Stop Settling for Health, Choose Vitality

Step Settling for Health, Choose Vitality

The number of individuals I have worked with over the last 20 years who I’ve had to untangle from the health paradigm is in the thousands. Throughout my own journey with traditional healthcare, five orthopedic surgeries before the age of 22, being dependent on medications and different coping strategies for depression, and working with people at my clinic, I have discovered numerous limitations to the health paradigm. Suppose you follow the typical healthy model of living - in that case, there is a good chance you will be on some type of medication, dependent on some technique or modality, need a glass of wine or meditation to mitigate your stress, and are most likely battling sweet and salty cravings on a daily basis. It’s time for a completely new paradigm – the vitality paradigm.

When you google the definition of health, you will see it defined as “the state of being free from illness or injury.” Translation: we are alive and surviving. This approach sounds very much like an overprotective parent that is just waiting for something to go wrong and has an arsenal of modalities ready at a moment’s notice to take care of whatever went awry. However, the difference between a parent and the health care system is the astronomical amount of money required to manage when things go south. In 2022, the annual premiums for health coverage for a family of four averaged over $21,000! Outrageous, yes?

Vitality, on the other hand, is defined as “exuberant physical strength or mental vigor” and “the capacity for the continuation of a meaningful and purposeful existence” – uh yeah . . . sign me up for that!

In this blog, I will expose the foundational flaws of the health care paradigm and introduce you to my vitality paradigm. I have developed this paradigm over the last 20 years, which has helped  thousands of individuals avoid unnecessary surgeries, break their dependency on medications and other modalities, and empower them to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The three areas I will discuss are fitness & rehabilitation, nutrition & systemic care, and mindset and stress management. Let’s dive in. 

 

Health Paradigm Problem #1: We Aren’t the Walking Dead

One of the major flaws in the traditional fitness and physical rehabilitation model is how anatomy is taught. Whether you are certified as a personal trainer, a chiropractor, an orthopedic surgeon, or a physical therapist, you were taught cadaveric anatomy. Cadaveric anatomy is the study of the anatomy of a human cadaver. Every anatomy and physiology book will explain each muscle in the body by naming the origin and insertion of the muscle and its function. Let’s take the hamstring muscle for example. It will say that the hamstrings originate on the ischial tuberosity (butt bone) and inserts on the tibia (lower leg) somewhere - depending on which of the three major hamstring muscles you look at. It will also say that its primary function is to “flex the knee.” The problem with this is that we are assessing the function of the muscular system by studying a dead person. Not only are they dead, but they are not moving and interacting with our three-dimensional environment. We then take the data we collect from studying a cadaver and create fitness and rehabilitation programs for people that are very much alive and engaging with a three-dimensional environment. How does this make sense? 

The most common downfall I have seen in this approach, working with thousands of individuals over the last 20 years, is how low back pain is treated. According to the health paradigm - to have a “healthy” low back, you need to have a “strong core” and “flexible hamstrings.” So the canned program for a healthy back is to do isolated exercises to strengthen the abdominals and low back muscles. People have been prescribed crunches, planks, cobras, supermans, back extensions, and a variety of “dead bug” exercises to strengthen their core. Next, they are told to follow up with various hamstring stretches of people trying to touch their toes in a variety of positions. Once these things are complete, patients are then taught to bend over or squat while keeping their spines rigid and straight - making sure not to flex the spine. The wall sit is one of the more popular versions of this. What this is doing is creating an artificial brace around an area for short-term relief of pain. Similar to duct taping something that is falling apart - it works for a little while, but is not a good long-term solution. Chopping the body into parts and addressing each piece in isolation creates a ton of dysfunction throughout the system - neither health nor vitality.

 

Vitality Paradigm #1: Move, Stop Exercising

At my clinic in Southern California, we had a saying, “Exercise is optional, movement is mandatory.” This is because so much of the exercise paradigm is rooted in cadaveric anatomy and has people focused on working with different muscle groups in isolation. Now, although there is a place for this, it should not be the standard recommendation. When you understand how the body was designed to move, you will start to see that it follows certain laws and principles. Principles like: 

  • The body is three-dimensional and uses all three planes of motion at all times to move most efficiently.
  • Muscles load by lengthening before shortening.
  • The body always tries to share the load throughout the muscle system. It would never choose to isolate any muscle or region and get it to scream. It would also never choose to freeze one region of the body while others are moving - like bending over and keeping the spine straight.

As a matter of fact, not applying the last principle is one of the biggest causes of injury. Muscles and joints get injured when isolated and overloaded in artificial and unnatural ways. It’s time to shift.

With the vitality paradigm, the approach to low back pain looks beyond the symptom and explores why the low back is in pain. It begins with a question, “Why is the back being asked to do something it wasn’t designed to do?” That question has us start to consider that if the back is doing more than it should, then maybe a region nearby isn’t doing its job. When you look at the anatomy of the lumbar spine (low back), you will see that it is comprised of five vertebral bodies and the sacrum. You will also notice that the sacrum sits inside the pelvis, which forms the sacroiliac joint (SI joint). If you continue to explore the region, you will notice that the pelvis meets up with the two femur bones making two powerful hip joints. Interesting that the two most powerful joints in the body sit directly underneath the low back . . . there is probably a reason for this.

Of the numerous individuals that I have worked on over the years, I have almost NEVER seen a back problem that was a “back” problem. The only exceptions are severe pathology and/or degeneration, and I mean severe because I have rehabbed hundreds of people that have degeneration and “damaged” spines. The key to rehabilitating low back pain is getting the hips back online. The hip joints are ball and socket joints, which means they are designed to rotate. On the other hand, the lumbar spine is not very good at rotating. It does much better with front-to-back and side-to-side motions. Most herniated discs, disc degeneration, facet syndromes, and bulging discs are due to an abnormal rotational compressive force moving through the lumbar spine because the hips are not doing their job. In my YouTube video, “3 Reasons You’re Still Experiencing Low Back Pain - and What to Do About It”, I go over the key hip stretches and a movement that will rehabilitate most low back problems.

The theme of poor foundational principles when creating strategies and solutions for individuals with the health paradigm doesn’t stop with physical rehabilitation and fitness; it is also prevalent in the nutrition space. Next, I will break down why what we are being sold as healthy is far from it.

 

Health Paradigm Problem #2: Zero Octane Fuel Doesn’t Cut It

If you pick up any health magazine in the supermarket, there is a good chance you will see a salad on the cover. This meal has become the symbol of “health” - my question is, why? What is a salad actually doing for us nutritionally? The answer is . . . not much. The reason why it has become a healthy option is that it is low in calories. The same goes for eating lots of vegetables. Yes, there are some vitamins and minerals in vegetables, but when you look at the caloric value of salads and vegetables, they are very low.  A whole bag of lettuce is 15 calories! An entire cup of mixed vegetables is about 80 calories! These veggies can make up a complete meal for some people - 95 calories?! This diet may make you “full,” but you will be left unsatisfied.  Let's start by defining what a calorie is, a unit of energy. I think of it like the octane in the gasoline I put into my car - the more octane, the more energy potential. Because there is an obesity epidemic in America, we have made low-caloric foods healthy due to the poor quality of food that so many people overeat. This acclaimed solution is a MAJOR overcorrection. We have made the purpose of eating to satisfy the numbers on a scale or a blood test. This is not the purpose of eating! Due to this approach, we have not only become afraid of calories but also foods that have natural sugar, salt, and fats in them. No sugar, no salt, and no fat foods are the healthiest choices?!? No wonder everyone has insane salt and sugar cravings and hides in the closet eating pretzels and cookies. Sugar, salt, and fat are essential substances our bodies need to run optimally. Without sugar and salt, we would die. It’s time to operate from a different perspective.

 

Vitality Paradigm #2: Eat to Supply the Body with Optimal Fuel & Resources

When you begin to look at the goal of food as a way to increase our vitality, the landscape changes. Now the focus is on what foods provide the body with the optimal fuel and raw materials for the body to grow, develop, and repair itself. No surprise, the answer to this question is REAL FOOD. Foods that humans have been eating since the beginning of time. Foods that are saturated with sugar, salts, fats, and proteins. Foods that have substance to them fill you up and leave you satisfied. Foods that are alive! What’s a good indication that your food is alive? When it dies and goes bad. If it can sit on yourself for an eternity, I wouldn’t call that food - there are probably better choices.

The foods that my family, my wife Eve and two children, Emma (8) and Christian (14), have been primarily eating for the last 20 years include the following: fruits, raw dairy, tubers (underground vegetables), muscle meats, organ meats, homemade broths, butter, and coconut oil. We will also have some sourdough bread and rice occasionally. I have recommended this type of eating to clients for the last twenty years and have been amazed at how much more vitality, energy, and resiliency it has created for people. Not to mention eliminate digestive issues, achy joints, and a myriad of other symptoms.

I will say that different people, depending on their current level of health, will tolerate certain foods better than others, especially in the beginning. Eve and I have worked with many people that had food sensitivities to some of the foods I mentioned, which turned out to be more of a gut health issue. Once their gut was healed, these foods were easily tolerated.

Once again, the health paradigm creates a similar theme of never-ending dependency on the treatment of symptoms inside of nutrition and systemic care. Unfortunately, another one of the spaces that I believe to be the most damaging is the “healthy” strategies that are taught inside of personal development and mindset. 

 

Health Paradigm Problem #3: “You Have to Work on Yourself”

I have taken a deep dive into the personal development space over the last ten years, and the phrase, “I’m working on myself more,” is by far the most commonly heard. It seems like everyone is working on themselves. This concept has become a healthy thing to do. After practicing and teaching some of the most common personal development strategies and mindset techniques to hundreds of people over the years, I started to realize something . . . there is no end to “working on yourself,” and you never really get anywhere. It’s like being a hamster in a hamster wheel. When you begin to engage in some of these practices and frameworks, it can definitely be helpful - just like an Advil is helpful when you have a headache. But over time, not only is it less effective, but more “Advil” is needed to get the same effect. So which practices and frameworks am I referring to? Here are two that I have found to create the most problems for people:

  1. The goal is to embody love, joy, peace, freedom, or some other “positive” emotion.
  2. Stress is terrible, and you want to mitigate or eliminate it as fast as possible.

The reason why these two objectives will have you working on yourself forever and ever is that it goes against our biology. These frameworks literally have us at war with ourselves. We are engaged in a war we cannot win. The only way to accomplish these two goals is to disconnect from your biological processes and communication systems, resulting in complete dissociation from oneself. These are the people walking around, always saying everything is wonderful, “never get upset,” and spewing toxic positivity all over people. They also usually talk in a higher tone, signaling that there is some type of spirituality associated with their way of being.

I have not only worked with these people behind the scenes, but I was also one of them. I can tell you there is a tremendous amount of pain, suffering, anguish, and self-loathing behind all of it. Although you can disconnect from these communication systems, they don’t disappear. There is an alternate solution.

 

Vitality Paradigm #3 - Align Your Mindset with Your Biology

A fundamental assumption I make when engaging with the body and its systems is that it has a good reason for doing what it's doing. I also assume that our body and its systems have our best interests in mind. When you come from this perspective, you can now look at its communications as an ally, not an adversary. Take emotions, for example - when you feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, frustrated, or any other “negative emotion,” let’s assume its a communication that is there to help you. Overwhelm can be communicating that you are trying to do too many things at once. Sadness can be communicating that there is something in your life that is really important to you and that you should make it a priority in your life. Anger and frustration can be communicating that you must better align your expectations with certain people or things. These emotions are all extremely valuable communications that, when you learn how to integrate them, you can leverage to grow and fulfill the things that are most meaningful and important to you.

This brings me to the second important point - I do not believe that anybody is looking to live a life of happiness and joy exclusively. This is not to say that people don’t want to be happy, but it isn’t the ultimate outcome they are after. Anyone I have ever worked with over the last twenty years was always looking to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They always had things they deeply cared about and were trying to fulfill. Whether it was caring for their family, creating a specific impact in the world, or fulfilling a lifelong dream. When we are aligned with purpose and meaning, then fulfillment, freedom, and love are the byproduct. Feeling “negative emotions” or feeling stressed indicates that we are off target with what is most important to us. Emotions are a GPS system that tells you when you are on track and when you need to make a calibration. Silencing emotions and not integrating them would be like your GPS telling you to make a left turn, you acknowledging and accepting that it was telling you that, and then continuing to go straight. Emotions and stress responses are no different; please listen to them.

I have been developing, implementing, and teaching these vitality principles for the last twenty years. I myself feel better today in my forties than I did in my twenties. My life’s mission is to share this paradigm and perspective with as many people as possible. If you have any questions about what you have read, make sure to check out other articles and videos on my blog and my YouTube channel. One, in particular, you may find useful is “5 Ways to Instantly Up-Level Your Vitality”. If you don’t find something that answers your specific question or have additional questions, please USE THIS FORM and let me know how I can support you. I will be adding new content every week, so make sure to subscribe so you are notified when it is released.

 

Yours in Vitality,


Matt

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