Blue Zones | Joaquin's Story
Story 125

Blue Zones

Joaquin Razo: My name is Joaquin Razo and I have the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director for Blue Zones Project, Upper Napa Valley. For me, my own life events have really led me to be a part of Blue Zones Project. I would say maybe about four years ago, I was in a pretty unhealthy place mentally, physically, emotionally. I was probably over 435 pounds. There was a moment of rock bottom. There was a moment of saying that this needed to be done. This needed to change.

Blue Zones is not a weight loss program. It's not, again, some fad diet. It's those conscious decisions every day to make healthier habits, healthier choices. During these last four years, I started making different decisions, whether it be changing my diet habits, actively moving, changing who I was around, even, and the mentality of the people that I surrounded myself with. And over the last four years leading up to today, I would say those shifts that have changed, those moments have changed and I've lost over 135 pounds.

It's a daily practice to choose to be healthy. It's a daily practice to surround yourself with your loved ones, to surround yourself with those right people around you and the choices that you make. How we set up our environments for people to holistically be able to choose the healthier choice in an easier way, in an affordable way, an accessible way. Did you grow up in a space where you can easily walk somewhere? Or do you always have to be in a car? Or is there access to just foods that you know are healthier and affordable? That I think is what we do with the Blue Zones Project.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and one of the hosts said, "If you can't hear me, I don't think you can see me." So much of that is true with our community, because if people can't feel heard, they don't think we can see them. And that's what Blues Zones Project does. We give an opportunity to this community to be heard, to say, "This is the change we need. This is the food access we need." And we give them a chance to know that they're being seen, that they're being acknowledged, that they're being loved, and that they deserve to live longer and happier.

The team that I get to witness every day and be a part of, they are a group of individuals, amazing persons, that truly have a foundation and love for the work that we're doing. When I think about Kelly and the amazing work that she's doing with our policy partners and organizations and committee members, and the change for accessible food and accessible built environment, and it's things that our community is asking for. And when I think about Fabio and the work he's doing with worksites, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and even when we did the ribbon-cutting for Sunshine Foods, and Fabio worked so hard with Patty and Jay to really get them to be the first Blues Zones approved grocery store in our area. And to know that Carolyn is working with individuals and our senior citizens to really allow them to have the opportunity to figure out that they can add years their life even now.

And I think that goes back to me being able to know I had to set up the people around me, my family, even just what you put in the refrigerator as how we're making those choices for ourselves easier every day, too. And knowing that all of those steps of saying, "I want this, but I want this for everyone around me." Sometimes I get asked, "What's the secret sauce? What's that special talent, skill, decision that you need to make these changes?" And I don't think it's one in particular, and I don't think it's up to an individual in particular, necessarily, all the time. I think that's what makes this project great, because it's about collective impact. It's about how we're connecting multiple organizations, volunteers, individuals, community members, stakeholders, to come together and create such a larger impact of collectively making the decision to be healthier.

As a community, we're building this space for people to be seen and people to be heard and people to be acknowledged to be the best and healthiest version of themselves. And it's just knowing that joy is on the rise and that hope is calling, love is calling, health is calling, and that's what keeps us going