“Part of being a top performer is existing in the real world. You and I don’t need [to live] in a soundproofed zen meditation garden. We need a way to work even when we’re distracted because the world will always be distracting.” -Ramit Sethi, entrepreneur
This will feel more controversial than it should.
Your health lifestyle needs to work in the real world. Certainly, we get to determine much of what our “real world” looks like. It may not contain vaccines or GMO foods. It may be early mornings at the gym. Your lifestyle may end up looking a lot different than your friends’ and family’s lifestyles. And part of why we have the Know The Cause community is to connect and share so you know how to make this lifestyle work in the real world.
Having said that, there are things we can’t control, and challenges we just have to be able to withstand.
Sleep It Off
For example, sleep. My Aunt Wilma used to have little sayings and proverbs and pieces of folk wisdom she’d share with the kids around her. I was at her house one day when I was a child, and out of nowhere she looked at me and said, “Kyle, you need to train yourself to be able to sleep anywhere – a car, a bus, on the ground…anywhere.” And then she went back to whatever she was doing.
(She, like all of my mom’s family, grew up during the Great Depression, and a lot of their advice was about becoming hearty and adaptable.)
Fast-forward to this year when I was listening to a “biohacker” podcast, and the subject was sleep. The host and guest were talking about all of the gear they both “need” in order to get a decent night’s sleep. The curtains, masks, humidity, EMF disrupters, ambient noise, ear plugs, mattress covers, pillow add-ons, magnetized box springs, binaural wave generators, hours of lead-up, etc are all, apparently, how they “hack” their sleep. They each said something like, “If I don’t have ALL of these variables accounted for, I’m a mess.”
Aunt Wilma would not be impressed.
One of them recognized how much handling they need for just a simple night’s sleep, and he asked, “In a way…do you think we’re weakening ourselves by requiring so much sleep tech?” Long pause. “Uhhmmm…I don’t really want to answer that question”, the other one replied.
I’ve noticed that a lot of current bio-hacking philosophy surrounds various kinds of tech that supposedly make your health optimization easier. And some of it is really cool. I wear a mask at night to block out any ambient light, but it’s not the kind the biohackers recommend for $400; mine came from Wal Mart for three bucks.
But I understand cool tech. I love all of it. And yet, there’s something about NEEDING all of this stuff that bothers me.
Michael Smith, who is a terrific contributor to Know The Cause, was talking with me a decade ago about this kind of thing, and simply said, “It feels like instead of these things making us stronger and heartier, our dependence on them is making us softer.” Every time either of us talks about how we’re struggling with something that shouldn’t be a struggle, the other one will say, “Soft”.
We also remind ourselves of Doug Kaufmann’s sharing his stories of his year in Vietnam as a Navy Corpsman. Bullets, snakes, leeches, rain, mosquitos and malaria, explosions are only a few things he and all of our military personnel have had to deal with. You can’t exactly control the humidity in the jungle. But you gotta sleep.
We shouldn’t compare wartime challenges with regular civilian life and simple ways to optimize our lives. I’m just saying that luxurious “hack” strategies, perhaps, shouldn’t be what our health depends on.
Out To Eat
Don’t hate me, but the same is true of restaurant experiences. I go out with supplement company reps a lot after my radio show. If there’s no overtly healthy restaurant nearby and we go to a conventional food restaurant instead, and we should know what we’re walking into. But my goodness….the grief that natural health people put wait staff through is sometimes ridiculous.
I was once sitting with a newly minted naturopath who was grilling our waitress relentlessly:
“Are the greens organic?
Is the tomato GMO?
Why don’t you have stevia or xylitol at the table?
Is the cream from grass-fed cows?”
It went on and on throughout the whole meal. And she harangued me with it, too!
“What brand of stevia is that?
Don’t you know that you should put these special power drops in municipal water?
You should bring polycarbonate utensils with you to restaurants.”
(This, while she ate breadsticks and low-fat pasta.)
I finally said, “We knew what we were walking into when we came here. It’s a conventional restaurant, and it’s just one meal.”
When I said that, her shoulders dropped, she put her head in her hands, then looked up and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t usually behave this way. I just thought you were going to be uptight about everything because you’ve been in natural health for so long. I was just trying to get along.” We had a long talk about natural health culture afterward. (And yes, our waitress was given an apology and an extra tip for enduring all of that with grace.)
Others I’ve eaten with told me that they’ll “probably get migraines” after we ate conventional eggs from a restaurant.
One person told me that they were going to need chelation therapy because we ate grilled chicken at a restaurant, and he worried that the chicken had heavy metals in it.
One woman was in tears after swallowing a sample capsule of a supplement and discovering that it contained a whisper of magnesium stearate. She literally thought her life was at risk because of the scare articles she read online about this filler. She called me for days afterward, worried that something horrible was about to happen to her.
The Real World, Such As It Is
Our debate culture may have taught you to challenge me by accusing me of secretly being in favor of GMOs, or conventional food, etc. I’m not in favor of any of that – and I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have strategies that optimize your life and health. 90% of the time, you’d be proud of me.
On the other hand, we have to live in the real world. Occasionally, the beef in front of us will be grass-fed but not grass-finished. Sometimes, you have to sleep in a hotel room without blackout curtains over the windows. Once in a while, your health tracker won’t be available, and you’ll have to hit the gym without knowing your heart rate or the number of steps you’ve taken that day. And that’s OK.
Natural health culture rightly exposes toxins and harmful habits that our culture tends to know nothing about. It attempts to empower you to avoid what you can, and seek out things that make your life better.
But sometimes you just can’t be ideal. Please try not to worry about it. I always tell my clients to begin with a picture of what Ideal probably looks like, and then get as close to that as your time, finances, and lifestyle will allow. And don’t sweat it when you either mess up occasionally or just couldn’t manage to be Ideal once this week.
And learn to sleep anywhere.