9 Steps to Perfect Health: Introduction

perfecthealthIn April, The Healthy Skeptic blog will turn three years old. During that time I’ve written 157 blog posts and eight special reports on topics ranging from heart disease to depression to essential fatty acids and fish oil.

Those of you who’ve been following the blog for most of that time, or who’ve had the chance to go back and read a lot of those articles and special reports, probably have a pretty good idea of what my philosophy on health and nutrition is. But a lot of newer subscribers and visitors might benefit from a condensed summary of the ingredients I believe are essential to optimal health.

I often find myself wanting to refer to something like this – a quick primer that gives readers an overview of my approach – when I’m responding to comments or emails. Because let’s face it, not everyone has the time to go back and read 157 blog posts and 8 special reports to get a sense of what this blog is about.

I also want to create something that you all can easily share with friends and family who may be completely new to this stuff. In those cases I think it’s better to start with a broad, not-too-technical overview of the approach we discuss in more detail here.

With this in mind, I’m going to write a series called 9 Steps To Perfect Health. After I’m finished, I’m going to repurpose that series into an eBook and make it available for free. This way you and I will have something concise and easy to read to send to those loved ones who still think eating saturated fat causes heart disease, or that soy products are healthy alternatives to animal protein.

The conventional approach to healthcare has failed

There’s no better or more important time to get this information out there. Our health continues to deteriorate at an alarming pace, and the incidence of chronic, degenerative disease is skyrocketing each year. Consider the following:

  • Diabesity (obesity + diabetes) affects more than one billion people worldwide, including 100 million Americans and 50% of Americans over 65.
  • More than half of Americans are overweight, and a full one-third are clinically obese.
  • Recent reports suggest that one-third of people born in 2010 will develop diabetes at some point in their lives.
  • 9 out of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure before they die.
  • 4 out of 10 people who die each year in the U.S. die of heart disease, and rates of heart disease are projected to double in the next 50 years.
  • Rates of infertility are expected to double in the next decade.
  • According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the leading cause of disability, affecting more than 120 million people worldwide.

I could go on but I think you get the point. Our health is getting worse, not better.

Over the last 50 years the medical establishment has vigorously promoted a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, claiming that it would protect us from heart disease and diabetes and make us healthier and happier. How has that worked out for us? The statistics above make it clear that the conventional approach has been a dismal failure that has not only failed to protect our health, but has directly contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.

All modern diseases share a similar cause

One of the most glaring mistakes conventional medicine makes is to assume that all of these modern diseases – diabetes, heart disease, depression, autoimmune disease, etc. – are unrelated conditions that don’t share a common cause. This is a convenient fiction created by the pharmaceutical industry (and perpetuated by the medical establishment) to sell more drugs.

The truth is that while these conditions do have unique features, they all share a common origin: the modern lifestyle. Poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, stress, lack of sleep, lack of or the wrong type of exercise, toxins and medications all directly contribute to the problems that are ruining our health.

The conventional approach is to treat each of these various problems with different drug, and ignore the fundamental factors that are at the root of all of them. That has been a stupendously unsuccessful approach. It’s time to replace it with a more holistic view of health, and to empower people to prevent and treat disease without unnecessary drugs or surgery.

Introducing the 9 steps

Here are the 9 steps we’ll be covering in the articles to follow:

  1. Don’t eat toxins.
  2. Nourish your body.
  3. Control your blood sugar.
  4. Supplement wisely.
  5. Heal your gut.
  6. Manage your stress.
  7. Move every day.
  8. Sleep more.
  9. Practice pleasure.

I’ll try to cover one each week, so we should be finished with the series by the end of March. If you know anyone you’d like to introduce to this material, please send them over to the blog and have them sign up for email updates.

And for those that were looking forward to the series on treating male and female hormones naturally, don’t worry! It’s coming up.

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  1. Beth@WeightMaven’s avatar

    Chris, I’m really looking forward to this series. One minor nit with your introduction above. You write:

    ” Over the last 50 years the medical establishment has vigorously promoted a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, … The statistics above make it clear that the conventional approach has been a dismal failure …”

    I do think it’s important to consider promoted diet versus actual diet. I’m not sure the increased rate of obesity in disease is primarily a result of people following a low-fat, high-carb diet … it’s more like folks interpretation of this is actually a high PUFA fat, high refined grain and sugar diet. That (as you suggest with the “don’t eat toxins” step) is likely the real culprit.

    Anyways, I suppose this is a bit of semantics, but I do think compliance in terms of promoted diets (e.g., USDA pyramid) is an issue. To me, the problem with the promoted low-fat high carb diet is that it has led to processed foods that make $$ for big business but aren’t healthy for us.

  2. Chris Kresser’s avatar

    I see your point, Beth. But another way to look at it is that it’s almost impossible for most people to be compliant with a low-fat diet over a long period of time, and it drives them to crave and eat processed and refined foods that are toxic. So the promotion of a low-fat, high carb diet has to some degree as optimal for health has to some degree created the high PUFA, high refined grain and sugar diet that is causing our health problems.

    It’s a lot easier to comply with a high-fat, nutrient-dense, moderate carb diet than it is a low-fat diet.

  3. Beth@WeightMaven’s avatar

    Absolutely agree! Like I said, it’s a bit of semantics. I just think it’s important to be clear that the problem is the compliance with the conventional diet and not suggest that it’s inherently that diet per se that’s harmful … it’s what people wind up eating when they try and follow the recommended low-fat, high carb diet.

  4. Jen’s avatar

    I am so excited about this… I feel like I have way too many questions all time and this will be a great resource! Really looking forward to it!

  5. Chris Sturdy’s avatar

    This will be a great series. There is just too much nonsense information available for mass consumption: (all together now, repeat after me) eat low fat, lots of “healthy” whole grains, no saturated fat, blah, blah, blah.

    I will be sure to tweet your posts to spread the word so that people can read about the very doable alternative to eating bad tasting “low fat” food and wasting half their lives on a treadmill.

  6. Katie’s avatar

    Really looking forward to this series, and I will definitely send some friends and relatives your way! With all the marketing and mainstream opinions on “healthy” diet, it still seems like we are fighting a very uphill battle, but it is encouraging to see that more people seem to be taking control and responsibility for their own health.

  7. Mar’s avatar

    Will post in my facebook account, thanks!

    @ Beth: let me slightly disagree :)
    At a certain point in my life I totally stopped eating processed foods and spent many years eating a “wholesome diet” based on whole grains, tofu, veggies from my CSA, fish, and occasional meat. Not touching a bit of soda, everything organic, etc etc. Today I’m a celiac. So I believe Chris has a point. Compliance is not nearly enough for a lot of people. Whole grains and soy can also promote bad nutrient absorption. Plus I was shy on the fat! And hardly ate any probiotics at all. The food pyramid is useless, at least for me!

  8. Beth@WeightMaven’s avatar

    Mar, no problem, I’m with you. If we ranked foods, I would certainly put soy near the bottom of the list. Re grains, I totally get they aren’t healthy for some folks, though I tend to be sympathetic to the Weston Price folks.

    Like I said, I was just really being a bit pedantic. If you look at diet as a continuum, I totally agree with Chris that a healthier diet is high fat, moderate carb and nutrient dense (and per the discussion on Robb Wolf’s site, agree on the dairy too ;) .

    I just think that the DASH diet — or the USDA pyramid diet — is not the other endpoint. Some people do seem to do well on these (look at Ornish’s success stories), and I expect that it’s because if you really follow those diets, you omit or minimize the food toxins.

    But there’s the rub … those diets are a bear to really follow, mostly because of the lack of good fats I bet. And when folks fail on them, they wind up on what I think *is* the endpoint of the continuum, which is the high PUFA, high sugar/fructose, low nutrient SAD.

    Anyways, sorry to take folks down this path … just a slow day at work I guess ;) .

  9. Harald’s avatar

    Dear Chris.
    Thank you for your continuing efforts to teach about our REAL medicine – FOOD.
    I have something to add to your 9 point list:
    Inform yourselves about Germanic New Medicine while you are healthy. It is impossible to teach a drowning person how to swim!
    http://learninggnm.com . The reason for learning about GNM is, that each and everyone of us living beings (that includes animals and plants!) is born with a Significant Biological SPECIAL program of Nature, which gets initiated when the body’s nutritional cupboards are “bare”. ‘Special” because it is designed to help an individual over a (biological) crisis.
    Therefore, if people do not provide their bodies with optimum nutrition, they can expect to suffer from cancer; cancer is a PROGRAM and has a healing part build right in.
    Discover all this at the above mentioned website.

  10. Jack Kronk’s avatar


    Very insightful of you to see the need for an outline of the basics, especially for people trying to make sense of the wealth of info that you’ve already put out.

    Regarding the discussion about ‘the conventional approach’, I understand what Beth is saying for sure, because most people do not eat well. And while I think we all know that it’s likely because we are bombarded with a barrage foods that are no bueno, I still think your claim stands as far as the conventional approach being a dismal failure, regardless of any of the details that we could pick apart as far what people have chosen to follow. Because it is mainstream advice that drives the entire food world, from education, to production, to advertisement, to demand, to consumption, and back to education. It’s like a big, self perpetuating circle. They’ve truly created a monster.

    One interesting thought is that we don’t yet know what would happen if the ‘conventional approach’ actually were to change to “high fat, moderate carb, free of toxins, and nutrient rich diet”. It’s never been given the chance to have mainstream support. You could say that may have been the general consensus pre 1920′s, but I don’t think people were as reliant on ‘government standards and recommendations’ at that time. Take the current government programs and media sensationalism, and hand the reigns over to someone like you and the other leaders in the nourishing foods paleo-ish movement who really know the truth about eating healthy, and I think the result will be far from a dismal failure. I think it would be a big success, even if not everyone follows.

    Thanks Again Chris
    -jack k

  11. Mallory’s avatar

    thos are quite possibly the best 9 topics of advice for someone to get healthy, i look forward to the series!!

  12. Perry’s avatar

    Hi Chris,

    Haven’t you left out a big category…chronic disease due to fungal, bacterial, and viral infection and what to do about it?

  13. Bob’s avatar

    Chronic disease from infection is still just a theory though right? Many of these diseases seem to respond to getting the body in order with “paleo” diet, gluten free, proper D levels, exercise, stress reduction… No doubt infections play a role as well but I think blaming bacterial/fungal infections for diseases is still not quite the whole picture and feeds into that fear of bacteria and ultra-hygeniec disease breeding habits we have now.

  14. Geoff’s avatar

    Wonderful list that makes sense.
    I recently got ill after a period of excessive training and foolishly taking an antibiotic (despite being tested and found to not have an infection). This combined with excessive stress – emotional/mental and I’ve been out of action for almost 3 months with as yet no clear light at end of tunnel.

    If you mess with sleep, train too hard/much/inappropriately and take meds you really don’t need – You can wind up in big trouble.

  15. Harald’s avatar

    Hi Geoff.

    Germanic New Medicine teaches us about unexpected, isolating shock events and the consequences thereof.

    Once you have studied GNM, you can determine yourself, when you “screwed up” and resolve the resulted Biological Conflict.

    Upon resolution, you will enter the healing phase and prevent the build-up of conflict mass, which will speed up the duration of the healing phase.

    Check it out here: http://learninggnm.com

    Cheers, Harald.

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