I get a lot of “Hey Nik, what do you think about [insert latest health craze, hack, hint, or tip]?”
If you don’t have time to read this, here’s the short version: Try it out, but your health craze, hack, hint, or tip is probably nonsense and usually not worth spending more than $100 on.
If you’re smart enough to realize the short version hides some really important truths, let’s wade in.
Look, marketing can be VERY persuasive. I should know, I’m a marketer, and I sell $5 cookies all day long (actually, they’re slightly more than $5, but according to scientific clinically-backed studies, it’s OK to say $5.)
That brings me to my first point: In the places most of us see it (magazines, advertisements, social media, etc), there is no seal of approval for the use of the word “science”. Anyone can, does, and will use it.
I’m not saying that “science” means nothing, just that when you hear, “Scientists have shown…” you need to ask “Which scientists? When? How did they conduct their experiment? Did other scientist review it and agree?”
Basically, before you believe what “scientists have shown”, look up what they’ve published in a peer reviewed journal, read the study, see exactly what they tested, and if anyone else has found something different.
I know, I know, that’s too much for you. Who has time to check facts these days?
Here’s what you do have time for: Common sense.
How should you use common sense?
One of the first tests I do on any product is ask myself: Was this available to and/or did it help my ancestors?
It’s NOT a go/no-go filter, but it helps put things in perspective. If my ancestors (or hell, my Dad!) didn’t have access to some magic energy therapy and still managed to run a 5 minute mile, it’s probably not vital to my well-being to have magic energy therapy.
If they didn’t avoid xyz-toxins, it’s probably safe to say that they’re not lethal.
We’ve been bequeathed a few thousand generations worth of robust survivability, and every one of us on the planet is less than 10 generations removed from required health.
That doesn’t mean I won’t try magic energy therapy (ask my friend Heidi about going to kundalini yoga with her; I’ll try ANYTHING), or shocking my brain with a 9 volt battery, or avoiding xyz-toxins for a while, (although in truth I think most of the stuff about toxins and cleansing is nonsense), it just means I approach it with curious interest, not blind belief.
The second question I ask about a product is what is it trying to help me avoid? If the product is trying to speed something up (like strength gains or recovery) or it’s trying to make an uncomfortable thing comfortable, I’ll usually skip it. I’ve learned this the easy way; taking the easy route rarely leads to hard-won gains.
The third question, especially if it’s a body-tech or wearable solution, is asking what is it trying to help me do? I’ve found that usually if I think for a minute or two, I can replicate almost any wearable with natural processes or just paying more attention to my body (or others) than your normal zoned-out hipster.
As an example, instead of wearing linked heart rate and respiration monitors that transmit my data to someone else through kinesthetic data links (buzzing the rhythm of my heart beat or breathing through a vibrating pad attached to their arm somewhere) and that transmit their data to me, I can just reach over and take their pulse in one hand and have them take my pulse with their other hand. I watch them breathe and match up my respirations. We start to sync up quickly and achieve most, if not all, of the benefits that a few hundred dollars of technology allow us to “short cut.” By the way, this is the “pulse circle” I’ve used with Red Bull athletes and corporations, including my own. It ain’t magic, but it works well to ground and connect people quickly.
Fourth, I look for sugars or sugar substitutes. Sure, this only applies to food, but it’s an almost instant bullshit detector. If there are any sweeteners in “regular” (non-dessert) foods, especially snacks, they’re probably not healthy for you even if they taste amazing. If there are sugar substitutes in any food (from stevia to erythritol to any of the sugar alcohols), it usually means you’re in for a gut-wrench AND they’re playing on your inability to control your sweet tooth. I’m not saying to never eat sugar, (I sell desserts, after all) I’m just saying that sweeteners in any non-dessert food, or sugar substitutes in any food are a strong indicator that the product is bullshit.
I’ll wrap up by saying these aren’t absolute rules: I’ll still make and sell desserts that certainly weren’t available to my ancestors (Bandito, anyone?) I’ll almost always try the latest geekoid technology to see if I can find an exception to my rules, and I’ll happily avoid uncomfort on Fridays.
Still, most of the time you can save yourself time and money by avoiding bullshit, and these four questions will help you identify that BS and achieve the results you want without wasting time on short cuts.
Those are my hints, tips, and tricks for avoiding hints, tips, and tricks. To the truth, amigos!
Too much reading...
How about dessert?