First up: 

THE PHYSICAL APPROACH

From a raw vegan diet and triathlon to paleo and a natural movement practice I’ve guinea pigged my way through a good bit of the physical health domain. 

What I've found most effective in honouring our physical health is rooted not in the dogma of these fad diets or fitness trends, but in the ancestral experience of our species – a philosophy of wellbeing that existed long before the concept of nutrition or fitness was on the scene.

 
HCJ - The Physical

THE PHYSICAL

 

THE OLD:  Dogmatic fad dieting, sedentarism with occasional exercise and poorly managed chronic stress.

THE NEW: A biologically appropriate ancestral diet, natural movement and an active lifestyle with increased stress awareness and proactive management routines.

 

DIET & THE HUMAN ANIMAL

Before there was an option for anything but organic, cage free and non GMO – there was the unadulterated human diet – our ancestral diet.

 
 

OUR ANCESTRAL DIET

Think of this as the human diet before there was a concept of diets.  

It’s called an ancestral or traditional diet and was first popularized in the West back in the 1900’s by a dentist with an Indiana Jones level of curiosity, named Weston A. Price.

Pulling rotten teeth perplexed Price: why did his patients need such invasive dental work (wisdom teeth removed, frequency of cavities etc.) when other animals require little to none? 

Price hit the road and interviewed people living in traditional societies: from isolated mountain towns in Switzerland consuming raw and fermented dairy, to hunter gatherer tribes in the south pacific. 

In these communities, Dr. Price found healthy teeth and strikingly low incidence of western degenerative disease and so created a dietary guideline based on the commonalities of these societies.

    The diet is characterized by 4 pillars: 

    • Abundance of plants (raw, cooked)
    • Abundance of plants (sprouted and fermented where appropriate to improve digestion and increase nutrient absorption) 
    • Meat cooked on the bone (bone broths for example) Because the nutrients in bone are some of the most valuable.  
    • Organ meats (the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and prized by traditional societies while thrown away by most westerners)

    Eating this way means:

    • Avoiding the pitfalls of the modern industrial food system such as inflammatory PUFA seed oils and an abundance of carbohydrates.
    • Thus, it's also about rediscovering a fat based metabolism and getting off the blood sugar roller coaster.
    • It may be about eating foods that are new to you, like bone broth, liver, sauerkraut.
    • Fasting, whether intermittent, protein or long term is applied to improve energy, mental clarity, immune function and body composition.
     

    Coaching Covers:

      • How, why and what to do about the fact that agriculture and the industrial food system have lead to increases in efficiency and population growth but detracted from the physical health of our species.
      • Understanding which foods align with an ancestral diet and why (eat this / not that)
      • Eating to promote a fat vs. carbohydrate adapted metabolism which improves sleep, mental clarity and body composition (humans first shifted to a carb dominant diet when we adopted an agricultural lifestyle but even more so in the 20th centuries introduction of the low-fat era)
      • My favourite BC resources for high quality food growers, retailers and restauranteurs that align with these dietary principals.
      • To prepare simple and delicious meals that align with these guidelines and create simple meal plans and shopping lists.
      • How to integrate intermittent, protein and long term fasting as ways to promote desirable physical and mental states.
       

      MOVEMENT & THE HUMAN ANIMAL

      Before we adopted a chair shaped life and began using exercise machines, we moved outside, hardened by the elements of nature where the landscape inspired the full expression of our movement capability.

       
       

      Similar to the diet philosophy above, the natural movement approach I coach is influenced by the experience of early humans vs. any modern concept of exercise. 

      Because many otherwise physically healthy people sit 12+ hours a day and move vigorously for 30-60 mins which is the diet equivalent of eating hot dogs and soda and drinking the odd green smoothie. 

      The reality is that occasional exercise doesn’t address sedentary debt.

      The video here entitled, "The Workout The World Forgot," is of the founder of MovNat, a physical training method I coach that inspired me to get out of the gym and relearn what it meant to move like a human animal.

      What Erwan, the man in the video is modelling, would have been a common level of physical readiness before the revolutions of agriculture and the industrial age gradually stripped us of our physical preparedness.

        Natural movement is characterized by a few ideas:

        • It seeks to explore the full range of natural human movement: walking, jumping, crawling, grappling, balancing, carrying, throwing and more.
        • It suggests the aggregate of the non workout hours of the day represent the greatest possibility for your physical change.
        • Getting out of gyms and into nature stacks the benefits of our time spent moving by reducing stress and promoting creativity while providing plenty of inspiration for your workouts without any machines or gym memberships necessary.
        • Part of a natural movement lifestyle is to blur the lines between a workout and non-workout times. i.e. what movement could you invite into your office or your Netflix watching?    
         

        Coaching Covers

        • How to stop living in a chair shaped position: There are countless opportunities to move during our days – our work will help you see them
        • How to automate desirable changes to your anatomy with little effort (micro movements that will improve mobility, posture and balance without much effort)
        • How to create a cheap, fun, simple and engaging backyard movement space
        • How to run efficiently and safely without hurting yourself
        • How to safely transition to minimal and barefoot shoes.
        • Mobility techniques to unlock stuck shoulders, hips and hamstrings  
        • How to create a movement rich environment in both the office and the home
         

        STRESS & THE HUMAN ANIMAL

        Because no matter how much good work we do on our diets and fitness, untended stress will derail your health.

         
         

        6 years ago I completed the Whistler Ironman in 11 hours. I had 9% body fat and finished the 226km race in the top 20%. I’d never invested more energy into my physical health and my community saw me as a model of health – but in reality I was slowly breaking down.

        Just as modern man must have a diet and movement strategy, so too must he be acutely aware of his stress and be ready to employ tactics to bring his energy and nervous system back into balance.

        The year I trained for Ironman I’d also started a business and split up with my girlfriend of 7 years. 

        Gradually this stress manifested in the physical with symptoms of adrenal fatigue like low libido, trouble sleeping and slow recovery from workouts. 

        Curtailing my training and employing a lifeboat full of stress management techniques helped pull me from this free fall but could have easily snowballed and lead to further health complications. 

        My stress and energy management philosophy is characterized by a few ideas:

        • Any healthy thing can be done unhealthily, it’s our relationship to it that matters.  
        • Most people, but especially those in their 20’s and 30’s run roughshod over their nervous systems and mitigate symptoms of stress Vs. underlying causes.
        • Modern humans have the same stress response as hunter gatherers. As a result, the fight or flight response is hyperactive, triggered not by the lion in the bushes, but by the financial woes, and other stressors that characterize modern life.
        • Chronic release of stress hormones like cortisol affect our whole being:  mental health struggles like anxiety and depression, physical issues like hyperactive immune function, poor sleep quality and compromised digestion as well as the emotional: (anxiety, depression) and the Spiritual (why am I here, why do I bother?) 
         

        Coaching Covers:

        • How to develop awareness of your nervous systems signals and in particular spot the fight or flight response.

        • A simple 5 minute heart rate variability training tool that quantifiably reduces stress when it's upon you but also guards against the stress response before you enter into stressful situations.
        • Techniques to breathe, eat, sleep, travel, work and exercise that decrease sympathetic, fight or flight activity, and promote restorative, parasympathetic, rest and digest activity.
        • A step by step action plan to help you identifying and addressing the micro and macro, acute and chronic stressors in your life.

        Health coach john - go deeper

        THEN GO DEEPER

         

        A journey into wellbeing often begins in the physical.

        And that’s what it is: a beginning.

        Through experience in the physical we gain energy and vitality that combined provides us a sense of possibility i.e. I can become who I want to be.

        The trick is to not let this work plateau, but instead, to use this momentum and pursue deeper experiences through the mental, emotional and spiritual domains of health.

        I know – it’s easier for most of us to get behind a new workout or diet regimen than delve into our mental, emotional and spiritual work.

        But changes in the physical domain are skin deep – they're as fleeting as a good haircut or tan.

        The reality is, the men we’re hungry to become, men with lives full of meaning, deep connection and clear purpose, are what lie on the other side of this work. 

         
         
         
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        BEYOND THE PHYSICAL

         

        THE OLD: a distracted & critical inner voice, shallow emotional embodiment & a rejection of the sacred.

        THE NEW: a clear & compassionate inner voice, emotional intelligence & appreciation for life through gratitude.
         

        BEYOND THE PHYSICAL

        There's no denying it:

        Modern life presents a dramatic departure from the ancestral experience of our species.

        In the physical domain of health we're getting hip to this – and understand that honouring our biology and the evolutionary experience we're adapted for can contribute to robust physical health.

        But what about the other domains of wellbeing – How might this departure affect our mental, emotional and spiritual health?

         

        THE MENTAL

        The pace and demands of modern life represent a new experience for our species and one that increasingly, we seem to lack the bandwidth to navigate.

         

        Get this:

        An adult in an urban environment might make 35,000 combined conscious and unconscious, decisions a day.

        That's a figure floating around the internet and whether it's true, there's no denying the shit storm a modern human being has to navigate.

        The volume (35,000 decisions), the demands (financial, relationships, work), and the distractions (phone, social media, food) have created a mental cocktail that's tough to sit with.

        But sit with it we must.

        It's little wonder overwhelm and anxiety affect so many and no wonder Zuckerberg rocks the same tee shirt and Obama the blue or grey suit.

        It's why mindfulness and meditation are so hip – but also why it's damn hard to establish a consistent or meaningful practice with them.

          In wellness circles the going remedy for this rising angst is an equal measure of self care. Which usually translates as hours on a massage table or time away from technology in nature.

          Which is good and necessary – but even when life slows right down and the overwhelm settles, most will acknowledge an underlying angst that lingers.

          It's the kind of angst that no spa or beach time can address.

          In varying degrees, I believe this angst shows up universally (at least in westernized society), and that it has roots in the unintegrated and unacknowledged needs of the remaining two domains of wellbeing.

          We'll get to those below, but first, let's  pick some low hanging fruit in addressing the mental shit storm at the mental level.

           
           

          What clients learn:

          • Strategies to reign in distraction: learn to create a distraction free smart phone, hack your social media and engage with other common distractions in a purpose-full way. 
          • The life changing magic of tidying up: Inspired by the book of the same name these strategies are about creating both an external and internal environment that focus on essentialism.
          • To stop doing the things you know you have to – Together we identify what your kryptonite habits are and use an accountability relationship to steer clear of them while also mapping out how to invest your energy and establish boundaries with others to focus on what matters.   
           
           

          THE EMOTIONAL

          For most men healthy emotional embodiment begins with awareness. Once a man begins to authentically feel and not suppress his emotional truth, it's time for him to get curious and compassionate about why he feels that way.

           

          Take a step back and consider why you're here – why invest this time and energy into your wellbeing?

          I'd suggest you're after the good life – and that your emotional health has a major influence.

          Consider that after life and liberty, the backbone of the American dream is, 'the pursuit of happiness.' But right there the trap is set: We're stuck in pursuit. 

          We're left believing that the good life will arrive with abs, a raise, a new car or relationship. But ask any miserable celebrity that's willing to get honest and they'll tell you it's a trap. 

          You can 'have it all' and still be miserable.

          Because here's the thing:

          You cannot be contented with the hollow consumer driven promises of westernized culture and the bias it holds with the physical.

          What we want is to feel good, and this has little to do with whats going on outside (the stuff, relationship etc) and everything to do with what's going on inside.

          What I’ve learned is that the emotional tone our awareness takes on, the roommate you ostensibly live with inside your head – is largely established in the first few years of life. 

           Literally, the lens of felt perception through which we experience the world, was forged between birth and 7 years of age.

          The crazy thing is how this blueprint then influences the choices that make up our lives: It's what we design our life around and impacts our career choices, our relationships and the internal dialogue we suffer or enjoy.

          My own journey in healing the emotional body (which is very much an ongoing project by the way) has been aided by: 

          • Relationship: The honesty and responsibility required in my relationship with my wife.
          • Therapy: A year of relationship therapy we engaged in proved essential for us to get to a place of emotional honesty.
          • Mens Work: has been influential in reconnecting me to a healthy and mature expression of the masculine in part by not shying away from uncomfortable emotions like fear, shame and anger.  
          • Plant Medicine: The plant medicine ayahuasca has helped me bring awareness to the emotional wounds at the root of these repressed emotional energies.  
          • The Presence Process: A 10 week meditation and breath-work practice aimed at delivering the practitioner more time in present moment awareness enabling stored emotional energies to be integrated.
           
           

          What clients learn:

          • Progress here is not as easy as making your way through a bulleted list.
          • The reality is work in the emotional and spiritual domains require we employ a different approach than what we're accustomed to in getting what we want in life (the hustler attitude and it's associated pillars of strength, self reliance and drive) 
          • Here, vulnerability is considered strength, while surrender, trust and a willingness to ask for help are among your best allies.
          • The emotional body was forged in childhood and needs to be treated with the same care and attention that a child thrives in.  This shift in approach is an uncomfortable one for a lot of men. 
          • Again, I'm not a therapist but sessions with clients who are keen to explore this domain have lead to potent discoveries. If you want to go there we will: You'll be invited to experience emotions with awareness and compassion and invited to look to back at when you first began to associate with them.
           
          Men need to grow up, there’s nothing uglier than an old infant.
          — Dr. Jordan Peterson
           

          THE SPIRITUAL

          Today we live in a sort of culture'less moral vacuum, the result of a postmodern rejection of tradition and organized religion. It's a void that, try as we might, cannot be addressed through a focus on material gain.  As a result of living this way, westerners today are increasingly disconnected from a sense that they're lives are meaningful – and all to often, they're right.

           

          In his book, 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B Peterson writes,

          "We have been withdrawing from our tradition, religion and even nation centred culture, partly as a way to decrease the risk of group conflict – but we are increasingly falling prey to a life of meaninglessness which is no improvement at all." 

          Peterson's inquiry into the nature of living a meaningful life has struck a chord with the men of our generation.

          Love or hate the guy I believe his perspective on religion is most refreshing: Peterson, understands the bible, the foundational text of western society, not as a literal book of science but as a tale of metaphor and allegory that offers a blueprint in living a moral and meaningful life. 

          Two elements of a religious or traditional way of life that we moderns have lost connection with are ceremony and prayer. 

          If those words don't resonate with you try, right of passage and gratitude.

          On Gratitude:

          I grew up healthy and wealthy but for much of my life I focused on what I lack, a truly desirable sense of being was always around the bend. I rarely considered the gifts I've been blessed with, let alone spent intentional time reflecting on them. 

          As I began a commitment to deeper experiences in wellbeing this began to change. Then one day in prayer I thanked the plants of the earth for making oxygen and was moved to tears. How many breaths had I taken without ever considering such a thought?

          What if we stripped away our entitlement?

          Stripped it right back to a place where we routinely thanked the sun for it's warmth and light or the rain for its life giving water.

          I think this is a desirable way of being – and it will require us to step outside of our transactional association with the natural world that is characteristic of our materialistic culture.

          Here, I believe that the earth centric spiritual traditions of the indigenous peoples of the earth, the wisdom keepers that are connected to old ways of being, have ways of being in the world that we westerners would be wise to notice. 

          My little experience in learning these ways paints a picture where man, nature and spirit are deeply inter-connected, a reality that exists in stark contrast to the story of the individual and separation that dominates western society.

          On Ceremony: 

          Human beings have long engaged in ceremony.

          Take for example the right of passage where boys, through some physical trial, would become men.

          These ceremonies had a social imperative – in their absence chaos resulted, our present immature culture of masculinity is a great example – how many boy-men are running roughshod over the world?

          I think of ceremony as a conscious with-drawl from the busyness of our lives. By carving out space to enter ceremony we imbue the time spent there with a greater degree of reverence – and with this deliberateness, we're better able to access our emotional and spiritual bodies.

          Ceremony practiced in this way is an opportunity to punctuate the run on sentence that can be our lives, with moment of presence and a connection to something greater than ourselves.

           
           
          “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”
          — Aristotle

          WHAT CLIENTS LEARN:

          • Again, spiritual health isn't about working your way through a bulleted list.
          • On the subject of gratitude I encourage clients to engage, cultivate and deepen their personal practice. 
          • With respect to ceremony, there are many opportunities to begin: from marking the seasonal equinox or solstice to attune to the rhythms of nature, to entering into time of reflection or invite renewal with the new or full moon. To hunting and truly honouring the animal on your plate, to engaging in a wild man adventure that honours your primal nature, to vision questing and seeking a deeper connection with creator.

           

           
           
           

          HONOUR YOURSELF

          By getting outside

          By embracing the cold

          By getting out of your comfort zone

          By learning about hunger

          By learning about your gut

          By being pushed to fail

          By rejecting the status quo

          By learning about stress

          By learning about our ancestors

          By learning about plant medicine

          By reconnecting with your inner wild man

          By reconnecting with your breath

          By reconnecting with a tribe of men

          By reconnecting with the rhythms of nature

          BY RECONNECTING WITH YOUR ANCESTRAL STRENGTH

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