There is a lot of perceived mystery in the world of human health and fitness. Every person you talk to will have different opinions on how to best manage our health. Every doctor will recommend something to improve your health and more often than not these messages contradict each other.
What would happen if we took all of the best health advice from the best sources and abided by that advice habitually for one year?
Would we feel THAT much better? What would we feel like? Would it make any difference in our lives? How hard would it be? Would it ruin our social lives? Would we be able to have any fun?
Would it be WORTH it?
Welcome to the 2019 Health Odyssey.
After 17 years in the health and fitness industry, 15 of which as a full time profession, I have decided to embark on a health quest, the purpose of which is to answer these very questions. I want to know if it would really and truly make a difference in our lives to adhere to the best health recommendations out there and to refrain from the cultural practices relating to modern Western living that we know are detrimental to us.
As I have expanded my knowledge and understanding within the world of human health I have come to understand that there are components of what makes us human currently void from many affluent cultures. We all know better quality nutrition and increasing overall physical exercise is good for us but I believe there is a huge component missing from our efforts to be healthier. It all relates to sacrifice and pain.
The real change to the lives of those living within affluence (we refer to this as first world living) is the increase in comfort. We have central heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, our groceries can be delivered to us, our food pre-made and stored in our refrigerators, our cars can almost drive themselves if the uber cannot pick us up, our dogs get walked for us, and our yards are cared for by others. I could continue this list for a very long time. The point is that we have the technology and resources now to live in a zone of comfort that precludes us from any form of discomfort and hardship.
As a result we are weaker and sicker than ever. There shouldn’t be more than 60 pharmacies in my small city. That’s right. More than 60 pharmacies for a population of just over 100,000 people. How many people rely on medications? It’s appalling and truly frightening. We are seeing huge increases in depression, suicide, and other mental health related disorders that I fully believe are mostly resultant from affluent living.
My 2019 Health Odyssey is an exploration into a deeper understanding of the questions I posed earlier and the new ideas of how to truly maximize our health based on the last few years of my personal learning and research.
And I invite anyone along for the ride.
Most of you won’t do it. You don’t have the mental fortitude and you aren’t willing to truly sacrifice. You aren’t willing to be uncomfortable.
And I would be confident in saying that 99% of the things in your life that make you unhappy or you constantly feel the need to change actually stem from the fact that you are not willing to make sacrifices and to give up some of your comfort.
Being uncomfortable and experiencing pain are integral aspects of the human condition and I firmly believe the lack of these things are detrimental to us all. In the summer you are going to be hot, in the winter a little cold. It isn’t always comfortable but your body has integrated systems to handle these types of environmental fluctuations and you need to use them.
Pain. Some things hurt. No, I don’t want you grabbing a knife and stabbing yourself. But pain is just a part of the uncomfortable scale. I have been learning to play the guitar for a few months now and guess what? It hurts. My fingers hurt a lot. Well, they don’t anymore because I have built up callouses but getting to that point was painful. In our culture the first inclination is to create a product that will prevent this form happening. “You can play the guitar without your fingers ever getting sore!” We spout that mantra like it’s a good thing!
We NEED to experience these things. It is what builds fortitude. It is where our sense of accomplishment comes from. It is, at its heart, the essence of what makes us human. And we continually create ways to make thing easier and remove any sort of discomfort.
It scares me.
This odyssey is a year-long journey and it will not be easy.
Rites of passage have been a significant aspect of human culture since the beginning of human culture yet has been removed from most of modern affluent society. Our fixation on comfort and the explosion of technology now providing that comfort has all but eliminated the age-old journey of overcoming hardship and emerging as a different person. I believe this to be one of the most overlooked aspects of modern affluent society.
A year is a long short time.
It seems daunting at first but on a daily basis I have conversations with people about how fast time goes and inevitably they say something like, ‘where do the years go?’ So while a year can feel like an eternity in the moment it will feel like a ripple in the pond over the totality of your life.
Yet the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits gained from accomplishing something truly extraordinary will have an effect on the rest of your life, forever.
Many aspects of this odyssey are going to instantly prevent most people from participating in the undertaking. And this speaks to my point that we are weak and unwilling to get past hardship in our lives.
I will save most of you from reading any further. There will be no alcohol for the full year.
‘Oh, I am not doing that!’ 95% of the people who read this far just decided they would never do this. They have made a list of reasons why they need to have alcohol, how they can’t live without it, or have convinced themselves that there are health benefits to consuming alcohol.
The fact that most people won’t take alcohol out of their lives scares me. Like our entire culture is addicted to a poison that literally kills us and everyone is OK with it. That’s fucked up. And NOONE SEEMS TO CARE.
The odyssey will involve sacrifice, hard work, commitment, and it will be a challenge. Rites of passage aren’t easy. That is the whole point of them. It has to hurt, to be hard, to be a struggle. It has to push you past your comfort – FAR past it.
It is through overcoming these obstacles that we become better, that we grow, that we learn, that we become more than we currently are.
There is no pill, no program, no piece of technology, no amount of money, or anything else that can ever replace or replicate this process. You must go through it and you must survive it to truly benefit your health and your life.
This is the next step in my journey and I am happy to share the experience with anyone. I am also happy to act as a guide to others who wish to explore what they are truly capable of.
Let’s get to some details.
Time to pull off the band-aid. I will do it quickly for you.
What will be excluded for the full year?
• Recreational drugs
• Processed and mass manufactured food
o Ex.: chips, pop, gum, crackers, most restaurants, chocolate, flavoured teas, pastries, bakeries, pretty much all of Costco, cereal, pre-prepared meats, veggies, etc. (this list is not exhaustive)
• Processed and manufactured chemicals
o Scented candles, air fresheners, most cleaning products, tap water, (this list is not exhaustive)
o While hard to define and harder still to remove, a large focus of this odyssey will be about minimizing stress in life. Most people have no concept of the deleterious effects high stress has on the human body. Toxic relationships, bad jobs, shift-work, focusing on negative news are just a few examples.
o Obviously many things cannot simply be removed so most of this aspect of the odyssey will rely on the lifestyle inclusions that will be listed later
That’s it!!! Lol. The examples I have listed are simply to give people an idea of what will be excluded. Chemicals and manufactured foods are so integrated into our lives that it is impossible to think of them all and list them right here. Removing these things will be an ongoing process that will have to evolve as the odyssey progresses. It is the prevalence of these things into our lives that makes them so insidious. Anyone who embarks on this journey with me will be able to discuss with me at anytime to explore if they should be avoiding a specific product or not.
I don’t want you to think of this as an odyssey in what you can cut out of your life. The VAST majority of this odyssey is about ADDING things to our lives that will improve them. I think we spend far too much time as a culture stressed over all the things we shouldn’t be doing while at the same time indulging in everything. It is a hypocrisy that very few people even notice.
As soon as I recommend adding a few things into life I am met with the same response – every. Single. Time. ← That. Time Always out of people’s mouths is, ‘I just don’t have the time.’
Funny. You know what the kardashians are doing, and the latest Trump tweet, plus are current on a couple of TV shows. And were drinking a couple of nights last week….
We all have time. It is where we choose to spend it. As a culture we also have a misguided belief that anything positive for our health is going to take an hour a day everyday. That is not necessary. I will list some options later on.
For now, I simply want to make sure you understand the true point of this odyssey is to INCLUDE more healthy things into your life for the next year. Some daily, some weekly, some sporadically.
While the exclusions may seem daunting to most, I believe that over the course of the year it will be the INCLUSIONS list that provides the most challenging.
It is important to recognize that the VAST majority of this odyssey is about adding positive things to your life vs. restricting things from your life. Our culture does not value health. This may seem like a shock to some, however, it is the truth. Our culture values medicine, treatments, and fixing things that have gone wrong. We do not value prevention nor activities dedicated to maintenance of health. That is what we will be adding to daily life.
Because the truth of the matter is actually simple. You’ve heard your grandparents say it your entire life: ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ This has been lost. And for almost two decades I have given my entire life
This is the list of things that will be ADDED to life for the year.
This will be broken down into three categories; Fitness, Nutrition, and Lifestyle. I will also provide some basic details when applicable.
This is a base list of things you must include. It does not mean you cannot expand upon this! Skiing, rock climbing, hiking, swimming, OCR races, whatever – add fitness to life. Fitness needs to be based on human movement and full body conditioning. We can explore as the year progresses.
However, the following is required:
• 15 min of exercise and movement daily
o Yes, even if you’re sick or on vacation
o You can also exercise far more than this!
• Hacky sack,
• Indian Clubs
• Animal flows
• Breathing work (harmonica)
• Inversion work (1x per week min)
• Cold exposure
o Minimum of 1min daily
o Winter is easy, go outside (that’s where I train). Cold showers are the easiest way to accomplish this
• All food must be purchased whole, prepared and cooked from scratch. No pre-bought anything, no packaged foods, no prepared meals. YOU must make your own food.
o Those with children, yes, this could be a challenge. See it as an opportunity to do a new activity with them – this means better food and great learning!!
o Restaurants: there won’t be many you can go to! Must be able to verify that they cook all of their food from scratch! Impossible to know how they source all of their ingredients however most places of this calibre do focus on great ingredients!
• Intermittent fasting
o I will recommend warrior style ideally. Eating within a 4 hour window 95% of the time. This means that about 20 days throughout the year you will eat throughout a 24 hour period. Times of feasting are important!
o Any other fasting protocol is fine as long as it includes a minimum of a 16 hours fasting period at least 5 days a week.
• Fermented foods daily
o Our western culture is so poorly exposed to fermented foods it is scary! And I believe this is a huge health issue.
o Kombucha, sourdough, kimchi, cheeses, and sauerkraut are the most well known. But there are tens of thousands ferments around the world. I will be exploring many of them and sharing.
o Minimum of 3x per week
o Fish, shellfish, shrimp, octopus, etc – it’s all fair game
o Grass fed, ethically raised, locally sourced or sourced from small farmers (for example my butcher brings in beef from the East Coast that is grass fed from a small farmer – that’s ok!)
• This is for beef, chicken, eggs, pork, lamb, or game
• ONE NEW FOOD PER WEEK
o For the entire year. Something you have never eaten before or something you think you don’t like.
This section are activities designed to stimulate your mind and expand your life. This is a basic list because I know people like a little direction.
• A MINIMUM of a once a week journal documenting this odyssey. Can be a written journal, blog, insta feed, FB page, audio recording, digital journal, whatever! But you have to journal this experience.
• Read 20 books
• Weekly educational podcast (minimum)
• Learn one new and advanced skill
o A musical instrument, pilot license, scuba certification, diasaster emergency search and rescue volunteer, etc.
o These examples seems like big projects – they are. That is the whole point.
That’s it! ☺
The 2019 Health Odyssey.
If anyone would like to join me on this epic experience I am happy to share what I am doing and assist you.
Can you make your own version of this? Sure! But beware – if you are starting this and trying to make it less challenging, less painful, then you are not doing it.
You are either in or you are not in. There is no halfway in. That is simply a re-creation of all the shit programs everyone starts in the New Year. It has to be a year. If you miss anything or slip up, that’s ok, but you’ve failed.
What will the result of this grand experiment be?
I don’t know. But I want to find out. I want to know – if we do that much to take care of our health, our mind, and our spirit – just how much of a difference will that make in our lives?
There is only one way to find out…..