With the new year fast approaching, I know many of you are thinking about losing weight, getting in shape, changing your diet, etc.
That’s all well and good, but if you’re asking the wrong questions you’ll get the wrong answers.
Obesity, disease, lethargy and the like are merely symptoms of our disconnection with nature and a lack of alignment with way our bodies are designed to work. In order to thrive, you must understand the core drivers of health. And trust me, they’re not what you think they are.
I recently emailed a friend my top seven tips for optimal health, and edited that email for you to read below. So without further ado, here’s what you need to know:
Big Picture Context
Seven Key Factors for Optimal Health
1 – Light
Sunlight is your best friend. It is what powers your mitochondria. You want to get as much sun as possible: at minimum, try to be outdoors (windows minimize positive effects) to see every sunrise, every noonday (late morning or early afternoon is fine), and every sunset. Take out your contacts or take off your glasses for this. Get as much skin exposure as possible. Throw out your sunblock. As the sun rises and falls it has different wavelengths. These are signals that help set your internal body clock (circadian rhythm), which is a major driver of health. When you can’t be outdoors, try to simulate what’s happening outside, inside. Keep the house lights dimmer in the mornings and evenings. Use your phone’s blue light filter in the mornings when it’s dark and the evenings after the sun sets. Having a mismatch between nature’s light and man made light creates chaos in our bodies. What you do with light is more important than what you do with food. This is part of the reason why I built an infrared sauna in our home.
2 – Grounding
Just as our bodies were made to live and thrive in natural sunlight, they were also made to be connected to the earth. Something amazing happens when we walk barefoot on dirt, grass, gravel, or even sidewalks. The earth offers us free electrons, something our bodies use to dramatically reduce chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the driver of numerous diseases and health issues. Yeah, it looks weird to walk barefoot, but if you can’t handle that, you can find alternatives like being barefoot in the privacy of your backyard. There are also earthing mats you can buy at places like Amazon which you plug into an outlet to stand or sleep on.
3 – EMF’S
Electromagnetic fields wreak havoc on our DNA. This is why I was encouraging you to have your phone on airplane mode as much as possible. I have something called a Trifold meter which I use to test how much dirty electricity is in our house, from WiFi, electronics, etc. The closer you are to EMF’s, the more damage they do at a cellular level. For example, we have a small breaker box in our hallway, directly across from where Leo was sleeping every night. His head was right up against the wall. I tested the levels and immediately moved his bed to other side of the room. I also tested our router and the EMF’s coming off it were outrageous. I found a way to move it away from the kids and reduce its negative impact. All this stuff sounds woo-woo because it’s not mainstream yet, but it’s backed by solid science and the leaders (not the lemmings) have been making the necessary adjustments for years.
4 – Sleep
Like I said, your bedtime is more important than your wake time. You want to sleep dark, cold, comfortably, and consistently. There should be no blue lights in your room. If you have a white noise machine, keep it away from your head. Beware caffeine in the afternoons and don’t eat before bed. See my notes on Why We Sleep for more.
5 – Heat and Cold
Our bodies thrive on heat and cold, and they actually learn how to adapt to it through a process called hormesis (good stress). But our modern environment is all about keeping us comfortable at all times. Again, we were created to live outdoors, with the changing seasons. Having a stable 72 degrees year round is not normal. This is part of why I get really hot in the sauna, then get really cold on my morning runs, then really hot again in the shower. I reverse this in the summer when I wear lots of layers while running and then hop into a cold shower afterwards. Many people take ice baths or go to other extremes to get greater benefits. But you can start by simply changing your mindset when you leave the house for walks, remembering that the cold and heat are your friends. There are so many health benefits to temperature extremes, from reduced stress, to more endorphins, to less inflammation, to increased insulin sensitivity, to better sleep, to fat loss, to detoxification.
6 – Food
Yeah, food is number six on the list. It matters, but if you’ve got 1-5 messed up, it doesn’t matter that much. You want to move towards a ketogenic diet (mostly healthy fats, some protein, very low carb). You want to eat real, nutritious, high quality food (see Food Rules by Pollan). You want to practice time restricted eating, meaning you have a defined window in which you eat every day and then you’re done. Your body is designed to fast on a daily basis. You could try starting with bulletproof coffee in the morning. Put some Kerrygold salted butter in there with MCT oil and stevia to sweeten if you prefer…use a milk frother to blend. Bulletproof coffee keeps your body in a fasted state, but keeps you feeling full and energized throughout the morning. Your eating window could start at lunch and end after dinner. If you’re eating too close to bed, it sends the wrong signal wrong to your body and hurts your sleep quality.
7 – Exercise
Everything counts. Getting a fitness tracker helps. The ideal is to stay active throughout the entire day. I run in the mornings, walk during the day, and strength train here and there. I space it out on purpose because that most closely aligns with our hunter/gatherer ancestry. Ideally, exercise is integrated into your everyday life, and you find ways to make it fun and sustainable.
There are so many other things I could mention, but these are my top seven, in order of importance. You’ll notice a common thread running between them: they are all about working with nature rather than against it. God put Adam and Eve in a garden, not a condo with WiFi. In our Western arrogance, we think that we can have our cake and eat it too. No way. Our modern lifestyles and conveniences are killing us. If you want to do a deeper dive into this stuff, check out a site called naturebuildshealth. Dr. Jack Kruse is another great resource but his stuff is way over most people’s heads, let alone paradigms.
So there you have it! I hope this was helpful. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or leave a comment below. If you’re interested in an even broader, more holistic framework for health, you might want to check out this metaphor.