Caring For Your Own Health
The human being, if born healthy, can remain healthy throughout life, and even extend life beyond what is accepted as a normal lifespan. This is accomplished by building the right beliefs about human health, and habits in three key areas that I call the three pillars of longevity. These principles have been used by wise people for thousands of years to overcome sickness and master optimal physical health. However, the pillars have largely been obscured or distorted by modern nutritional science and the big pharma sponsored health system which is focused on sickness rather than health. An earnest quest to master the three pillars may not bring immortality, but it will greatly improve the quality of your life! The three pillars of longevity are fueling, recovery and integrated training. In this post I will take a look at aspects of the first pillar.
The wisdom of fueling requires an overhaul on how we think about food and fueling our bodies. Many tribes and individuals through history have discovered the wisdom to maintain vital, healthy bodies and minds into their 100’s (and often beyond). These cultures and individuals have a very different relationship to fueling and food than most of today’s westerners. Further, they live to their ripe old age vibrant and healthy, not requiring health insurance and an army of doctors, supplements or drugs to keep them ticking.
Aside from the beliefs about the human body and longevity, which will be addressed later, their discovery is to optimally fuel the body with air, water, micro and macronutrients in optimal quality and quantities at the right times. Accepting that our beliefs and habits aren’t working, we can learn from them and dial in new habits that will quickly unlock excellence in this pillar. Here’s how the timing, quality and quantity of your fueling plan can be improved:
- Timing: I propose dropping the artifice of “three square meals a day.” Though good intentioned, eating three large sit-down meals isn’t what your body needs. We were meant to move throughout the day, and graze when our energy levels required up-leveling. We are meant to take a break to eat when we have accomplished a challenging task, or during that task if our energy levels drop. Think of your day like an endurance event where you fuel throughout the day to maintain energy and output. Pausing for an hour or more mid-day to sit and eat a large meal slows the body down, introduces lethargy and digestion problems, and causes us to lose momentum. I am an advocate of working or training through the traditional lunch hour and snacking throughout the day instead. The morning is a time for reflection and a good jump-start fatty snack to get the brain energized and the evening time for family communion with your one, light, sit-down light meal. Eating too much in the evening will lead to sleep issues, impairing your recovery efforts (the subject of a future post).
- Quality: This principle is not rocket science since we all know that high quality food is much healthier than the typical bar-coded crud we have grown accustomed to munching on. Fortunately, the farm to table industry is growing fast, providing much needed alternatives. When I grew up in Upstate NY, farm to table was taken for granted, and I still recall the delight at our first TV dinner. Little did I know I was the subject of a new social experiment designed to put me in the hospital after 40 years of eating that junk. Fortunately, I figured out the scam early enough to avoid that fate!
The more controversial aspect of my quality principle is to move away from having meat at every meal. This was such a given for me as well – you had eggs, potatoes, some meat and bread or cereal for breakfast. Lunch was a meat sandwich and dinner was some meat, potatoes pasta, and veggies. All that meat is slowly killing us (not to mention the bread, cereal pasta, which the paleo experts such as my friend Robb Wolf have shed light on). Meat takes a ton of energy to digest and is very toxic to our system. Meat eaters howl at this assertion and state that eating meat is a basic human right, and need. I ask what the animal that we eat, ate? In the case of beef, that is often corn or grass. So we are eating a protein source brought up on corn and full of the animal’s toxins. I am less concerned with fish, which is a better meat choice though it has taken me years to acquire the taste, and I worry about water source toxicity. But I have increasingly come to believe that we are better off with a naturally grown whole food protein sources, such as from peas, hemp or Kale. Certainly conditioning, taste and social needs get in the way of this idea, but if we are serious about optimal health and longevity, you will take this notion seriously as I do and investigate my claims scientifically as well as experientially.
Bottom line, I recommend high quality, locally grown whole food sources and to limit, or eliminate, meat altogether. This diet will have a high nutrient value and be seasonally adjusted for variety and include the appropriate micro and macro nutrients of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. Certainly getting enough protein from a garden meal can be a challenge, but we need less protein and more fat anyhow. And the health benefits far outweigh that challenge of getting ample supply, which is quickly being solved by new technologies such as Connor Young’s Ample Meal.
- Quantity: I estimate that we eat about 30% more food than we need. Part of the reason is that, as discussed above, food consumption has become about pleasure and socialization, where excess is easy. Add to this the addition of addictive sugar and salt by food processing companies, and you get a one-two punch that leads to over-consumption. Once you break the sugar-salt habit, and increase your fat intake, you will find that you need much less volume while getting the same caloric bang for your buck. Also, fasting is important, both intermittent as well as periodic. Intermitted fasting is taking a long break between food either daily or once or more a week. I intermittent fast for up to 14 hours a day (7pm to 10am) most days. Periodic fasting is where you would do a quarterly one day fast or annual 3 to 5 day fast, for example. The fast gives your body a chance to detoxify and resets your immune system. Longevity experts have long espoused the benefits of fasting, as well as noted that cultures that live into their 100’s (reference the Blue Zone study) eat less than others.
So, to summarize, the three pillars of longevity are fueling, recovery and integrated training. Fueling for excellence includes how we orient ourselves to macro-nutrient intake, hydration and breathing. In this post I addressed the macro-nutrient aspect of fueling, and noted that we should endeavor to eat more frequent, lower quantity and higher quality whole foods. I hope you have the courage to try my recommendations, and I know that you will be pleasantly surprised at how good you look, feel and ultimately, how healthy you become! Next time I will discuss hydration and breathing, but until then, train hard, stay focused and skip lunch.
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Mark, I was thrilled to read the latest blog post and the changing view of moving to a more plant based lifestyle.
I switched from a Paleo to a Plant based diet about 2 years ago and have been astonished at the performance and health gains I’ve achieved. As a Crossfittet and Endurance athlete one of the biggest advantages I’ve seen is my ability to recover after hard days and ready to go the next. Glad to see a little more exposure to this way of approaching fueling for this community.
Somewhat interesting in “8 Weeks to Sealfit” states “Seal Fuel really is a caveman diet. It is commonly called the Paleo Diet” P 39….is this insight to eliminate most meat from the diet an evolution of thought…or should those in “8 weeks” training stick to seal fuel while those not in 8 week training eliminate most meat?