Lessons from ‘The Longevity Plan’

This book was the one which started my note-taking habit. There was just so much interesting and useful information that I wanted to be able to remember it. I read it, then I read it again and took notes.

The main author is Dr John D. Day, who is a cardiologist and speaker of Mandarin, along with his wife Jane Ann Day and Matthew LaPlante.

He went to study a village in China where a disproportionate amount of people live to one hundred or more.

General message: if we apply the principles they live by/their way of life to our lives we will be healthier and happier.

Seven principles:

  1. Eat Good Food
  2. Master Your Mindset
  3. Build Your Place in a Positive Community
  4. Be in Motion
  5. Find Your Rhythm
  6. Make the Most of Your Environment
  7. Proceed with Purpose

So here’s the first one:

Eat Good Food

Surround yourself with food that is good for you

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As you are reading this I would guess that you have more than likely surrounded yourself with food that is not good for you. We all do it, those bars of chocolate and packets of crisps and biscuits stashed in the cupboard ready for the post-lunch dip. Unless you have a great level of willpower then at some point you will eat them. In order to surround yourself with food that is good for you then you need to clear your cupboards of junk food. Maybe it feels wasteful to throw food out. You could give it to a food bank instead. Then, fill the cupboards with healthy food. When you are peckish and bored at three o’clock in the afternoon you won’t be able to munch through that packet of biscuits as they won’t be there anymore.  You just have a handful of nuts or an apple with some peanut butter to eat.

Eat unrefined grains

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We all know this – brown rice, bread, pasta, etc. The low carb movement has increased in popularity recently and many people try to reduce the amount of grains they are consuming as a route to weight loss. On the BBC Food Programme in 2018 the issue of fibre was discussed and the view that without these carbohydrates we wouldn’t consume enough fibre. Apparently, there are many types of fibre and just eating vegetables does not provide the full range. If you do choose to each grains, and Dr Day says that we should, they should be whole grains.  An alternative is the recent ‘pasta’ products that have appeared on the shelf in some supermarkets which are made of red lentils or green split peas.

Eat one portion of fruit and two portions of vegetables at every meal

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In the UK we are advised to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but Dr Day recommends two portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit with every meal. If, like many people, you’re struggling with this it may be because for most people breakfast rarely features vegetables. That’s where everyone goes wrong. We have moved away from the unhealthy fry up to ‘healthier’ cereals, but in fact we are eating dessert for breakfast. Muesli, followed by toast with jam, washed down with a glass of juice is just sugar, then sugar with sugar on top, accompanied by liquid sugar. What we should be eating and what would make getting those veggies in before midday easier is having some eggs to start the day. My accompanying veggies of choice are mushrooms, avocado and sweet potato. You may be thinking that you don’t have time to made a cooked breakfast, but how long does it really take to scramble some eggs? Cooking the mushrooms may take a little longer and I would suggest steaming the sweet potato on a day when you have plenty of time and then reheating the leftovers on subsequent days. You should be able to cook and eat your breakfast within 20-30 minutes.

Eat nuts and pumpkin seeds                           

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According to Dr Day nuts help to maintain a healthy weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and fight back premature death – lofty claims!  Pumpkin seeds are even better – a superfood no less! Historically nuts were avoided, and still are by some, due to being high in fat. Their promotion now is because is it recognised that we need fat and apparently nuts are full of ‘good fats’ – not sure exactly what this means, but eating a handful a day is considered good for us. The fat also keeps you full, as opposed to a biscuit which lasts a couple of seconds and makes you feel hungrier in the long run rather than satiated. Buying five cute plastic containers and filling them with a daily portion of pumpkin seeds and nuts on a Sunday will make sticking to this easy. You won’t have to think about it each morning, just put the pot in your bag before you go out of the door and you’re all set.

One portion of lentils/beans, every day

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In Britain we have the famous ‘baked beans’ which most people eat and I think are regarded as a good source of fibre, but unfortunately also contain a lot of sugar. A couple of years ago I saw a display in a chemist shop’s window which showed the amount of sugar in several products. One of them was a tin of baked beans and there were five sugar cubes sitting in front of it. Instead we need to eat the beans without all of that sugary sauce. It’s as easy as emptying a tin of kidney beans or a handful of dried red lentils into your stew or curry. Red lentils cook really quickly. They’re particularly good if you’ve added a bit too much stock. Dried lentils and tinned beans keep in the cupboard for years.

Fish – particularly mackerel, salmon and sardines

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I have recently discovered how easy it is to make your own fishcakes. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a great recipe using tinned mackerel. You coat the fish cakes in polenta which gives them a crisp coating when fried. As he aptly says this is a good store cupboard recipe which can use up some old potatoes. Polenta is not something that everyone will have, but once you buy a bag it lasts for ages, like other grains.

Drinking water

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Drinking two litres of water a day can burn as many as 96 calories. He advises drinking when you’re feeling thirsty, when you’re feeling hungry and 30 minutes before every meal. Please don’t buy bottled water. Hopefully the focus on plastic recently will make you reluctant to increase the rubbish we create which ends up in landfill or our oceans. It is also a complete waste of money – just buy a pretty reusable bottle that you enjoy using and fill it from the tap. It’s free and it’s good for you. If you don’t like the taste of plain water just add a slice of lemon or a few crushed mint leaves to the bottle. Please don’t add squash as that is just sugar.

Eat sweet potatoes several times a week

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Apparently these are one of the best sources in the world for beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin. Sweet potato fries have become trendy recently.  I often choose these as an alternative to regular fries, but apparently they can be covered in unhealthy oils, sugar and salt and therefore should be avoided if this is the case. You might want to try making your own sweet potato wedges at home, but if you can get them crispy in the oven I’d be interested to know how you do it.

No snacking before bed – twelve hour fasting window

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Once you’ve eaten your dinner, that’s it, no more food until breakfast. Satchin Panda, who writes about circadian rhythms, says that your body needs time to repair and if you are still digesting food during the night it is like trying to patch tarmac on the motorway with cars still driving up and down the road. A great analogy I thought.

So that’s it for the moment. I am sure that you are familiar with some of these suggestions, but maybe not all of them. A few things to try maybe before next time when I will be looking at ‘Master Your Mindset’.

The Budget

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So before I review my monthly spending I thought that I would let you know my monthly budget. This reflects the changes that I have made since discovering FIRE e.g. cutting food costs, beauty treatment costs and increasing savings.

Household Bills

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Firstly, about £1550.00 comes out of my account into our joint account. Currently I am paying the mortgage and most of the household bills and my partner is spending the equivalent on the renovation of the house. At present this money is split as follows:

Mortgage £560.00
Mortgage overpayment £550.00
Council Tax £244.00
Water £49.00
Gas and electricity £96.00
TV licence £13.00
Broadband and line rental £26.50
Charity donation £6.00

Budgeting for annual expenses

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I then have a personal account into which I transfer £300.00 at the beginning of each month in order to save towards annual car expenses and other regular payments. The money in that account is split as follows:

Car service £20.00
Car tax £2.50
MOT £3.50
Car breakdown £5.10
Car insurance £16.00
House insurance £12.00 (this is towards half of this)
Travel insurance £7.20
Hair cuts £10.00
Eyebrow waxing £6.00
Dental check-up £1.20
Opticians check-up/new glasses £13.50
Physiotherapy appointments £96.00
Holiday fund £100.00

Saving and living

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That leaves about £815.00. I have direct debits into two savings accounts totalling £435.00, so I am down to £380 to live on for the month. This is divided as follows:

Food £140.00 (this is for my half)
Petrol £120.00
Toiletries £7.50
Professional membership £24.00
Mobile phone £10.00
Pilates classes £40.00
Miscellaneous £40.00

Now, I have some added income every month as I get paid mileage from my company for travelling. It varies from month to month, but can be from £100 to £250. This allows for some extras in this tight budget or adds to my savings at the end of the month.

I will let you know how January has gone in a couple of weeks!

Habits Not Resolutions

My advice for today is to be the tortoise rather than the hare – small steps, not big leaps. In this way you are more likely to arrive at your chosen destination.

This is the time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions – get fit, lose weight, give up smoking, save money – but as we all know many people fail to see these through despite all of their good intentions. Now if you have made some resolutions, that’s great, you have some long-term goals to work towards in 2019. The next step is to translate each resolution into something that you are going to do at least several times a week, if not every day, in order to achieve that goal. The key is to start small. If at the moment you don’t do any exercise at all don’t commit yourself to going to the gym for an hour five mornings a week. Start with say a fifteen-minute walk three times a week and if you achieve that and can keep it up for six weeks, then increase it.

In order to monitor your progress a habit tracker may be useful. These are a popular tool with those in the bullet journaling community. Basically, it is a star chart for adults. Draw out a table with the days of the month across the top and the habits that you want to cultivate down the side. At the end of each day look at which habits you have achieved and put a tick (or a star!) in the box. Then, at the end of the month you can assess your progress and adjust next month’s habit tracker accordingly.

One of my trackers from last year – it can be as simple or as fancy as you want to make it

The good thing about a habit tracker is that you can see your progress and hopefully, if there are lots of ticks, you will be spurred on by your positive progress. Even though the initial changes may be small, you have to start somewhere and over time they can grow and help you move towards your big goal. As the saying goes, ‘Every journey begins with a single step’. Every day you will take one step and eventually you will arrive at your destination. Good luck on your journey!

Habits That I Hope Will Help Me Achieve FIRE

Began taking anything that I want to eat or drink during the day, with me

This is a common one that anybody who wants to save money can easily do. I am not one for a Starbucks everyday, but occasionally I would get myself a coffee on the way to work or stop for a sandwich if I couldn’t be bothered to make one that morning. Now I make myself a flask of coffee for the day and try to take something to eat. As it’s winter it tends to be a flask of soup, but when it gets warmer it will be salad, usually including some left over veggies from dinner the night before.

Looking at the price of petrol at every petrol station that I pass

Having done this for a while I have realised that Tesco is always the cheapest and recently it has been going down by a penny a litre every time that I visit.

Got a Tesco Credit Card

Apparently Tesco has one of the most generous points systems – one point for every £1 spent in the store, two points for every £1 spent on petrol and when buying something from another shop, you get one point for every £8 you spend. One point is approximately one penny. I have 0% interest for 20 months on the card and so I can make the minimum payments for 18 months, put all the money that I would have spent in a savings account, earn some interest and then pay off the balance next year. Hey presto, free money!

Wearing more clothes when working at home

Some days I just sit at my computer and type, other days I am out and about. When I am at home I have taken to wearing thick socks and putting a blanket over my knees so that I don’t have to put the heating on. I have been lucky in that our winter has been quite mild until now, but over the past couple of days it has dropped and I may end up having to put the heating on for an hour or so. Working at home saves me money on petrol as I would have a round trip of 70 miles, but I am not sure money wise how that equates with two hours of central heating.

Opened a stocks and shares ISA

I have had money in premium bonds for a few years. It felt a safe way to save money with the exciting possibility of becoming a millionaire. Although I think that that is more likely with premium bonds than when buying a lottery ticket, surprise surprise it didn’t happen. Occasionally I won £25, but I think I would have earnt more through interest in savings account. I therefore took the plunge and opened a stocks and shares ISA with Vanguard. Unfortunately so far I am down nearly £100, but it is very early days and all the advice that I have read says that you have to play the long game. Don’t lose your nerve when the stock market dips, but in fact invest more money, as what you buy today is cheaper than it was yesterday. When the stock market rises again, as it inevitably will, your investment will go up.

Started eating more vegetables and less fish

I was a vegetarian for a lot of years, but when I met my partner, who is a meat eater, the compromise was to start eating fish and I do actually enjoy it. The difficulty is that fish is expensive and with the meagre budget that I have set for our food shopping I can’t afford it every week. Therefore it is now an occasional treat and we are back to eating mostly veggies, which consists of a lot of Indian food as you can put almost any vegetable in a curry.

Making double the quantity of dinner and freezing it

I’ve read a lot about batch cooking – spending most of Sunday cooking and putting it all in the freezer in nice little plastic tubs. I just find the thought of spending the whole day in the kitchen unattractive so instead I try to cook double or triple the quantity for dinner and freeze the surplus. In this way I am not doing any extra cooking, but we still have meals in the freezer which we can eat if we don’t have a lot of time for cooking on a weekday evening.

Why I missed driving

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Some of my days are spent sitting in front of a computer, but others are spent travelling around, which means a lot of time in my car. Usually it’s an hour there and an hour back and maybe some shorter journeys during the day. Those such as Mr Money Mustache or Jacob Lund Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme would say that we should ditch the car and walk everywhere, but unfortunately my job doesn’t allow me to do that. Therefore I have found a way to enjoy my time in the car and put it to good use. It initially started with a friend reminding me about audiobooks which are available in the library, but then one day when I was watching You Tube whilst jogging I found the Afford Anything podcast http://www.affordanything.com and I was hooked. Watching a static picture on You Tube whilst listening to whoever Paula Pant, the host of the Afford Anything podcast, was interviewing was rather boring, but a quick hop over to her website and I found over 150 podcasts to download on to my phone and play in the car, all about financial independence.

Over the Christmas period I have mostly been working at home and it just doesn’t seem right to spend time sitting and listening to podcasts. I suppose that I could do it whilst doing some housework, but if I’m partly concentrating on something else then I often lose concentration and miss bits. In the car I am able to just completely focus on listening to podcasts; obviously whilst having my full concentration on the road as well.

That is why I have missed driving. I now actually look forward to getting in the car some days; planning what to listen to, downloading it to my phone. It is like a treasure trove of information out there just waiting to be discovered and it is completely free. It may not fit the ideal picture of someone working towards financial independence, but without my car, I couldn’t do my job and without my job there wouldn’t be any money to save for the future and therefore no chance of achieving FI. And, as well as making the journey more interesting I have learnt a great deal about financial independence from all of the podcasts that I have listened to.