Let’s take weight, for example. We argued for so long that weight was really a math problem. Many in the public health sector who set policies still hold onto that idea, even though researchers have abandoned it. Obesity has grown at an unprecedented rate. It’s even affecting animals whose groups are not relevant. We still cling to the idea that obesity is caused by some error or shortcoming. We are now just starting to gain an understanding that these problems are more adaptive. It is the body going into a survival response. If I was out in a place like this without a great food supply for quite some time, it would be to my advantage to hold onto the weight for as long I could. We all still have those mechanisms inside of us, and they are ready to act at a moment’s notice.
We see this a lot in terms of trying to engineer modified diets. I noticed that extreme, low-carb diets are becoming the trend. The idea behind these diets is if you want to yield energy from fat, trick the body to only burn fat. I get the logic behind it, but the body is so complex and so interconnected, it does not work that way. The whole concept of thinking is that the body is a dumb machine or empty tool that needs to be hacked, tweaked or poisoned (fed toxic chemicals in order to shift its chemistry in some way). This mindset is problematic.
We can adapt to so many conditions, but the real thing we are seeking is to be in a state of flow, balance, harmony and peace. Our function is greatest when we are at ease. So many things disrupt our balance and then, push us into that state in which we are storing fat, not burning energy well and not sleeping well. We end up not very happy. We don’t enjoy so many of our efforts, such as trying to make ourselves exercise. For example, you’re told to just go to the treadmill and log an hour a day, and you will lose weight. Well, not really. Not if you do not want to. Not if you are fighting yourself. If it is something you aren’t happy about doing, you will not lose weight from it. On the contrary, you will go into a deeper state of stress and a further state of storage. So, it is not about hacking or engineering. It is really about healing. It is understanding the circumstances of health and reproducing those circumstances.
It’s not about knowing the markers of health, for there are many of them. There are things we can measure, such as our blood sugar, our resilience and levels of brain chemicals. All too often, we fall short and think about changing those markers rather than the conditions that gave rise to them. Cortisol is a great case in point. When I first started practicing, there was an old book by Dr. William Jefferies, called the Safe Uses of Cortisol. This was in the mid-nineties when a new, radical concept arose that if something was wrong with the adrenals, it was something other than adrenal disease. People have conditions where their cortisol level is too low, so they’re given more cortisol. Theoretically, you would think that should help. It seems simple enough, and I regret to say I followed this idea for a short period of time. However, I saw very quickly that people did not achieve greater health. They would become more anxious, gain more weight and have higher blood sugar. I realized low cortisol was certainly a marker of being unhealthy, but it was not the cause. If it were that simple, then adding cortisol should raise vitality. Instead, I saw people becoming more imbalanced.