It All Starts With Your Health

by Frost on March 27, 2011

This blog will eventually cover a lot of different topics. But since I launched Freedom Twenty-Five, much of my focus has been on physical fitness.

Why did I choose to write about improving my health before trying to get rich, build a harem and conquer the world? Partly because I value my health more than money, women and power. But also because optimal health is the foundation upon which everything else rests.

Right now, think about whatever goals are at the front of your mind. How much more progress could you make towards them if you had these advantages?

– More energy
– Greater mental clarity and ease of focus
– A physical appearance that commands respect and admiration, not one that invites pity and contempt
– The raw physical ability to do more with your body (running, jumping, climbing, lifting)
– Fewer colds, illnesses and injuries
– The core confidence that comes from knowing that you are in control of your body, and that you have conquered your earthly desires for mental and physical laziness

I think you would have so much more success that it isn’t worth pursuing anything else until you’ve got your health under control. Which is not to say that you should ignore every other aspect of your life until you look like an underwear model. But until you are on a clear and defined path towards optimal health, all other goals should come second.

Your health is your foundation. The first step to achieving any other goal should be to optimize your health so you’re free to operate at peak performance.

Want to get promoted, get laid, save your marriage, read more, sleep better, or write a novel? Hit the gym. Get healthy. The rest will come easy. Or at least, easier.

So what is health? Plenty of weak, emaciated, inflamed, marathon runners consider themselves healthy. Same with a lot of ripped-to-shreds faux-bodybuilders with 21-inch biceps and the lower-body strength of 14-year old girls. In my own young adulthood, I had always considered myself a very healthy person, even though I was anything but.

In my teens and early twenties, I had always felt very fit. In high school, I was 6’3, 200lbs, and captain of both my football and rugby teams. In my senior year, I was the MVP of each. (Not to brag or anything.) I also discovered the gym and worked out regularly. Though never a serious endurance athlete, I did a fair amount of running in the off-season and completed a few mini-triathlons.

In college, I played rugby and a ton of recreational sports – hockey, basketball, soccer, squash, tennis, volleyball, ultimate frisbee. Basically if there was a ball and a chance to compete, I was there. I continued working out and running a few days a week.

Obviously, I looked good. After many protein shakes and gym hours, I had filled out to a lean 220lbs. Women wanted me, men wanted to be me. It was a glorious life. But then I graduated, and two things happened:

1) I started a grown-up job, with all the unhealthy habits that entails. Eight-plus hours per day in an office chair, less time for physical activity, fast food lunches, lower-quality sleep, and weekend binge drinking all took their toll.

2) I realized that I had developed a variety of radically unhealthy habits in my early twenties, whose effects had been masked by my young and active body. I ate like crap, never stretched, skimped on sleep and drank too much. Most importantly, I was pathetically ignorant – or more accurately, misinformed –  on the subject of nutrition and exercise.

The results of this one-two punch weren’t cataclysmic. My story is not a Jared-from-Subway saga of rapidly gaining triple-digit poundage. But with the cover-ups of youth and an extremely active lifestyle peeled away, my health began to decline.

– My lower back became stiff and susceptible to injury
– I realized that I caught colds more often than most
– I pulled and strained muscles frequently when playing stop-and-go sports
– I started gaining 1-2lbs of fat every month
– Hangovers, once a minor annoyance, left me incapacitated for half a day or more.
– My energy level, focus and general mental clarity took a dive. I’m sure I fell within the “average” range, but average was no acceptable to a guy who was used to drinking until 5am, studying from 8-8, going to rugby practice, and still being ready to do it all over again.

It wasn’t the end of the world. Sometimes I thought, “Your body isn’t the same as it was when you were twenty-one. So fucking what? Take it easy during hockey games, accept that you’ll have a beer gut when you’re thirty-five, and have a cup of coffee every now and then. Life goes on.”

Thankfully, I fought the temptation to settle and set off on an intellectual journey to understand everything I could about human health. I discovered Paleolithic nutrition , Primal fitness, and made the aha! connection that an ideal health strategy should consider the human body as the product of natural selection, and attempt to promote optimal gene expression. As a firm believer in the inherent reasonableness of evolutionary psychology, I was an easy convert to the evolutionary approach to human health.

Since then, I’ve started making rapid progress on several of my health and fitness goals. I’ve incrementally changed my body composition, increasing my lean mass and losing a few pounds of fat. I’m sleeping better. I’ve made the transition from self-destructive weekly frat-house binge drinking to a more adult approach to alcohol. I work out less and get better results. I play more. I walk more. I eat organic, grass-fed meats. I stretch and meditate. I’ve started rehabilitating nagging injuries. I look and feel better than I have in my entire life.

Whatever goals are important to you right now, investing a few hours per week learning how to eat and exercise right will have a higher ROI than almost any other action you can take. My favourite beginner’s resources are here, here, and here. Good luck.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Extinguish April 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Lol. I assume that was sarcasm raliv.

raliv April 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I can’t wait to graduate and get away from the binge-drinking frat partying lifestyle which has hurt my health, body and mind.

I experimented last summer and early this year with paleo and ketogenic diets which worked tremendously when combined with weight training and trail running.

Unfortunately, the lack of consistency and chaotic studying makes it difficult to stay with a diet when food prep is needed. Like I said, I can’t wait to move on.

Extinguish April 6, 2011 at 12:44 am

I believe a strong fit body is necessary to have a truly strong and fit mind. Each supports the other. Gym/hiking up mountains for the body; piano, sketching, and informational books such as Enchiridion and the Prince for the mind.

I feel like I’ve carpet bombed your blog Frost. Just started reading the blog yesterday; not sure which part of the internet linked to it anymore…

Albert April 3, 2011 at 3:18 am

Its like beta(gamma/omega)-ness and low health are connected. Most people scoff at lifting iron and respond with the the usual “I dont want to be hughe” while at the same time being skinny fat or more often largely obese. As a Beta one is conditioned to see the body as something to be “plowed into the ground”, run until it breaks for the benefit of society.

My health has improved dramatically since going against the grain of society by doing the following.

Eat primal foods
Go deeply into hunger some days during the week
Lift heavy stuff
Practice general self controll (and stop being a wanker)

collegeslacker April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

No doubt, man. It’s been hard to change the diet, though, due to my broke ass financial condition.

Thinking about starting the Reebok Cross Fit program, if you haven’t heard of it it looks nuts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzD9BkXGJ1M

My Name Is Jim March 31, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Found a good age management doctor who’s optimizing my testosterone (had it tested, it came in low).  I’ve been on it for two weeks now. I find I’m feeling how you describe in Unleashing the Animal.  I was soldiering on in the gym before and making progress but it was a job. Now I can’t fucking wait to get to the freeweight room and blast myself and afterwards feel frustrated I can’t do more or I’ll overtrain. I feel like I’m going half nuts.

Staying low-carb most of the time but also giving up most alcohol.  General drinking is beta, a high-glycemic way to anesthetize myself into acceptance of my current lot instead of facing and overcoming limits and barriers. Of course alcohol can be useful in game, in which case that’s different.

If a good body can be built at my age I’m going to do it, among several other personal projects.  I’m on a mission to make myself a much more charismatic guy and I don’t give a rat’s ass about stomping anything or anyone in my way.

My Name Is Ji March 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Found a good age management doctor who’s optimizing my testosterone (had it tested, it came in low).  I’ve been on it for two weeks now. I find I’m feeling how you describe in Unleashing the Animal.  I was soldiering on in the gym before and making progress but it was a job. Now I can’t fucking wait to get to the freeweight room and blast myself and afterwards feel frustrated I can’t do more or I’ll overtrain. I feel like I’m going half nuts.

Staying low-carb most of the time but also giving up most alcohol.  General drinking is beta, a high-glycemic way to anesthetize myself into acceptance of my current lot instead of facing and overcoming limits and barriers. Of course alcohol can be useful in game, in which case that’s different.

If a good body can be built at my age I’m going to do it, among several other personal projects.  I’m on a mission to make myself a much more charismatic guy and I don’t give a rat’s ass about stomping anything or anyone in my way.

Daniel March 31, 2011 at 10:33 am

The Paleo diet is awesome! You should check out Doug McGuff’s work/book. It’s the definitive book on proper exercise IMO.

ABlackGuy March 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

YES! Convict Conditioning + Paleo Diet = Superiority

Dave March 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

It totally makes sense to look after your health as best you can, without your health you’re pretty much screwed, and I don’t mean that in a good way. But as you get older you start realising that you are fighting a losing battle, no one has figured out how to combat the aging process. It sucks, but it is what it is. Take it from someone who is 25 on the inside and a teeny weeny bit older on the outside, you need to prioritise your mental/emotional health before the wheels come off, but I guess this is one of those things we all learn with time.

Mike March 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The mental/spiritual aspect is important, and that’s why one should always build one’s brain. Yet what you state about physical fitness is only half-right.

If you build a base of muscle and coordination during your 20’s and early 30’s – when muscle building is still possible even with a busy life – you can “coast” in your mid-to-late 30’s and beyond.

At my gym, there are a lot of old (as in 50’s, even) guys with good builds. None of them built those physiques in their 40’s. Instead, they gained serious muscle when younger. Then, as age creeps up on them, they are able to hold what they have.

That’s key. Dante (of Dog Crapp training) wrote an excellent, “Letter to Younger Guys” making this point. I’m repost if it I find it.

Frost March 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

Sounds like a neat book, thanks. Will buy a copy for when I’m traveling later this year.

b-nasty March 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I’d recommend those of limited means check out the e-book ‘Convict Conditioning’ which is based around working out with no equipment (as in some prisons.) With modified versions of pushups, pullups, bodyweight squats, bridges, and leg lifts, one can bulk up, and more importantly, build functional strength.

Take the $40-80/month gym fee and put it to buying quality, protein-rich food (e.g. fish, chicken, etc.).

Michel March 27, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I hope you will go more into this because some people can’t afford to go that extreme in terms of diet. I always thought of it more as healthy cuisines (Japanese, Greek, etc.) that are easier to incorporate as opposed to grass fed meat and all that.

Taking the best of everything, in short.

Frost March 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

Check out b-nasty’s advice below. Good general rule: skimp on fitness gear, splurge on food.

Also important, perfection isn’t necessary. I eat a salad with (presumably) factory-farmed steak for lunch every day. I supplement with fish oil capsules to keep the meal’s fat ratio somewhat acceptable. No biggie.

Daniel March 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Another foundational beginner’s resource is Art de Vany’s essay on evolutionary fitness. He ties together many aspects of paleo: exercise, aging, disease, diet and the evolutionary thinking behind it.

http://www.arthurdevany.com/categories/20091026

Frost March 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

Yup, I definitely recommend Art.

NomadicNeill March 27, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Yes I believe this to be so important. Just think how the ancient Greeks and Roman prized health and intellect both equally.

Unfortunately when i was younger I wasn’t encouraged to do sports, and I wasn’t inclined to either because I had so little energy (consequence of living on carbs).

I used to have big crashes in the afternoon 2 or 3 hours long. These crashes were getting worse and that prompted me to investigate nutrition for the first time. Like many I assumed I ate healthy food (bread, pasta etc).

Changing to a paleo style diet has changed my life in that respect. My energy levels are much more stable.

It sucks that I was misled for so long and that I’ve only learned now. Ah well, better late than never.

Frost March 28, 2011 at 10:28 am

I did a bit of reading on nutrition as a teenager and came across a super-easy solution to carb-induced lows – eat 10 meals/day! I mean duh, it was so simple.

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