Written by Christopher Kelly
May 26, 2017
Christopher: Before we get into this week's interview with Kevin Cottrell, I wanted to tell you about PHAT FIBRE. In an attempt to make a hypoallergenic MCT oil powder that doesn't contain high GI carbohydrate or sweeteners, we created Phat Fibre. The aim was to design something that we wanted for ourselves but wasn't available on the market, a powdered MCT oil that could be used as fuel during races that didn't cause GI distress.
Many of our clients tried Phat Fibre and the feedback was overwhelming positively. More importantly, we wanted to know exactly what Phat Fibre was doing to blood glucose, ketones and insulin. So, we tested those metrics in a group of nutrition geeks, scientists and low carb elite athletes. The resulting data was recently published in a peer reviewed journal and led to an even better iteration of Phat Fibre which is now available on sale. You can find Phat Fibre over at phatfibre.com. The spelling is P-H-A-T F-I-B-R-E.com. Link is also I the show notes. Now, over to the interview with Kevin.
Hello, and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I'm joined by Kevin Cottrell. Hi, Kevin.
Kevin: Hey, how are you? I'm looking forward to it.
Christopher: I am good today. Thank you very much for asking. For people that don't know, Kevin is the co-host of FitFluential Radio and lifelong serial entrepreneur originally from Silicon Valley. He is, obviously, very passionate about all things health and wellness. And he was one of the original thought leaders and co-founder behind Paleo f(x) in 2012. He is the co-founder of a management consultant company based in Austin, Texas that he runs with his wife. Very cool stuff. Kevin, the first thing I have to ask you is what the heck is a management consultant and Silicon Valley guy doing with Paleo f(x)?
Kevin: What's interesting about the sort of genesis in Paleo f(x) is it was a journey I went through with my health. In other words, I was the very prototypical, did nine startups, had a lot of drag on my health from the fact that I was working really long hours, was the old sleep-when-you-die intensity in the work environment. So, about 2006, after I've done nine startups, I ended up getting melanoma. I got cancer.
I thought I was pretty healthy. I was working out five or six days a week. And it was really a wakeup call. And so that was the start of me looking at things differently. In other words, I looked at my ability to be a producer as an entrepreneur and my ability to succeed at a high level, really had to do with the fact that I had to exist in my body and be able to perform at a high level.
And so the surgery and the treatment and all the work to solve the melanoma made me start to go back and say, "What causes this? What other things could I get?" And one of the things I found in that journey was Robb Wolf and the Paleo podcast. And that led me to a discovery when I was living in Austin, Texas. It was one of the largest Paleo communities in terms of meet up groups and network.
And I met Keith and Michelle Norris in that journey. We started talking about -- This is my Silicon Valley route, right? Conferences, training people, sharing Paleo, and other things like that. And so at the kitchen table at my house, we were discussing this over wine one night and they were initially thinking about doing the sort of what is typical, a CrossFit box, you bring in a couple of authors or people that have some information to share, and you're there for three hours.
And I challenge them to do something more like what would be typical for COMDEX or one of these other big events. You bring people not only nationally but globally, get them together, have three or four days worth of training, have three or four different stages going at once. And I painted this vision for this gigantic conference that emulated what the technology industry does. And then I challenged them.
I said I think we can get this done and we're going to do it during South by Southwest which, as a footnote, was a really idiotic idea. And this was the very end of October. In less than the period of time between Halloween and South by Southwest, put on the very first year of Paleo f(x). If we didn't have all the volunteers and the passion around Paleo, we wouldn't have ever done it. The other thing I would say is I learned so much more about it, ensuing six to 12 months, that it really made me realize that, as an entrepreneur, this is the Achilles heel and the problem that entrepreneurs have, because we think we're Teflon coated and we're never going to break from a health standpoint.
Christopher: Right. Yeah, I've certainly been there. But I don't think I feel like I had a lot of stress when I was working in Silicon Valley. I think the program is get it pretty easy, right? You just kind of sit in your cube and keep your head down and as long as you deliver things on time then there's really not much stress. So, talk about the stress that you're under and what makes you think that might be connected with the cancer diagnosis?
Kevin: Sure. Well, if you look at stressors and certainly sleep hygiene and sleep quality is a huge one. Throughout my career and my tenure and all the different startups, I tended to be one of those people that my body didn't really throw a fit if I didn't get much sleep.
So, you're talking about getting sleep somewhere between 11:00 or midnight or sometimes 1:00 a.m. And then I would be at the gym at 4:30 in the morning. So, anybody doing the math can realize this guy is really, really burning the candle on both ends. So, whether you're a programmer or you're an executive, the stressors -- And when I really looked at this and looked at the number of different stressors, it's not so much it was business stress. I tend to be a fairly calm personality. I'm not a hot head. I don't have a lot of arguing and screaming like some people do, that are entrepreneurs.
And so most people that knew me knew I was really, really intense but fairly mellow. In other words, I've not had a lot of highs and lows. So, what I found was a lot of people do not appreciate the fact that sleep is so restorative for you. They think that you hear that but if you look at things like melanoma and cancer and melatonin level I just head chronically over nine startups and for a long, long period of time really violated not only sleep hygiene but length of sleep.
I just was getting terrible sleep. Can't figure out how to slug my way through it and finally my body was just like, "Okay, we're not getting the restoration. We're not where we need to be." And I really think that as a lesson for entrepreneurs and for people that hear this, especially if you're in that mode, at some point in time, I don't think it's an if, I think it's you're going to get something in the form of a chronic disease whether it's GI, brain related dementia, you're going to get one of the other neurologic things, you could certainly get cancer.
But those are all coincident. And this is what I found in my research with chronically low melatonin. In other words, your body can slug through it for as long as you can tolerate it. But then when it goes bad it goes really bad.
Christopher: Right. I just wonder, did anything go wrong before the diagnosis? Was it really just the diagnosis or did you notice some things before then? Like I wonder, you're getting up at 4:30 in the morning and you're going to the gym and I'm just wondering whether you got results even though you weren't sleeping. Did you not notice that or did you notice something else?
Kevin: It was very much later that I noticed because I thought I was -- Here I am. I wasn't an old guy. I'm 53 years old at this point. But back in 2006, I was still fairly young. And so I wasn't overweight. I wasn't not getting results. I would get some results. But what I realized in about 2010 or '11 when I went through this process with Paleo f(x) and learning more about it, I got extreme results. Most people that have a look at my before and after pictures, and I'll make sure I'll get them so you can share them--
Christopher: Oh, yeah, please do.
Kevin: On the podcast. They think I lost like 50 or 60 pounds when in actuality, because of the inflammation, and this is where I think a lot of people don't realize that their body is screaming and showing warning signs. But you may not be 50 pounds overweight but I found out two things. One, I was able to dramatically change my body composition by getting on track with sleep. I made, just with the sleep piece -- In other words, I started working out. I started following a Paleo based template and my body composition dropped down by quite a bit.
And again, my weight didn't change a lot. It was like nine or 11 pounds or something. But the last literally 10% of my body fat, because we were doing DEXA scans and things like that for Paleo f(x), so we were tracking results so we could talk about it at the conference, I had dropped 10% difference in my body fat. In other words, going from about 21%, 22% down to 11% or 12%.
Christopher: That's amazing, isn't it?
Kevin: Just from sleep. I still wasn't sleeping enough. And one of the keynote speakers from Paleo fx) challenged me. He looked at my blood work and said, "You're still not sleeping enough. You've got this highly sensitive CRP level that is outrageously high. Your body on the outside looks good now but internally everything systemically is still on fire." It was high enough that it looked like somebody who would have a highly sensitive CRP that would have a major incident like a heart attack or other things that causes all this trauma internally.
And so when you looked at this, I wasn't quite where I needed to be. And so what I realized was I went from, at that point, the very first year of Paleo f(x) where I was working out, that was probably still four or five days a week. I was doing things differently. I wasn't doing a lot of chronic cardio. I was doing -- It wasn't even CrossFit, but it was a weight based system in terms of weight training.
And what I've done since is I've gone from the four or five days a week to two days a week. My blood markers have improved markedly, my sleep and all of the other health things. And so my aha after all that, and we were talking about the juicy signs or symptoms, I didn't because they were subtle enough and I missed it all. And so I had a mole taken off in 2006. They called me and said, "We need you on Monday for emergency surgery and we're hoping that we don't have to do a bunch of other things like radiation." When you find out you have melanoma in your neck you're thinking there's a lot of critical things in and around there including my brain. It was a life changing call.
I realized that after I looked back at it now, and anybody listening to this looks at the before and after pictures, they're going to see, although it didn't appear to me that way, that when you get this -- It's somewhere between nine and 11 pounds difference. When you look at what I did from an inflammation standpoint, literally the most common thing I get is, "No, you had at least 25 or 40 or 50 pounds heavier in one picture." And it wasn't. It was all inflammation.
Christopher: That's amazing. Who was the doctor at Paleo f(x) that looked at your blood work?
Kevin: It was Dr. Jack Kruse.
Christopher: Interesting. Okay. So, where did this go? What was Jack Kruse's prescription? I find Jack Cruz incredibly interesting. They're very difficult to understand. So, what was the prescription?
Kevin: He said that much like many people on Paleo, and I agree, he's controversial but I consider him a really good friend. I've known him for years now. He was really candid. He said, "I'm worried you're going to get something else catastrophic. You look great on the outside. People look at your after pictures and you look like, especially at your age, the top 1% of your peer group." And he said, "But if I had you in my neurological practice and I saw your blood work with this highly sensitive CRP, we've got a problem we've got to address here because there's something else going on."
So, we started talking about my sleep and then really the piece that I also did was quite a bit of cold thermogenesis. Basically, it was looking to shock my system to dramatically reduce the inflammation level across even at the cellular level and across the blood markers. And so I basically loaded myself up with ice, got in the bathtub, built up to the point where I would get in 41 degree water at least once a day for up to 45 minutes.
Christopher: Holy cow.
Kevin: And so I went from highly sensitive CRP, and for anybody that you've got as listeners, I know they're out there, that would think that highly sensitive CRP, somewhere in the neighborhood of seven or eight, went down to under one. It was close to like .6 or .65 in less than 30 days.
Christopher: That's amazing. And was it not food sensitivity? So, we've seen an awful lot of high sensitivity C-reactive proteins in our online clinic and that is very, very high. It's very unusual for me to see one that high. And most of the athletes that we test are less than 0.5 and usually when someone has one that high, they're still eating something that they're sensitive to. The two main offenders that I see are gluten and dairy. I'm guessing that's not the case for you because you're one of the co-founders of Paleo f(x).
Kevin: We've certainly looked at that. That was one of the things. I think in addition to Kruse I talked to Robb Wolf and a couple other people. That's obviously the first question, "Hey, are you eating fairly clean? Are you still eating gluten? Is there a dairy issue?" And when those were eliminated, it was, "Yeah, you know what, your body is just on fire internally." Really, what it came down to is I looked at my history and this is really what the conversation with Kruse ended up being around.
He said, "I think you've got 20 plus years of just damaging your body and it's finally given up." Some people give up and they have a heart attack and they get the widow maker and they don't survive. He said, "You've got a new lease on life and you need to figure out how to not go for round two." He said, "I'm really, really concerned." He said, "I wouldn't typically operate and do neurosurgery on somebody that had this high of inflammation level. It would be risky. I would have to fix that first."
He said, "Even though you look good on the outside, I need you to fix this. As your friend, go figure this out." He said, "If we do this cold thermogenesis, you basically would do this on a daily basis for a month. Let's take another look at the blood work and see if it fixes it. In my practice, I've done this with other patients." And he was frankly astonished that it came down as much as it did and as fast as it did given the tenure at which I had abused my body.
Christopher: That's amazing. What else did Jack Kruse prescribed then? I wonder whether he just looked at you, "Oh, yeah, former Silicon Valley guy bathing in EMF all day long in a cube with fluorescent lighting." Did he talk to you about light or anything like that?
Kevin: What's interesting, because I know Dr. Kruse extremely well, his message was much different in 2012 when we did the very first year of Paleo f(x).
Kevin: There wasn't a lot of dialogue around EMF. And so if you look back in his social media, you can certainly see this, and it's changed. I mean, he started to talk a lot more about the biologic inputs. We're dealing with hormones and other things. But the inputs on EMF and blue light and all that, certainly we talked about blue light because that one, he was the first and he was pretty controversial at Paleo f(x) that first year for him to talk about this and say there's an issue with circadian rhythms and blue light and disruption and you need to be looking at this. I remember when he was on the stage, you could see a lot of people that either pooh-poohed it or this was like, "Yeah, no way. I eat Paleo. I do CrossFit. I'm fine."
Christopher: Oh, really? That's amazing.
Kevin: Yeah. And so what's interesting is you fast forward in on FitFluential Radio, we've had a number of these guests on.
And almost everyone that was a speaker at Paleo f(x), without prompting, has talked about circadian biology, light-dark cycles and blue light. Not everyone is on the EMF thought process that aligns with either what Kruse thinks or what others are talking about. So, it's almost like the same cycle again. People are not as wildly versed in EMF risks as they are in light-dark cycles, circadian biology and the blue light issue.
Whereas, for example, a perfect example was Sarah Fragoso. She was hard core on Paleo and nutrition. And the quote that I have that is almost the most telling for the Paleo community was she said, "Frankly, Kevin, I'm embarrassed that I used to think when people weren't getting results I would say you must not be eating clean enough, you must not be essentially doing Paleo clean enough or hard enough."
And she said, "Now, in the gym in the Chico area, we don't let people work out five days a week. We talk to them about sleep. We do all these blood tests. And frankly, we spend more time talking about light-dark cycles and sleep and blue light because we can get most people, especially if they're motivated, to follow Paleo well enough and that was the missing piece. We're essentially sending people over the cliff. And we were frustrated." They were frustrated because people would get varied results.
I think you saw this in the Paleo community from 2012 to about a year and a half ago where there was a lot of frustration. There was the controversy where people were complaining about certain authors not from a looking standpoint and a result standpoint, not having perfect results. It didn't mean they weren't a great author to talk about Paleo and Paleo cookbooks and things like that. And I think if you look at what Sarah said and others, this is the missing piece. We're all biologic systems that need to work within our circadian biology. We need to pay attention to sleep. We need to pay attention to light-dark cycles in our environment.
And until that got broadly adopted, that was the missing piece and why people -- Because they're thinking, well, maybe it's more autoimmune, maybe I need to eliminate nightshades. If you look at it broadly, that wasn't the factor that made the bigger difference. I've had people where they'll come to me and they'll want to talk about health and wellness because they know I've had a pretty good transformation and the first thing I start talking about is what's their lifestyle look like?
What are you doing for sleep? How stressful is your work and home life? And sometimes I'm really puzzled especially if they're eating Paleo already. I look at the results and -- I'm sure you see this in your practice. I know that when I talk with Tommy on the interview with him that he was certainly saying that sometimes people look at you like a puppy that hears a strange sound like why are we talking about sleep and circadian light-dark cycles? Because it's new enough relative to health and wellness that still today you can see it with the all the blue blocker glasses and some of the other stuff out there that there's a much bigger, fortunately, understanding of this.
And you're also starting to see a lot more discussion around mitochondrial health. A lot more people are realizing that if we destroy epigenetically our environment, our other set of DNA in the mitochondria, right? And we can do this pretty quick. This is where bad things happen with cardiovascular events. This is bad things that happen from a neurologic standpoint. And I used to be, and this is something that's changed too, you'd have people say, "Well, my family has got a lot of history of this."
It could be like in my case, cancer. It could be like all sorts of other things. I mean, I get the perfect example of that. My mom, my brother, my sister, everybody but me, not my dad, obviously, but everybody, my mom and my siblings all have either ulcerative colitis or something related to that type of a GI issue. And my mom looks at me like I must have done some voodoo thing because every time she talks to me, she's like, "Have you gone to the doctor? Have you figured out?"
Because she thinks that any month now I'm going to get colitis. And I never got it. And a big part of this was the change around Paleo and understanding how we work and it's not family history. They can make us susceptible to things but it's the environment that we control that makes the big difference.
Christopher: Have you not been able to help your family then? Have you not given them the same prescription that you and Jack Kruse have enjoyed so much gains with?
Kevin: Well, as most people listening would know, sometimes whether it's a spouse or family member--
Christopher: It's the worst.
Kevin: And because I didn't go to medical school, I think that for my parents' generation, it's like, "Well, yeah, yeah, I still don't know why you didn't get colitis but thank you very much for that. I'm going to go see the doctor at Stanford." And so, they're not as receptive as they would be. I think this is a good point for listeners who need to realize, as we evangelize things, let's say in health and wellness or whether it's Paleo or anything else, we just have to realize that people are at a different stage potentially than we are and we got to coach people from where they are.
Somebody is maybe not ready to hear everything. Start them with little baby steps. Some of the biggest impacts you can make are around sleep, light-dark cycles and stress. In other words, that guy at your office that's working out like Kevin was, five, six days a week and doing CrossFit, and you found out that his wife just had twins, and so he's not only getting sleep but his stress level is like level 15. You need to probably encourage him and start telling him that it's not a workout issue. He needs a great nutrition but he needs to really focus on sleep. Again, not everybody is going to be receptive. In other words, it's the concept of triage and emergency medicine. We can't say for everybody.
Christopher: Yeah. I know. I'm so interested in this idea of exploring new dimensions which might lead to health and I've seen the same problem in the low carb community. We just got back from Low Carb Breckenridge and it's exactly the same thing. If you're not getting results with the low carbohdyrate diet then probably didn't check ketones. That's why this is not working. There's never any consideration of it might be something else.
I think that authors and academics are particularly prone to this problem because their whole life's work is resting on this one idea. And they don't see people. So, Sarah Fragoso, what's she going to say to that woman six weeks in and she still not lost a pound? She's not going to keep saying, "Well, you're not doing Paleo hard enough," because she's got her food diary. I'm really, really interested in that.
I know that you as the chairman of the board of FitFluential Radio, you're speaking to lots of different types of practitioners. So, what other dimensions do you think might exist that we're ignoring at the moment?
Kevin: Well, certainly, we've talked about the issues around sleep and circadian biology. That's a foundational one. I think the other thing that we look at is the concept -- Because there's obviously a couple of different philosophies. You've got the Tim Ferriss crowd where they think about cheap meals and on and off. There's the rotation between all sorts of different programs and whether you're complying or not. There's Paleo versus low carb versus fasting and intermittent fasting.
I think that when I interviewed Dr. John Berardi, he came up with the best answer for me. Because one of the questions I asked him was, "What is, in your opinion, with all of the tens of thousands of people that you've worked with in your practice globally, the best diet?" And I knew the answer was not going to be easy answer. And so what he talked about is that we had got to start to get fairly individualized.
So, one of the biggest ahas on all of the guests that we've interviewed is that there is no cookie cutter single answer. In other words, it's not just 'go buy a Paleo cookbook and eat Paleo' because you're going to have variable results. And in a lot of the cases, the other aha I had is not only is it a little bit variable because people have different food sensitivities and other issues, you may have to do an elimination on the nutrition side, but people vastly underestimate, and I know from Tommy's interview with me, you guys see this in your practice, the effects of stressors, right?
They don't fully, unless they're a true performance athlete, understand that all of those workouts especially if it's CrossFit or super intense are a huge stressor. So, the aha is they don't individualize. If the workout schedule, if the CrossFit box is X and when they show up everybody is doing something that is not appropriate for a small set of people or most of the people, they just all do it. And then they try and figure out, like you said, I'm not getting a result, "Well, maybe I'll tweak this, maybe I'll tweak that."
And I talk about this with my co-host Kelly Olexa quite a bit. Because human nature is such that if we don't start seeing quick results we tend to want to make a change. Like, okay, this isn't working. If you look at my journey from 2006 all the way to 2012 and then shortly after that, I didn't get it right away. I went back into the mode of not working quite as intensely. I thought that, okay, the doctors took care of the melanoma. The cancer is out. I can go back to this.
I wasn't working nearly as much. I was doing some of the things to reduce stress but it wasn't until after the first year of Paleo f(x) and some of the other things that I realized I didn't get it. I really didn't understand it. I wasn't trying to create a system for me and my environment and my stressors. The same way people can't just pick up an exercise program off of a magazine or an exercise regimen that they saw that worked for even somebody that looks like them and is the same age because from an environmental standpoint their world may be very, very different.
They may have food allergies that are causing them to have brain gut issues. And they may have stressors like the twins I described that allow them to not workout nearly as much. They may also have issues where they've, like I did, built up stressors over decades that it's kind of like, and this is a great one from a circadian biology standpoint, when you look at the heteroplasmy rate in mitochondria, the issue is you can get to a certain threshold and maybe people are teetering right below that threshold, but when you break past it, really bad things happen.
And I think that people do underestimate. They don't understand that if we just look at it as just inputs, not the whole package, that they're just getting themselves like I was, that, oh, I'm just going to exercise more. I'm just going to eat a really clean Paleo diet. And didn't look at the whole package, the whole environment. Because if I had done that, even in the early 2000s when I was in the second to the last and the last startup that I was doing during that period, I would have made dramatic changes.
I mean, this is a story where you hear of people now that are in the late 40s or even early 50s and they appear to be healthy. They're described as working out. They don't look like they're overweight. And they either drop dead overnight when they went to sleep or they're dead at their desk. And that's that issue with the extreme effects of chronic low melatonin and also the heteroplasmy rate of mitochondria.
And people, when you talk about that today, they just don't even get it. They're like, "I don't even know. It sounds like you're talking about some sort of voodoo thing. I don't really understand." I remember way back in biology class, the Krebs cycle and ATP and all that with mitochondria, but they can't figure out, "Wait a minute, how does that tie in with what I'm eating? How does that tie in to my workout at the gym?" And not understanding that that is critical.
One of the guys I interviewed was a medical examiner. He went through his own weight loss journey and all that. So, when he does his autopsies, especially when he looks at people that are fairly young and look to be in shape, and we talked a lot on there about what do they look like when you cut them open? And he said one of the things he sees is massive chronic inflammation systemically that you wouldn't notice from the outside. In other words, they don't look like they've had a hard life and they look terrible but inside they're just basically falling apart.
Christopher: Wow, yes. So, I mean, how would you know whether this is happening to you then? Is it just tracking high sensitivity C-reactive protein? How would we even know, if you could like see signs and symptoms of inflammation that you could know that this is a problem for you?
Kevin: Well, I think, certainly that's one marker. You can look at the highly sensitive CRP. I think you can be proactive when you look at things that affect your circadian biology and potentially your heteroplasmy rate on mitochondria because that's essentially restorative cycle in your body. If I didn't have enough melatonin and I don't have things being operating properly, if you will, in the area of my mitochondria -- We're pretty versatile. We can do it for a long, long time in a variable rate of challenges on our bodies.
But if all of a sudden there's a hiccup in the system, bad things happen. So, I think, that in addition to things like blood tests and markers, looking at your stressors and just basically looking at yourself as a holistic system and saying: Should I be working out five days a week? Should I be this tense? Should I be taking things like yoga a couple of times a week especially for guys? Should I be walking? Should I be meditating? Should I be doing things that get me more balanced?
And that's sort of the challenge, if you look at it from a movement or exercise standpoint. Everybody that wants to be all CrossFit or weight training or running -- I mean, it's like they don't think there's any kind of balance. And it's the challenge, like I said before where people want to quickly give up on things and swap things out. The second thing is a gross misunderstanding that more is not better. I went from five days a week of working out to two and got the same results, if not better results.
I don't look any different. In fact, most people that see me now that haven't seen me for a while think that I'm in much better shape now than I was when I was working out five days a week. And so I think that people need to know they'll be coached from where they're at but also take a serious look at the fact that from a wellness and longevity standpoint your tires are going to fall off and you potentially may blow your engine if you do things that violate your biology.
Christopher: Right. And then how's your work life changed? Because you haven't slowed down in that regard, right? You're still a management consultant working for yourself. So, how has that changed, if at all?
Kevin: I have chosen to -- This is a good question. If you look at work-life balance, I've chosen to dramatically lower my workload and be very, very selective on what I'm doing. So, what that means is I'm not necessarily going to do startup after startup and that's why I have my own practice now and do what I do. I'm able to pick and choose what I'm working on. That means I make less money but my lifestyle is very, very different.
It doesn't mean that I don't earn a good living and have a great lifestyle. It's that last piece that I focus on. In other words, when you look at qualify of life, so many people are hung up on, especially where I came from in Silicon Valley, more and more and more, I got to take three more companies public. And it's a personal decision that I made. And so to answer your question about the change, I decided to get off of the startup treadmill because I realized that I was going to potentially end up with a very shortened lifespan and very poor quality of life.
Christopher: Okay. That makes sense. What is the startup treadmill then? Is it you get in and you get some money and then there's always the goal is just to sell the company onto someone, is that what you mean by the treadmill?
Kevin: Well, I think what ends up happening, and I did nine of them, so a lot of people think that every one that they're going to do, especially if they're early on in their career, this is going to be the one, right, this company is going to get bought, it's going to be merged with something, it's going to go public. And the reality is, much in my case, where one of them went public out of nine.
And the treadmill very much is an expectation. You see this across industries not just Silicon Valley where from a work expectation they just grind through people. The expectation is if you're going to advance you're spending exorbitant amount of time working. They don't worry about whether you're sleeping right. There are exceptions to this but the vast majority of companies will grind through employees and because it doesn't happen quickly enough people don't realize that they're not sleeping enough over time, they're going to get chronic diseases, and they creep up over time.
And so the reason that companies do this, and you can see the extreme examples and we've talked about this on FitFluential Radio, you go to China or Japan or some of the Asian countries where they're super intense, they're having to really, really get their workforce to change their habits because they can't get them to leave the building. So, they're turning the power off to space, they're closing the buildings down because they're realizing that people are dropping dead at their desks because they're overworking. This is the hundred plus hour a week crowd.
That's a little bit of a different extreme example of it but you still see people doing that. It doesn't matter what the industry is. They're all excited and they have snacks and meals. In some of these startups, they encourage them by providing ping-pong tables and everything else. This is your home away from home. You can crash on the futon.
Christopher: Right, right. Do you think -- I think now that the bigger companies, they've kind of figured out that maybe it's best not to kill your employees and so I know that Google, for example, provide all sorts of cool things to try and look after their people rather than working them to the bone. And so do you think it's more dangerous to work for a startup where they're not going to be able to afford or care about these things versus a larger company where they've been through that growing pain and they understand what's likely to happen?
Kevin: Which is a great question. The thing I would say, especially if somebody's listening to this and they're early in their career and they're trying to decide who they're going to work for, is really understanding the implications of the culture of the company. In other words, you have to make that personal decision especially if you're at the age, let's say you're in your early 30s and you've got a couple of small children and you want to have a great lifestyle.
And if that company is not going to support that, you have to really, really go in with both eyes open on the tradeoffs, right? You may have some success, you may get through succession of those like I did, and you may have some health issues. Because as you've said, I don't think it's just a startup versus a bigger company, and you mentioned Google, issue. It's really just a culture issue. Because sometimes there is more balance, but not always.
Christopher: Right. Yeah. And have you found -- So, you're stressing your professional life. Do you honestly truly believe that you are less stressed now? Have you been able to quantify that in any way? Because many times in the past that typically what happens is when people remove some kind of stressor is they just invent something to get stressed over. I'll give you a funny example. I find myself losing a little bit of sleep the other night because a rat chewed out the wiring harness on our car and I was just thinking about the little busted rodents like chewing away on our Eurovan and it was really--
So, what I'm saying is this is not something that's really threatening my personal safety and it's completely invented by me. I think this is quite typical of humans. They do this. They just get stressed out on something that's not really stressor. Have you not fallen victim to that?
Kevin: I've basically been very purposeful about changing that and getting out of that cycle. I do agree with you that there are certainly plenty of people that have a hard time, like you said, you replace one, you focus on eliminating some of these stressors and then all of a sudden other things pop up, because they just can't help themselves. It's really about getting out of your comfort zone. It's really about changing what you're doing from a lifestyle standpoint.
I think one of the people I saw recently was somebody that worked for me in leadership back in the -- I think it was probably 2001 or '02 time frame. I saw him like ten or 11 years later. He looked at me and he said, "If I looked at you and I just met you and then we're back looking at what you were like in 2001 or '02, you are not even the same person." And he's just like, "Personality wise, how you conduct yourself, and it's not even the maturity level." He goes, "You are just not nearly as intense. I can just look at you and see you're not stressed."
Christopher: Right. And how did you do that? So, this is, I mean, there's like nothing you can do that would change that. So, how did you do it?
Kevin: I think that you've got to get clear o what your priorities are. And so, the first real big fork in the road was the cancer and the melanoma in 2006.
Christopher: Right. That's like a life changing experience that just I can't understand.
Kevin: Absolutely. I mean, having a surgeon sit you down and say, "Number one, I hope you have a health insurance." And then the second thing was, "Here's basically the risks on this. We're going to find A, B or C. And B and C are really bad. It's the whole radiation and chemotherapy and all that. And worst case, we're going to find out it's already spread everywhere and we're not going to be able to do anything for you." So, yeah, it is life changing.
You'd like to think that when you're relatively young you'll never going to have a conversation like that. Obviously, people know people and we see it posted on social media all the time that people get this diagnosis. And not everybody makes that big fork in the road in changes. I mean, this is like there's a book out there and this is one of the ones I read that made a big difference too was Change or Die. It's written by a couple of Silicon Valley guys.
And what they talk about in the book is your peer group and the people that are closest to you make a bigger difference in what's expected and do you change. And they give you example of the fact that people that smoke or people that have heart attacks, you hear about people that have, this is like the fifth bypass surgery they have, and Dick Cheney is the example they used in the book. The guy just never did anything and never changed anything. At the end of the book they talk about some of the drivers that I mentioned in terms of why that is.
It is an interesting dynamic because, as you said, there are a lot of people that will, for example, have a heart attack and they just don't change. They're back at it. For a while they do. There's a guy -- One of our businesses was real estate related. So, there was a guy, he works for Zillow now, and he had a heart attack where it was life changing for him initially. He was like, "I'm not eating fast food. I'm not going to do this." He was getting sleep. He was really focused on being healthy.
And then I was looking at some his social media posts and this is probably five years later now and he's burning the candle on both ends again. I think that, unfortunately, for many people, unless it is life changing enough, and I maybe the exception, how this Silicon Valley guy all of a sudden get really passionate about health and wellness and the Paleo f(x) experience and all that. And some of the people I've met that really, really impacted me made the difference. And that's why we do what we do with FitFluential Radio. That's the focus on getting the word out there.
And we certainly realize that the audience is large but we're only going to touch a subset of them. And this is the challenge, as you said, you see in your practice. Not everybody is ready to change. Not everybody will change. But it doesn't mean that guys like you and Tommy and me aren't out there really trying to help as many people as possible.
Christopher: Yeah, I think, for me, it's just the glimpse of mortality. You get to your late 30s or maybe early 40s or I'm sure for different people it's a very different age but suddenly you have this glimpse of your mortality. You realize that you're not 21 anymore. And at that point, for me, that's when I was ready to make some really serious changes to my diet and lifestyle. I wonder, I feel kind of bad for the younger people that they've never had that glimpse of their mortality and so they're not really ready to make that change.
Kevin: Yeah. Well, what's interesting about that is some of the data is coming out now that sort of every generation you go down, it's getting worse.
Christopher: It's getting younger. You're going to start having your midlife crisis when you're 27.
Kevin: Well, a lot of the chronic stuff is related to things like the neurologic stuff that's related to what we talked about a little bit with melatonin as well as issues with heteroplasmy rates in mitochondria. Because we're basically just violating at a chronic level circadian biology. We're just not built to do this. And we think that we're just immune to it because we look at peer groups. In other words, if I'm 20 I'm looking at people in their 30s or early 40s, well, they didn't have too big an issue with this.
The smart phones came out, we got new more cool whiz-bang things. And then what we're seeing in the numbers though is it is getting worse. You're seeing late onset things like neurologic [0:39:03] [Indiscernible] and early dementia and some of the other stuff showing in up in the kids that are in their early 20s and 30s now. Some of the stuff out of the UK, we talked about this FitFluential Radio, some of the articles and studies are coming out and they're seeing hemorrhoids in 17 and 18-year olds because they're so sedentary.
There's just realization that technology is awesome. We got to figure out how to make all this stuff work. But there's no warning label. It's not like cigarettes. And there's nobody that says this is really, really potentially dangerous if you take this to an extreme. And because we tend to look at things -- I remember when I was a teenager and in my 20s, I would kind of look ahead at 30s, 40s, 50s, people like that, I didn't see anything really, really egregious.
You'd hear stories of things but usually the early deaths were in their 60s, somebody who was early 60s or maybe late 50s and something bad would happen. While now, certainly I'm sure you've seen this on social media, you see somebody -- And the one that I saw most recently in the last couple of weeks here in the Austin, Texas area was a guy that was in the real estate home building business. He was 34. He just went to sleep and wake up and he had a massive heart attack.
Christopher: Wow, yes. That's awful. What is the goal of FitFluential Radio? When you started that, what problems did you set out to achieve?
Kevin: What's interesting about FitFluential Radio is we basically look to intersect health, wellness and longevity. And so instead of the heritage of sort of parent company, FitFluential being very, very focused on fitness, hence the name, we really felt like we wanted to offer a broad slice of the audience. So, certainly we have people on there that will talk about movement and exercise and people that will come on about nutrition.
But we took a big focus on sort of the holistic system of the body. So, we felt like there was too much about, "Do this. Go run. Do this. Go weight lift. Eat this. Just eat Paleo." And what we wanted to do is we wanted to provide a broad enough audience. And my view was, and this was fairly controversial with the team, was I expect that the audience that we're going to interview is, if we ask the right questions, can validate what we believe about circadian biology, about light-dark cycles, about sleep being important.
And what's interesting is when we got close to episode 100, we look back and had somebody do some research in the show notes and the transcripts and it was astonishing. It was almost every guest had some realizations around those core topics. I guess, to answer to your question, it was a validation of the fact that I really, really believed and when Kelly and I talked about this, she got to understand, because I helped her with some sleep issues and some other things, that there really isn't anybody talking about this.
You have this Sleep Health podcast but it wasn't, "Hey, we're going to put 100 plus on here and you're going to see a consistent theme, right?" It's not you're going to out supplement your way through this or you just do this exercise and buy this PBD and you're going to get this and it will be an awesome program. Or buy this cook book. It has to be broader than that. And so the real focus was around health, wellness and longevity and wanting to offer enough information that you can pick and choose any of the 100 plus episodes and you're going to see a fairly consistent message.
I mean, we will have people that approach us that their message is incongruent and we just politely decline to have them on because we don't want to confuse people. There's enough confusion out there.
Christopher: Right. And have you had anyone that stands out as having presented some information that you'd really not thought about before that just totally blew you away? So, maybe I should give you an example I'm thinking about specifically. So, quite a few months ago now, and I should link to this in the show notes, is Dr. Bryan Walsh, who is a naturopathic doctor from Maryland that I've mentioned many times before in the podcast, came on and he talked about social isolation.
At that time I don't think I'd even heard the term social isolation and he set me off on this path doing my own research and it's like it was amazing thing because I realized how important it was and I realized how much research had been done on social isolation and it really, I think, changed the course of MBT quite significantly. So, can you think of any examples like that of people that had been on your show that have really made you think pretty hard?
Kevin: It's probably a combination of -- I'll give sort of the profile because we had a number of them on. What we started to see was consistent message. So, we had people that are either mentors or leaders for functional medicine or naturopathy or that type of practice and what was interesting is we started to see again and again, and there were people like Jason Prall and Sachin Patel out of Toronto, and what we started to see again and again from them was that the focus on do blood work, do supplements, get results, was being played through to the point where it's kind of like our earlier conversation about, wait a minute, if I'm not doing Paleo hard enough or strict enough, this must be the issue.
And what they were realizing is there's got to be something else here because although I got results with my first five patients I put on this supplement regimen, we're not seeing it happen consistently. And so people, especially people like Jason Prall, and he was the one that really talked to me about this even before we launched the podcast, and what he said was there's a lot of frustration in the functional medicine industry and for these practitioners.
"Why is that," I asked him. He said because what we're realizing is we can't come up with whatever bundle of supplements that's going to make a consistent change. And he was the one that I talked about melatonin and circadian biology and got more foundational. In other words, it's kind of like building a house. If circadian biology and not setting yourself on fire internally is your foundation, at the mitochondrial level and biologically, you can argue about what you're going to put on the walls.
Is it going to be bricks? Is it going to be stucco? And all the rest of it. But if the foundation is broken all this stuff doesn't matter. And this is where Jason and Sachin Patel and some of these other said, "Yeah, we're figuring out that it's completely inconsistent." Some supplements are more consistent. There's a certain set of things you can take that overall are very, very helpful.
But it's the people that come in more broken and there's a lot of frustration. I mean, you hear stories about functional medical practitioners leaving the business because they're disenchanted. They're like, "Well, I can't get consistent results. How can I run a practice like this?" And they'll sell their practice or they're constantly looking for a new way to do this. And so my biggest aha was I used to be, I'll call it consumer and took a fairly large number of supplements.
And what I realized was that wasn't the driver for my success and I found it interesting that with Jason Prall and Sachin and others that even the practitioners with some isolated instances are realizing that they're all back on circadian biology and sleep and light-dark cycles and what are you doing to your body. They're at the foundation level, right? They realized that some people need those things but they're having to change the way they orient what they're doing.
They're spending more time like I do with people talking about sleep and stressors and what are you doing. And you can get to the things like you ask me about, food sensitivities and whether it's dairy or gluten or other things. Those certainly exist. There's lots of people that have that. But that's sort of you're either going to do it or you're not. If you're highly sensitive to gluten, it's coming out of the diet or you're going to have real issues.
But once you do that, if all of a sudden you have other things going on, maybe you've got immune system issues or you've got other things, you have to look deeper. You're going to have to figure out biologically what's going on in your body because there's not a supplement you're going to take that's going to fix that. Somebody is going to have to basically -- It's kind of like when people restore cars. We're not just going to paint it. We're going to look at the biological system down at the base level.
It's going to be a frame off system. We're going to take everything down and look at all the systems and figure out what's going on. Most people in that car analogy keep repainting. They're like, "Well, the blue didn't look perfect so let me try this. Maybe I can wax it and that might help." And I think that in the industry that's a lot of where the frustration is. Not only with the practitioners that people see but also with blog posts and videos and other things because everybody thinks that they've got something that they can package up to be simple.
In FitFluential Radio, we wanted to be much more broad based, much more science based so that there's some meat behind it so that people can digest as much or as little as they want and much like what I did where I ran across Robb Wolf for a specific search on Google and then delve in deep and listen to almost every one of his episodes.People can start at FitFluential Radio anywhere. And as I mentioned with guests, you're going to see almost every one of them hits a pretty common theme.
Christopher: Right, right. What do you think of it as a business model? For MBT, it's just so complicated, the message. I do not have an elevated pitch. I cannot describe what we do in 30 seconds. It's really, really difficult. And for people to come forward and work with us, typically they need to listen to the podcast for six months or even a whole year before they really know what they're going to get when they walk in the door.
And so that's why I think the temptation is, oh, let's just -- can you just boil this down? Like can you not just make a single supplement that you could sell and then you and Tommy could just go sit on the beach and that'd be a much better business model than what you're doing right now? What do you think of the idea of health coaching as a business model?
Kevin: I think that depending on how people approach it. I think it's a great model because -- with a caveat. I mentioned it before and this won't surprise you, what I'm going to say, which is if you work with people from where they're at and realize that some people are quick adaptors, it's kind of like the Silicon Valley model of early adaptors, and sometimes they're very different than late adaptors. And so health coaching works great so long as you don't try to make it one box that looks the same with the same label on it.
In other words, the people that try and sell 'I have this system and this works this way,' I think they're going to have a hard time. They certainly might and certainly in the weight loss world, this is probably the biggest violators of what I would call sort of ethics and validity. They just try and want to have a package up and part of it is the own consumer's fault. They fall prey to the messaging around losing weight.
But as far as overall health and wellness coaching, my expectation is there's going to be a growing business. I think you're going to see more and more of the membership groups. Because the dynamic I've seen that works extremely well is a combination of information that's delivered from a community both from facilitators or whoever runs the community and you're starting to see more and more of this.
And then in there, you have people that are at different stages. So, if I get a big enough community, somebody may post a question or post a frustration and somebody else that went down that path that succeeded is going to share with them how they succeeded.
So, you're going to get that feedback loop. So, it's not just a health coach. I think when you combine that with community, is the direction that you're going to see the industry go.
Christopher: I wanted to ask you about how you might think that some of the new health coaches are going to be connected with the people that need help. Because I see this is a growing problem. So, there's lots of these certificates popping up. Mark Sisson's got one that I'm sure is great. I did Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. I also did the Kalish mentorship. You've got Chris Kresser turning out license practitioners.
You've got even AIP, so the Paleo Mom is now doing an AIP certification, I saw on Instagram the other day. And so there's all these people. I think we're going to be seeing more and more health coaches come on to the market but every single one of them, when they finish their certificate, it's like, "Okay, now what?" Well, now, you have to become a marketing guru and you have to start a blog and you have to get 100,000 followers on Instagram and all of this kind of stuff before you're even going to get any clients. So, how do you think that we're going to solve that problem of connecting the health coaches who have something to offer with the people that need help?
Kevin: I think that the answer is related to what I said before about some combination of health coaching and a community. The people that I expect that will succeed will offer a huge ratio of value and information and community versus just I'm going to package something up and get as many people through the process. It's not to take away one versus the other. But that's the general challenge. I can give you analogy in a different industry of how this plays out.
Christopher: Oh, yeah, please do.
Kevin: So, if you look at like residential real estate, there's 1.2 million real estate agents. And I just know this because in the management consulting practice we've got a couple of clients in that space. And about 7% of practitioners if you will in the real estate industry do about 95% or 97% of the transactions. It's that skewed.
Now, whether in health coaching it will be that skewed, probably not, because there aren't that many practitioners. But it will be the same type of thing where if people look at where they source business there's some set of these real estate practitioners that get online business. They have a following, they run a website, and there's that consumer who goes out and they're self-service. I'm going to go look, I'm going to look at reviews, I'm going to do my research, and then I'm going to make a selection. Maybe I'll call a couple of people.
And then in addition, there's a whole other set of people, and this is a pretty big audience as far as share, that do referrals. I work with the guy in the office. He's got great results from program X or health coach X and I'm less concerned about the certificate than the great results that I'm hearing about. And I'm going to get referral. And so I think you're going to see a couple of dynamics there where a lot of stuff will go virally by referral.
A lot of stuff, and you see this already, where I think it's going to be less about the certificate unless the program has great results. Like you look at Dan Kalish's program where he's got some very specific things that like you talked about where you've been through his program. Incidentally, he was at Paleo f(x) the first year so I'm very familiar with what he does.
And so practitioners have the same problem that real estate agents do which is they got to get really, really clear on what their value proposition is. And they also need to be really, really clear on their market. I can't be everything to everyone. It's what am I going to do, how am I going to do this, and it's like going to list houses. If my model is I work on distressed property, like what's popular a little while ago, and people are trying to avoid foreclosure or I work with banks because it's foreclosed property, I'm not the same guy that's going to go list houses by referral in my neighborhood.
And health coaching has got to be the same thing. If I'm going to be specializing in autoimmunity or certain things, I'm not going to do well if all of a sudden I'm doing 15 different programs and I got 27 different certificates. The expectation I have is that there's going to be -- The really good health coaches and programs are going to be somewhat specialized, right? There may be clients that get referred around to other practitioners. And that's one of the things I like to see when I ask people is how often do you have to turn somebody down and why and do you have a network or other people that you can send them to?
And if they don't and they attempt to help everybody, I get a little bit concerned that they're not being completely congruent with health and wellness because we can't help everybody. You know this from your practice.
Christopher: Right. Yeah, yeah, I know. We love to work with people who are performance orientated. So you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to work with us but you do have to be competitive in a sense that motivates you. That's the thing that we really, really look for. The referral thing that you mentioned is definitely happening for us. So, for example, yesterday, I was talking with a guy and we've already worked with his wife.
But as you alluded to earlier, sometimes spouses or children, they're not that great at selling these ideas in health. And so we quite often do a free consultation with somebody's dear old mom who's been pushed really hard by someone we've worked with.
And mom goes through the motions to do the free consultation. That's really just about as far as it goes. They're not really ready to make a change. And so that's not helpful. And I don't think the same is true in real estate. I can think the guy that helped us buy our house was just fantastic. And I think I could make a referral to anybody and they would agree with me and say, "Great, I'm willing to talk to him." I think there's a problem there that's unique, I think, to health coaching.
Kevin: And really the way to tie this down, most of our clients in the management consulting practice work on the listing side. They work with sellers. The ones that do -- remember, I mentioned the 3% that do the 95 or 77% of the business, they say no more often than they say yes. In other words, they tell a lot of sellers that they'd be happy to refer them to somebody else because they can't help them.
And so as a result, they get extreme good results. They get a lot of referrals in part of the process. So, now, if we talk about that in a health care model, I think you'll see the same thing. In other words, it may not be that the referral of the older mom that's being pushed through the process. And it becomes a program and a candidate pre-qualification question. In other words, I think that you're going to see practitioners do a little bit quick assessment in terms of talking about what they're doing, assessing, are they ready for it, do I have a program, am I able to coach somebody from where this person is?
Because I can tell you that, back to the colitis story and my mom, I wouldn't send her to a functional medical practitioner. I would just drive him crazy. Even if I could convince her to go, she would be like, okay, well, you're not from Stanford University, where she goes, and you don't have a bunch of medical degrees on your wall. Stanford, Harvard or somewhere else, which is important to her.
And so when you look at that challenge in health coaching, I agree with you. But I think that my advice to somebody, just from a business standpoint, would be if you're not saying no to a lot of people or helping them understand that I may not be a good fit for you but here's where I would go, you'll get more referrals. Because people will appreciate the candor. People will appreciate that you're being honest with them.
This is something I see in health and wellness, whether it's the coaching and otherwise, there's a lot of -- and this is sort of the Achilles heel of the industry -- a lot of excitement, if you will, I'll put a positive spin on it, about helping everybody. I think that when you see practitioners, because I've certainly seen this, not taking on everybody and beginning to help people where there's no benefit for themselves and getting pointed in the right direction.
So, in other words, if Dan Kalish is the expert, you're coming up with issues and you want to get off your SSRI and you want to do certain specific things, if somebody started out at another practitioner, and that's not their focus and they don't have the program to walk them through it, referring to somebody like that, and I'm just using an example, is going to help the industry. I mean, you'll get more consistent results. So, that's my comment about saying no to enough people that you keep your message congruent and pure and not be motivated to 'I'm going to take on as many people as I can.'
Christopher: Right, right. Well, I'm sorry to turn this into a free consultation but this is very timely for me. We've said no to quite a few people today, actually, and yesterday and over the last few days. It's hard to say no. it's really hard. I want to help everyone but I know that I can't help everyone. So, it's a difficult answer to give.
Kevin: Absolutely. And the last thing I would say on that is that great practitioners, especially when they're functional medicine or they're integrated practices or even a practice like yours, is this is where you're going to see a lot of people thrive because they have a network. They go to conferences, they have people they can refer to and people specialize. They know when to say no but you got another answer. It's not just a "no, good luck." It's, "Here's what I think you might want to go. This is the path you may want to go." I mean, some people you can't help at all. They're just not open -minded like you talked about with the referral that's the older person who's not just receptive.
Christopher: Right, right, right. Well, Kevin, this has been fantastic. FitFluential Radio is the name of the podcast. I will, of course, link to that in the show notes. And then, of course, Paleo f(x). I have one final question for you and that is do you have room for Tommy at Paleo f(x)? Because he did put in an application to speak and never heard back.
Kevin: I will take it to forward it to Keith and Michelle and ask them if they've got any more spots. I would say whether Tommy is speaking or not, he definitely needs to be there. I mean, it's something if he hasn't been there before. One of the challenges that they have at the event and Keith and Michelle have been blessed with the fact that the audience has grown so big, the interest from speakers has gotten so big, that they have to say no to a lot of people.
Christopher: Yeah, yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure. They have a lot of presenters there and I've never been, in fact, I've never even been to Austin or Texas. Yeah, that could be really, really interesting.
Kevin: Yeah. You guys need to both come out. Let me know if you are. I'll definitely come to downtown Austin and see you.
Christopher: Cool. Sounds good. Well, thank you very much, Kevin. This has been great. Thank you.
Kevin: All right. Thank you for having me on.
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