Health: What you can't control and what you can

Health doesn’t always equal fat loss, but fat loss is one of the few health related things you can control to some extent.

I almost died from pneumonia in high school. Two months later I got shingles in my eye-hole (my f*cking eye-hole!) and almost lost vision in said eye-hole. Last year I passed out in an NYC subway station and busted my head open on the super gross floor.

Oh, and by the way, I was quite lean when all of those things happened.

Health doesn’t always equal fat loss.

I try to make that clear in my writing but I feel like it deserves it’s own post because writing is hard i.e. getting your meaning across clearly and concisely doesn’t always happen.

There’s only so much a human can actually do for their health. I want to talk about what those things are, because health is less about “do this and you’ll be healthy” and more about “do this and you’ll have less risk of being unhealthy in this specific way”.

Health is complex -- fat loss isn’t always synonymous with an improvement in health markers such as blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, etc. And there are certainly other things that improve those health markers besides fat loss. Exercise being one of them.

The word unhealthy, in a perfect world, shouldn’t have any judgement behind it. It should be based on what will objectively improve an individual’s health.

So when I use the word “unhealthy” to describe food or habits, it doesn’t mean people who have unhealthy lifestyles don’t deserve to be treated like people, regardless of why they’re unhealthy. Whether it’s genetic, or because their diet consists of cigarettes and burger king.

Having spent a shit-ton of time incapacitated in hospital beds watching Monk marathons, I think life is better when you can minimize time at the doctor’s. So I encourage people to build healthy habits that will hopefully give them to tools to be happier and more empowered.

Your body composition does play a role in how at risk you are for certain chronic diseases. Note the word “at risk”. This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get chronic diseases if you’re obese, but it does increase the risk of them.

So your decisions do have some influence over your health.

That also doesn’t mean you won’t get chronic diseases if you’re lean. Disease can affect anyone. Not all people with lung cancer smoke. But if you don’t want to get lung cancer you probably shouldn’t smoke. My dad smoked most of his life, but died of a rare blood condition that had absolutely nothing to do with his smoking.

Genetics probably plays the biggest role in whether your body develops chronic disease or not. This is why you have 110 year olds who still smoke and drink whiskey like prohibition just got reinstated. Those people aged well in spite of their behaviors not because of them.

You can’t change your genetics, but you can change your behaviors to put yourself in as advantageous a position as your genetics will allow.

What I’m saying is there are some things in your power and some that aren’t. I want to help you better the things in your power to live the life you want to live.

And again, let’s say someone doesn’t do these healthy things that are “in their power/locus of control”, that doesn’t mean they’re any less deserving of respect, dignity, equality, or healthcare.

So much of what I try to do with this blog is give people the tools they need to not only build a healthier body but build a better, healthier, compassionate relationship with their body and health because that’s what’s ultimately going to make people better able to do the meaningful work they want to do. That’s the important shit -- the context for why you want to lose 5 lbs, not the 5 lbs itself.

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A stronger, more confident, more energetic, capable version of you will be better able to achieve what you want to achieve outside of the gym whether it’s being a better parent, building a business, or traveling the world. Because I truly believe being strong is so incredibly empowering -- life is fundamentally different when climbing the stairs to your apartment, standing up from a chair, or cleaning the house doesn’t feel like you went 10 rounds with Ronda Rousey.

So today here are the most influential i.e bang for your buck healthy behaviors. These habits will have the greatest impact. Basically the cornerstones of physical health as far as what you can control.

Walking

Seriously this is sooo important. It seems like everyone who lives super long lives walks for an hour every day.

Lifting weights

The benefits of lifting weights on health and longevity might outweigh those of being lean. You can see really quick improvements in quality of life with strength training. If you want to be generally more healthy, this is a great place to start.

Vegetables/Fruits

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Tons of vitamins and stuff your body needs. Plus lots of fiber which will keep your digestive system healthy, which researchers are finding out is a really big deal as far as how the rest of your body functions. And eating tons of veggies (and protein) will bring your body to a healthy level of leanness. A healthy level of leanness is highly individual i.e. this doesn’t mean getting a six pack, just that your body fat is low enough to allow for joint mobility and significantly lessen your risk for diabetes, heart disease.

Protein

Muscle. “Veggies for health, protein for strength”- Pavel Tsatsouline. But strength is health. As you age, strength and muscle mass decline. This is a big reason for decreased quality of life. Protein not only helps with the whole leanness thing (it’s super filling with minimal calories), but will help you build and maintain strength and lean mass.

Sleep

When I started getting 8 hours of sleep a night I realized I wasn’t nearly as emotionally fucked up as I previously thought. For some odd reason getting good sleep is frowned on. But we, as a species, need it.

Part of me wanted to put this first in the list, because sleep will make all this other stuff easier because you’ll be mentally and emotionally more focused. Chronic sleep deprivation has negative effects on just about every aspect of health. Shoot for 7-10 hours of sleep a night. And if you have trouble sleeping like I do, implement some strategies to empty your mind before bed, and stop dicking around on your phone before bed!

Stress

Stress does all sorts of shit to your hormones and your body. Not mention stress can take the reigns of your decision making. This means stress affects all of your other habits.

At heart, I’m a stress ball, to the point where I can’t function and I act like a person I don’t want to be. It’s taken me years of mindset work (meditating for a few minutes in the morning has also SERIOUSLY helped) to stop being perpetually stressed/angry.

Just like changing any habit, it’s about practice and mindfulness.

Here's what worked for me: Noticing when you get stressed, then acknowledging stress isn’t helping anything, then letting it go. Because if you can’t (or are choosing not to) change something that's stressing you out, there’s no point in letting it get to you. Whatever you can do to manage stress will have a massive impact on your longevity and way you live your life.

In conclusion:

  1. Fat Loss and health aren’t always the same thing. Sometimes they are though.
  2. Whether you want to eat differently for fat loss or for health, it’s the same process, although those with a health focus will have an easier time with motivation.
  3. Regardless of genetics, it would benefit you to eat more vegetables, get more sleep, take a chill pill, and lift some heavy ass weights.

Oh, and don't forget to grab a free copy of "Insanity Free Fat Loss: 10 Secrets for Long Term Success" to burn body fat (and keep it off) without dieting or obsessing about your health.

Posted on May 11, 2017