A very popular wellness blogger is well known for trying out and reviewing all the latest, high-tech wellness solutions. I won’t call him out by name, but suffice it to say, the internet LOVES him. He just got a full feature in a popular magazine. It’s a multi-page spread of him flaunting his 8-pack abs, covered in all the latest gadgets. To me, this is the perfect representation of where a lot of the wellness world is placing its value. Most of the products he recommends for well-being are in the range of hundreds to thousands of dollars each. He will tell you about some fancy supplements, run the latest lab work for you, and tell you to get an infrared sauna. Unfortunately, this stuff will never be accessible to 99% of the population.
The irony of this is that, often, the same people who are recommending or seeking out these complicated solutions have not yet mastered the basic tried and true tenets of health. They may be getting stem cell infusions or are on an extreme fasting protocol but they aren’t regularly getting solid sleep and are lacking strong, supportive relationships.
I can’t universally knock these expensive gadgets and protocols. What I can confidently say is, I would recommend a back to the basics approach before seeking the complex, understudied, and expensive routes.
Occam’s Razor is a guiding principle originating from philosophy and now heavily utilized in science. It states that the simplest explanation or hypothesis is most likely true. I think this also applies to wellness pursuits. The simplest route, is likely to be the most effective and have the least unintended consequences.
Yet, it can feel reassuring to make things complicated. It’s often assumed that if something is complex, it is intelligent and efficacious. I see this play out in the world of high tech wellness solutions and fancy functional medicine protocols.
While working on this post, I was listening to Tim Ferriss being interviewed on the Longform podcast. He discussed two perfect ideas that encapsulate the dynamics I see playing out in the wellness world: neomania, and the axom, “complicate to profit”.
Neomania is an obsession with the new. The motivation for neomania is generally, unsurprisingly, capitalism. Ferriss then goes on to discuss the concept of “complicate to profit”. Basically, if you admit that things are actually really simple and the rules haven’t changed in eons, people are less dependent on your services. On the other hand, fixating on the newest, high tech solutions and over-complicating things, tends to foster a fervent following of folks seeking illusive answers. In other words, the recommendations that may be good for someone’s wellness business, may not be the same as what is simplest, cheapest and most effective for your health journey.
Zooming out even further, the out-of-reach, luxury wellness methods seem even more absurd when you consider the reality of what truly affects population-based health outcomes. Those of us who are focused on individual solutions to health issues (me!) could do better to frequently acknowledge that individual behavior change is a very small piece of the health outcome puzzle. Research has shown that lifestyle-related health behaviors contribute to about 30% of total health outcomes, whereas socioeconomic and environmental factors contribute 50%. The remaining 20% are accounted for by clinical care (Magnan 2017).
Since my work is focused on lifestyle-related health behaviors and individual solutions, my goal is to make the behavior-change side of wellness as accessible as possible by focusing on the simple, and largely free ways to improve your well-being. I have repositioned my blog to focus on this aim in the past year. Check out the following posts for more:
It is easy to downplay the benefits of simple health recommendations. Especially, if you’ve heard the same tips a million times but have yet to experience what it’s like to consistently do them. Focusing on the basic core tenets of health (good sleep, physical movement, healthy food, and a supportive community) are often underrated because they are simple and obvious but not easy to implement. It can feel easier to seek out an expensive quick fix than do the work of changing your habits and redesigning your lifestyle.
My recommendation: Start with tiny goals, celebrate the small wins, and ignore the noise that makes you feel like the path to health is complicated and contradictory!