Foundational Pillars for Your Body’s Longevity and Vitality

August 31, 2023

Welcome to our final chapter in this nourishment series, where we’ve gone through a discussion on nourishing the soul, the heart, and the mind, in that order. Today we’ll be diving into the final sphere, which is the body, but let me first set the stage for a moment.

In my last email about mind training, I mentioned how our beliefs and our truths change over time. Our truth evolves as we evolve, so it’s helpful to have an orientation towards a growth model that honors our process: past, present, and future. This type of evolutionary model allows for the celebration of what we used to think was true that may not be true to us anymore, what we currently hold as our truth, and even engage our future truth models. 

Ideally we’re moving in the direction of truths that include aspects of contribution, harmony, sustainability, equity, mutuality, and reciprocity. I also want to mention accountability here, meaning we’re holding ourselves accountable to maintain the commitments to the practices that are harmonious and fulfilling. Ideally we can even set goals around these truth-supporting practices that are attainable and workable, to help maintain this level of commitment.

This can be where New Year’s resolutions break down, because people often don’t make their goals attainable or workable. An example would be someone who has never gone to the gym, but expects themselves to go to the gym four days a week. This would be a tall order, and therefore it would be especially hard to opt into.

So let’s make it attainable, let’s make it workable, and let’s make it ultimately successful. There is empowerment in knowing that I am largely responsible for holding myself accountable to the things that I know are important for me to do. My mind, or how I think, plays a large role in this accountability, just like my commitments, habits, and behaviors do. 

So with this level of commitment to self and accountability, we naturally enter the conversation around nourishing the body.

A lot of people in the biohacking age are excited about all these different tools for longevity. Those tools might be helpful, but if we haven’t solidified the foundation of taking care of the body’s basic needs first, then all of the fancy equipment that we try and put on top of it is going to be marginally effective at best. 

At the body level, there are some basic fundamentals that must be included. I call these the Core 4 – sleep, movement, play and nutrition. These foundational pillars are crucial for any level of longevity and vitality, and even with all the gizmos, gadgets, and technology we have today, the most powerful way to nourish the body, heal, and rejuvenate is high quality sleep.

Sleep is easily number one for me, particularly restful, renewing sleep. I, along with so many clients and patients over the years, have felt firsthand the power of quality sleep for absolutely everything, especially in contrast to a period of poor sleep. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated, and there are some excellent resources for learning how to improve your sleep. A couple quick shout outs to Dr. Matthew Walker and Dr. Andrew Huberman who continue to share tons of information about ways to improve your sleep.

Second only to sleep, we’ve got to move our bodies. Movement is key for the health of practically every bodily system, and is a primary way to nourish our bodies as temples that house our soul. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. 

I see four main areas or aspects of movement: strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. My background in movement and body training is primarily in sports, which tend to combine aspects of all four of those into one activity, which I love. I try to engage in practices, like sports, that hit all of those areas at once, because that balance is important.

I won’t get too deep into the weeds with different types of movement practices because there really are so many that work well, though I do want to mention again the importance of well-rounded, balanced movement practices. If I’m doing lots of strength-building lifts at the gym, I’ll definitely get stronger, but over time, it’s going to be more contracting. So if I’m not balancing that with flexibility and mobility training, like hot yoga for example, then I’m going to get tense and overly taught, which can lead to pulling muscles and other injuries. 

For endurance training I love cycling, running, and swimming, and then coordination training can be something like rocking out to an ecstatic dance, rock climbing or a session on my Cyr wheel, which are all extra awesome because they’re all so enjoyable. That element of joy or fun is actually a huge deal, for quite a few reasons. 

Play, I’m finding, is essential. Play is this constant opportunity to be in our childlike selves, to be in a creative force, and to have a fun time celebrating this human experience. It’s interesting that recreation, a synonym for play, looks like re-creation. We literally re-create our inner essence and spirit when we play.

Plus, the element of fun in a movement activity will significantly improve my likelihood of engaging in this activity consistently. Play can look like a million different things for different people, so I urge you to find your version of play, commit to it, make it a priority, and do it regularly.

If people are regularly engaging in play, then they tend to be more joyful, kinder, and more productive. What we need in this day and age is for people to be kinder, and more productive not for productivity’s sake, but for addressing the current needs of the day. We’re in the midst of crises that require creative solutions and an overall level of kindness to see each other. So to have this aspect of creativity from play, and a strong body temple from movement, we can have enough energy to do what we are called to do in the face of these crises.

The last major category of body nourishment involves diet and nutrition, which is a massive topic full of variance and nuance. If you looked at 100 people, you’ll probably find close to 100 different dietary optimization strategies. Everyone has a different relationship with food, and each body is different.

For example, some people have a high metabolism and feel best when they eat every two or four hours, so fasting may not be ideal for them. Other people may have a slower metabolic rate where they could go eight or more hours without food and not really notice a crash. Identifying what feels best to your body is a great first step toward nourishing it correctly.

Going further, I’m a big proponent of eating seasonally. When I look at the natural world, at mammals in their natural habitats, there are seasonal cycles that affect eating, because different foods are available during different parts of the year. I recommend that people eat locally and seasonally when they can. 

It’s helpful to have a variety of foods in our diet, and a balance that includes the macronutrients of protein, carbs, and fat. That balance changes seasonally, and potentially depending on the health experience that we’re going through. Our optimal diet tends to evolve over time, depending on our needs. 

The last piece of nutrition to mention is the use of supplements, which can be quite helpful for a variety of conditions and situations. Much of the farm soil in the U.S. has been largely depleted of its nutrients due to short-sighted monocropping, pesticides, and outdated farming techniques. Because of this, more and more people aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals that our ancestors once were from the same foods. While this is changing with the popularization of regenerative agriculture, which creates a self-sustainable ecosystem that restores soil health, many of us see the benefit of utilizing certain supplements in the meantime.

In addition to remineralization and taking in sufficient vitamins, I want to highlight adaptogens, which are an amazing group of herbs and natural compounds that are often featured in systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Adaptogens are known to help imbalances related to stress, anxiety, and fatigue mainly, though they act in different ways depending on what the person’s imbalances are. You could say they “adapt” to give each person what they need, in order to help bring the body into balance, or homeostasis. If someone is stressed because their cortisol level is high, the adaptogen would lower their cortisol. If someone else has a low cortisol level and suffers from chronic fatigue, the same adaptogen would increase that person’s cortisol. Balance, or homeostasis, is the goal.

Wrapping up this segment on how to nourish the body, I’d like to invite you to reflect a bit about your relationship with your body, through the lens of the different areas I mentioned in this email. Take each of the topics I mentioned, including sleep, movement, play, and nutrition, and explore each of these in your own life.

Where do you feel you’re doing really well in each of those areas? Where do you feel like you’ve been a bit limited or haven’t given enough attention?

Through this awareness, can you develop a plan to improve those areas in need and commit to achieving that plan over time?

I invite you to journal for a few moments about these questions and see what comes up for you. Keep in mind that your expression of body nourishment is under no obligation to look like anyone else’s, and your re-commitment to your body can be a celebration of it as the temple that houses your spirit.

To your health, 

Dr. Dan

Get healthy. Stay present. Help out.

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