Estimated reading time 5 mins.
Because health is such a crucial value and because I think and act a lot on it, I intend to share occasional posts of what might be useful leads in regard to exercise, lifestyle, and nutrition, mostly in the way of results of various practices I’ve tried and by discussing how I think of them. But I think this can only be useful if I and any readers are mindful of how to take them.
Now, the last thing I want to come across as in any circumstance is patronizing, so please take the following as much a reminder to myself as a note to any readers. Indeed, this is a lesson I’ve accepted clarity on only relatively recently. And while it most definitely applies when consuming my content (I, who am NOT a fitness and nutrition expert), I’ve found it extremely helpful to have activated this attitude toward even so-called “experts.”
We need experts
But before we go on, let me be clear. We need experts. When someone specializes in a field, they dedicate many more hours of thought and study (across years) to a particular subject than we ever could, given our own interests and the limited time we have to pursue them. Yet we need knowledge in an uncountable range of fields, knowledge to act upon in the furtherance of our own lives and the pursuit of our own happiness and flourishing. Engaging with others who have experience—and in particular, experts—in a field is a super life-enhancing division of labor which may enable us all to live unimaginably richer lives. But only if we engage intelligently with them.
I won’t go further without a shout out to Alex Epstein, perhaps the clearest and most precise thinker I am aware of, and who has brought this issue to the front of my mind and whose ideas have helped shape my own so fundamentally they are evident in everything I do. His Human Flourishing Project is the most relevant to this post, in particular episodes 4, 13, 14, 15, (and then even 16, as I expect I will be relaying the results of my own self-experimentation above most things).
The essential attitude to have toward experts, Alex has made clear to me, is not as authorities but as advisors. This means that I am looking for people who tell me what they know as well as what they don’t know. I am suspicious of people who claim knowledge without offering context, and who either don’t address the best conflicting arguments or who address them dishonestly by mischaracterizing them. I acknowledge their superior experience on the subject, but I don’t concede my judgment to them. They have extensive knowledge on part of what I need to know to make a good decision, but they can’t know the full context in which I have to make it. I think independently. I think critically, and it is up to them to offer sound answers to points unclear to me.
Using experts in this way, I have gained valuable leads to better health, and have likewise been able to more quickly separate and discard the riffraff. There is much more I find helpful in Alex’s work on this subject, but that’s just a hint as to what there is in store. And I want to cut this relatively short and now make my point.
Describing vs. prescribing
Especially as I am not an expert on fitness and nutrition, and to ensure what I share is useful to you, I ask you to please keep me in check. To hold me accountable, as you read any post in which I share the results of what I’ve tried, please see whether I am clear on what I know and don’t know and whether I offer full context. Call me if I say anything definitive without full evidence, or if I seem to offer advice. My goal is not to prescribe, but rather only to describe the results of what has worked for me—again, always in full context—and to discuss how I think about it.
We all have different bodies, lifestyles, means, likes/dislikes, goals, and many other factors which make up the context in which we are making health decisions. So my attitude is always intended to be not, “This is the right way to eat/work out” or “You should try this.” But rather: “This is what is working for me in this way. How might it apply to you in achieving your goals?”
I have been an athlete all my life (mainly hockey and soccer), and have trained and eaten in various ways across different spans of my life, so while not an expert, I am not without any experience. I have seen ups and downs in my health across the years, and I have made certain general inductions along the way. And in more recent years, I have been training and eating in various ways with a more—albeit not strict—scientific approach. And to the extent it is not strictly scientific, I hope my intellectual honesty regarding the details will be evident in anything I offer. Assuming you bring your independent judgment to the post (and a few grains of salt), I expect you can derive some value. This exercise also promises to be as much help for me as it is for anyone else, as I hope to engage with others and see where I’m not thinking clearly or might do well with any new information.
I think health is perhaps the most crucial aspect of a flourishing life, as you can’t do or enjoy any of the other stuff without it. And I’m excited to share what has helped me feel great. But I know I can feel and perform even better, and I hope reaching out here will invite you to help me improve while at the same time helping you.