Finding your ‘moai,’ so to speak

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I’m here this week with a TV show recommendation, of all things. 🙂

And before you roll your eyes at my suggestion of such a sedentary activity — watching TV, that is — just consider that we all have to relax at the end of the day. I think taking in a show, especially with my husband (who works overnights, so we don’t get to do this often) is a perfectly fine practice. One of my favorite things to do! On a quick aside, I don’t love when people villainize TV. Also, growing up, my mom would never sit still while she watched. She was always folding laundry, stretching on the floor, or keeping her body moving somehow. I think about that sometimes, and try to follow suit if it’s a day when I could use a little more movement.


I recently stumbled upon this limited series called “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” and I was intrigued. Usually I’m watching something on Hulu or HBO Max (“The Bear” and “The Sopranos” are two of my most-recent binges), so I hadn’t checked my Netflix queue in a while. This “Live to 100” show appeared in my “trending now” list, so I decided to give it a peek.

I found that Dan Buettner’s “Secrets of the Blue Zones” docuseries was created to reveal 12 habits that can add years to your life. Who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s the trailer:


As someone who works for a healthy living organization, this most certainly piqued my interest — personally and professionally.

Our TOPS members, as you know, are people interested in living fulfilling, long, healthy lives.

So, how does one DO that, exactly?

I realize that answer is likely different for everyone, but I wanted to see how people were living in these so-called “blue zones.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, blue zones, by the way, are regions in the world where people are living longer than average. The five featured in the mini-series are: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.

The host of the show, that Dan guy I mentioned earlier, was determined to figure out what it is about these places, and the people there, and their lifestyles, that’s leading to so much longevity.

I’m not even done with the series, for what it’s worth, but I’ve taken a lot from the first two episodes.

The show kicks off in Okinawa, Japan, where they do a few things of note: First of all, people typically only eat until they’re about 80% full. I could be better about this practice, personally, and instilling it within my kids. As a mom, I’m actually a pretty bad eater, timing wise. I wait and I wait and I wait, and I’ll say “I’ll do it soon!” and then I get distracted with work or my kids or balancing the mental load … and the next thing I know, I’m RAVENOUS and crabby and I probably over-eat, so that at least it’s out of the way and I don’t have to think about food for the foreseeable future.

Not the best!

But that 80% rule makes a lot of sense. Just like TOPS suggests, what it really is at the end of the day, is staying in tune with your body — not eating mindlessly or because you’re craving something on an emotional level. It’s knowing what your body needs, and learning how to work with your brain. Do you see the parallels?

And as for another element that felt intriguing, in Okinawa, they eat a lot of foods that I’m unfamiliar with — bitter melon, for example. Have you ever tried it? It almost looks like a cucumber that’s covered in warts and little spikes. Not the most appetizing, visually! But it’s rich in many nutrients, and it’s actually been used by indigenous populations around the world (for years) to help treat diabetes-related conditions. I’ll let you read about it for yourself — and in no way am I suggesting that you bypass your doctor or your meds in favor of this blog. I’m no doctor, and you need to work with that medical professional before you make any changes to your routine. But I was pretty fascinated to hear and read about all the reported benefits from something like bitter melon. When I saw some at the farmers market two weekends ago, my husband and I bought it, and made a stir-fry with the fruit a few days later. My kids even ate it, no questions asked, despite a pretty bitter taste (which the name promises!)

Pro tip: We Googled as to how we should best prepare our bitter melon, and the internet advised “with pork.” It was true – the pork worked to mellow the “bite” of the fruit. I might throw it in a smoothie next time, with a whole bunch of other ingredients to mask the bitterness, but I do want to work on incorporating foods like this into my regular routine. I might go meatless more often too, after hearing about all the health benefits associated with tofu.

The final thing that I wanted to touch on, that REALLY made me think about TOPS, was this concept of a moai. Have you heard that word before? It’s pronounced like: Moe-eye.

The show defines a moai as a committed social circle of people who get together and pool their money in times of hardship — essentially helping the person who needs it most (that week or that day, although I’m sure “rules” vary from moai to moai). This idea of a moai started out as a financial arrangement; and for some groups, it still is.

But the benefits far exceed and transcend money.

The women featured in the mini-series, specifically in Okinawa, were talking about why they thought they all reached their 90s with ease, and still seem to have so much vitality. It all comes down to the moai.

One woman said when she retired from her job — all the way back in 1983! — all she did was spend time inside her own home, or go work in the garden. It was nice, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t fulfilling.

She said something to the effect of, “Then I started walking around to houses in the neighborhood and saying, ‘let’s do a moai.'”

Now, she has this community of people who exist as a group to support one another and show up, day in and day out, for the group.

“We’re all friendly, and we’re learning how to sing and dance together,” the woman said. “We get together and chat. That is the secret to long living.”

If you ask me, that’s TOPS, in a nutshell.

Even if you’ve gained weight on a given week, or you’re not seeing any “scale” victories … we all have those seasons; it’s very relatable. It’s still the accountability to one another, the friendships, the camaraderie that REALLY keeps us happy and healthy. Don’t you think?

As the show pointed out, right now (especially in this post-pandemic era), a lot of the adult population is lonely and isolated. We need human connection more than ever.

In Okinawa, they’re getting more out of life by finding their friends, committing to them, and spending consistent time with them.

Is that the case in your life?

If not, I vote “time to join TOPS!” Or rejoin if you’re on the fence or if it’s been a few years. You’re always welcome with us.

Or “time to find a chapter that truly aligns with you, your goals and your life.”

Remember, we have a tonnnnn of chapters out there. So if you’re not truly happy, here’s a reminder to take things into your own hands. You have time! Consider online or virtual membership, or if you have a handful of friends who would rather meet in your own town, start your own TOPS chapter.

The options are aplenty.

And here’s a reminder to unwind at the end of the day — kick back, watch a show, maybe the one I mentioned above, and let me know if you try the bitter melon! I’ll try to blog again once I’m done with the series, if there were any final takeaways for me.

Happy Monday!

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6 thoughts on “Finding your ‘moai,’ so to speak

  1. Loved this. TOPS in a nutshell is so very on point. Shared it with our leader. It actually follows up on a discussion last week “what does TOPS mean to you”.

  2. This really struck a cord with me. It made me think of a former, very elegant, member of our Chapter (#TX 1237, Santa Fe). This member has led a very fulfilled and interesting life. She was married to one of the Casey brothers from Scotland that were Olympic Champions and very well-known in Scotland. He name is Myrtle Casey and she will turn 102 years old on Dec. 18, 2023!! She was a long standing KOPS that helped and encouraged me to reach my KOPS (I’m on my 3rd time right now – never give up). Up until a couple of years ago she was still sewing dance costumes for her daughter who is that was a ball room dance competitor. Although at this time, her health is starting to fail. Just had to share. Thanks

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