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The comfort crisis with Michael Easter

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With modern technology, we are becoming more and more comfortable and not experiencing enough discomfort. Michael Easter and Allan Misner discuss how being too comfortable is a problem for our health and fitness.

Transcript

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Let's Say Hello

[00:03:33.160] – Allan
Hey Raz, how are things going?

[00:03:35.380] – Rachel
Good. How are you today, Allan?

[00:03:37.480] – Allan
I'm doing okay.

[00:03:38.440] – Allan
It's, it's been a really weird week here.

[00:03:41.200] – Allan
We, I was supposed to interview Dr. Bubbs again. I've had him on the show before and he has a really interesting book out. So, I'm supposed to interview him. And then, you know, our power company announces to turn the power off on Wednesday, the whole day.

[00:03:56.710] – Rachel
Oh, no.

[00:03:57.700] – Allan
I was like, Okay, so I have to cancel with him. I'd cancel a couple different appointments because if I don't have power, I don't have Internet, if I don't have Internet, anything. So I cancel all this stuff. And then we had this really bad rainstorm. And the rainstorm the night the day before knocked out my my phone, so I was trying to have a call with the client and then I lost phone signal in a place that I always have phone signal.

[00:04:21.130] – Allan
It's pouring down rain. I'm standing out in the rain and walking around trying to find a signal, you know, can you hear me now? The whole thing. And then, so then, yeah, the next day I'm thinking they're going to turn off all the power. But because it was raining, they didn't turn off the power. And then there was a strike on the mainland by the banana workers. You know, the workers work on the banana farms because they don't like how management's doing things.

[00:04:43.870] – Allan
They decided to cut off the ferry to the island and therefore they couldn't bring diesel to the island for the power plant. And therefore, they were going to have to cut power.

[00:04:54.690] – Rachel
Oh, my goodness, that's so crazy.

[00:04:56.190] – Allan
This time, this time it was like we were going to have to cut it and they said, we're going to cut it at six o'clock. And of course, the merchants on the island were like six o'clock on a Saturday night. You're going to cut power to a whole island.

[00:05:07.890] – Allan
And they're like, yeah, we're going to do that. Like, No, no, can't you wait till six o'clock in the morning and then cut it then. Yeah, you'll be lower in fuel, but then you cut it and we cut it till we get fuel. So they agreed to do that. And then it turned out about midnight, they negotiated a deal and they let the ferry come over. So they never had to cut the power.

[00:05:26.730] – Allan
But it was just kind of one of those. Power is going to go out because they're going to do some maintenance and the power is going to go out because there's a strike. And it's just been a very interesting third-world living on an island.

[00:05:39.750] – Rachel
That is quite an adventure. My goodness, how crazy.

[00:05:44.070] – Allan
So slightly uncomfortable.

[00:05:46.410] – Rachel
I would say so.

[00:05:48.780] – Allan
So how have you been up there in Michigan?

[00:05:51.570] – Rachel
Oh, good, good.

[00:05:52.920] – Rachel
It's been beautiful up here. We actually did a whole lot of yard work over the weekend, expanding some garden space and put down some new mulch and making it nice for the time we spend outdoors. So it's it's been really nice.

[00:06:08.370] – Allan
Heated, heated running trail.

[00:06:10.240] – Rachel
Not yet, but it's on my list. It's on my list.

[00:06:14.790] – Allan
Don't forget, winter is going to come back around. Don't forget. You know, now now that the ground's thawed

[00:06:21.060] – Rachel
Actually, we're supposed to get snow tomorrow, actually.

[00:06:25.470] – Allan
Oh okay. But that's nothing. That's nothing. Just the normal, normal load of snow shower in April. Late April.

[00:06:30.870] – Rachel
That's right. Spring springs, snow showers hopefully won't be that bad.

[00:06:36.660] – Allan
Yeah, but I saw a picture on your Facebook. You and Mike got to spend some time with family that you haven't had the opportunity to spend some time with.

[00:06:46.410] – Rachel
That's right.

[00:06:47.250] – Rachel
Yeah. Mike and I are both fully vaccinated and passed the two-week timeline post vax. That's the second vaccination for him. And my parents have been vaccinated for some time now. So we were able to meet them and have lunch. And I even got a hug. And it's important because I haven't hugged my parents since over a year ago before the lockdown. So, you know, I've been nervous to give them covid or to make them sick in some way.

[00:07:16.660] – Rachel
So we've been very careful this whole time. And and now that we're vaccinated, it's just a little bit, it's a little bit more comfortable, you know, getting in close proximity again. So it was really wonderful to be able to hug my parents again.

[00:07:30.630] – Allan
That's really cool. That's really cool. So let's go ahead and talk to Michael Easter.

[00:07:36.330] – Rachel
Yes.

Interview

[00:08:01.010] – Allan
Michael, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

[00:08:03.950] – Michael
Thank you so much for having me.

[00:08:05.990] – Allan
You know, your book is called The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self. And the stories that you, you tell in this book could have left you well, obviously wild, probably unhealthy and unhappy had had things happened in a different way. Fortunately, yes. It's a happy ending. And Michael's still here to tell us the stories, but you've had some pretty interesting adventures.

[00:08:35.040] – Michael
I have. Yes. And I luckily, yeah, I am here to talk about them. So in reporting the book, the main arc of the book is this,

[00:08:43.460] – Michael
Thirty-three days that I spent in the Arctic backcountry, it's one of the most remote places in the world, one of arguably the most uncomfortable places in the world. So we faced a lot of crazy temperature swings and blizzards and encounters with wild animals. And it was a way to really put myself into these, I guess I'd call them evolutionary discomforts that we as humans used to face every single day of our lives. And because of this, we developed these drives always want to be comfortable, because when the world is uncomfortable, if I'm always seeking comfort, well, that helps me survive things like I don't want to put physical effort into my days because that wastes energy.

[00:09:26.930] – Michael
Right. So that's why we don't like to exercise all these all these different things.

[00:09:30.860] – Michael
And we now live in this really comfortable world. I mean, everything our daily lives have become so comfortable, everything from, you know, temperature control to our food system to the fact that we've engineered effort out of our days. Everything is easy. And so now we have these these evolutionary mechanisms that no longer serve us, because when I'm trying to always be comfortable in a world that's comfortable, you know, it can backfire on people.

[00:10:01.250] – Allan
Yeah. You know, my wife and I, we moved to Panama and some people would say that that would definitely make them uncomfortable to just sell everything they own and move to a foreign country, particularly one where they didn't actually speak the language. And, you know, my wife had only seen it for like four days when we made the decision to just sell our house and move here. So we've done some things to make ourselves uncomfortable, but not anything like what you've experienced.

[00:10:27.620] – Allan
So you've done some pretty cool things around this topic. And I'm really glad to have this conversation to to talk to you. Now, you kind of got into the fact that because we kind of have this desire to seek comfort, being comfortable is not always a really good thing for us. Can you can you talk about the price of comfort?

[00:10:50.340] – Michael
Yes. Well, I think what's interesting to think about is just how long humans lived in this uncomfortable environment.

[00:10:58.880] – Michael
When you do the math, we've spent ninety nine point nine, six percent of our time in these uncomfortable environments, over two point five million years. The comforts that now most affect my daily life, your daily life, they're all just a hundred years old. And by pushing ourselves into comfort all the time, we've lost a lot with our health, our happiness and just the feeling of being alive. So, for example, with our health, I used to be that food,

[00:11:30.590] – Michael
We didn't really have comfort food. It wasn't ultra processed. Food was also harder to come by. We actually had to put effort into getting food. Now we live in this sea of ultra processed food, but we still have these internal drives to eat sugar, salt, fat and eat too much of it. They used to keep us alive because it would help us on board fat. And then when we had lean times, we would have something to draw from to stay alive.

[00:11:53.870] – Michael
But now these drives are sort of causing obesity. They tell us to not move as much as we would as we should to burn it away. In terms of happiness, we humans tend to do well when we're challenged because it gives us a sense of accomplishment. And so as we evolved, we face challenges all the time. These could be from something like a hunt, having to having to migrate something like this. Nowadays, our challenges are often something like I have to give a PowerPoint presentation or whatever it is, right.

[00:12:31.760] – Michael
And there's just not as much reward in the challenges we face. And this is associated with decreasing levels of happiness, increases in anxiety, because if you think about the most dangerous, treacherous thing you face is that your boss might give you a bad look because you messed up on a PowerPoint. Well, you know, you're going to be anxious about a lot of things. And in terms of just the feeling of being alive, I mean, we evolved in nature for example.

[00:13:00.970] – Michael
And like I said, we would do these challenging things in nature all the time, and that's really woven into our to our DNA look at the work of someone like Joseph Campbell with the hero's journey. It's every culture from around the world has these stories about people doing interesting, sort of epic things in nature and that being a real turning point for them internally. Well, we've lost a lot of that nowadays that we've made everything as safe and comfortable as possible.

[00:13:28.990] – Michael
And I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to go up to Alaska at all. But what I am suggesting is that adding a little bit of discomfort back into your everyday life in a variety of forms can really move the dial on your health and happiness. And it's and it's about meeting people where they're at. So something that is comfortable or uncomfortable for one person, maybe totally comfortable for another, it's just slowly pushing your comfort zone. And by doing that, I think you can you can find a lot out about yourself and also move the dial on your health and happiness.

[00:14:02.170] – Allan
Donnie and Tom don't have enough space on their airplane to take us all up there.

[00:14:07.270] – Michael
Exactly.

[00:14:08.980] – Allan
But, you know, there is some value to being uncomfortable. You know, one that kind of comes to mind for me was if we were always comfortable with we came up with inventions, we came up with fire, we came up with riding a horse. We came up with a lot of different things that we do. And there's just we call it progress. So in many cases, adding comfort has been progress. And so there is a value to to comfort or seeking comfort. But there's a point, like you say, because we passed that line.

[00:14:46.110] – Michael
Yeah, absolutely, and I think it's it's really about balance, so if you look at all the data on how the world is doing, I mean, I think the world right now is better than it's ever been. People live longer. Child mortality rates are down. Hunger and starvation is down across the world. I mean, just every marker, we're doing better off, but we don't we never offset that with the discomforts we need to be healthy and happy.

[00:15:14.700] – Michael
So if you ask, you know, if you ask the average person they've done polls, do you think the world is getting better? Only six percent say that they think the world is getting better, which to me suggests we're missing something that makes us happy, right? And I think it is that challenge, those elemental discomforts that we sort of evolved to face.

[00:15:35.920] – Allan
Well, I think we can all kind of agree that the best stories are the ones where there's a chance of failure. The chance of really screwing up. You know, that that hold my beer moment. Those are the best stories because there's that element of discomfort. There's that element of, in some cases, even danger. Can you kind of talk about the value of making yourself uncomfortable, but then, of course, not dying in the process?

[00:16:03.480] – Michael
Well, I think I think the nice thing, too, about the the modern comfortable world is it's a lot harder to die nowadays, right? And so I think that I think we have a lot of fears that we built as we evolved because those used to keep us safe. But nowadays, there's a lot of safety nets in life and we we even have technologies that can keep us safer. So, for example, when I was in Alaska, I had this little GPS thing that kind of had this orange button you press that things go south and hopefully, you know, it alerts someone to come pick you up.

[00:16:35.610] – Michael
Now, apparently, it takes a handful of days for them to arrive, but it's still what you know, it's know, I wouldn't have had that even 20 years ago. Twenty five years ago, like I was mentioning the work of Joseph Campbell, we know that when we challenge ourselves and put ourselves in a position where there's a high degree of failure, that when we come out on the other side of that, we are better for it.

[00:16:57.840] – Michael
It can help with a lot of fears fading away. So, for example, we get up to the Arctic. We're in Kotzebue, Alaska. It's the town that we we left out of. And I'm standing on this runway, the wind is gusting, and the guy that I was up in the Arctic with, Donny, he leans over to me. We're looking at these planes that we're going to take up there. And these planes are about the size of a pack of gum.

[00:17:22.290] – Michael
I mean, to people fair to them.

[00:17:24.570] – Michael
And I hate flying, especially when it's in a plane like that. And Donny leans over to me and goes, hey, you know. I got the best pilots that I could. I'm not saying we're not going to crash and die, that is a high probability. But but I got the best pilot I could. I'm like, thanks a lot. So, I mean, I'm terrified of getting in this plane, right? So I get in and we fly.

[00:17:47.800] – Michael
And the whole time I'm just like, oh, man, this is this is terrible. And then they drop us off in the Arctic and and in the Arctic over thirty-three days. I face all these challenges that I've just never faced in my life. Having to cover this rough terrain with no safety net, you know, seeing wild, wild animals being exposed to hurricane force winds and blizzards and just all these things that are are real challenges that have a high degree of risk.

[00:18:16.150] – Michael
When that plane came back and picked me up thirty-three days later, I wasn't afraid to get into it, you know, because now I can put in perspective that, oh wow, this is actually not that, you know, there's a pilot here who's 50 years old. He's been doing this for for 30 years. But when when your challenges in your daily life and the things that you have to encounter really are very safe, I think it can throw off your perspective on on what makes you afraid.

[00:18:43.480] – Michael
And so by putting yourself in positions of failure, you're going to learn something about fear and how a lot of our modern day fears are sort of unfounded and how those can hold us back from the things we really want to do in our lives.

[00:18:57.460] – Allan
You talked a lot in the story about, you know, that one gets a one time you were they of course, they had to shuttle you guys out there. So they just sort of left you out there at one spot where they said, well, we will be back and pick you up. You know, it's like, how well do I know these guys? You know how much I already paid them the deposit. So, you know, I'm going to make it.

[00:19:22.030] – Allan
And so you had those kind of things where you're kind of afraid to be alone. But I think the deeper thing for me was that you noticed at points in time during the hunt and, you know, having hunted when I was a kid, you're just sitting there looking at me as a pine forest in south Mississippi. But ninety nine percent of the time that you're on a hunt, there's absolutely nothing happening. And so you get really, really bored unless you've conditioned yourself to kind of go with it.

[00:19:53.650] – Allan
And I think, you know, one of the core things you brought up in the book that it was just kind of critical is we don't even know the value of actually being bored. We we want something to entertain us all the time. It's like we get in the car, we turn on the radio or a podcast, maybe this one, but we don't turn this stuff off and actually just sit there and stop and just so tired of hearing our heartbeat, because we're that bored, that we're like counting heartbeats and, you know, watching watching a blade of grass and saying, you know, I think I saw it twitch, you know.

[00:20:31.330] – Allan
Yeah. That kind of thing. Can you talk about the kind of being bored and why being bored is not actually a bad thing and why maybe we should actually lean into it?

[00:20:41.480] – Michael
Yeah, so to your point about being in the woods in Mississippi and you just kind of waiting, hunting is a lot of waiting sometimes, and that's something that I was not used to. So we in the Arctic, we would sit on these hills and we were hunting caribou.

[00:20:56.750] – Michael
So we would have to wait for these caribou to they're migrating. So you're trying to catch them as they're moving into their to their wintering grounds.

[00:21:05.450] – Michael
So you'd sit on this hill and my cell phone does not work up there.

[00:21:09.830] – Michael
There is not a lick of service within one hundred miles. So the thing is essentially useless. I didn't bring a book. I didn't bring magazines. I sure I surely didn't have a TV. So what I'm left with is I would start to read labels on my energy bars. I would start to read the labels on the clothes I was wearing. And then when that gets boring, I start thinking of ideas and I start thinking of all these other things.

[00:21:33.680] – Michael
And it was really interesting because nowadays, any time we feel bored, we have this constant ability to kill our boredom, the discomfort of boredom. Any time you feel a twinge of that, I mean, think if you ever look at a supermarket line, what is everyone doing there on their cell phones? Even 20 years ago, you would have to sort of stand there and be with yourself and with your thoughts. The brain essentially has two different ways of two different modes.

[00:22:02.270] – Michael
And in the book, I simplify it and I call them focus mode and unfocused mode. Focus mode is any time that you are focusing on anything in the outside world. So your cell phone, as you're listening to this podcast, you're having to process information from the outside world. And this is like an active it's almost like a workout for your brain. The other mode is unfocused mode. Now, this is internal mind wandering. So this is the mode that I was in when I'm sitting on the Arctic tundra trying to think of ideas and just having thoughts come into my brain.

[00:22:31.820] – Michael
And this is essentially a rest state. It rests and restores your brain. Now, we've totally tipped the balance. Modern life has tipped the balance. So we're always in this focused mode and it's just like constantly trying to work and work and work our brains. We never experience boredom this time where we have to go inward and be with that little bit of discomfort and then send our minds down different ways of mind wandering, which restores our thinking and creativity.

[00:22:59.150] – Michael
So the benefits of boredom, you know, research shows that it revives your brain not being bored enough is actually associated with high rates of anxiety because it's you know, you're just really taxing your outward system. It's associated with more creativity. And I think part of that is because nowadays, when we're bored, if we just pull out Instagram and Twitter or whatever it is, we're focusing on the exact same type of media that everyone else is. And we're not having time to come up with ideas in our own mind that are our own ideas.

[00:23:31.520] – Michael
Experience boredom is associated with more focus and productivity. But I think one thing that that is key is you hear so much today, you need to be, you know, get on your phone. Get on your phone less. If you look at the data, people actually spend a lot more time engaging with all different kinds of media, like people watch twice as much TV as they do have screen time on their phones. We've inserted essentially eleven hours, I think is the average, 11 hours and six minutes to be exact, digital media in our day.

[00:24:02.570] – Michael
That's how much time we're spending engaging with digital media. So I tend to think about it instead of less phone. I tend to think about it more as more boredom. How can I just find these spaces where I can just have no outside stimulation and allow my mind to go inward and sort of revive and reset? And if we can do that, even though it's uncomfortable, I mean, it's much easier to just go on Instagram. I think we're going to move the dial a lot on our mental health.

[00:24:26.660] – Michael
And you'll find often with with a lot of these discomforts that I'm talking about, there's an initial period where you're like, man, this really sucks. I don't like this. This is uncomfortable. But after a certain time, once you sort of get through that rough patch, you're like, oh, I see what I'm doing this for.

[00:24:45.980] – Michael
And you start to really see those rewards. I mean, nothing in life, whether it be something very simple, like not being not defaulting to TV or your computer or your phone or whether it be like a massive, massive workout or challenge is ever going to be easy. So just accepting that there is going to be that hard part and going through it anyways, you'll see that benefit.

[00:25:09.950] – Allan
Yeah, I was, I took it. I took what you put to heart and I was going for my my normal little walk around here on the island. I like walking out by the beach and I was on my way out there. Normally what I would do is I put on the podcast or an audio book and then I'd have my runkeeper that would tell me my my my split's every five minutes, you know, that's chiming in and telling me what my splits are. I just got to thinking myself, Okay, I'm still going to keep my runkeeper on, but I'm going to I'm going to turn the volume all the way down so I don't hear my splits.

[00:25:40.750] – Allan
But the pocket I put the phone in my pocket and I'm not going to pay any attention until I get to a certain point, and then I'll just want to check my time to make sure that I can get back in time for what I've got to get done for the day. And yeah, it's like where first you're going and you're kind of like just you start becoming hyper sensitive to everything around, you start paying a lot more attention and so on this walk beyond just having a good walk and enjoying some warm weather, you know, heat shock proteins, I, I noticed a lot more.

[00:26:15.930] – Allan
You know, I just I noticed, like a line of leafcutter ants walking down the side of the road with me. You know, I was about to step on them and I said, oh, leafcutters. And I'm just walking along and I'm seeing leaves and I'm like, Okay, you know, just it was a long, long trail, like maybe about quarter of a mile. These guys were traveling. And so it's just kind of one of those things where I thought, yeah, I'm opening up.

[00:26:36.420] – Allan
I'm noticing more about the world around me. I'm noticing more about myself, like how how my legs feel, how my feet feel, you know, just just the whole bit of it. And it just gives you a lot more time to actually get it. Get in your head and think versus at times we try to turn that inner voice off. And I think a lot of times it's we just don't like that guy.

[00:27:02.190] – Allan
Yeah. And then you're like, well, no, I'm going to get to know that person.

[00:27:07.260] – Allan
And only way I can do that is to be alone with them.

[00:27:11.370] – Michael
Yeah, I love that story that's so great, because the thing about those leafcutter ants, you're going to remember them for next year, five years, 10 years, I was here and I saw that rove leafcutter ants doing their thing, moving through the world. That's going to create an impression in your mind and isn't I mean, this is the stuff that we're really going to remember.

[00:27:29.850] – Michael
I mean, I think that the media is obviously amazing. It's incredible.

[00:27:35.190] – Allan
Yeah.

[00:27:35.640] – Michael
It's so fun to see what people are doing on Instagram and getting cool ideas and listening to podcasts like yours. I mean, there's a ton of value in the stuff there really is. But I think it's figuring out the balance. If our we are programed to default to always being stimulated, never wanting to be bored, and we just have the easiest out for that.

[00:27:55.540] – Michael
So I think we need to reinsert boredom into our lives because when we are evolving, we had long periods of boredom and these helped these helped us be productive and, you know, effective humans. And we've sort of removed them. And there's been some serious downsides. But but I love what you say about that. And and I think that you're smart because you're you're doing it in a way where you can still use the technology. You're just figuring out, well, how do I use the smarter so I can sort of balance it.

[00:28:22.470] – Michael
I can get benefits of boredom, but also this super cool technology that we have access to. You know, the answer isn't like we don't want to live like Luddites. That's yeah, that sounds terrible to me. But it's it's the balance.

[00:28:36.020] – Allan
Yeah, and the worst part of it was I was sitting there saying I should pull my phone out and take a picture of these ants and I'm like, no, know, that whole purpose was to to not interact with my phone this whole two hours and

[00:28:47.240] – Michael
Yeah, those ants are yours.

[00:28:50.150] – Allan
I could post it on Facebook. That's so cool. I get those likes and and retweeted all that stuff and I was like, no, no. That that breaks the whole purpose of why I'm here. I'm not here to to do a documentary on leafcutter ants. I'm here to enjoy some time with myself.

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[00:30:52.500] – Allan
I think another thing that you got into that was really important, and it was it was thrust upon you because 33 days and I think people would say, Okay, sure, there's there's not a McDonald's up there or even a Tim Hortons or anything for you to just say, Okay, you know, let's pop in and have some breakfast and then we'll go hunting or after the breakfast, you know, we'll go by the room, take a shower, get ourselves cleaned up and have a really nice dinner tonight.

[00:31:20.060] – Allan
I mean, I hope they had that wine we had last time. That's not life. You had to carry all your food with you short of what you actually were going to then be able to get on that hunt.

[00:31:31.350] – Allan
So you started doing the math and realizing, Okay, I'm not going to be able to carry enough calories.

[00:31:39.210] – Michael
Yeah.

[00:31:39.810] – Allan
For the whole trip. And that meant at some point along the way and I don't think it was that far into the trip, you started experiencing hunger. And it's not the hunger of, you know, gee, I wish I had some Doritos. It was like real real in a hunger. Could you could you talk about being hungry and why that is important?

[00:32:01.320] – Michael
Sure. So when we did when you in the numbers, you know, we're carrying these heavy 80, 90 pound backpacks all over the place. The landscape is, you know, hilly and treacherous and we're probably burning somewhere between 4000, 6000 calories a day.

[00:32:18.240] – Michael
But if we were to bring enough food to fuel that, I mean, our packs would be it would not fit in the pack. All we would have is just a bunch of food. So we had to pare down and figure out, Okay, how much is enough reasonably to stay alive? More or less. And that was we could figure that would be about two thousand calories. So that's what we pack. So every day we're digging ourself into this hole and there's just never enough food.

[00:32:41.190] – Michael
And what happens over time, it's fascinating is you start to feel hungry and your mind starts to really focus on food. And these are these evolutionary mechanisms that we've developed to force us to find food that really compels you to find food. But feeling that hunger was fascinating because. No, my average day I eat for reasons that often have nothing to do with hunger. It could be that I woke up and it's breakfast, I got to eat breakfast.

[00:33:10.570] – Michael
So essentially the clock is telling me that I should eat, right. Or maybe I get stressed and I'm like, oh, man, I hate that email. I just received and hand goes into the m&m's and I shove them into my face.

[00:33:21.150] – Michael
You know, a lot of the data shows that as much as 80 percent of the times we eat aren't driven by actual physiological hunger. It's just because, like I said, it's a clock or stress or whatever. So re-engaging with with actual core deep hunger was fascinating because I'm like, man, I have never felt this before.

[00:33:43.860] – Michael
And I learned a lot of interesting things about hunger. And one of them, too, is that. You know, over time, it's not it's not going to kill you, you know, out there, it's like I lost 10 pounds over the thirty three months or whatever it was.

[00:34:01.050] – Michael
But I realized re-engaging with hunger is actually a good thing, because if you can figure out when this is true hunger versus this is just me wanting food, that can really move the dial. Because, I mean, right now it's I think in the US it's seventy two percent of Americans are overweight or obese. I mean, we're clearly suffering from a crisis where we're just eating too much. And that suggests to me that probably, you know, re-engaging with hunger and learning about what do I actually need food versus when do I want food can be really important in moving the dial on our health through weight loss.

[00:34:37.830] – Michael
So I would say that it just when I came back from the Arctic, I realized that a lot of times, like I said, it's just I just want food or it's a clock that tells me I want food and feeling that hunger can lead a lot of internal physical change. So I think, you know, embracing hunger is important. And, you know, I know people get really.

[00:34:59.880] – Michael
I guess I would say ideological, I don't know if that's the right word about certain diets and all that. My own opinion is that if you look at all the research, that weight loss is primarily driven by calorie balance. And so just figuring out a way that you can you can eat that will control your hunger, but you're not eating too much is important. And so in the book, I talk about ways of certain foods that research suggests tend to help us fight hunger, but also control our calories.

[00:35:28.810] – Michael
So these tend to be foods that we've often heard are not good for us, like potatoes or different forms of carbs that are unprocessed, that actually are good because they can help us control hunger and keep our calories low. It's this concept called calorie density, which is kind of a science way of saying they fill you up without having as many calories as other foods.

[00:35:50.870] – Allan
Yeah, and I think one of the things that kind of came out of it is that just as soon as you killed the Cariboo, you ate like a king. And it was one of the best meals you'd had in a long time and you even started liking the the instant meals, you know, just the reconstituted meals. You're like, it's fine. I love it. It's it's still delicious because I'm that hungry that you were truly tasting your food.

[00:36:17.530] – Michael
Yeah.

[00:36:17.870] – Allan
And and the. Go ahead.

[00:36:19.760] – Michael
I was going to say hunger is the best sauce.

[00:36:23.540] – Allan
Yes.

[00:36:24.050] – Michael
You know that if you are a person who thinks that vegetables are disgusting, that's probably because you're only eating things like Doritos that are engineered to be just like so amazing. And if you take yourself away from that for a little while, you realize that vegetables have a lot of amazing nuances that are that are great, you know.

[00:36:43.100] – Allan
Yeah. And I think that's what we miss is that, you know, like you said, we're eating all the time. We're eating things that are designed to make us eat more. We're not giving our body an opportunity to actually understand the hunger signals. And then when food is available, which here it's always available, it's everywhere.

[00:37:05.750] – Allan
We tend to overeat. And, you know, the dietitians though warn you, don't let yourself get hungry and then the food companies will take advantage of it and someone will be upset, not feeling good because they're hungry and they're going to tell them, oh, you need a Snickers. And so that's the solution to your your hunger problem. And it's not even true hunger because you haven't gone without food long enough or you've had enough food to not need that food.

[00:37:33.050] – Allan
But we haven't turned on those hunger signals. And obviously, you being out there for thirty three days, you turned on some hunger signals.

[00:37:41.310] – Michael
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I think in a lot of ways food has become a widget for a way to solve for other problems.

[00:37:48.590] – Michael
I'm stressed, I'm going to eat, I'm bored, I'll eat. And I just said boredom is good so don't just eat f you're bored. Find other ways to go.

[00:37:58.430] – Michael
But yeah, you know, we developed these evolutionary mechanisms that favor us to eat foods that are as calorie dense as possible. Now in nature as we evolved, you really don't find that many foods that are really calorie dense. I would think honey is the most calorie dense of the food you find.

[00:38:16.100] – Michael
But now we have foods that are engineered to be these, you know, globs of sugar, salt and fat that are amazing. And I'm not saying don't ever eat those, but it's they need to be balanced. You know, we need to to engage with hunger a little bit, learn that hunger and hunger is actually a good thing. Like you said, we've we've been told that, oh, don't ever feel hungry. You know, you're hungry or whatever it is. Oh, it's a good thing.

[00:38:40.640] – Allan
Yeah. And I think if you had to take several bee stings to get that high calorie dense food instead of buying it and like you said, a cute little jar that's shaped like a little bear, we probably wouldn't do it as much, but yeah.

[00:38:57.890] – Allan
So it's okay to be hungry, you know, like you said, I mean, we use the term starving, but that's not the right word. And even in your situation here, you knew you'd brought enough food to probably not starve. Yeah, but it also heightened your desire to do something. So it kept you motivated and driving rather than just saying, I'm going to go cuddle in the teepee for the next twenty days and hope I don't burn more calories.

[00:39:24.170] – Michael
Yeah

[00:39:24.830] – Allan
it got you moving. I got you guys doing more so that you could get that back, could get some food and that's that's actually a good thing. If you can find the waste are going to drive you to a better behavior, you've got to be hungry for it. And that's whether that's eating the right foods or getting your food. You've got to think of it in those terms.

[00:39:44.450] – Michael
Yeah. Yep, exactly.

[00:39:47.000] – Allan
Michael, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

[00:39:56.630] – Michael
Well, we just talked about one of them, I think re-engaging with hunger can be important. I mean, I think that our food, how we eat today is one of the number one drivers of our health problems because people just eat too much and and they don't move enough. And I think figuring out ways to lose weight if you're currently overweight is going to be the number one thing you can do from your health, assuming you're not smoking or something like that.

[00:40:23.990] – Michael
I mean, look at the data and it's pretty overwhelming. And, you know, yes, there are people who are overweight, who are metabolically healthy, and that's that's great. But I do think if you look at most people, most of the time, some some ground can be gained by losing a little weight. And I think that food is one of the best ways to do that.

[00:40:42.710] – Michael
Number two, I would say. Is that I would love it if people would start thinking about how can I do epic things in my life? So for me it was this thirty three days in the Alaskan backcountry. I go out there, I experience all these different forms of discomfort. I'm in nature. For a long time, I experienced some hunger I have to put physical effort in. And I think that doing that can really move the dial on our health and happiness, but more importantly, it can change us internally.

[00:41:16.840] – Michael
So, as I mentioned before, it's like when I was on that runway first about to head up there. I mean, I'm just like overstressed guy. I'm afraid to get on this plane. I'm like, you got to be kidding me. We're going in that little thing. And at the end of that sort of going on this journey of having to face all these discomforts, I learned a lot about myself and it really transformed me and I would say moved the dial on a lot of things in my life, just stress levels.

[00:41:42.760] – Michael
You know, when I got back, I could see, oh, like waiting in a line is not a big deal, you know, because I had all these true dangers and things happen to me. And so I think for four people, it's, you know, what is something that you can do, get outside, exercise some way to challenge yourself that will help put all these things in perspective and also get you out and moving. So maybe that, oh, there's this mountain near my house that I've never climbed and I've never climbed a mountain before.

[00:42:12.580] – Michael
You know, it could be like a five, ten mile hike. But if you've never done that before, I think picking something that has sort of a chance of failure, chance you may not make it where you put yourself in a position where you have to dig deep physically and psychologically and emotionally. When you complete that, it's like a massive, massive confidence boost and just move your life in the right direction. And let's see, number three, let me think on this.

[00:42:39.130] – Michael
Oh, I would say to think about your death each day, which I realize that seems somewhat morbid when people hear it. But, you know, as we evolve, we really engage with the life cycle.

[00:42:51.070] – Michael
So I know for me, I went up to Alaska, we're hunting and we look for these caribou for like fifteen days and we finally get a chance where we, you know, I'm going to potentially be able to kill one. And I have the gun and I am super reticent about hunting this whole time because I'm coming from this world where our meat is presented to us. Totally, perfectly manicured death is death and the life cycle is totally removed from our lives, everything from our funeral system to how we react when someone dies and we're told to keep our mind off it.

[00:43:27.880] – Michael
So we're, you know, crawling out there and I get in this position where the animal is close enough within shooting distance. And I'm kind of hesitating, you know, because I'm like, oh, man, this is a beautiful creature. Don't ever engage with this kind of stuff. And began with Donny says, look, if you don't want to shoot, you don't got to shoot. But if you're going to shoot, you got to do it now.

[00:43:49.450] – Michael
And I pulled the trigger and the animal goes down. And my initial reaction is, oh my God, what have I done? It was this just sinking feeling. We go out and see the animal. It's down. And I just feel terrible. It's like, what what has happened here?

[00:44:05.680] – Michael
What have I done? And then we began to break the animal down to field, dress it to bring it back to camp. And my mind started to shift because you start to see that this living creature is going to provide life for me, for my family to give us food. And that death is ultimately part of the life cycle. Like it is a it is a clear realization for me that happened that, oh, you know, death is part of the life cycle.

[00:44:35.290] – Michael
And I started to research this when I when I got back from Alaska and I ended up going to doing some traveling around this and a lot of research. And when you look at the research people who think about death, which is something, you know, we're not we're told, oh, don't do that because that's morbid and that'll make you sad. When you look at the research, it actually makes people happier because it cuts out a lot, cuts a lot of the fat out of your life.

[00:44:55.930] – Michael
Right. If you just think once a day, oh, I'm going to die at one point, you're not going to get hung up on these stupid little things that we tend to get so anxious and hung up on every day, right. You start to see people start to focus on the things that are really going to make them truly happier. So I think the three things that I just named are kind of like this holistic system that can help with your mind, body and spirit more or less.

[00:45:20.200] – Allan
And I agree with all of those. Thank you. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, The Comfort Crisis, where would you like for me to send them?

[00:45:29.020] – Michael
You can go to Easter Michael dot com, if you want to learn more about me, I'm active on Instagram as well: Michael_Easter. I try not to be too active on it because that boredom thing. But yeah, those are probably the two best ways to find it in the books available anywhere you get books. So

[00:45:44.470] – Allan
Okay. You can go to 40 plus fitness podcast dot com forward slash four eight five, and I'll be sure to have links there.

[00:45:51.370] – Allan
Michael, thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness.

[00:45:54.610] – Michael
Hey, thank you for having me.


Post Show/Recap

[00:46:01.090] – Allan
Raz, welcome back.

[00:46:03.160] – Rachel
Hey, Alan, what a wonderful story from Michael and his adventure in the Arctic. My gosh, talk about discomfort. He had a lot of it.

[00:46:13.640] – Allan
He did. You know. Well, one first, we probably didn't dive into it enough in the conversation, but he was terrified to get on that little plane.

[00:46:21.850] – Allan
He was a little bit just a little bitty planes where he kind of felt like he was straddling the the pilot while he was sitting in that airplane with his equipment. And the plane he was on couldn't go and land where they needed to. So they dropped the two of them off in the middle of freakin nowhere, Alaska, and then take off to nowhere Alaska to basically shuttle these guys. And then they leave him out there. And I'm like, no, no, I would have been the second person on the plane.

[00:46:50.440] – Allan
So I'm not sitting out in the middle of nowhere by myself alone. That would have kind of got me. I mean, and I I've had some moments in my life where I was outside my comfort zone, did some things like, you know, look back on and say, well, some people would call that foolish, but, you know, damn, it makes a good story.

[00:47:12.040] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:47:12.940] – Allan
You know, like walking down into the basement with four Koreans, two of them in front of me, two of them behind me. And I'm there to catch them committing fraud, thinking I might not actually come out of this basement again. So you have those stories. And that's one of the cool things about this book, is not just that Michael sharing the stories, but he's sharing lessons about how being outside your comfort zone makes for a better life across the world, whether you're looking at your career, your relationships, your health, your fitness, everything great happens outside the comfort zone.

[00:47:49.210] – Rachel
Oh, my gosh, it's so true.

[00:47:51.070] – Rachel
He even drew a line. Right, towards adding discomfort to your life can give you health and happiness, happiness through discomfort. It's kind of a mind blowing concept right there.

[00:48:03.880] – Allan
Well, you've experienced it, so.

[00:48:05.920] – Rachel
Oh, yeah.

[00:48:06.310] – Allan
Let's talk about your first marathon.

[00:48:08.350] – Allan
How painful was that run? I mean, you know, at the end, you're that you know, you're you're at that that twenty two mile mark.

[00:48:17.520] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:48:18.400] – Allan
And you're watching other runners around. You quit. You're saying medical attention being given to people on the side of the road. And you're seeing also seeing people cheering you on.

[00:48:29.830] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:48:30.550] – Allan
But it's uncomfortable and there is be no shame in quitting.

[00:48:35.710] – Rachel
Right. Well, I'll even take it a step back and and say my first five K was out of my comfort zone, so as my first 10K, my first half marathon was in a Florida hurricane situation and my first marathon was just as difficult, although it was at the happiest place on Earth with this, which is Disney.

[00:48:58.860] – Rachel
My first full marathon was Disney. But but yeah, every single step of the way in my running career has been taking that one step outside what I know I could do, what I'm comfortable doing and seeing what can I accomplish, what can I do and and how crazy is that? And and then every time I accomplish something, I'm I'm stronger for it and more confident and and more confident when I want to try something new, like my first 50 miles, I'll be doing the summer.

[00:49:34.470] – Rachel
So that's one of the reasons why I embraced running and just share it with the world so much because it can give you so much back. It's hard and it's scary, but it gives you so much back.

[00:49:46.830] – Allan
Yeah. And we've become too comfortable to the point of, you know, we, we go for the convenience and so beyond just comfort, there's convenience and you'll hear the word comfort foods and comfort foods. Yeah. Typically are high in fat, high in salt and high in sugar, high in everything and all put together. And they make you feel good, they give you the feel good, comfortable feeling, you know, chicken and dumplings is one just comes to mind for me is they call that a comfort food and you know it's like okay, cool.

[00:50:23.070] – Allan
Occasionally having a little bit of comfort, not a problem, having it every single day, having the convenience of driving up and ordering a donut and a coffee on your way to work and then getting something from the vending machine because you're starving two hours later. And for the record, you're not actually starving.

[00:50:43.170] – Allan
You're just having a little bit of a sugar rush and a sugar crash. And that's what you're having. And it's not you're not starving. And so I think the recognition that if once we start seeing the comfort that's in our lives and we start challenging that and saying, is that comfort serving me? Or is that comfort holding me back?

[00:51:06.430] – Rachel
Hmm, good question.

[00:51:07.270] – Allan
We're almost blind to it because we're in it and it's just so easy and this is just the way it is.

[00:51:12.670] – Allan
And so, you know, the more you sit there and say, is this the right comfort for me to be in? So, you know, granted, I want my room cool at night so I can sleep better. So we have an air conditioner in our bedroom. We don't have an air conditioner in the living space of the bed and breakfast and so on. A hot day like today is probably somewhere in the 90s and it's really, really humid.

[00:51:37.090] – Allan
And so sitting in the living room with the fans going is right on that edge of comfortable. You know, I'm sitting in my living room sweating. Most people don't want to be sweating when they're sitting in their living room. You know, they're going to have the AC on. There can be very comfortable. They're not going to want to walk outside. I'll check the mail on my way to work tomorrow. You know, that kind of comfort.

[00:52:00.130] – Allan
And it's like, get out, you know, move around. Don't be afraid of it. So you sweat a little to shower before bed,

[00:52:07.570] – Rachel
Right.

[00:52:08.260] – Allan
So look at the comfort that's in your life and just say, is this this is serving me? Is just making me a better person? And there are times when comfort will there, you know, I sleep better when the room temperature is cooler. If we didn't have an air conditioner, then I wouldn't sleep as well.

[00:52:27.350] – Allan
We have a we have an air fryer. And the air fryer can do, you know, the toasting, the grilling in the baking, the the air frying, the broiling. And so it's very convenient, comfortable device to have sitting on our counter.

[00:52:42.720] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:52:43.310] – Allan
I don't use it to make Pop Tarts.

[00:52:47.510] – Allan
I use it to bake chicken or broil steak or do those types of things. So I don't get don't think that all comfort is bad. It's not it's just a function of saying, am I using comfort where where it matters.

[00:53:05.810] – Rachel
Sure.

[00:53:06.380] – Allan
You know, a good massage is comfortable. Having a comfortable bed is comfortable. Those are important things for your wellness. But, you know, having complete access to all this food, calling Uber eats every night because you can never, never getting hot, never getting cold.

[00:53:29.060] – Allan
You know, that's not how we were intended to to be. We were intended to be a little uncomfortable most of the time and really uncomfortable some of the time.

[00:53:40.070] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:53:41.060] – Rachel
I think we've lost a little of that satisfaction of doing certain things for ourselves. Like you mentioned, cooking a proper meal from scratch versus ordering uber eats or something. You know, if you can gather fresh ingredients and make this wonderful meal for your family all on your own, just think of the pride that you'll have, not even to mention the taste will be so much better than running out to a restaurant and getting some fat laden food. But you've got pride in your food.

[00:54:10.760] – Rachel
You've got a tasty meal. Plus it contributes to your health instead of taking away from your health. So it's just these little things like if you can allow yourself the extra time to take the time to get the good food to to prepare a nice meal, to take a walk to the store instead of a drive to the store, if you can just take a minute to reassess and maybe give you that little extra time to do these things by hand from scratch, just think of the satisfaction you'll have having accomplished all that.

[00:54:40.010] – Allan
Yeah. And I would even take it a step further and say, Okay, so so imagine you do this. You set up a plant bed in your backyard or a patio garden and you plant some plants if you have the space and in your city allows it, you raise some chickens.

[00:54:58.940] – Rachel
Oh, man, you know, that would be fun.

[00:55:01.850] – Allan
And maybe you go ahead in a co-op and you know, you can share in a buying a cow. You know, sometimes they'll do that like a local farm and you all go in together and say, Okay, so I'm buying half a cow and they're buying. So we all contribute our money and we buy the calves and we've paid for the food. And we have a responsibility to go out there on our days and feed the cow.

[00:55:25.430] – Rachel
Sure.

[00:55:25.760] – Allan
Take care of it. It's a co-op. We're all involved. We're all working together or we're doing it at home, raising the chickens, getting the eggs, growing the vegetables. So you're growing spinach and you've got the eggs.

[00:55:38.690] – Allan
And so, you know, you make yourself an omelet with the spinach in the eggs that you grew, that, you know, you took the little chick and you took the little seedling and you made yourself that meal from not just scratch, but from actual dirt, you know.

[00:55:59.220] – Rachel
How how amazing and how satisfying that is. That would be wonderful.

[00:56:03.810] – Allan
And it's not even just you. I mean, this was a part of your family. This is like how we spend a Saturday. You know, we spend the Saturday at my brother. They raise chickens. And so his little girls, they know how to care for the chickens. And they named all their so they have no intention of eating the chickens, but they eat eggs.

[00:56:22.330] – Rachel
That's awesome.

[00:56:23.550] – Allan
Yeah. Except for the the Fox incident. But we don't want to talk.

[00:56:27.430] – Rachel
Oh no, no.

[00:56:31.440] – Allan
But, you know, it's just kind of one of those things of this is a learning experience for them to be able to see where their food is coming from and recognize, Okay, this is you know, this is where all this stuff comes from. And it's not you don't just go to the grocery store to buy stuff.

[00:56:46.350] – Rachel
Oh, yeah.

[00:56:47.480] – Allan
You can you can do it yourself. And it's uncomfortable. It's extra work. It means, you know, a weekend where you're building something, you're putting, you know, dealing with soil and all the other stuff.

[00:56:58.950] – Allan
You're learning new things, teaching kids new things, but spending that quality time together.

[00:57:04.230] – Allan
And that's again, the value of discomfort can be the value of learning. It's a value of relationship. It's the value of better quality of pretty much everything in your life. And so that's what this book was really about. He's a fabulous writer. It's a really interesting story if you're anti-hunting while there is hunting in the book. But I want you to recognize the the concepts of it. He does talk about that because he had never hunted before.

[00:57:32.130] – Allan
So he's not pro hunting even now. But he wanted the experience. And he went out and did it while he doesn't know if he'll do it again.

[00:57:43.490] – Rachel
Mm hmm.

[00:57:44.150] – Allan
But it was just an experience that he wanted to have. All of the meat from that animal was consumed by him and his family. So he did bring that meat home. So it was not just an unethical trophy kill that you see the pictures and you know that this was those were legitimate hunts for food when controlled by the wild life stuff.

[00:58:07.850] – Allan
But just recognize that he made himself very, very uncomfortable for thirty-three days, experienced a lot of things, has a lot of stories to tell. And he's a really good storyteller. So it's a really good book from that perspective too.

[00:58:20.750] – Rachel
Wonderful. It sounds wonderful. What an adventure he had for sure.

[00:58:24.620] – Allan
All right, Rachel. Well, I will talk to you next week.

[00:58:27.230] – Rachel
All right. Take care.

[00:58:28.230] – Allan
You too.

[00:58:29.540] – Rachel
Thanks.

Patreons

The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:

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