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Taking personal responsibility
June 20, 2021

Taking personal responsibility

Taking personal responsibility is the only way both our private lives and Mother Earth will survive the enormous challenges we all face.

Greetings from Bernard Preston to this eighteenth newsletter. Our theme this month is why we should all be taking personal responsibility for not only our own lives, a blue zone issue but also for Mother Earth. Both are in desperate straits.

The research is unequivocal; those who exercise regularly live longer and healthier lives. You can get it at a gym if that appeals to you but I prefer walking, especially in the great outdoors.

But cycling, swimming and even a skipping rope for the busy person are perfect too.

Taking a walk after a starchy meal particularly keeps the blood glucose down; that is the great demon.

Would three five-minute walks after breakfast, lunch and dinner be too much to ask? That would add many good years to our lives.

It took us exactly 12-hours to climb and descend the Rhino, seen in the background; not a hike for every weekend but the kind of exhilarating and unforgettable day that needs to be periodically on the agenda of those who want to reach their nineties with all their marbles intact.

Blue Zones

In the Blue Zones where ten times as many people live to happy and fulfilled old age, they intuitively take personal responsibility not only for their own lives but those around them too.

Family is strong; there are no old-age homes where parents are dumped. It's a great relief knowing too that our children are not likely to drop us either; they saw how we cared for our own mothers and fathers.


Depression and dementia are at a much lower level amongst the elderly in the Blue Zones. Foods that are good for the brain are the norm.

The brain consumes nearly 50% of the oxygen used in the body; anything that reduces the blood supply, via the carotid and vertebral arteries can be catastrophic; whether a sudden occlusion or the slow formation of atheromatous plaque that gradually asphyxiates the brain.

Gardening hits two targets; exercise and fresh, tasty food.

How many of these do you regularly enjoy?

Blue Zone folk are vegetable and fruit gardeners; they grow and eat much of their own food.


Blue zone folk take responsibility for their own bodies

The literature keeps buzzing with information about the importance of whole grains; but they are so hard to get. Food companies want us to buy ultra-processed meals like quick oats.

It's also buzzing with the research that proves that it is almost impossible to lose weight by exercising more, good though that is. That battle can only be won by taking responsibility for what we put in our mouths.

If your cereals come in a box, are eaten with just milk and sugar or can be cooked in a jiffy then be deeply suspicious.

It will have very little flavour and cost a mint. The only way to eat it is with your mind locked in elsewhere, distracting you from a breakfast that tastes like cardboard.

I find it fascinating that a food company can buy a wonderful whole grain like corn from the farmer for less than R4/kg and sell it, after extracting all the best parts, to a gullible public for 79 rand per kilogramme.

Steel-cut oats are one of our favourite breakfasts with a teaspoon of natural honey and a dollop of cream; toast it first with butter for a couple minutes, stirring continuously and then add water. The fibre and the fat gainsay the effect of the starch; followed by a short walk.

One of the characteristics of Blue Zone people is that they have naturally assumed a lifestyle, without stress that predicates that they will enjoy long, healthy lives.

They don't agitate about diets and exercise programmes that are not sustainable; they seem to have acquired the lifestyle naturally. We for our part have to work very hard to mimic it; it may mean swimming upstream against the current. I am known as the local food snob.

They have not turned to the industrial diet, as it is being called, of the rest of the world; convenience foods.

Their food consists mainly of whole grains, legumes and is mostly plant-based but not vegetarian except in Loma Linda; that is their way of life.

Obesity and diabetes are at a much lower level; it happens naturally. They are not constantly on this or that diet.

Calling a spade

If Covid has taught us one thing it's the importance of taking personal responsibility for our actions. Government's edicts and prescriptions have helped somewhat but at the end of the day it has been our own decisions that have shifted the odds in the favour of those who survive.

Without a doubt, reducing smoking from nearly a half of all adults fifty-years ago, to around 15% now, has been because society has not been afraid to stop calling a spade, an agricultural implement; tell it as it is.

Every smoker now knows that the blame for the decline in his or her health lies squarely on their own shoulders. No longer do they blame "the government," or tobacco companies.

And slowly the message is getting out that those who refuse to social-distance, not shake hands and avoid indoor public places must take personal responsibility should they catch the bug; get very sick and perhaps die.

And even the most ardent denialist must grudgingly admit that those countries that have vaccinated vigorously have got daily deaths down to single digits after reaching herd immunity.


In much of the world taking personal responsibility for safe-sex has meant that Aids has become an irritation rather than the calamity it was.

An exception is my native South Africa where the nation has refused to take personal responsibility with whom they sleep; nearly 20% of the adult population now has AIDS and the prevalence is still rising.

These viruses are unforgiving.

It's time the media started fearlessly proclaiming the truth about wellness.

"Go on, sleep around if you want to but the risk is on you, so don't blame anyone else when you become HIV-positive."


And the whole problem with obesity is that society still demands that we call a spade an agricultural implement. It is not PC to talk about someone's weight; it is fat-shaming.

It's very sad but we must just look the other way and let them become disabled and die long before their time; and that is what is happening.

Whether society can turn itself around on the question of obesity is a moot point. In some ways it's irrelevant. Just like smokers, deep down we all know that obesity is not happening because cola companies dropped their prices to below that of milk. It is not because at dinner someone offered us a piece of Black Forest cake and forced us to have a second slice.

It's all about taking personal responsibility for our own lives; and either we do it, or we reap the terrible rewards of diabetes and the significant risk of death from the virus.

“If you eat too much, by the time you reach 60 your hips will very likely have disintegrated and your legs will buckle under you; if you don’t first collapse with a coronary. There is nothing I can do to stop you getting fat; it is all down to you. Don’t stuff yourself with fast, bad food and then blame someone else when you get ill.”

- Ross Clark

The only way to lose weight

The first step to permanently get our weight in order is to recognise that "diet" is nothing but a dirty four-letter word. They simply don't work; none of them.

So vow never to use the word again, or even to think about it. It's a fake word; none of them deliver on their promises because they are not sustainable. Can you give up bread for ever? Luckily if you change to sourdough you do not need to.

And when a friend calls a spade by its name, recognise that painful though it may be, he or she is doing it because they care; lesser acquaintances just look the other way.

Where I disagree with Ross Clark is the suggestion that it's because we eat too much that we are obese. Mostly it is because we are eating the fake-food of the industrialised world.

When did you last eat a whole-grain? For most of us it's been months, if not years. Enjoy corn of the cob this summer.

Father's Day

Much has been written but I leave you with this thought, so beautiful and so neglected but perhaps a father's greatest responsibility.

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother."


To sum up

To your own self be true; take responsibility for your own actions.

Next month

Next month we will look at why every family should should consider having a grain mill.

Take care of yourself; take care of the planet. Plan to live to a strong and zestful ninety, and who knows perhaps even one hundred.

Till next week,


Create a cyan zone at your home

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1. Bernard Preston Homepage.

2. Back Issues for Create a Cyan Zone at your home.

x Bake your own sourdough bread

x Alternative types of water storage

x Wear your clothes out

x Comfort foods

x Create a bee-friendly environment

x Go to bed slightly hungry

x Keep bees

x Blue zone folk are religious

x Reduce plastic waste

x Family is important

x What can go in compost?

x Grow broad beans for longevity

x Harvest and store sunshine

x Blue zone exercise

x Harvest and store your rainwater

x Create a cyan zone at your home

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