more real, whole foods, and less of the food-like processed stuff that comes in packages! Bravo! But how do you go from the head to the heart (or should I say to the mouth)?
Supermarkets selling sodas and processed foods are blocks away from the open-air markets with “mamitas” selling the produce from their gardens by the roadside. Monsanto and Bayer have reached the Sacred Valley and are persuading farmers to replace their natural varied corn crops with their one variety of corn (from genetically-modified seeds). Mining is generating incomes for small towns, but simultaneously polluting their drinking and irrigation water. Villagers are fighting back, but their voices aren’t always heard. As you can see, there are multiple threats to the health of the people and the land of Peru.
Jodi Ledley had debilitating migraines. Once she learned to avoid MSG (and other excitotoxins like it), she found herself on the path to healing. For years, she's eaten only at home. There, she has been able to control the quality of the food and avoid the additives that caused the neurological disruption that triggered her migraines.
Sticky tip: Chipotle is one of the few fast/casual places Jodi found where you can enjoy a meal that is MSG- and GMO-free! (By the way, I don’t have stock in that company, so I do not benefit from your eating there! But Jodi mentioned it, so I thought I'd pass the tip along.)