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Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life with Krisstina Wise. This episode is a continuation of last week’s show with Shawn Stevenson, who healed himself from an ‘incurable’ disease. Shawn does some myth busting on today’s show, as well as explains why the body needs melatonin to help it recover. Did you know nurses who worked the night shift ended up having a 30% increase in incidents of breast cancer? Yes! Shawn explains why you should not be sacrificing your sleep and fueling your body with junk food.
You can also click on the time stamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.
What We Covered
- 02:30 – Traditional medicine doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
- 04:30 – What is serotonin?
- 06:50 – What is melatonin?
- 09:00 – The gut actually tells your brain what to do, not the other way around.
- 10:30 – One of Krisstina’s friends has a daughter on ADHD medicine, at the age of 10.
- 11:00 – Take the pill or change the diet?
- 11:30 – Nutrition and sleep are fundamental parts of your health.
- 12:50 – Sleep is for the strong.
- 15:15 – In a university setting, poor sleepers were more likely to drop out of college.
- 16:30 – What happens to a sleep-deprived physician?
- 22:10 – What’s your spine really made out of?
- 31:15 – Shawn is a living example of what he’s preaching.
- 31:40 – How does Shawn keep up with his lifestyle/health while he’s off traveling the world?
- 36:00 – Discipline is about becoming a disciple of yourself.
- 41:55 – Shawn closed his clinical practice, something he had been running for over 10 years, to focus on his podcast, writing books, and speaking at conferences.
- 44:55 – What myths would Shawn like to bust today?
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Read the Transcription!
You are at the intersection of wealth, health, and happiness. Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life.
Hello, and welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life, the show about becoming wealthy without sacrificing your healthy. Each week, I interview a counter-cultural thought leader to bring you a unique millionaire mindset. I’m Krisstina Wise, bestselling author, millionaire coach, and your personal guide to money, health, and happiness.
Today, I tackle health wealth with Shawn Stevenson. Shawn is the bestselling author of Sleep Smarter, a comprehensive guide of 21 strategies to help people sleep their way toward a healthier body. Shawn is the host of the smash hit podcast, The Model Health Show, which gets millions of downloads per year and was once featured as the number 1 health podcast on iTunes.
Shawn has an amazing story. He was diagnosed with a devastating illness at the age of 20 that caused a loss of function in one of his legs. He was eventually able to make a full recovery through diet, exercise, and mindset changes. Now, he’s one of the most prominent voices in the health community. He’s gone onto become the founder of Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company providing health and wellness services worldwide. He’s been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Men’s Health, ESPN, FOX News, and many other major media outlets. As you can tell, Shawn is quite the success story. I loved this interview. I was inspired hearing about his own healing journey and how he’s turned his struggle into educating others about health wealth across the globe. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did.
This is part two of a two-part interview. So, if you miss part one, be sure to check out last week’s episode in order to catch up.
Also, one other thing even with some imbalances it’s like they’re not permanent, maybe, chemical imbalances but you take it down to like where you’re an expert is balances, imbalances happen by our diets out of whack in or sleep’s off, and these different things that we’re going. We go to the doctor, they prescribe a pill to take care of a symptom based on some diagnosis or prognosis they offer, and then we just do that forever and we’re never getting to the root of the problem. How much of the root of all of these emotional and physical issues come to your three specialties which is basically diet, fitness — I mean food fitness and sleep?
Yeah. Oh my goodness. Another person that I had a conversation with recently is Dr. Daniel Amen. He’s like the leading person in the world, he’s done more brain imaging scans, SPECT scans, looking at the human brain than any other person walking around on the planet by far. They use his research also for the movie Concussion, for example, and there are absolutely moments. When we’re having this conversation, it’s not to be ignorant to the fact that, yes, there are absolutely some spaces where there is something off with our chemical imbalance or damage to our brains. But, you can actually get in and look at that before you throw in the towel and say, “This is what I’m destined to be is this person that’s filling the blank.”
What’s so beautiful is that there’s this thing called neuroplasticity. Your brain can heal, your brain can develop, and continue to grow. Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist I just talked with as well – so crazy I’ve been talking with all these people about the brain recently, and we’re talking about this – but I learned from the best. There are specific parts of your brain that continue to grow and develop even as you move into your senior years where we were once believed, for many, many years, that our brains are fixed. You know, you’ve got what you got and that’s the end of the story, and it’s just not. It’s not the end of the story.
So, when we talk about these chemical imbalances, let’s drill in and talk about, specifically, like what are some of the big things we’re looking at? Well, one of the big players here specifically doing clinical work and seeing so many SSRI. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, these were very popular, still are, very popular anti-depressant medications. What these are, essentially, their role is to make sure that you’re not metabolizing serotonin too quickly so it can kind of float around in your system a little longer.
What is serotonin anyways? Serotonin is this really powerful neurotransmitter that is known as a “feel-good” neurotransmitter. It’s an antidepressant neurotransmitter. What’s even more fascinating about it is it’s not going on in your brain. Let me explain myself. What’s been recently discovered is that over 90% of your serotonin is actually located in your gut, not your brain. So, when we get fixated on this thing of like there’s a chemical imbalance in your brain, it’s not really how it works. Most of your serotonin is in your gut tissue.
What does this say? Guess what? What my field is really, and I’ve wrote a bestselling book on sleep, but I’m a nutritionist but I’ve been studying nutrigenomics for almost ten years, and that’s how nutrition literally impacts your genetic expression, but you don’t hear that kind of stuff. That’s what happened with me. I literally turned on a program to make me a very old person when I was very young; bones breaking down, tissues deteriorating, and I was able to turn on a different genetic program for health, vitality, regeneration of tissue, greater hormonal balance, all that good stuff by consciously utilizing my nutrition.
So, with that said, if all that serotonin is in your gut tissues, guess what’s going to impact your serotonin production? Food. What you put in your gut, whether it’s a doughnut, or a bagel – or I’m just like thinking about circles right now – or a burger, whatever it is, it’s going to impact your serotonin levels, period. So, we’re looking at things the wrong way, here’s a drug for that. Well, what’s creating the underlying problem here?
Another big thing is our sleep quality. I devoted an entire chapter to this. It was fascinating to me. This was called “Fix your gut to fix your sleep”, this particular chapter, chapter 7. Researchers found – and this was crazy like blew my mind – not only is serotonin like sleep — the big hormone that people talk about with sleep quality is melatonin, right? Melatonin is a driver of sleep programs, if I could put it simply. Melatonin, here’s what people aren’t talking about is that it’s also quite possibly our number one endogenous anti-cancer hormone as well. This is why the World Health Organization come out and said that shift work is a class 2A carcinogen. So being up at night and not having a proper day and night cycle where you’re producing melatonin at night causes cancer to the degree in this nurse’s study that I cited in the book as well. 30 nurses who worked the night shift had 30% greater incidents of cancer, breast cancer, high rates of heart disease, diabetes, you name it.
We appear again, we’re treating this the wrong way instead of addressing the underlying cost. So, melatonin, they discovered — again, fascinating. When I was in school, I was thought melatonin is produced by a pineal gland, that’s the end of the story. Well, guess what? Over 90% of your melatonin is located in your gut as well into chromaffin cells, if I remember correctly, or maybe that’s for the serotonin. Anyways, these cells in your gut that are storing and also studying, this was in pineal research and I just want to throw this out there really quickly, found that melatonin is also a very powerful fat-burning hormone. So, I’m just going to throw that out there too. They found in this journal that published the study that found that melatonin increases your body’s production of brown adipose tissue which is fat that burns fat. It’s fat that burns fat that burns white adipose tissue which is like the subcutaneous fat, like the kind of gooey stuff that we want to get rid of. Just again, if you’re not sleeping well, you’re not healing, and also you’re not burning fat at the level you could be.
So, to kind of wrap all of this up with what’s going on with the gut, with our brain function, with our health, the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects your brain to your gut. What scientists found was that, most of the information is your gut is telling your brain what to do and not the opposite. So, they found that 90% of the data or the information that’s traveling along your vagus nerve is from the gut to the brain. There’s a lot 90s here. Over 90% serotonin, over 90% melatonin, and 90% of that communication is from the gut to the brain.
So, what’s going on in your gut is heavily influencing your mood, it’s influencing your hormone production, because the big take-away I want everybody to have today is that the way that you feel, the way that you physically have a feeling is determined by your hormones and neurotransmitters. That’s what feelings are, as far as this chemical structure. That’s what we need to be looking at. How can we eat a hormone-healthy diet? How can we have hormone healthy movement practices? How can we make sure that we’re fortifying? I promise you, your sleep has a bigger on your hormone function than your diet and exercise combined. We could talk all about that if you’d like as well.
Well, I think the biggest takeaway here is that what we’re not — again, we’re going back to this cultural thing, take a pill versus — in fact, I’ll back up a little bit. Last night, we had some company over, some people from out of town, and we were chatting a lot of health conversation and they were asking me some questions, and one of the men was talking about his stepdaughter was just 10 was prescribed with ADHD, and she’s on medication. I mean no judgment. I’m not a doctor, but my first question was, “How much sugar was she eating? What is her diet?” That was like the big, his eyes get this big, “Well, what do you mean?” and I’m like, “Well,” I just gave him a few sugar examples, and he said, “Well a lot.”
So, I didn’t say anything because he wasn’t asking me for my advice. I just triggered a question. That same thing, like take a pill or change the diet. It’s the cultural like, “Well, I’d rather change. I’m almost rather maybe my child take the pill to take care of these behavioral issues or whatever,” versus maybe changing the diet to be less sugar- prominent or whatever.
But that’s just it, it’s behavioral, but I love this, that the gut really is responsible for the mood: the hormones, the neuros, so it goes back like nutrition is like the fundamental most important piece, one of them that’s missed, that’s completely missed because we’re just shoving any food down our throat.
Then, the other side of that, what you’re saying is that sleep is the one thing and we can talk a little bit about that now. But, it’s the first thing we give away, even those of us that, maybe, are exercising regularly and eat a pretty decent healthy diet. What do we do? We’re not sleeping. Like we’ll sacrifice to sleep to get more exercise in, or to get that last hour of work in or whatever. I think now the science is showing us like, “Oh sleep is –” there’s so many things that are happening during sleep that we do not want to sacrifice our sleep for anything.
Yeah, that’s it. We’ve become a culture of, if you’re not doing something, you’re going backwards in a weird way. You know, like you need to crush it, you need to burn the midnight oil. If you’re going to be successful, that’s the name of the game. Now, I’ve talked to many of those people who promote those things with their lifestyle: Gary Vaynerchuk, Eric Thomas, who’s like the top motivational speaker in the world. These guys, I know them. I know the real story behind what’s going on with them as well, but we’ll save that for another time.
The hashtag now needs to change is “Sleep is for the strong. Sleep is for the rich.” Because, number one, and I just want, first of all, acknowledge you for having the wherewithal, because I know it’s concerning when you hear, “Boom! Their kid is on drugs,” and it’s like, “Wow, there’s obviously an issue here,” is not preach to somebody. It’s like if they’re not asking my advice, I’m not sharing. That’s what I do. Because, what happens, it used to be, we go to functions or whatever, even it’s like a family reunion or picnic or something I’d go, all of a sudden the whole thing revolves around Shawn. I don’t want that to happen. If somebody asks me something, I will tell them but the information is there for you to see. I mean, the research is all there, but our job is to package it up in a way that is entertaining, that’s easy to understand. I love the quote from Einstein that says, essentially that, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.” So, that’s what I really pride myself on doing.
Just to go back to that point of — and so the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published a study and they found that poor sleep quality was equal to binge drinking and marijuana use in determining academic performance. So, our kids are performing on their academics, and that’s our immediate problem, like we focused on that. “You’ve got to get your grades up. You’re struggling with your focus and all this stuff. We’re going to put you on this medication.” All the while, the kids are getting to stay up at 2 o’clock in the morning playing, what is the game people play? I don’t know. Call of Duty, got it. Call of Duty 14, whatever they’re at right now, and they’re not paying attention to basic human needs.
The thing is it’s so attractive. I mean, the video games, the TV. We live in the golden age of television straight up like everything is good. I get it. I totally get it. At the same time, you have to put it in its proper place. Do you want to continue to watch people living an exceptional, interesting life on television or do you want to live that life, right? What we’re doing is we’re vicariously through these characters, and at the end of the day, you turn the TV off then you get back to whatever life you have, which for a lot of us, it’s not the place we want to be, or that we know that we’re capable of.
Bottom line is the study report, it also said that these individuals, these poor sleepers in this university setting in this study had greater incidences of getting poor grades, number one, than great sleepers and also dropping out – dropping out, giving up. There’s different degrees of giving up and dropping out, by the way, because I was in that place. Like, literally, I was going to class, but I had given up, you know. Also, I’d dropped quite a few classes. I went from a 12 or 15 credit load and then a couple of semesters throughout that struggle with my spine, I’d end up with three credits one year, or six, and just scraping by. I became a super-duper senior, the years that I was in college before I graduated. I graduated and changed everything when I got my health back on track. Not back on track. It became far better than anything I know possible.
I also don’t want people to have that language of, “I just need to get back to where I was.” No. You want to be better than you were before and that’s what you have possible for you right now. All that other stuff was just training, that was the beginning of something great. You get to learn the lesson so now you get to absolutely crush it.
One other thing I want to share in regards to sleep and the brain, there was a study, it was published in the Lancet, and this was actually done on physicians. This should be super eye-opening for people. This is a physician study. They had the physician to come in and complete a task, then they sleep-deprived him for just 24 hours, which is not that uncommon. They had have him do the same exact task, and now, second time around, after being sleep-deprived, doing the same thing, they made 20% more mistakes doing the same exact thing, and it took them 14% longer to do the same exact thing.
The context, number one, of our physicians, this being on and the sleep-deprivation that’s a chronic acceptable thing, think of all the mistakes that happened. I don’t want that mistake to happen with somebody that I care about, which is pretty much everybody. But also, understanding that we’re all doing this to ourselves. We’re making more mistakes in our lives, in our work, in our family, in our relationships because we’re sleep-deprived and we don’t know it and we also are taking longer to do that work. If you are sacrificing sleep to work on your project, crush it, build that new website, or whatever, you’re going to cause more things you got to come back and clean up.
What we’ve gotten into is a situation where we’re mistaking doing work from actually being productive. And your sleep quality is a huge determinant of that. Of course, we could do a whole show just talking about the strategies, because what I’ve done with Sleep Smarter is, first and foremost, I have to tell everybody is that it’s not necessarily about sleeping more. I’m sorry; it just isn’t.
People who’ve endorsed my book like America’s Sleep Doctor. The America’s Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, has been on Dr. Oz like 70 times or whatever. He endorses my book, and essentially, if you look at my book, it’s the bestselling, highest-reviewed, also it’s an international bestseller because of this one thing that’s different from all the other books on sleep is that it’s absolutely loaded with solutions that are tangible. 21 clinically proven strategies to improve your sleep quality and I said quality, not sleep more, because that’s what it’s really about is making sure that your brain is going through the proper sleep cycles. You know, the beta waves are transitioning to the alpha, theta, that kind of stuff, and it’s all done by making sure that your hormones is doing what they’re supposed to do, making sure you get some exercise in the first part of the day for example.
According to Appalachian State, morning exercisers spent more time in the deepest, most anabolic stages of sleep. They had more efficient sleep cycles and a 25% greater drop in blood pressure at night, which is correlated with the parasympathetic nervous system activation, and turning off the fight-or-flight system just by getting five or ten minutes of exercise in the morning. It doesn’t mean you can’t go to the gym later in the day if that’s when you got time, but simply by doing some exercise, you can sleep better.
It’s really powerful stuff and it’s all things like that. Also, I’m big on implementation too. Now that I know that thing, what do I do? That’s a big thing I think is left out a lot in conversations with so-called experts. Some people are great at what they do, but we got to stop making this stuff so complicated that people can’t do it. They’re able to really strive for something that’s tangible that is like a visceral connection to, which I think we’ve accomplished on this show on how important some of these things are, whether it’s with improving your sleep quality or changing something with your mindset, and your perception of reality, and your association with your medical practitioners. That’s what it’s really about for me.
That’s awesome. We’re coming, I mean, I can talk to you all day long so thank you for being so generous with your time, and we’re coming close to the end of our time together. A couple of things, just to circle back, almost to where we started, are you saying that you completely reversed being practically bed-ridden by changing your diet, your sleep, and maybe reincorporating, maybe, changing the way you thought about exercise and fitness? That’s what you did to reverse that serious of an illness?
I’m so glad you brought this up because there are going to be a tremendous amount of people. I just did a talk at this Cusp Conference in Chicago, I did a talk at Gogo while I was there. How many people lined up to ask me about their back problems, or their significant other’s back problems. So many people hearing this are going to be in that same like it’s become something that’s really pervasive in our culture, but at the same time, when this happened to me back in 2000, it wasn’t as common knowledge that there is something you could do about it. I mean, they told me this was incurable back then. Now, that word isn’t used. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
So, to kind of share some of this science really quickly, when I’m talking about changing with nutrition, luckily, I was analytical enough. My first shot was I was drinking like Slimfast shakes which is, “Ew, it’s so bad. It’s so gross.” I was like freezing up, trying to do whatever I could to try to get the weight off whatever, but very misguided in my approach because I was going with popular culture like this is what I’m supposed to do.
But, you’ve heard this saying, “When a student is ready, the teacher will appear,” and the right information, right books, right websites started to show up for me because I was asking different questions. One of the questions that I asked that is hugely important for anybody dealing with any type of degeneration is that ask what is that tissue actually made of? What is my spine actually made of? So when I asked that question, I came across and eventually found out, because when you hear about bone density or bone health, what’s the first thing that you think about as far as nutrition like what’s the main mineral that you think about?
Calcium. Those milk moustache commercials are phenomenal at getting in your brain, and it just doesn’t work like that. It’s great marketing. There were like over 200 different compounds, and many of them were far more important than calcium. Calcium was really an end product that your bone can eventually come across. It’s called biological transmutation, not to geek out too much. But anyways, what those building blocks for your bone and your tissue are things like silica, polysaccharides, sulfur-bearing amino acids.
All of these things I started to learn about it, it’s like I was eating pizza for breakfast and like Sunny Delight, and I wasn’t giving any of that stuff in my body. So, literally, your body cannot rebuild tissues if it doesn’t have the raw materials to do so. It will do the best job it can. I came across some fascinating research then, like one of the first books that I came across, and it just blew my mind, and it said specifically that this degeneration of your spine will happen because of a deficiency in some of the nutrients that I just talked about, including calcium as well, because your body works on the hierarchy of needs. It’s going to do the most important function first.
So, it could care less about the integrity of my spine if it needs calcium to clot my blood and keep me alive. My body was so deficient in these nutrients, it’s leeching them from my spine and from my bones, specifically from my hips, and in the book, it blew my mind because it said, “It will take it from your spine and hips first.” I broke my hips already, and my spine was deteriorating to the degree they said I was an 80-year-old person inside right? So, when I started to flood my tissues with those nutrients, that was a huge, huge leverage because now I’m giving my body the materials that it needs to do the job, which it didn’t have before. So, that’s number one.
Number two, when we talk about — because a lot of people are dealing with disc degeneration, so the disc between the vertebrae and the spine. Here’s something fascinating is that your disc, they’re non-vascular. They’re non-vascular, what does that mean? This basically means that blood flow and nutrients don’t go directly to the disc. So, even though I’m talking about flooding my tissues with these nutrients, your discs are the last place to get hydration when you drink water. It’s a process called remote diffusion, to again, get a little nerdy with it. But, bottom line is you have to have so — you have to be super hydrated, you have to have so much hydration in your tissues that it can finally get to your disc. Everybody, at the end of the day, when you wake up in the morning, you’re taller than when you go to bed at night. Gravity, just the wearing of the day starts to push down on your vertebrae on your disc, and you lose that hydration, and that kind of juiciness and suppleness in your disc. That’s what they said I was chronically deficient and I was missing.
Here’s the thing. I was drinking, no joke, like maybe, maybe a glass of water a day, maybe like 12 ounces or something. I don’t know how I survived. It speaks to the resilience of the human body, and I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. I mean, I had to be like straight-up cotton mouth thirsty to go and drink some water. I would drink like soda, Kool-Aid. My drink of choice, my wine was a Hawaiian Punch. That was my beautiful treat, my tasty treat that I would drink on. Crazy thing is all of those things leech minerals from your body for it to process. All that sugar, it takes minerals from your tissues in order for your body to process and save your ass so that you can actually live through drinking that stuff.
That was another big thing. I started to super hydrate my tissues. When it comes to movement, I’m just going to share one important nugget here, and this was a study that was done on racehorses, which if a racehorse breaks a bone it’s like grounds for the horse to be put down and that’s a loss. Potentially, millions of dollars for their owner. So, they started to do studies to find out how they can increase their bone density so that we have less rates of theses bones breaking. They had the control group that didn’t do anything different and then they had the study group. One of the study groups, they gave the horses supplements with some of the nutrients I’m talking about, and they had increase in their bone density, yes, but they found out that when the horses were given supplements and walked, their bone density increased even more. That’s the key. Exercise is not about having a six-pack or a super fit body. Those are side effects. Exercise is really about assimilation of nutrients and detoxification of metabolic waste products.
My tissues were so full of waste because of my lack of movement and mobility, this docile nature because my physician told me, “Don’t do anything. Be careful.” Your body works on that like use it or lose it basis. Guess what? Not only my spine was deteriorating, my muscles atrophied. Everything about me started to break down because I wasn’t using my body anymore. So, as soon as I started to move, in combination with consuming those high quality nutrients that my body needed, both of those things, also during the day, created more love and affection for that experience when I laid my head down at night as well, really helped with my sleep quality.
That’s what was the catalyst for my body making the transformation that it made. So, I started where I could. I didn’t just go and started lifting 400 pounds deadlift, which I could do today, spoiler alert. I just started to ride on a stationary bike because that’s what I could do at the time. It’s hard, I can’t even believe I’m saying this because of all the things that I’m doing today, but I was very embarrassed. It was hard for me to walk. Then, I began, I got on the elliptical machine, and I started to walk a little bit, then I eventually picked up the weights again. Before you knew it like, oh my goodness, it’s just I could not believe that it happened so quickly.
Everybody is different. Let me make this disclaimer. But, if you do nothing, you get nothing. You have to do what you can. When you do have that initial injury and it’s an acute situation, of course, take a day or two off and let the inflammation go down, but then you must do what you can. If it’s a back injury, if you can just go and walk for a little bit, maybe walk around a block. Just do some rehab exercises. You have to do it yourself. No one else can do your push-ups for you, that’s what is missing in this paradigm is that your physician can’t actually do the work; your body does the work. Whether it’s responding to a drug or not, your body is still doing the job.
I wanted to share those things and also with this sleep less, kind of peace years, this is when your body produces the vast majority of anabolic hormones, which anabolic means growth and development. When you’re awake, you’re in a catabolic state, your body’s breaking down. It is what it is, no matter if you’re just sitting there watching Scandal or whatever you’re watching. Your body is breaking down, and so this anabolic state is where your body produces growth hormones, for example. I needed growth hormones; I needed it so badly to grow and develop those tissues. Stem cell production, also reparative enzymes. There’s a sharp increase in repair of enzyme activity when you’re sleeping, specifically even right before you go to sleep when you’re transitioning from beta to alpha waves, that kind of thing.
All that stuff, it didn’t happen on accident. So, what I’m saying, if you’re not sleeping, you’re not healing, this is not a joke. Literally, this is when all of the magic happens from all the good stuff you do during the day. If you get that formula dialed in — and again, we could do multiple shows on all these different topics, but we’re here as a resource to show that you’ve created as a platform. Also my resources, my platform, my show, my books are all there for you to give you every tool that you need but you need to be the one to take action.
That’s so good. Just a couple more questions. This is the Wealthy Wellthy podcast and it’s the intersection of money, health, and happiness. I do a lot of health conversations, because even if we’re really ambitious, and we’re building our money, our wealth, our business, we can’t sacrifice our health for wealth. It’s really learning, part of what I’m doing is the message that we need to learn how to take care of both, and we can’t be advocating our money to planners, and we can’t be advocating our health to the docs, and to really become empowered to learn and feel empowered to build our wealth and grow our health, optimize our health.
You’re a health guy. You’re extremely successful. You have turned this into your life’s work, your passion, you’ve impacted millions of lives. Man, your energy just comes through my screen. I can’t wait to meet you in person one day. Your smile, your energy, you’ve got that great podcast voice. No wonder your podcast is like number one on iTunes. You’ve got such a good voice. But you’re a living example of what you’re preaching, what you’re teaching. So, with all this success, how do you keep all this in balance? It was question one with this. Like, how are you — there’s Gary V. I don’t know how he’s doing it. I mean, I keep waiting for the breakdown to happen. Maybe he’s an anomaly, but you know.
Part A to this question is how do you do this? How are you taking care of your sleep, and travel, and all your crazy things you’re doing as a successful entrepreneur, and speaker, and leader, and writer, and so on and so forth? So, how are you taking care of your food and how are you squeezing in your exercise as this really successful dude that’s really sacrificing a lot to make the world a better place? That’s part A and then part two is what is your money philosophy following that?
Okay, we’ll come back to the money philosophy. Actually, cool experience, Gary came on the scene as the wine library guy, and actually he had a wine tasting. I’m not a big drinker, not a big fan of wine, but I drank that day. It was definitely awesome to sit with him and to have that experience. He shared with me, in this moment, and I think this was about two years ago, this is when he made a big shift in his own health because he realized that the way he was going was not going — he’s playing the long game like he’s playing the long game, he’s got a serious ambition to buy the New York Jets, for example, and I think he’s definitely in the hundreds of millions right now as far as his net worth with his company, things like that.
But anyways, he knew his defaults. He knew the holes in his game and he’s in a position, “We either have to do it ourselves or we hire somebody who is very adept in coaching us, not doing it for us.” Some things can be done for us right, but we actually eat the meal, like somebody can make your food. He brought on a full-time trainer that traveled with him. He was paying more attention to his sleep hours and just his philosophy kind of change, just paying attention to his health. Also the food, he had to take pictures of his food and all this stuff, and stuff that I wouldn’t probably have him do, but it worked for him. It worked for him.
I just want to say that, right off the bat, these stories, they’re not what you think a lot of times, but here’s my approach and what I’ve also seen is that I’m just breaking the news. There is no balance. There just isn’t, not in your own personal life. There is a balance in the universe. There’s this if you look at the different philosophies, whether it’s yin and yang, or acid and bases, acid and alkaline, there is this balance in nature that are all working together to keep everything rolling along at a level that you cannot even imagine.
It’s so powerful to understand that, but in our own lives, we’re going to constantly experience turbulence and things being a little bit off-balanced. I love the analogy of your life being like a teeter-totter. If everything is in balance on both sides, it sucks. You’re not having any fun, nobody’s moving up or down, it’s like it’s not any fun. That imbalance keeps things interesting and it always keeps you working on a one area or another a little bit more, depending on where you are in your life right now.
There was a time when I as ferociously reading, and studying, traveling to learn about nutrition like some kind of a madman, completely out of balance with other parts like my relationship, for example. I didn’t have my youngest son yet which kind of when he got here, things changed. Kids change the structure as well, but I was definitely not the person that I am today as far as my relationship context with my kids and with my amazing wife, and I love the evolution, because being out of balance in that, it brought me back to center for a moment to focus on that more and then I just dove full into that. I have another show; it’s called “The Good Dad Project”, for example. I got more into just that experience and really embracing and loving being a father.
So, there’s always going to be something that’s getting more attention than the other thing, and that’s okay. We just have to make the decision on what is the most important to us because that’s going to get the majority of our time at different times. How I’ve been able to do all of this is I’m a very big advocate of rules and discipline, as crazy as it sounds.
The word makes you feel uncomfortable like, “I don’t want rules. I don’t want.” But, when I say discipline, the root is disciple. So, I’m a disciple of greatness; I’m a disciple of being the best. It’s becoming a disciple of yourself. That’s what your discipline is all about. What are those disciplines that lead you to the life that you really want to have? I’ve got specific rituals and disciplines that I do on a daily basis for most of them, and some things are a little bit more occasional.
But, it’s like my meditation practice or exercise. Every morning, no matter what, no matter where I am in the world, I’m going to do 5 to 10 minutes of exercise when I get up in the morning. I’m going to drink about a liter of high-quality structured water every single morning. These are things I’ve been doing for over 10 years. They’re a part of who I am, so that gives me huge leverage. With the exercise components like being able to go to the gym, or train here in my office, or whatever the case maybe, I make it easy. I’ve got a rebounder in my office, I’ve got equipment in my house, like the kettle bells and all that stuff. But, people can definitely become hoarders of fitness equipment and not use it, but it’s part of it, but we also have to trigger that internal inspiration.
Motivation can help to get there, having that daily practice of having that something that’s motivational to you. Maybe it’s this show today, or having that audio book, or that inspirational video or whatever, something that gets you in the right mental state to take action on those things every day. I think it’s critical. So, oftentimes, I’ll actually — I don’t “need it”, I’m going to do what I got to do regardless. I don’t want to love it, but because it’s a practice. So, when I’m doing that 5 to 10 minutes of exercise, I’m listening to a podcast, or I’m listening to an audio book, or something to feed my spirit. Or if I don’t happen to do that, I’m reading something personal development or something like that. So, that has to be another thing to get you to take action.
That’s how I do it all is I have specific structure and rules for my life, the way that I live my life. I have standards and I will not sacrifice those for anything or anyone. Because it’s not about — even the word “sacrifice” means to make sacred. For me, it’s a very beautiful and spiritual process. I’m not compromising my values on who I am. I’m blending. Like with my wife, of course, we’re going to have differences in opinion, all kinds of stuff. She likes Scandal, for example, and I’m more like whatever the thing I’m into. I like SportsCenter, whatever. But, we blend, we blend. We don’t have to give up the things that we love in the way that we want to be in the world. We blend, and that takes work.
I love that.
We make it happen. That’s the first part. What was the second thing?
The second is what is your money belief?
This is such a great question. Money is such a — this is what I’ve seen. I’ve seen people sacrifice their values because of money. I’ve seen people settle because of money. I’ve seen people not do the things that they want to do in their life because of money. I’ll tell you this, number one, money should never be the reason that you are not doing the things that you want to do in your life. Money should never be the reason that you give that you’re not taking action on your goals. Money, it’s a resource. It’s not everything.
There are many different things to go about being resourceful. For example, somebody came to an event – this is a great example. I just spoke for the Institute of Transformational Nutrition at their annual event in Los Angeles. Some of the students there, because it was like, I don’t know, $2,000 something to come, but some of the students got free admission because they did something. Maybe they were helping to work for the event, maybe they were, whatever it is. They were giving another way to be able to wind up being there and being present.
It doesn’t always have to be through money. Money is just a tool. But, your relationship with that tool determines a lot in your life, and for me, I’ve seen a huge transformation in my money blueprint in the way that I experience, and the ability for me, I could do whatever I want, and I’m very, very happy to be able to say that. But, it wasn’t like this for a long time. I was giving a lot of value to the world and I didn’t know how to receive it because I grew up with that mentality of like you get money and you lose it. Like, you get it, and it’s going to find its way away from you.
So, I had to work on that inner dialogue and a big key, and I’m going to say this and then I’m just going to kind of leave this point alone, you have to truly understand your value, and so many of us don’t. We are so far off from that. Once you understand your value, you won’t settle any longer, and so many of us are in fear that if we actually charge or ask for what our value really is, we’re not going to have people wanting to hire us, and we continue to do these pitty-patty little jobs and just making ends meet. What’s so crazy is you’re filling all your time and energy with that stuff so you don’t even have the space to do those grander things that are actually valuable enough to do. It’s taking this light kind of risk.
For me, I’m going to share my — I personally, before Sleep Smarter came out, actually while I was writing it, I closed my practice. My clinical practice I’ve been running for over 10 years was still an easy six-figure business that was just running on automatic, and it was a safety net. I got a lot of fulfillment and enjoy out of helping other people and seeing all of these. People would come to me, as we talked about earlier on the show. The people who they’ve been told they got Stage IV cancer, there’s nothing they can do about it. They’ve got this terminal condition, or they’ve got this degenerative diseases, this irreversible condition, their blood sugar is over 400, they don’t know how they’re walking around, they’re on metformin or they’re on lisinopril, or whatever it is. That was my work, and that was very fulfilling but I had to be honest with myself about what I wanted for my life.
That’s why I started to create my show. It was to create master classes on that subject matter so I don’t have to say this to you personally anymore and I could teach more people at the same time. I made the decision to close my practice to focus on writing books, to focus on speaking, to focus on influencing influencers. Making sure that more health practitioners had this information in their hand and stop trying to do stuff by myself with my own little life and being completely foolish, because we all — I think a lot of people listening too, you go through that lone wolf mentality of, “I’m going to do this by myself, I’m going to change the world!” But, it doesn’t really work like that. If you’re going to do anything of great significance, it’s going be with and through other people, and I embrace that, and that changed everything.
So, I closed my practice and put my full intentions and efforts into making Sleep Smarter a success. I mean, I’m going to say I can’t believe it, but I can. This was the expectation what I worked for to make it not just a bestseller here in the U.S., but an international bestselling book. It’s getting translated now, I think, in 12 different languages and all the media. I’ve been to CNN and to whatever, just like all these amazing places that it’s taking me and seen my wealth grow, but not directly through the book itself. It’s all of the other things that I’ve made myself available for that I was blocking with my little one-on-one sessions that brought me — I needed that to get me to where I am, but I couldn’t stay there. I had to understand my value, and so I just wanted to share that. I hope that offers some value to everybody.
It’s awesome. You connecting to your purpose and to your value and then being bold, and you had something very safe and comfortable and like, “No, I’ve got something bigger here I’m called to do and I’m going to have faith and go all out.” You took the risk and obviously it’s clearly paying off, so thank you for sharing that story.
One final question. On every episode, I work to do a little bit myth busting, and you’ve done a lot of it throughout, but just maybe one myth on diet nutrition food, one myth on exercise, and one myth on sleep that you just hear over, and over, and over again, and you just want to shout out to the world like, “Those are wrong and here’s the truth!” So, give me, maybe, one myth and bust each one in each of your categories.
Oh my goodness, this is the whole show right here.
I know, I know.
One of these. This is tough because of it has to have the science behind it. But, hopefully, everybody will be compassionate and understanding. This is going to be a bullet point answer, but when it comes to nutrition, it’s becoming more common knowledge now that calories did not tell the whole story, and it’s sad when I still hear about this, people buying their 200 calorie pack of SnackWell cookies or whatever. But, this is the part that people don’t hear is that it’s the quality of those calories, but what does quality actually mean? It’s what it does to your hormone. Your hormones determine everything. We even talked about in context of how you feel. But, your hormones determine everything about your physical appearance. They’re chemical messengers that communicate between all the cells in your body, what your body should be doing. So, 200 calories of those SnackWell cookies are going to impact your hormones way different than 200 calories of spinach. It’s going to have a completely different hormonal cascade. It’s the quality of those calories that we want to focus on, not the calories themselves.
So that’s one. When it comes to exercise, the idea that more is better, I think, is really a huge problem. I’ve seen this across the board in my clinic and also working with a lot of physicians and chiropractors, they’re pumped that some of these gyms that advocate like kicking your face in every day are open because it keeps them in business. They’re like, “I love it!” that this gym just opened because people are buying into that. Also, there’s this love, there’s this sense of community and purpose when we start to do this stuff. But, to think that you need to beat yourself down in order to have the body that you want, the body composition that you want is just not true.
To tie in sleep here, University of Chicago published a study recently that took dieters and they put them on the same exact diet, counting calories the whole nine, and their exercise was the same as well. Here’s what’s so interesting. One phase of the study, they allow these individuals that are tracking everything to get eight and a half hours of sleep. Another phase of the study, they own the same exact diet, no more exercise, no more cutting calories anything, but they sleep deprived them. So, now they’re getting five and a half hours of sleep. At the end of the study, they found that the people who were getting adequate sleep lost 55% more body fat. 55% more body fat, mood changes in diet and exercise.
So, exercise isn’t the key here with body transformation. Again, I told you earlier, it’s about assimilation of nutrients, elimination of metabolic waste products. The sexiness is a side effect. How do you get the most bang for your back? You do hormonally powerful exercises and you let your body heal. Exercise is a hormetic stressor and it changes during sleep, if you let your body recover. Younger people, yes, absolutely, you can “get away” with this of getting less sleep and doing some other stuff and getting — you got the hormones of like a Greek God when you’re in your teens and early 20’s.
But, what happens is, and this what I cited in Sleep Smarter, our University of California researchers found that you are shortening your telomeres, which is basically the greatest biological marker on how long you’re going to live. You’re speeding up your aging process. This is why so many people in their 20s now are getting elderly people diseases. Seeing greater rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease. Having people in their early 20’s coming in that are on like Lipitor is like, “What? How? You’re accelerating your aging process. That’s what happened to me. I accelerated my aging process. Good news is, you can turn things back.
That’s with the exercise, hormonally powerful stuff. So, that would be make sure you get at least one session every week of HIIT training – I’m sorry, of high-intensity interval training. Also, making sure that we’re lifting some heavy stuff every now and then. Maybe it’s one time a week or two times a week, you’ve got to lift some heavy weights to get that great anabolic secretion of — we’ve been talking about throughout of anabolic versus catabolic.
With sleep, another thing, more is better. You need to get seven to eight hours of sleep. That’s just wrong, straight-up wrong. Everybody is different when it comes to your sleep requirement. You’re different when it comes to your sleep requirement from how you might be next week. If you decide to, “I’m going to sign up to get my doctorate degree and I’m going train for Ironman,” guess what? You’re going to need more sleep for your brain to recover and also your physical structure as well.
It’s really the quality of sleep. Here’s just one quick nugget on how this works. You can be physiologically passed out, physically unconscious for eight hours, and there’s a study that was done – again, I cited this in the book – on caffeine consumption, and they found that individuals who consume caffeine, and they had them take caffeine right before bed, three hours before bed, and even six hours before bed. They found that caffeine consumption even six hours before going to sleep, they lost objectively through sleep monitor. The person thought they slept eight hours, but they lost a full hour of sleep. Their brainwaves and all the hormones, all that stuff was off, they lost it, a full hour of sleep.
That’s the problem is that we’re getting pseudo-sleep. We’re not actually getting the high-quality sleep that we think we’re getting. Because, a person could have actually slept for just seven hours without the caffeine and had the same effect. It’s not that caffeine is the enemy. I’m a fan, full disclosure, chocolate is great. There’s great tea, there’s coffee, all this stuff, but we need to have it on the right spot in our lives.
So, make sure that we have that in the early part of the day because many of us, on average, we have a half-life for caffeine of about eight hours. So, it means after eight hours, half of the caffeine is still active in your system. So if it’s 300 mg you took, 150 is still active eight hours later. Just having a caffeine curfew, utilizing a real like high-quality sources of caffeine, because the source of caffeine matters as well because of the co-factors that come along with the source.
That’s another big myth that I’ve been working my behind off to make sure to teach the world that it’s not about the number of hours of sleep you get; it’s about the quality of that sleep. I hope that answers the question.
You’re awesome. Thank you so much, Shawn. It’s been a real honor and pleasure to spend this time with you. I feel like I’ve made a new friend, like you’re incredible. So thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you. It’s my honor. Thank you for having me.
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