The Sleep Revolution paints a grim picture of Western sleep culture, but not without extending a hand to school kids, students, professionals and CEOs alike by offering genuine advice on how to stop wearing sleep deprivation as a badge of honor and finally get a good night’s sleep.
If you haven’t heard Arianna Huffington’s story about how she shattered her cheek bone because she suddenly fell asleep, check it out, it marks the beginning of this book. Ever since she’s been dedicated to changing our perspective on sleep and stopping the “I need less sleep than you” madness.
Over 30% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep each night, and in a lot of industries (consulting, investment banking) a lack of sleep is even considered cool and productive.
Yet, across the board, more sleep leads to better results. For young kids in school, for students in college, for professionals and CEOs, for lovers, athletes and artists. In case you’re part of those 30%, I hope these lessons will turn you over to the sleep side of the force 🙂
Here are 3 lessons from The Sleep Revolution:
- Your sleep deprivation has probably started in your childhood already.
- Sleep next to your partner every time you get a chance.
- Use f.lux to avoid interrupting your melatonin production atnight.
Ready to take a nap? Hold on, a few more minutes and you’ll get the most of it!
Lesson 1: You’ve been deprived of your sleep since you were a kid.
I HATED getting up at 6 AM in school. Hated it. I had to take the bus to school every morning, which took half an hour, and was always there way too early. No matter how early I went to bed the night before, I was always tired.
Did your school life look similar? Getting up early, needing a while to get there and then ending up there early?
If so, chances are this started wiring you for sleep deprivation, because forcing kids to wake up early disrupts their circadian rhythm. In 1998, Brown University conducted a study among 3,000 high school students and found those, who started school earlier than 7:30 AM, fell into deep sleep within three minutes, if they took them out of class at 8:30 AM and evaluated how sleepy they were. This usually only happens to people with narcolepsy.
Experiments across various schools and universities all lead to the same result: if school starts later, the children do better across the board. I remember learning that school starts later, usually 8:30 AM or sometimes even 9:00 AM, in the UK and envying the kids over there.
This still holds true, so don’t feel bad for letting your kids get some quality shut-eye, even if it means skipping first period sometimes – they’ll be healthier and won’t suffer from chronic sleep deprivation later.
Lesson 2: If you have a partner, sleep next to them!
The benefits of sleeping right don’t stop at productivity, but also extend to your relationship. A 2014 study among 1,000 people found that couples are happier if they:
Sleep next to each other.
Have body contact while being asleep.
But it doesn’t just matter whether you sleep next to your partner or in separate beds altogether – how close you are matters too. 85% of those who slept less than an inch apart reported to be happy in their relationship. This percentage kept decreasing the further apart people slept.
So if you and your partner usually sleep quite far apart, give moving closer a try and see if it makes you happier and sleep better. In the end, the latter is still the most important, so if you just can’t fall asleep while hugging, don’t feel bad for sleeping back to back as usual.
In fact, women’s sex drive is directly connected to how much deep sleep they get – each extra hour leads to a 14% mojo increase, and we all know sex is both fun and healthy.
Lesson 3: Install f.lux to avoid suppressing your melatonin production at night.
One of the best ways to spend more quality time with your partner at night is to ditch electronics after a certain time each day altogether, but depending on where your nighttime habits sit right now, that might be a bit of a stretch.
The least you can do, if you “wind down” using electronic devices at night is to install f.lux. It’s an app that tints the color of your screen in sync with the sunset (and sunrise in the morning). So whenever the sun sets, your screen color turns a more reddish color.
Why does that help you sleep? By removing the blue part of the spectrum from the light your screens emit at night, your body stops suppressing its melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy and the glands that secrete it automatically activate at dusk. However, blue light is characteristic of daylight, so if you keep staring at a screen with lots of blue light at night, this signals your body that it’s still day time and it won’t start producing melatonin.
By using f.lux, you get the best of both worlds: your body will power down and you can still browse around online before bed!
Note: iOS finally introduced this feature with iOS 9 as well. It’s called Night Shift and will do the same thing f.lux does on your iPhone or iPad.
My personal take-aways
I’ve written quite a few blog posts about sleep. My own isn’t perfect, but it’s well above average. I appreciate that Arianna Huffington made this her message to the world, I think it’s an important cause and it deserves to be studied, shared, and spread. If you know you’re not getting enough sleep, or, even worse, still think sleep is “a waste of time” then this book is definitely for you.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma explains the paradox of food choices we face today, how the industrial revolution changed the way we eat and see food today and which food choices are the most ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
What should you have for dinner? Simple question, right?
At least it was until a few thousand and even a few hundred years ago. You ate what was available during that season, sold by the farmer that day.
But today everything is available, all the time, wherever you are.
So what do you eat to stay healthy, make economic choices, not hurt the environment and do the right thing?
Michael Pollan helps you answer this now so complicated question in his 2006 book, named one of the five best non-fiction books of the year by The New York Times.
Here are 3 lessons you can learn from it:
Corn is the root of the problem.
Organic often doesn’t mean what you think it does.
Buy local to win on every level.
Want to improve your food choices? Here we go!
Lesson 1: It all started with corn.
In theory, corn is a great plant.
It’s highly adaptable, very resistant, and grows in large quantities fast. When the Europeans first landed in the US and discovered it, it quickly became a household name for farmers.
But you can overdo even the best thing.
Technology has advanced so far that we can now alter plants at the genetic level, and the corn industrial farmers grow now has little to do with its ancestor.
In 1920 a farmer could comfortably produce 20 bushels of corn per acre. That figure has shot to 180 today – a 9x increase!
10 years ago, it cost a farmer $2.50 to produce a bushel, but due to the already flooded market, buyers only wanted to pay $1.45.
When the government agreed to match the difference, and thus gave the farmers an artificial profit for producing corn, it ruined the supply and demand cycle of corn.
Farmers can make a ton of money from producing corn and continue to grow more and more, even though the market’s demand has long been saturated.
The excess corn is what lands in your food in the form of high fructose corn syrup and other highly processed derivatives, and is fed to all kinds of animals, who aren’t natural corn eaters, like cows, chicken and even carnivore’s like salmon.
Lesson 2: Organic is not as clean as you think it is.
Alright, alright, maybe you knew that already.
At the very least, I’m sure you were aware that the whole processed food industry is not the greenest choice you can make.
But what about organic food?
Originally started as a counter-movement to processed and industrialized food, due to its popularity, organic food as a label has been swept up by the processed food lobby.
Plenty of the small farms that came from the organic movement had to either let go of some of their standards in order to supply the growing demand for organic food, or go out of business.
As organic businesses grew, standards were lowered, and now food companies can cut corners and still get away with labels like “organic” and “free-range”.
For example, would you call 20,000 chickens in a shed with a two-week mini vacation in the tiny back yard free-range?
The food industry would.
And what the hell is “organic high fructose corn syrup”? That stuff is one of the most artificial things ever produced.
But what to do then?
Lesson 3: If you buy locally, you win on all levels.
Two words: Buy. Locally.
Get your food from small, local farms, and everyone will win, including you.
Here are several reasons why.
Due to the reduction in distance that your food travels until it eventually lands on your plate, less fuel and resources are used, making this the environmentally friendlier alternative.
Economically, you put money into the hands of the right people: small businesses. As long as we give the majority of our money to big corporations, they’ll be the ones in charge.
The quality of your food is increased, because it’s grown in according to the season and natural circumstances on site, which makes pesticides and other artificial support unnecessary.
Ethically, this is a no brainer, and it also holds your farmer, butcher and baker accountable. When they know you’re passing by their store every day, they’re much less likely to mistreat animals or plants, because of their personal relationship with you.
So start by skipping the supermarket once in a while and look at the options right in front of you.
My personal take-aways
Better eating in a nutshell. Even better: This book does it without telling you to eat a specific diet. Of course there are benefits to eating a more plant-focused diet rather than having meat 7 times a week, but this is none of the books that proclaim one particular diet as the solution (which is BS anyways, by the way).
There are many more eye-opening, sometimes even horrific facts, in both the book and the summary on Blinkist, making this a true wake-up call.
The summary was very well structured, you could sense a common thread being woven well throughout, very good, especially considering the book looks at the problem from 4 different angles.
The Longevity Project shows you how you can live longer by analyzing the results from one of the world’s longest-lasting studies and drawing surprising conclusions about the work ethic, happiness, love, marriage and religion of people who have lived to old age.
Longevity is a fascinating topic. It’s not only a matter of health, there’s also an ethical aspect to it. We’re already suffering from over-population (so much in fact, that we’re trying to go to Mars), and not everyone wants to live forever – I don’t think I do. But how old is old enough?
I myself would be more than grateful for anything that goes beyond 70, but I wouldn’t mind living to be 100, as long as I’m mentally fit – like my great-grandma, who died in 2009 at 96 years old. What a life!
We mostly think about biology when considering how long we’ll live, but interestingly, a lot of what allows you to live a long life has nothing to do with food and drink. Sure, that helps, but could it be that aging happens mostly in your head? That it’s psychological?
In ‘The Longevity Project’, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin argue so, based on the results of the world’s longest-running study, the Genetic Studies of Genius, which is still running.
Here are 3 lessons about what it really takes to live to old age:
- Being conscientious, thorough and having a sense of duty makes you live longer.
- Men should get (and stay) married, for women it doesn’t matter much.
- Friends are more important than faith, but you can’t fake them.
Lesson 1: You’ll live longer if you start taking responsibility for your life, being conscientious and living with some discipline.
What kind of person are you? Would you describe yourself as diligent, organized, responsible, hard-working, serious and conscientious? Or rather easy-going, casual, fun, and maybe a bit chaotic?
As it turns out, the first group of people lives longer. The original creator of the study, Dr. Lewis Terman, examined how conscientious participants were both as children and around the age of 25. If people had always been responsible, thorough and careful, or at least changed their habits towards living more responsibly and in a goal-oriented way by their mid-20s, they tended to live well into old age.
It’s not what most people want to hear, but living a disciplined life makes sure you’ll be around for longer. If you think about it, it makes sense for three reasons:
Conscientious people are by definition risk-averse, and therefore tend to live healthier. They smoke less, drink less, take less drugs, exercise more, eat better, sleep more, drive more carefully, etc. – on average, of course.
Responsible people have higher levels of serotonin, a chemical that keeps your mood stable and balanced and makes you feel good, which allows you to make better decisions.
Since we surround ourselves with people who are like us, conscientious people usually have friends, co-workers, partners and jobs that support them and help them stay that way.
So if you’ve lived your life like a rollercoaster ride so far, maybe think a bit about what you really want and then decide if you want to make some changes to make sure you win in the long-term, not just today.
Lesson 2: If you’re a guy, find a great woman to get (and stay) married to, if you’re a girl, you’re free to choose.
All of the men in the study who got married and, more importantly, stayed married throughout their life, lived to be at least 70 or older. Neither those, who got divorced or remarried observed the same effect. As it turns out, not all marriages are equally beneficial for a long life.
This is partly explained by wives helping their husbands in case of an illness or emergency and generally encouraging them to live healthier lives. However, some of the stressful consequences of a divorce never go away and remarrying doesn’t change that.
Interestingly, there was hardly a difference in lifespan between women who stayed married and women who remained single after being divorced. This could be explained (and I’m totally guessing here), by women’s huge biological “advantage” of becoming infertile after menopause, which is something that makes the body decay a lot slower. Since men stay fertile all of their lives and go through more reproductive cycles, which strains the body.
So whatever the reason, while men tend to live longer by getting married in general, for women it only makes a difference if their marriage is truly great and helps them thrive beyond what they’re capable of on their own.
Otherwise, there’s no harm for them in staying single (contrary to popular belief), as long as they have one thing…
Lesson 3: Friends matter more than faith, as long as you don’t just fake it on Facebook.
…friends. This is something we all need. Very much in fact. Friends are even more important than faith and religion, according to the authors. That’s because the benefits that do come from being active in a religious community are mostly the ones that come from the social aspects of it. Praying alone isn’t as healthy as organizing a spiritual book club.
They observed this by comparing men against women. Men value religion less on average, because they often give more attention to their families and careers. Yet, men with strong social circles lived just as long as women, who were very active in religious groups.
Whether you’re religious or not, the one thing that’s made clear is that having a lot of friends and good social connections lets you live longer.
One caveat though: You can’t fake it. Just feeling like you have a lot of friends isn’t the same. If you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but no one to have meaningful conversations with over dinner, then those friends don’t matter much, do they?
My personal take-aways
Yes. Yes, yes, yes! I loved the insights from this book, because a.) they were really surprising (much less biology, than I expected, which is good, because our psychological attitude is much more in our own hands) and b.) being responsible makes you a winner – how cool is that? Of course I’ll have to balance this confirmation of my own views with something grounded more in physical health, but still, a very re-assuring, yet refreshing read!
The China Study examines the effect of animal protein intake on cancer risk and suggests improving your health by focusing on a plant-based diet.
If you ever have a chat with a vegetarian or vegan friend, this book is bound to come up. It’s often called the bible for vegans, because the research that made up the groundwork of this book is what first backed a vegan diet scientifically on a big scale.
It’s been a big step forward for advocates of plant-based diets, because like in most divisive issues, such as politics or religion, it’s really hard to argue when all you have to argue with is morals and ethics. Now, with some scientific truth to back up a plant-based diet, supporters of vegetarian or vegan diets can make themselves heard.
The book is loosely based on a 20-year study conducted with over 6,000 people from 65 rural counties in China.
Here are 3 lessons from the book to get your thinking gears spinning about food:
- Your health is not a matter of medicine, it’s a matter of nutrition.
- You don’t need as much protein as you think.
- Animal-based protein is more likely to cause cancer than plant-based protein.
Ready to learn something new about nutrition? Let’s go!
Lesson 1: Your health is a matter of nutrition, not medicine.
In a way, we’re all slacking with our health. We have this great medical system, which we can rely on to take care of us, whatever might one day be wrong with our bodies.
There seems to be a magic fix for every disease, a pill for every pain and a surgery for every slightly misplaced nose or other symmetric irregularity in our faces or on our bodies.
But by relying blindly on the health care others provide for us, we’re giving our health into other people’s hands. And if those hands are shaking at the wrong time, for example during a tumor removal surgery, it’s lights out.
In reality, your health is yours to preserve. It’s in your hands, and yours alone. You decide about your health with every meal you eat, every piece of fruit or milkshake you choose.
Even though we’re spending 3 times as much money on healthcare as we used to 40 years ago, sickness and disease has gone up across the board. 7% of all patients suffer from severe side effects of their medication, even when taking it as prescribed.
Health is a matter of prevention, not redemption. You choose your health by choosing your nutrition. Every single day.
Lesson 2: You don’t need as much protein as you think.
The Paleo diet is one of the most popular diets and has seen a massive surge in its following over recent years. Prompting us to eat like our caveman ancestors, it relies heavily on veggies, nuts, seeds, berries, and, of course, meat and animal products. It’s particularly popular among fitness freaks, due to its high intake in protein, which is important for muscle growth.
More and more, even non-athletes thus start to demonize carbohydrates, because they’re high in sugar, supposed to make you fat, and receive little attention when eating Paleo.
The China Study begs to differ, quoting German nutritionist Carl von Voit, the father of modern nutrition science, who found way back in the 19th century, that 48 grams of protein per day is enough to remain healthy.
Ironically, he’s also the same guy that started the pro-protein craze, recommending 118 grams of protein per day himself, “for there can never be too much of a good thing.”
Lesson 3: Cancer is more often caused by animal-proteins than by plant-based proteins.
Meat, milk and fish are prime sources of protein, and therefore fuel most people’s diets. Nobody’s worried about taking in too little carbs or fat – we all know we get more than enough of that – we think, and instead just focus on upping our protein intake, mostly resorting to animal-based products, because their laden with it.
However, the results from The China Study suggest that cells fed with plant-based proteins are less likely to attract cancer cells, because of a different set of enzymes being present. For those rural areas in China where a low animal protein diet was followed, much less instances of heart disease, diabetes and several forms of cancer occurred, as compared to areas with a high animal protein diet.
Additionally, they conducted studies by exposing rats to aflatoxin, a substance potentially causing liver cancer, and then comparing what happened, depending on how much animal protein the rats had in their diet.
For the rats living on 5% casein (the protein in milk), chances of developing cancer were just 30% of what they were for rats eating a 20% casein diet. What’s more, even low aflatoxin exposure rats developed 9 times as many tumors when eating 20% animal-based protein than high aflatoxin exposure rats eating just 5% animal-based protein.
Therefore, The China Study advocates getting your protein from beans, soy, nuts and lentils and switching your diet to one that’s mostly, if not entirely, plant-based, like a vegetarian or vegan diet.
My personal take-aways
I’m not pro-vegan. I’m not pro-paleo. I think all diets are useless. Limiting the number of items you eat is just stupid, in my opinion. Humans thrive on variety. I eat to be healthy, not because I believe animals are our friends, that cows are holy, pigs are dirty or that genetically mutated corn and wheat is our demise.
The truth is you can eat any of the above, as long as they’re high quality. There’s grass-fed beef and pork, from animals who have spent their entire lives outside, not crammed into sheds and you can get locally grown corn or home-made bread from the market down the street.
What some people might call me unethical for is really just non-spiritual – I’d hate to turn food into a religion, which leaves me unable to remain objective about it and do what’s actually best for my health. For me this means shooting for high quality food and steering clear of the extremes.
Hint: Call me too objective again, but for me a good indicator of what’s extreme is always how many people follow the trend – after all, that’s how an extreme is defined in statistics. For the vegan diet, it’s ~1% in the US.
If you’re interested in food and health, definitely read some summaries around this topic and pick up this book – but make sure to balance your view with more books on the topic – I like Salt, Sugar, Fat.
The Bulletproof Diet describes a simple high-fat, low-carb diet with intermittent fasting, high-intensity exercise and good sleeping practices to help you lose weight, have more energy and be able to focus better than ever before.
One day last year I walked into the kitchen and saw my roommate, just cutting off a big chunk of butter from the last pack we had bought. I thought he was about to make scrambled eggs, but then, he dropped it into the blender. I suspiciously raised my eyebrows, and when he then proceeded to add his freshly brewed coffee to it, I blurted out: “What the hell are you doing?”
He laughed and said: “Bulletproof coffee, of course!”
“What in the world is that?”
“It’s coffee with butter. You blend it and then it tastes awesome, kind of like a cappuccino. Oh, and it keeps you full for hours!”
That’s how I first learned about Dave Asprey. Since then, I must’ve watched the video on how he makes Bulletproof coffee a thousand times, mainly because I think it’s funny, but also because it’s a simple, yet brilliant idea.
Over time, Dave developed a whole diet and entire brand around it, which, by now, has become one of the most popular approaches to health & fitness in the Western world.
Here are the 3 cornerstones of it:
- Blend your coffee with butter to unlock its full health potential.
- Eating the right kinds of fat keeps you thin and focused.
- Switch your meat and eggs to be grass-fed to get just the right amount of high-quality protein.
Wanna make your body bulletproof? Let’s see how it’s done!
Lesson 1: Put butter in your coffee and blend it to unlock more of its health benefits.
Coffee is great. I love it. The taste, the smell, the effects. If you love coffee too, then you’ll really dig this diet. After experimenting a lot with his own way of eating, Dave discovered that adding butter to his coffee greatly improved its effects.
The recipe for Bulletproof coffee is really simple:
Brew 1 cup of coffee.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter.
Add in 1-2 tablespoons of MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil (Dave recommends starting with just 1 teaspoon, because it’s strong).
Mix it all in a blender for 20-30 seconds until it is frothy, almost like a latte or cappuccino (this part is important, mixing it with a spoon doesn’t cut it).
This not only tastes great (at least if you ask me), according to Dave you also get 3.4 times more antioxidants out of your coffee – because the fat increases polyphenol absorption, whereas milk suppresses it. Coffee has also been shown to reduce inflammation in some studies, an effect which is added to by the butyric acid in butter.
And, if you drink it regularly, coffee can increase your insulin sensitivity, which prevents diabetes and getting fat. This is partly because the good fat from the butter and MCT oil puts your body into ketosis, a state in which your body burns fat to get energy, instead of sugar.
Even after having sushi with rice the night before, Dave managed to increase his blood ketone level from 0.1 to 0.7 (anything over 0.6 indicates ketosis) within 30 minutes with a Bulletproof coffee – it takes three consecutive days on a low-carb diet to achieve the same thing.
Plus, a Bulletproof coffee easily keeps you full until the afternoon, which is great if you want to get lots of work done.
Lesson 2: Make sure you get short-chained, saturated fats to stay focused, thin and energized.
The great thing about spending a lot of your time in ketosis is that it allows you to eat lots of (good) fats, from which you can get your energy, without overeating (which so easily happens with carbs) and storing the excess energy as fat.
More importantly, the right kinds of fat are absolutely essential for your brain to function, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which enable cognitive functions, such as memory.
Fat also forms about 70%-85% of the dry mass of myelin, the substance that protects your neural pathways and lets your neurons transmit messages and communicate faster.
In general, the right kind of fats have two traits:
Their molecules are short, which gives them greater anti-inflammatory powers.
They’re stable, with less space for oxygen to “connect” to the molecule, thus causing oxidation, which in turn, inflames it and speeds up aging. This is what people mean when they talk about saturated fats being good for you.
So yes, as long as you’re eating good fats, you’ll stay healthier, have more energy and even think faster! Some of the ones the Bulletproof diet suggests are MCT oil, ghee, avocados, krill oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil and of course: grass-fed butter.
Lesson 3: Make all of your meat and eggs pastured and grass-fed to get just the right amount of high-quality protein.
A simple way to get more of those healthy fats and great protein at the same time is to just switch all of your meat to be grass-fed and to only consume pastured eggs (which means the chickens also ate grass).
This’ll up the quality of both your fat- and protein-intake, especially the latter of which is hard to get right. If you get too little or bad protein, you lose muscles and your bones get weak. Eat too much of it, and you’ll suffer from inflammation, feel slow and lethargic and crave carbs.
The problem with most regular protein is that it’s grain-based, with lots of gluten or soy. The same applies for grain-fed meat. And although organic meat is better than grain-fed, it’s not the deciding factor: grass-fed is what really makes a difference in a omega-3 levels, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins.
A good indicator is the darker, yellow-ish color of the fat on the meat and the more orange color of the yolks in your eggs – those tell you how rich in nutrients they are.
Other good protein sources besides grass-fed beef and pastured eggs, which Dave suggests, are wild fish (like haddock, anchovies, sardines and trout) and lamb, for example.
My personal take-aways
I’m wary of all diets, because I fundamentally believe variety is the spice of life, and that no one way of eating will last you forever. However, as far as my own experience with the diet goes, those aspects I have tested have all held true for me. In the end, becoming bulletproof means weaving your own Kevlar vest, so I encourage you to try, mix and adapt some of the parts of this diet to see what works for you. Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist and this isn’t medical advice
The ADHD Advantage sheds light on one of the most falsely assessed health conditions of the 21st century, by explaining how ADHD is overdiagnosed, overmedicated and why people with ADHD should embrace it as a means of success.
Dr. Dale Archer is many things: a doctor, psychiatrist, TV and radio show host, blogger, New York Times bestselling author.
But he’s also someone who suffers from a condition that affects over 6 million people in the US today: ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Setting the perfect example, Archer argues in this book that ADHD is not only under-explored, but also seen in the wrong light these days.
ADHD doesn’t have to be a crippling disease – it can be an advantage that helps you thrive and succeed.
Here are 3 lessons to help you deal with your or your child’s ADHD problems:
17% of all people, who have ADHD, don’t have ADHD.
Whatever you do, don’t excessively medicate.
Turn symptoms into advantages.
Ready to take on ADHD? Let’s do it!
Lesson 1: One out of every six people, who’s diagnosed with ADHD, doesn’t have it.
Out of all 6.4 million diagnoses of ADHD, up to 1.1 million might be falsely diagnosed. That’s one in six!
The reason medical science is horrible at diagnosing this disease is that the set of criteria used is terribly old and outdated. It’s a simple set of 12 symptoms, as soon as you have six of which, you’re diagnosed with ADHD.
You can’t just check a couple boxes to determine whether someone has this disease, its symptoms are a lot more fluid, but it gets worse. Since children are the majority group suffering from ADHD, the diagnosis is usually made on account of the observer, not the victim.
It doesn’t help that all children are easily distracted, don’t pay a lot of attention and are full of energy – that’s just being a child – but these natural behaviors are often falsely connected with ADHD.
Lastly, because there are seven times as many family doctors as there are ADHD specialists, it’s often the wrong doc making the diagnosis – thus often making it the wrong diagnosis altogether.
Lesson 2: Don’t abuse ADHD medication.
I’m no doctor, and you should definitely read the book and consult an ADHD specialist, when it comes to your medication, but according to Dale Archer, ADHD medication is often abused and comes with terrible side effects.
The number of people falsely being prescribed ADHD medication is almost as big as the number of people falsely diagnosed (oh wonder).
Of course, that’s partially the fault of the pharmaceutical industry with its giant lobby, but ADHD drugs have addictive qualities as well, making it all the more difficult to get off them, once you’re hooked.
Even worse, they can offset growth and weight gain or loss. This is bad in adults, but in children, it’s devastating.
So whatever you do, don’t abuse ADHD medication or excessively medicate your child. There are much better ways to deal with it (and they don’t have to cost a cent).
Lesson 3: Turn your symptoms into your advantages.
For example, children with ADHD learn a lot better after exercising, so more exercise in school breaks is an easy way for them to focus.
Better yet: it makes them great at sports. Especially team sports often require paying attention to many different things. Take basketball, for example. You have to see who’s available, guess where the ball will be next, estimate opponents’ moves, figure out your own path across the field, and so on. Kids with ADHD switch the direction of their attention a lot, and this comes in handy in these types of situations.
This kind of lateral thinking also helps them make lots of creative connections and come up with innovative solutions to problems, for example a new angle to take a photo from or combining previously un-mixed ingredients in a cupcake recipe.
See? What used to be a symptom now becomes and advantage.
If you have ADHD or your child suffers from it, you should list out all the symptoms you have and then try to find ways in which these can help you perform better.
Some of the world’s most successful people have done this and turned their ADHD from disease into advantage, for example Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin record label, airline, space program, and many other ventures, which have made him a billionaire.
My personal take-aways
I love it. A critical take on a disease, which is not only not taken seriously enough when it’s real (because so many people just show lighter symptoms), but is also even abused as an excuse. How many times have you heard someone say: “Oh yeah, I can’t focus, I must have ADHD.” What they’re really saying is: “I’m lazy, but I don’t want to admit it.” Any specialist would probably tell them that they don’t suffer from a disease, but from a short attention span, a very common thing these days.
I like that Dale Archer addressed not only this, but also how people with actual ADHD can thrive on it, instead of feeling like it’s a giant ball & chain that they have to drag around for the rest of their life.
1-Sentence-Summary: The 4-Hour Body is a complete guide to hacking your health, helping you achieve anything from rapid fat loss and quick muscle gain to better sleep, sex, and extreme athletic performance.
In 2013, I first became aware of the importance of my health. I came down with mono during spring break of my study term in the US, which knocked me out for two full weeks. While over there, I also saw both obese and unhealthy, as well as very fit and health-conscious people. After I came back to Germany, I finally began working out, swimming three times a week, and eating better.
I also read The 4-Hour Workweek that fall, so in late 2014, when my health progress plateaued, The 4-Hour Body became a natural follow-up. Over the course of a decade, Tim Ferriss has hacked everything from weight loss to muscle gain, from endurance to speed, from swimming to running, from sleep to sex and beyond. The resulting book is an encyclopedia of health, which you can grab from the shelf today or ten years from now to solve a specific problem.
While it’s impossible to summarize it all, there are some underlying principles to how you should approach your health worth sharing and a diet Tim conceived that is both healthy and flexible. That’s what will focus on in today’s 3 lessons:
Make managing your health too simple, rather than too complicated.
Start tracking data points of things you want to improve.
A Harajuku Moment is what really helps you commit to making changes.
Mens sana in corpore sano. That’s Latin for “a healthy body holds a healthy mind.” Let’s see what we can learn from everyone’s favorite human guinea pig about the both of them!
Lesson 1: Oversimplify your health.
Tim’s #1 rule for life is the 80/20 principle that says 20% of the effort gets you 80% of the results. It’s a universal law that governs most bilateral relationships in life and health is no exception. He says it’s often even more skewed than that. For example, with 2.5% of all Spanish words you can understand 95% of all conversations.
When it comes to making healthier choices, this means you’re often better off oversimplifying and sticking to a few simple rules, rather than trying to create a perfect system. 4,000 calories equal about a pound of fat. 30 minutes of cardio burns two cheeseburgers. Rules of thumb you actually use are better than exact details you don’t.
That’s why Tim built his Slow-Carb Diet around just five rules:
No white carbs, such as bread, white and brown rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas and everything that’s fried.
Eat the same few meals over and over again. Assemble them only from main proteins (beef, chicken, etc.), legumes (beans, lentils), and vegetables.
Drink only water, tea and coffee without milk or sugar.
Have a cheat day once a week on which you can eat as much as you want of whatever you want.
Combined with a breakfast of at least 30 grams of protein within 60 minutes of waking up, it can help you both lose weight and gain muscle, while increasing your energy levels. No diet is perfect, but this one’s simple, so it’s a good place to start.
Lesson 2: Even without making changes, tracking data can help you become more aware of your health.
One of management guru Peter Drucker’s most famous lines is “what gets measured gets managed.” The idea is that just by observing something regularly, you develop a bigger awareness of it. Even if you don’t plan on making any specific changes, this awareness will help you subconsciously change your behavior to improve.
For example, Tim isn’t a big fan of tracking calories, but for an overweight friend, it did the trick. Tim’s comment:
“There are far better things to track than calories. But … would I recommend tracking calories as an alternative to tracking nothing? You bet. Tracking anything is better than tracking nothing. If you are very overweight, very weak, very inflexible, or very anything negative, tracking even a mediocre variable will help you develop awareness that leads to the right behavioral changes.”
In this example, you can already see oversimplification at work. There are thousands of numbers you can track, but starting with a single one gets most people farther than trying to sift through all the different markers. Some I used when I first started my health journey are:
Total inches combined for arms, legs, hips, and waist. One number to track it all.
Weight on a weekly basis.
Taking pictures of meals before eating them, which forces you to re-evaluate your food choices.
Before-and-after pictures of your body.
Also, always use the same tool to measure and always measure under the same conditions.
Lesson 3: Find your Harajuku Moment to really start committing to your health.
Tim’s overweight friend who lost over 70 pounds tracking mainly calories was Chad Fowler. When he asked him what sparked the change, Chad described an event he called a Harajuku Moment. As Tim defines it in the book:
“It’s an epiphany that turns a nice-to-have into a must-have. There is no point in getting started until it happens. No matter how many bullet points and recipes I provide, you will need a Harajuku Moment to fuel the change itself.”
For Chad, this moment happened while clothes-shopping in Tokyo. At one point, he heard himself saying out loud: “For me, it doesn’t even matter what I wear; I’m not going to look good anyway.” That’s when he realized he had given in to helplessness. He usually didn’t do so in other areas of his life, so he finally decided to tackle his health with the same resolve to do something, anything to change.
I had that moment lying sick in bed with mono instead of attending Ultra Festival in Miami. Today my health management is still far from perfect. It ebbs and flows. But it hasn’t left my mind since and that’s what matters.
My personal take-aways
At first I was scared by the sheer size of this book. Don’t be. You can read only 2-5 pages and find everything you need to start and experiment for a few months. Once you do that, you can go back to it whenever you need. The 4-Hour Body is a health compendium that most people’s book shelves would benefit from, in spite of the extra weight.
In Defense Of Food describes the decline of food in exchange for diets driven by science and nutritional data, how this decline has ruined our health and what you can do to return to food as a simple, cultural, natural aspect of life
If you gave your great-grandma your breakfast – would she recognize it as food?
In case the answer is “probably not”, you should have a talk with Michael Pollan. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma he explained how the explosion of corn supply has led to a paradoxical amount of food choices and how we can make far better ones by simply buying from what’s locally available to us.
With In Defense Of Food, he takes it one step further, debunking the entire science of nutritionism. He’ll show you how the construct on which the modern, Western diet is based is a very shaky one at best, why it has done nothing for our health and how to return to an actual culture of food.
Here are 3 lessons to help you eat better so you can live longer without chronic diseases:
- Thanks to one greedy senator you now talk about nutrients instead of foods.
- Instead of making us healthier, nutritionism has made us sick.
- Choose foods that are simple, natural and don’t make bold claims.
Ready to fight for your right to good food? Let’s go get some advice from grandma!
Lesson 1: You now think more about nutrients than foods because of one greedy senator from the 1970s.
How did you describe your dietary habits the last time you thought about changing something? Did you say: “I’ll try to eat less bread and more salad?” Or rather something like: “I’m cutting out carbs.”
Today, we spend most of our time talking about nutrients, rather than foods, but why is this?
It all started in the 1950s, when scientists came up with something called the lipid hypothesis – the idea that eating lots of fat and cholesterol (mostly from meat and dairy) is bad for you and causes heart disease.
However, that lipid hypothesis stood on just two, very shaky studies, but over the years has been cited and re-cited thousands of times, until it became an almost universally accepted “law” – in spite of just as many studies showing opposing evidence.
The reason the lipid hypothesis became a center of attention is that in 1977, a special committee selected by the senate published a report called “The Dietary Goals for the United States”. Originally, the report was going to tell people to “eat less meat and dairy.”
However, since head of the committee, George McGovern, happened to own a bunch of cattle farms, (which would not have sold a lot of meat after the release of the report), the wording was changed to “decrease consumption of animal fat, and choose meats, poultry and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake.”
This sounds a lot more cryptic and it doesn’t encourage you to eat less meat – no, just less “saturated fat” – whatever that means.
And that’s how one greedy guy got you to think about eating low-carb instead of quitting donuts.
Lesson 2: Our turn to science for choosing our food has not made us healthier – it’s made us sick.
The pretense for all this science-talk about food was of course that it’d make us healthier, but did that really happen?
Not really. 3 out of 4 Americans are either overweight or downright obese and if we continue to eat the way we do we’ll end up in a place where 1 in 3 children will get diabetes. Yes, deaths from heart disease have been cut in half over the past 50 years, but admissions to hospitals from heart attacks haven’t – it’s better medical treatment that carries this achievement, not better nutrition.
So not only did we start talking about food in very un-foody ways, this “evolution” has also failed horribly at bringing about the improvements in health it was created for in the first place.
Cooking up your diet in a lab instead of going with what your common sense (and gut feeling) tells you won’t make you healthier. If anything, it’ll make you sick.
So what to do instead?
Lesson 3: Go for foods that have few ingredients, are natural and don’t make suspicious health claims.
It’s actually not that hard to eat good food. You simply have to look back at where our food choices came from 100 years ago: culture.
In 1900, mothers and grandmothers ran the show in the kitchen and they cooked whatever their moms and grandmas had taught them was healthy. When you shop groceries now, half the stuff in your shopping cart isn’t even food – it’s a poor excuse, stuffed with chemicals – a mere food-substitute.
But with a few simple rules, you can go back to more natural ways of eating:
If your grandmother wouldn’t eat it or recognize it as food, don’t eat it. Does your grandma think bubble tea is food? No? Then don’t drink it.
If it has more than five ingredients, it’s a test result, not food. Yogurt only needs milk and bacteria to become yogurt, not sugar, not kosher gelatin, and certainly not modified corn starch.
It if tells you that it’s healthy, it probably isn’t. It’s hard to put a “I’m full of healthy nutrients!” sticker on a banana or a carrot. But it fits perfectly on a box of frosted flakes for breakfast.
Use these simple rules the next time you shop, and you’ll end up with a much healthier shopping cart at the checkout line.
My personal take-aways
This reminded me of Diet Cults. It’s a skeptic book, looking at what’s wrong without telling you exactly what’s right (aka “this is the diet you should follow”). Books like these are better than specific dietary advice, I think, because they force you to come up with your own set of principles for eating, rather than pushing someone else’s agenda down your meal plan.
I’m buying this for a friend right now, definite recommend, great work Mr. Pollan!