Our ancestors crossed the Alps in animal skins and colonized the New World in loin cloths. They evaded predators and built civilizations with just their raw brainpower and inner grit.
But things have changed and now comfort is king.
Today we live in the thrall of constant climate control and exercise only when our office schedules permit. The technologies that we use to make us comfortable are so all encompassing that they sever the biological link to a changing environment. Now we hate the cold and the heat. We suffer from autoimmune diseases. And many of us are chronically overweight. Most of us don’t even realize that natural variation – sweating and shivering – is actually good for us.
The new book What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength uncovers how just about anyone can reclaim a measure of our species’ evolutionary strength by tapping into the things that feel uncomfortable. When we slightly reimagine how how our body fits into the world and then we can conditioning ourselves to find resilience in unfamiliar environments.
The feeling that something is missing from our daily routines is growing and has spawned a movement. Every year, millions of people forgo traditional gyms and push the limits of human endurance by doing boot camp style workouts in raw conditions. These extreme athletes train in CrossFit boxes, compete in Tough Mudders and challenge themselves in Spartan races. They are connecting with their environment and, whether they realize it or not, are changing their bodies.
Perhaps no one exemplifies this better than Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof, whose remarkable ability to control his body temperature in extreme cold has sparked a whirlwind of scientific study. Because of him, scientists in the United States and Europe are just beginning to understand how cold adaptation might help combat autoimmune diseases and chronic pains and, in some cases, even reverse diabetes.
My podcast guest on todays show, award winning investigative journalist Scott Carney, dives into the fundamental philosophy at the root of this movement in three interlocking narratives. His own journey culminates in a record bending, 28-hour, climb up to the snowy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but a pair of running shorts and sneakers.
Scott is an investigative journalist and anthropologist whose stories blend narrative non-fiction with ethnography. He has been a contributing editor at Wired and his work also appears in Mother Jones, Foreign Policy, Playboy, Details, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. He regularly appears on variety of radio and television stations from NPR to National Geographic TV and has had academic work published in Nature and SAIS Journal. He holds a number of academic appointments including as a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.
In 2010 he won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for the story “Meet the Parents” which tracked an international kidnapping-to-adoption ring. His first book, The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers, was published by William Morrow in 2011 and won the 2012 Clarion Award for best non-fiction book. His second book A Death on Diamond Mountain: A True Story of Obsession, Madness and the Path to Enlightenment came out with Gotham Books in 2015.
In 2015, Scott founded WordRates, a website that aims to add transparency to the business of journalism with Yelp-esque reviews of magazines and editors. He first traveled to India while he was a student at Kenyon College in 1998 and spent six years living there. Along the way, he learned Hindi and twice drove a motorcycle across the country. In 2004 he received a MA in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Denver, CO.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-The shocking story of the huge number of people Scott has found who have died during meditation experiences…[10:25 ]
-What Scott experienced when he first met Wim Hof…[9:55 & 15:00]
-The Native American who hung out in the dead of winter in the Boston area wearing nothing but a loincloth…[25:32]
-The #1 food item you can consume that will inhibit your body from converting white fat into metabolically active brown fat…[32:22]
-Scott’s “power pushups” and 15 minute daily workout…[48:40]
-What was the hardest part of the Laird Hamilton underwater workout for Scott…[58:30]
-The new, little-known synthetic thyroid hormone that activates brown fat tissue…[62:55]
-The crazy things heat acclimatization can do for soldiers…[70:15]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
-Book: The Oxygen Advantage
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Scott or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!
Also published on Medium.