BL&T No. 094: Longevity, Health, and Happiness

Fitness & Wellness

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"Inspiration—I surround myself only with people of matched values…those who are optimistic and positive. My mom lived to be ninety-five. Every morning I would ask her, “Are you going to have a good day?” She would always answer, “I choose to have a good day. I don’t have enough days left in my life to have a bad one.” She was right, she didn’t. And neither do I!"

From "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent" by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, Dave Jenks [Book]


I curated a few podcasts on Friday night to listen to on my Saturday drive to Rhinebeck (NY) for a summer party at Barrel CEO Peter's new place.

Each podcast was full of insights as I hoped, but I was surprised at how well they flowed together. There was a single thread weaving them together: how to live a long, healthy life through deliberate care for mind, body, and spirit.

In today's newsletter, I'll share what resonated with me in each podcast, refining the takeaways I hastily captured via iPhone's voice-to-text, a handy tool I should use much more for podcast listening on the road.

Podcast No. 1: The Drive with Peter Attia: #206 – Exercising for longevity: strength, stability, zone 2, zone 5, and more (Listen)

Doctor, among many other things, Peter Attia's bio is too long to list here. In this episode of Attia's podcast, he stitches together snippets from past content to explain the concept of longevity and how, at age 45, he decided to start training to become a centenarian, aka a person who lives to age 100.

Knowing that our bodies, without intervention, will slowly decay as we get older, Attia asked himself: If I want to live to 100, what do I have to physically be able to do to be satisfied with my life? From being able to get out of a pool on his own to lifting his future grandkids, Attia compiled a series of "events" that he's now coined the Centenarian Olympics.

For each event, Attia defined movements that help build and maintain strength in the right areas. Considering the aging process, this means that if he wants to lift his grandkids off the ground at age 100, he needs to be able to lift that much more at age 45. Makes you think, right?

When people ask me how I find the motivation to keep up my fitness routine, the first thing I share is that I enjoy it. I then talk about my vision to someday be a healthy Dad who can keep up with his kids as children and as they grow older. On days when making the time is difficult or working out feels like a chore, I picture this future state and remind myself that my consistency is the only path to achieving it.

So, naturally, I found Attia's training mindset inspiring. I appreciate the specificity and focus beyond parenthood, but it also got me thinking about my approach to training.

For a few years or so, I've enjoyed training for and competing in competitions. I take it seriously, but I'm not at the point where I'm going after a first-place medal. For me, it's more about having fun, making progress, and having a near-term milestone to work toward.

All that said, this podcast reinforced for me the difference between training for performance and longevity. Intense performance training can even negatively impact longevity (strain on joints, etc). Looking ahead, finding this balance in my life is top of mind as I compete in my first Strongman competition in July and decide what to do next.

Podcast No. 2: WHOOP Podcast, Ep. 178: Food as Medicine with Dr. Julie Foucher (Listen)

Dr. Julie Foucher's thoughts on food's impact on longevity were a great follow-up to Peter Attia's centenarian training method and highlighted that there's more to longevity than exercise. Right from the start, Foucher addresses a popular issue on the relationship between food and health: genetics.

"We used to think that our genes were our destiny. ... In fact, that's not really the case. Our destiny is so much more controlled by our environment and how our environment impacts our genetic expression. ... Food is one of those levers we can pull [in] how our genes are expressed or not expressed. ... The building blocks of what our bodies are made of is what we put in our mouth."

Foucher explains the power of anti-inflammatory foods (such as nuts and berries) and how a healthy diet can contribute to a longer lifespan by preventing issues like insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Both can lead to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's. To sum up her approach to a healthy diet, she borrows a quote from author Michael Pollan that I love: "Don't eat what your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Having left Attia's podcast thinking about training for performance vs. longevity, I was excited to hear Foucher share her perspective as it relates to food. As a four-time competitor in the CrossFit Games, she knows a thing or two about how diet can enhance performance.

For high performance, Foucher explains that nutrition precision is critical —your body must have the right fuel and enough of it to achieve the desired results. If the aim is longevity, there's more flexibility. Without any near-term performance goals, habits like intermittent fasting can be supportive in maintaining a healthy diet.

Since getting back to weight training (post-pandemic lockdown) this past year, I've felt caught between these two worlds. In addition to intermittent fasting, I maintain a mainly plant-based diet and keep lunch to a tasty bowl of nuts and berries. I make space for the occasional BBQ feast or ice cream, but for the most part, I stick with this approach. While I enjoy it, I've been asking myself questions like:

  • Should I be eating earlier in the day to better prepare for my evening workout?
  • Should I get back to tracking macros if I'm serious about achieving results?
  • Am I getting enough protein to support my training? Should I integrate more meat products?

I didn't end this podcast with any clear decisions or next steps, but I found it helpful to spend the time hearing Foucher's point of view and insights.

Podcast No. 3: The Knowledge Project Ep. #139, Laurie Santos: The Pursuit of Happiness (Listen)

In this podcast, leading psychology professor and happiness expert Laurie Santos digs into what contributes to our happiness. She covers a lot of ground that I won't summarize here, but if you're interested, I suggest taking a listen.

Santos describes happiness as being happy in your life and with your life. In other words, someone who experiences positive emotions doesn't necessarily look at their life and feel satisfied and vice versa. I hadn't ever looked at happiness like this, so I appreciated the framing.

The trouble is that we tend to base our satisfaction on what we believe will bring us happiness: a new title, a bigger house, a new car. We spend our energy chasing these things, and when we get them, we may experience what Santos calls a "happiness boost," but the effect wears off quickly. This concept is known as the "arrival fallacy."

At this point, we've grown tired of the new title, car, or house. We start comparing ourselves to those around us and thinking, "I'll be happy when..." It's a vicious cycle. There's a way out, but it takes work.

Like maintaining a fitness routine that will make us strong into our old age and eating a healthy diet that can help avoid chronic disease, Santos believes that we have to work for our happiness. In her words, "Sometimes the things we want to do in life aren't going to be the ones that make us happy. ... Sometimes we need to fight our misconceptions and violate our intuitions about what to do to live a happy life."

As the final podcast of my journey, I found this to be a great way to tie everything together. Santos doesn't use the term longevity, but to me, living a long, healthy life is one and the same. These podcasts were a welcome reminder that all aspects of well-being are in my control. I have to be thoughtful and live with intention to go where I want to go.'

Thought Starter

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