After looking at The Atlantic’s take on Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey’s fasting; I’m getting tired of the way some publications stand against well… self-improvement. I realize some of the Silicon Valley bros make it an easy target. But “biohacking” is self-improvement, backed by science. Sometimes biohacking is also pseudoscience, and other times just crazy measures that are nearly sci-fi, please make fun of those.
Without getting into any extreme bio hacks, in the last few years, I’ve improved my ability to deal with stress, my sleep, and my temper is much more in check. By every metric I can think of I am a more functional person, having “hacked” myself.
I fast 72 consecutive hours each quarter, and 6 out of 7 days, I eat within a 9-hour window. I take nootropics, I meditate, use a therapy lamp, and many weeks I eat under 30 grams of sugar. I’ll cycle diets, aka what I eat, based on my physical activity, and I feel better. I change what I do based on how I real.
Each of these “bio hacks” from sauna to ice baths, every supplement I take, and every diet I use has research backing it; Mostly NIH funded research. I’m not some crazy person who has decided that I will draw magnetic resonance energy from the spirit world. I’m also not using CRISPER to test altering my DNA. I’m a self-experimenter, a pretty careful one at that.
The Dunning–Kruger effect is, basically, knowing so little that you think you know everything. I’ve been accused of this when it comes to my own health. I don’t think it’s valid for four reasons.
- I’m not doing anything that isn’t known to be safe or at the least low risk. Most people who are called biohackers aren’t Tristan Roberts trying experimental gene therapy to treat HIV. Most people are just using diet and supplementation to be a little better.
- We all feed ourselves and we also know subjectively how we feel. By 6 years old most people know chocolate cake isn’t as good for you as broccoli. I feel better on a diet with no sugar, my joints don’t hurt etc…
- I can measure results objectively. When I meditate and my blood pressure and heart rate drop, that’s not just a feeling. I can also measure sleep patterns and I can take executive functions tests.
- A wealth of information exists about the topics of health. A lot of that information is politically influenced, (see: You should eat a low-fat diet and coconut oil is bad for you). And many safe things may not work for you, but that is why self-testing is helpful. After reading several different reports and studies, you’ll have a pretty good idea what is likely to be harmful. Avoid harmful things, and try some of the safe options to see what works for you.
You can’t learn everything in an hour
Scott Addams, the creator of Dilbert, once said that he could understand any topic with an hour of conversation with an expert. That sounds crazy. But is it crazy to say that spending about 20 hours a week researching a topic for nearly two years could give you some measure of understanding?
This isn’t some labor theory of value based claim. But I’ve spent around 2,000 hours reading research papers, textbooks, and listening to lectures from doctors, phycologists and medical researchers. I’m not claiming to be an all-knowing expert, but I strongly dislike the idea that outside of the ivory tower of traditional education and certification everyone is wrong.
I’ve met people with degrees in nutrition, who were very happy to argue, incorrectly, about what amino acids make a protein. After literally showing that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics disagreed, I was told they had a nutrition degree (You know who you are RW)… I don’t care about degrees, I care about reality.
I won’t site a degree, because I have no credibility, that’s why I cite studies. I’m not going to make a claim that because I’m an outsider, I’m somehow more credible than the establishment, I don’t think that, again, that is why I cite studies. I’d rather watch a non-mathematician who shows their work, than a mathematician who relies on credentials and may not be getting the correct answer.
Am I someone with an eating disorder, pushing unhealthy habits?
Do I try to get other people to get with the program? Yeah, sometimes I do. I can only get so many calls from depressed or anxiety riddled friends before I start suggesting they try something that helped me. I’ve sent dozens of people to the Amen Clinics Brain Health Assessment, sent out bottles of Theanine & Bacopa Monnieri, and Sam Harris & Tara Brach’s guided meditations are among the links I share most.
If I suggest something, I’m not suggesting it with a cape of credibility. I’m giving a mix of personal experience, and links to research. I’m also just suggesting others try something and track their own results. Even if all they have is a placebo, the placebo effect has real power.
If you view suggesting someone should work out and change their diet because they wake up every day feeling like getting out of bed is a fight for their life, I think you have a problem. And if someone can manage their anxiety disorder and cut back on the times they would normally pop a Xanax by taking Ashwagandha, or meditating that seems like a good thing. If other people become more productive at work or in any aspect of life, that also seems like a good thing.
One last note
As my Push ROI business partner Jon Norwood is fond of saying. “You should hire a doctor to treat your cancer. Not put yourself through medical school so you can treat it yourself.”
I encourage everyone to try things that are safe or at least know the risks. But take responsibility for the 99% of your health that isn’t in a doctor’s office or behind the pharmacy counter. And don’t disregard modern medicine, I’m fairly sure members of the modern medical community conduct the studies I read.
If you are prescribed an SSRI or Benzodiazepines please don’t flush them, because you read a blog post saying you can take 5HTP or Theanine. Please talk to your doctor.
Article by Mason Pelt of Push ROI. First published in MasonPelt.com on February 4, 2019. Photo by