I have such a hot tip for you today. You guys, two of the very best people in the health and wellness world are making a podcast together. It's called The Living Experiment, and it's coming to you every week from Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of The Whole 30 and owner of one of my most favorite Instagram feeds, and Pilar Gerasimo, creator and former Editor In Chief of Experience Life Magazine and owner of one of the best voices on the planet. I listened to the first episode tonight while I ran my LAST RAGNAR TRAINING RUN and I took these two beautiful photos (because Minneapolis was showing off so hard) and life was good. Also I was sweating so much that sweat kept forming droplets on the end of my nose, which was very distracting. Obviously I took a picture of that too, and I'll even share. You're welcome.
There. Don't ever say I only showed you the flattering sides of my life. But, ok. So. The Living Experiment. I love the podcast globally because I think Dallas and Pilar bring very grounded and fresh voices to the health and fitness world. They both grew up in non-urban, sort of separated-from-society settings for some portion of their childhoods (Dallas on a homestead without electricity or running water, Pilar on a farm that was only slightly more modern) and have definitely joined the mainstream media and world as adults, Dallas putting forth the Whole 30 program and all of the speaking and writing and engagement that came along with that, and Pilar working on the Experience Life magazine that Lifetime Fitness puts out to all of its club members. I respect them both immensely because I think they do a great job of engaging with the modern world and speaking to everyday Americans while pushing back on the modern American lifestyle, and somehow they don't seem judgmental or snooty about any of it. That's not easy.
Specifically, the first episode of their podcast made two points that I love deeply. The first is that they'd like to engage with people who are interested in becoming healthier and happier, but they want those people to know that: 1) you're fine as you are right now, and 2) there's room for improvement in where you are right now. I slowed down in my run at this point and momentarily searched for a pen (none to be found on the lakeshore path, obviously) because this was one of those statements that made my soul scream, "YES!" and I wanted to write it down. This is exactly how I feel about engaging with people about health and fitness and wellness. You're fine as you are. You're whole and there's nothing about yourself that needs fixing. But of course you could be healthier. You could be more well. There's room for improvement in all of us humans, on the fronts of nutrition and fitness and wellness and all sorts of other things. I think improvement in those areas is important and I love nothing more than to engage with others that are also seeking improvement. But it's so important to recognize at the outset that this is not about fixing. You are not broken. You're fine as you are right now, and there's also room for improvement.
The second point is that the "experiment" part is really important, because no one set of rules works for everyone. This is the most important essence of the Whole 30 to me--the point of the Whole 30 is to eliminate foods that might be causing less-than-desirable reactions in your body, and then to reintroduce them to see if they are, in fact, having negative effects. The point of the Whole 30 is NOT that grains or dairy or legumes are evil. They aren't. The point is to find out how YOUR body tolerates different foods, because there's no way for you to know that without experimenting on yourself.*** And relying on nutritionists or doctors or researchers to make generalizations about food, exercise, or any other aspect of your individual life is missing the point that you are an individual person with individual needs. The approach that Pilar and Dallas propose, then, is to take this information as a suggestion and introduce it into your own personal experiment. For example: I recently wrote about dietary collagen supplements. I read about the potential benefits of collagen, and I introduced that supplement into my diet to see how my body responded to it. This allows me to assess whether something that is beneficial to others is also beneficial to me personally, but doesn't assume that a study on the general population would always predict my own personal results. This mindset is important: when I hear about stretching after exercise, for example, and read about a study that found that 15 minutes of stretching after strenuous exercise drastically improved some health metric, instead of thinking, "Ugh, another thing I don't do when I should" I might think, "Maybe after this week's runs I'll add some stretching and see how it makes me feel." Because I already feel pretty good, and I don't stretch...almost ever, but I acknowledge that there may be some benefits to that activity that I'm not realizing, and I'm willing to give it a try and see how I personally react to it. This approach is empowering, because it takes the responsibility away from the experts and puts it back on you, the person most knowledgeable about your own self. And I think it's liberating, because instead of committing to an idea that might seem overwhelming to you, or getting bogged down by all the things you "should" be doing, it lets you take a let's-just-try-this approach. Just see how it goes. See what you think, and go from there. I love that.
So, listen. Subscribe to The Living Experiment. It's free and it will enrich your life, and I want more people who I can talk to about the episodes. Thx.
***I need to embark on a small rant here, but I'll do you the courtesy of separating it from the rest of the post. This point is exactly why I get really ragey when people complain about the "stupid trend" of gluten free diets, or belittle people who avoid gluten because they believe such diets are a fad or are not healthier or better. Listen: I am wholly committed to a gluten free diet and I don't think gluten free diets are universally healthier or better. I don't think gluten is evil and I don't think it's intrinsically bad or unhealthy. It's a protein and many people seem to tolerate it just fine. I don't. It makes me violently ill, and I do not have celiac disease. But listen, folks, we are all different. My digestive system is a little bit of a diva, and she doesn't like gluten. I wish she felt differently, because baguettes, but I REALLY wish we could accept that it's ok for people to make their own choices when it comes to what they eat and how they move, based on what they've learned works best in their personal living experiment. You don't have to eat the way I eat. You don't have to exercise the way I exercise. And vice versa. If we could all accept those ground rules I think we'd be a lot better off interacting with one another.