I ran sixty miles per week, ate low calorie and zero fat, and couldn’t get abs. Two years of that didn’t get abs. Thin. Yes. Abs? No. No deep muscle definition at all, really. Far more than fifty people told me it would work. All of their opinions were wrong.
Twelve years later, I ate three pounds of beef per day, ate yolks only, drank heavy whipping cream, and spooned up butter, ghee, and coconut oil. In that photo, nearly 5,000 calories of my food every day came from saturated fat. No more running. THAT resulted in abs, along with the best cholesterol profile on earth. Yes, actually, my cholesterol improved: https://www.elev8wellness.com/.../vegan-dieting-destroyed... .
Should I have just done another two years of running and low cal/zero fat? If it doesn't work at all, how long do we listen to idiot opinions?
How long exactly should I have kept listening to the ineffective popular advice before I tried the exact opposite which worked like a dream?
When I first came to the Twin Cities, I turned in almost fifty applications to different prospective employers. I followed up on all. I received ONE response. It was TSA. They brought me in for their screening process and never contacted me again. I walked into the next (and last) prospective employer and did NOT fill out the application UNTIL after I’d met with and chatted with the General Manager. THAT started me on my current professional journey.
Should I have given up at five applications? Maybe at twenty? Maybe I should've just kept filling out applications?
After I discovered the reality that filling out applications doesn't work, how many more should I have kept filling out?
“She went to eleven doctors who told her nothing was wrong; the twelfth identified brain cancer; they treated her and she lived fifteen more years,” my 6am client said to me last Wednesday. She was describing a friend who would’ve died within a few months if she had accepted the first opinion, or the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth, or the sixth…
or the seventh “I’m sorry; there’s nothing we can do for you.”
or the eighth “I don’t know what to tell you.”
or the ninth “all of your tests look normal.”
or the tenth “blood work looks good.”
or the eleventh “non-contrast MRI doesn’t appear to be worrisome.”
Should she have given up at the first opinion? Maybe the tenth? What if it took ten more? What if it took forty more?
I think about how it took me and my wife almost four years to help our son with his autoimmune issues. No medical professional was ever remotely helpful in that time period. What if it took four more years? What if we still didn’t have any understanding of it today, over eleven years later?
A close family member of ours received a death sentence around May of 2021: end-stage esophageal cancer. It had spread through nodes, liver, lungs, all of the body. There were innumerable cancerous masses throughout, making surgery a non-option. First four opinions: “There’s no cure; treatment is palliative.” That is, help the patient suffer as little as possible in his final few weeks. “Organ failure is assured.” “It’s terminal.”
He switched clinics, tried a novel immunotherapy that made him dramatically worse, unable to sleep, unable to lie down, too weak to talk… but he survived it, and the cancer did not survive it. Fourteen months later, his clinician ordered the port removed, as there’s no good reason to believe he’ll need more treatment. The past two scans show no evidence of prior masses.
What if it had taken a fourth or fifth clinic to get the breakthrough? What if it took twelve opinions instead of five or six? What if forty-nine in a row were wrong?
When I got Lyme disease, the first three doctors assured me I didn’t have borrelia infection/Lyme disease. My first tests came back negative. Should I have just quit looking and learning then? Because, just so you know, I’d be severely handicapped or dead today. ONLY a retest AFTER antibiotic treatment showed positives for infection on all titers. That was my idea, by the way. Not theirs. The infectious disease specialist DISCOURAGED the retest. She actually declined at first. I had to plead and explain to her that the research I read made clear that the bacterium is immunosuppressive and, as such, CANNOT show up for most patients UNTIL after antibiotics.
My wife USED to get migraines, debilitating migraines. For years. No clinician helped. SHE CHANGED HER NUTRITION. No more migraines. Should she have quit trying after the third or fourth doctor told her nothing useful?
Genuine success in the fitness industry is not easy. Burnout is incredibly high. And even with a cursory glance around, you’ll discover that most famous influencer coaches with multi-million followings cannot financially support themselves through coaching alone. They rep clothing lines, sell supplements, 12-week online templates, etc. More often than not, they frantically jump from expo to expo, cross-promoting, oversharing, and straight up just going into other lines of work. I know A LOT of people; but I don’t even know OF one other man who is/was persistently the primary breadwinner or sole provider for a family just based on being a great coach independently in the fitness industry. Always, there’s a caveat, like he’s counting on celebrity status, or the spouse has a more stable or advanced career, and/or they’re trust-fund babies, and/or this is their side hobby while they’re coming from unrelated industries.
Should I have given up when I found no role models or examples?
Should I have quit at year five, ten, or fifteen?
When precisely was the point I should have thrown in the towel?
Coming up on two decades now. When I went out on my own ten years ago, the first opinions ALL wondered how it was going to even be possible. Medical expenses went up. Cost of living went up. There’s no longer a giant institution generating marketing, leads, and sales for you. There’s no longer a giant institution covering memberships, the facility expenses and insurance policies. “It can’t be done,” was the general sentiment. “Why leave the corporate gym environment when you’re the most successful and highest paid employee in the region?”, were the exact words by my exit interviewer.
Should I have listened to those ten to twenty expert opinions?
Should I have copied and pasted the average template onto my life? Or was I right to invent the first of its kind? The only of its kind?
What I have found is that among the first forty-nine opinions mostly you get average-speak. They’re uninspired. They’re drab. They’re common sentiments. They’re emphasizing a tiny life with tiny vision and something that lands between hopeless and pointless. The first forty-nine efforts are merely uncovering what doesn’t work so well.
And, of course, people can keep being wrong well past the fiftieth opinion mark.
As far as the authoritative organizations and experts go, I don’t care what your suffix is. If you don’t have any more ideas on how to make progress, I have no use for you, and you should question your choice of profession. If you have no more creativity left to figure out improvement, your opinion is worthless. Have the humility and humanity to say, “perhaps you’ll get better answers elsewhere.” If you throw your hands up, saying, “it can’t be done,” how about just keep your mouth shut.
Get a fiftieth opinion. At least.
Per year, around 800,000 Americans die of heart disease:
Per year, around 100,000 Americans die from adverse response to approved medical care:
Or maybe it’s 250,000:
Per year, around 40,000 Americans die from second-hand smoke:
How do we respond to these highest risks which are rapidly getting worse?
We enable them. We amplify them. We definitely DO NOT combat them.
Severe obesity doubled from 2000 to 2017:
Obesity tripled since 1975:
Oversight on medical science has DECREASED dramatically, owing largely to our blank checks for pharma during the pandemic:
Regarding tobacco use, vaping has increased 1,800% among youth:
Returning to medical oversight for a moment, the irony is that the PREP Act was incredibly controversial when it was introduced by a Republican congressperson, Richard Burr, and signed into law by George W. Bush in 2006. Burr has long had unsavory ties to pharmaceutical and medical interests: https://www.statnews.com/2016/10/25/richard-burr-pharma-biotech-campaign/ . And he was implicated in insider trading at the outset of the pandemic: https://www.propublica.org/article/senator-dumped-up-to-1-7-million-of-stock-after-reassuring-public-about-coronavirus-preparedness.
All of a sudden, nobody cared about this when the pandemic struck.
But our willful naivety and complacency regarding medicine didn’t start in 2020. Nobody cared when the American Heart Association was caught red-handed being bought by pharmaceutical interests: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/health-news_b_4398304.
In fact, for the 30 years prior to the trending hashtag #trustthescience, we haven’t been able to trust the science. In modern contemporary science today, MOST published scientific research CANNOT be corroborated: https://www.nature.com/articles/533452a. Not some. MOST. Not a lot. MOST. That’s right: 70% of scientists cannot replicate claims of their peers. SEVENTY PERCENT.
When less than a third of science is able to be corroborated, how did anyone think #trustthescience made sense? Trust evidence. Distrust people. Trust solid arguments. Distrust consensus and popularity.
Scientific and medical institutions did not ascend to Godlike unquestionability in the 20th century, and they don’t mystically remain infallible for all of time. HUGE science scandals hit the news cycle for one or two days, like 16 years of flawed Alzheimer’s research (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alzheimers-study-controversy-what-does-it-mean-for-future-research#What-might-this-mean-for-dementia-research) or outright physics fraud (https://www.nature.com/articles/news020923-9); but we just go back to our previously-scheduled programming.
Sadly, expert scientific consensus tells us very little about evidence or truth. Look no further than Barry Marshall’s 2005 Nobel Prize, and you’ll find how consensus REJECTED evidence for two decades. The scientific consensus DENIED the truth. In fact, it’s hard to believe we would even know Marshall’s story and the bacterial cause of ulcers if his conclusions hadn’t landed us on antibiotic treatment pay dirt. If wealthy/influential people hadn’t had something to gain, could we rightly believe the evidence would’ve prevailed?
I don’t think so. I see zero evidence that we care at all about genuine evidence, data, or risks. It’s hard to see truth prevailing based on truth anymore. It seems to be more tied to financial interests or popular public feelings.
I mean, again, observe our top risks. The top risks have no social media profile templates, no hashtags, no memes, no attention. I see no evidence that people follow science or care about risk. They follow popularity and worry about “risks” that are popularly trending in their little tribes.
Following the food pyramid kills about 1 million Americans every year. And, if anything, our public embrace of unhealthy eating has accelerated. Look at the stats. Following scientific consensus and medical advice kills another 100,000 to 250,000 Americans per year. But we are becoming LESS skeptical of experts and entrenched institutional organizations. Second-hand smoke kills 40,000 per year. But smoke shops are popping up everywhere and tobacco use is resurgent.
Every single day, these things are killing 3,000 Americans. EVERY DAY. It’s like a 9/11 terrorist attack PER DAY EVERY DAY. Motor vehicle accidents take another 100 to 200 lives daily. DAILY. But there is zero outrage. No outcry. These ARE our highest risks. No opinion. No ideology. No politics.
As we go further down the list, we find that opioid overdose and suicide are making a run for the top risks. Next up: falls. Seriously. After cancers, respiratory conditions, all preventable risks, opioids, suicides, and motor vehicle deaths, your next most likely way you’ll die is from falling.
Not a joke. This one lies directly inside my profession. Weak people are at higher risk of fall. And falling is in the top 8 risks of death.
From 1966 to 2020 the TOTAL number of deaths in American mass shootings was LESS than food/medicine/smoking will kill in the first 12 hours of TODAY: https://rockinst.org/gun-violence/mass-shooting-factsheet/. Each hour medicine kills more people inside peaceful countries than guns kill in war zones. TODAY more Americans will die from food and medical recommendations than there will be mass shooting victims for THE YEAR. This MONTH vehicles will kill more people than mass shootings will kill this YEAR.
This year motor vehicles will kill more American children than 40 years of mass shootings have killed ALL PEOPLE OF ALL DEMOGRAPHICS.
This year clinics and hospitals in America will kill more children than all victims of all mass shootings in all countries combined for all of time.
And every single day, twice as many people will die from taking a fall than the combined total victims in gang shootings PLUS individual gun violence PLUS mass shootings PLUS accidental firearm discharge.
I agree that we should address our 10th through 1000th risks. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the public completely oblivious and carefree about the top 9. The time, energy, money, and outrage people spend on any one of their tribe’s select 10th through 1,000th risks EXCEEDS their concern over ALL TOP RISKS combined.
Be passionate. That’s fine. Join your tribe in its fear-mongering over non-risks which never even break the top 8. That’s fine too. What isn’t fine is totally ignoring all the real top risks.
But imagine what a beautiful world we could enjoy if people cared at all about the top health risks.
The screenshot is from my last exchange with a client on 8/8/2022. I learned he passed away yesterday. I’ve been looking at that shot every hour since.
When I started taking on hard cases and health troubleshooting clients in 2004, I didn’t know it would lead me to troubling times. I saw a need in the industry, that the people who exist between medical-intervention/crippled/health-crisis and athlete weren’t well served. After cardiac event, orthopedic injury, or major health crisis, patients may receive a few weeks of physical therapy. Then what?
What about people who do none? What about people who are heading TOWARD crises? What about gym-aspirants who’ve never played a sport and have all kinds of physical woes?
So there I stood. It didn’t mean I never trained conventional clients or very able-bodied athletes and competitors. I just saw that personal training and professional strength coaches and nutritionists were already serving those groups well.
And each year there I remained, adding more accreditation, more certifications, more specialties, more education, and in 2012 I studied the entire lecture series for US medical school licensing exams. I never stopped learning. I won’t ever.
BUT… as my outreach to the less-served increased, the emotional weight did in kind. If you directly work with 100 clients through a calendar year, and 60 of them have heart disease and/or autoimmune diseases and/or strokes and/or neurological conditions and/or joint/organ replacements, there’s a very good chance that even WHEN you beat all odds you will be juggling about a dozen sad stories any given week, any given day, any given hour.
They’re all heroes, fighting battles many other people will never even imagine. And like all heroes, there will be a last battle from which they don’t return.
It’s routine. It never becomes “normal” though. I’ve seen cases of vast metastatic cancer. I’ve seen people turn around the worst luck. I’ve seen it all. Things get worse before they get better. Things get better before they get worse.
That doesn’t make it easy. It’s heavy.
This young man was hoping to get light enough to get a lung transplant. He’d made at least 60lbs of weight loss progress recently, but we suspect he was down over 100lbs from his peak. At 28, he was hopeful. Not naively, I was hopeful. Not delusional. Just hopeful.
He kept looking for a case study, a role model, someone who had been in his position and “made it,” survived and thrived. I asked him, “but what if you’re the first?” “Perhaps you will be the pioneer, the role model, the first.”
He loved that thought.
So I share this.
This young man was at severe exhaustion constantly. Not normal exhaustion. His organs were ready to give up. He was down to such little lung capacity over the past few years that he was on oxygen constantly. Not part of the time. Not a CPAP. He was hooked up to tanks or clinic-building-plumbed pure O2. His cardiac function could barely support his body while lounging, propped up…
And he KEPT MOVING. He kept trying. He kept hoping. He kept working. He got on the pedal bike or walked every day, despite the protests of his aching muscles and joints and body. Two to three years ago his pulmonologist told him to get his affairs in order, he maybe had a few months, and there’s nothing anyone can do for him.
He came back almost a year and 50lbs lighter, asking if he were a candidate for lung transplant. In awe, his physicians said if he could pierce below the hospital’s BMI metric for organ transplant, consider it done.
Long shot. One in 8 billion long shot. It didn’t happen. But it could’ve. He was closer now than before. And he outstripped all prognoses.
I make it a point to tell people how amazing they are long before the end, just in case, especially with the types of clients I gravitate toward. I leave nothing unsaid. Thus, these last words in a text exchange may seem even trite, everyday, NOT profound.
We were still scheduling. We were still looking forward. Is there any last word more meaningful? I don’t think so.