Today I’m joined by author David Hauser to discuss his new book Unstoppable — Four Steps to Transform Your Life. David shares his own journey to wellness and talks about how conventional wisdom can actually be more of a detriment to our health than a road to greater holistic wellness. He talks about how we need to be thinking about more than just diet and exercise, and explains how people can begin to think about creating a personal framework for their health plan.
Most of all, David reminds listeners that we are resilient creatures no matter where your health stands today, it doesn’t mean that it’s too late or that you’re stuck in the status quo.
David Hauser: I actually had a pretty long journey, and I think a path a lot of people follow, which is just following a lot of conventional wisdom. I struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. Actually, writing a book was actually very difficult because I had to think back to those times that I probably didn’t want to remember.
I tried everything to lose weight and to feel healthy. I exercised more, I ate a low-fat diet, I went to extremes, I ran the Boston Marathon, I did Iron Mans, five-, six-hour bike rides…nothing worked, right? Through that whole time, losing again a little bit of weight never feeling good or healthy, working a tremendous amount, hundred-plus hour weeks in my business.
And the real turning point was I started going to yoga class at a gym here in Las Vegas and I just started connecting with who I was feeling and over time, I changed my diet over probably about a four year period, significantly changed my diet to a more ketogenic type diet.
Focused on sleep, so going to bed earlier, all of the things that my mom probably told me to do and over that period of time, little optimizations, bit by bit by bit.
Now I feel amazing.
Nikki Van Noy: What was it before? What was it like being you at that time?
David Hauser: Unfortunately, when we’re doing worse and worse or better and better, we never realized—because it’s small changes over time—how it felt a long time ago, right? We just like, “It’s normal to feel like this because yesterday you felt kind of like this,” right?
I had no energy, I would fall asleep way too early and then wake up late and work late.
A lot of brain fog, distraction, couldn’t focus on work, definitely overweight and struggling with trying to lose and maintain a healthy, fit body. I think all of those things came together and just hit me—I don’t want to continue like this.
Shaking Off Conventional Wisdom
Nikki Van Noy: What pieces of conventional wisdom were the most detrimental for you, if that’s the right word, or what did you really theoretically believe in that just practically did not work?
David Hauser: I think the key is really finding what works for each individual, and the problem that we have today is we’re told sweeping judgments that should work for everyone. I think what’s been proven over time is it doesn’t work for the vast majority, right?
Those two things are eat less, exercise more, right? That does not work for most people.
The reason it doesn’t work is because this is not a game of willpower and just trying to eat less. Most of our bodies are tremendously unhealthy from years of overconsumption of sugar and carbohydrates and things like that. So maybe that starts to work once we’ve readjusted back to healthy state. But when more than 50% of the population is obese or overweight and people more and more have diabetes.
All of the problems that we have—it’s not a healthy population. None of those things worked for me, right? I tried those extremes. I tried Slim Fast shakes, I tried eating almost nothing, I obviously exercised to an extreme doing marathons and Iron Mans, hurting my body along the way, and none of that actually worked for me.
I decided to just try, as much as possible, things that were different.
I did a vegan diet for six months, and day one just said, “Okay, that’s it, I’m all in.”
I lost a little bit of weight, but the problem was I felt hungry all the time, which is another thing I always struggled with, like always wanting to eat. I could set down and eat just tremendous amounts of food and I’m like, this can’t be good, right?
Even though we’re all told a vegan diet is the “right thing” and all these things we hear, it didn’t work for me. I said, what’s the next extreme I can go to, and for me, that was a high fat diet and that worked for me tremendously well.
Nikki Van Noy: I’d like to get an idea of what works for you—so it sounds like there’s some yoga, a high fat diet. Is there anything else that is very important in your wellness today?
David Hauser: Yeah, for me it was a bunch of stuff, but I don’t think it’s really important what works for me necessarily, right? All these things are true, I think the categories are important. One category is sleep, one category is diet, another one is supplementation and kind of blood testing and looking at where our levels are actually at, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, that’s all another category. Exercise is another category, right?
Finding what in each of these areas works for an individual is the most important thing.
Because just because it worked for me doesn’t really matter, right? The priority order is very different. If I’m not struggling with weight, then my top priority is very different than someone else’s right? Those priorities change over time.
The book that I put the other really lays out a framework to allow each and individual to pick those things.
You know, what’s funny about it is it would have been far easier to write a quick fix book, right? “Do these seven things and you will be the best person ever.” But at the end of the day, that’s not the truth, that’s not what really happens and that’s not really what works for people.
Categories of Health
Nikki Van Noy: You mentioned these different categories which go beyond just exercise and eating—I’m curious if you’ve noticed that there’s any one of those categories that we just sort of societally tend to not pay attention to that we should, for holistic health?
David Hauser: Yeah, I think sleep is the one that adds the most value because very small changes actually have tremendous effect. They’re not necessarily easy changes, but they are small. Going to bed between 9:30 and 10, closer to 9:30 maybe even 9 PM is conventionally difficult in the world we live in today. I think it has one of the biggest effects on actually getting good sleep.
Waking up without an alarm clock naturally when the sun rises happens just as you go to bed earlier, right?
Not eating within three hours of bedtime. Now, again, these are all difficult things in our society because we’re always on the go, we’re getting back late, we’re encouraged to work late and hustle and all these other things, and then that means we eat later, right?
When you think about these, they’re all very small, and if you put those three together, tremendous benefits of change of sleep and duration and quality of sleep has an effect throughout the rest of the day, throughout the rest of the week.
That’s where I tell people to focus if they’re looking for big improvements quickly.
And then probably diet comes after that, because again, we can make big improvements, and it’s an area that in our society is accepted as something that we do and change and test, right? Diets are something that that people do, right?
If you tell someone you’re testing a new sleep pattern or thing, they are like, “What are you talking about?” Right?
Nikki Van Noy: I think probably most people notice this. When you were talking about brain fog, that is something I very much relate to and that at least for me, has a roll down impact on everything. I tend to eat worse when I’m foggy because I’m looking for quick fixes. I’m not thinking things through. I move differently, I can see at least in my own life how a lot of things stem from that.
David Hauser: Yeah, I think it goes to a lot of stuff. Productivity at work and at home, connection with family, right? When you have brain fog and you can’t focus on things during the day and then you get home and you’re trying to engage with your kids, even that’s difficult, right?
Forgetting things, and “maybe I’m just getting old and I forget things.” No, we shouldn’t naturally do that. Over time it seems to get worse and worse because we just accept it rather than do something about it.
Brain fog has a lot to do with sleep and eating.
Nikki Van Noy: I know you talk about this in the book—there’s this sort of perception that there’s an inevitability to all of this that as we get older. We gain weight, we’re less active, we’re not as quick, all these things happen. Can you speak to that a little bit?
David Hauser: I think we’ve just accepted this, right? We’ve been told that your legs are going to hurt…I get that when I’m really old. But when I’m 35, 40, 50, 60, I don’t want to experience any of those things, or at least as little as possible, right?
I think we can change the mindset and say, “No, I can actually get better over time.”
We become much better, and we find that intersection between health and longevity.
A lot of people today talk about wanting to live a long time. Yeah, I do want to live a long time to see my kids experience great things and have great grandkids and experienced fun things in life, yes absolutely.
But what I really want is for my health to intersect there so I can enjoy all of that stuff. I don’t just want be a hundred years old and in bad health, right? Because those are two vastly different experiences.
What Works for You?
Nikki Van Noy: You’ve become so passionate about those and seeing just a profound impact in your own life, that you now help empower others to optimize their own lives by reclaiming their health as you’re obviously doing with this book. Talk to me a little bit about what that looks like for you.
David Hauser: Yeah, I mean, writing a book was probably the least of the things that I would ever expect to do, and it really stemmed from people asking me, “Hey David, I saw you lost weight, what did you do? How should I do it?” You know, “I am struggling with this, what should I do?”
I have created this framework internally for myself to use, and I started to realize that people aren’t really asking me or caring what worked for me, right? That is the question they asked but that is not the answer they wanted, right?
They wanted to know “what is going to work for me,” and that is what I wanted to get at. That is why I wrote this book. I really do want to empower others to find the same solutions over time, and I try to do that with anyone who asks me those things.
The one thing I don’t do is push it on other people, right?
So if someone is not ready to do this or approach it or make a change, then there is nothing I can do about it. I think that is the mistake a lot of people make is, they’re like, “Oh my god I am so passionate about this. Oh my God this changed my life and you should do this.”
No, that’s not the right way. If someone is ready, they will ask you.
It is so hard because we are so passionate, and it’s made such a massive change in our lives that we go out and talk about it, right? I think talking about it is fine. I think it is the next step where we start to force it on others.
I was that idiot before saying, “Oh you should never red meat,” because I bought into that conventional wisdom, which is just ridiculous.
If someone at dinner asks me why I’m not eating something, “Ah, it is just a diet I am on,” right? Rather than going into some long thing about why they should do it.
Reversing Health Outcomes
Nikki Van Noy: Outside of your own, I am curious if through this conversation you’ve witnessed any transformation stories that really standout to you? Not in terms necessarily of how it happened, because I know that is not what you are talking about but just to speak to the impact of how bettering our wellness kind of trickles throughout our lives.
David Hauser: Examples that come to mind right away, I have talked to people that have made changes and significantly or totally removed all insulin use when they were type 2 diabetic. And I think if you look at the stories across the board, making dietary changes has that effect, where we can regain the health that we previously had. It is not a lost cause. Type 2 diabetes is the perfect example.
The expectation of the medical community and society is once you have type 2 diabetes that’s it forever. You are going to take insulin and that’s it, which is not the case. We can correct that. I think that is one.
Two, a lot of people have said to me changing my sleep patterns have changed my productivity tremendously. I get up earlier, I get more done, and I am done earlier in the day, but I have done far more in those hours. So it is magically gaining hours in a day. Where I speak to tons of entrepreneurs and they like, “Oh my God, I wish I had more hours in a day. I wish I could get more done.”
I always explain to them go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and magical things will happen. You will feel like there are more hours.
So those are the two that come to mind, but here’s been all sorts of people talk to me about stuff and the changes they made in their life in a positive way.
The human body is quite an amazing machine, very complex. We don’t understand all of it, but one thing we do know and we understand is that it is very resilient. It wants to survive. And we have made a lot of damage to the human body with diet, exercise, the things we have been telling people, the way our society is set up, we sit in chairs all day…all these things are set up to prevent what the human body is meant to do.
But it doesn’t mean that we can’t make small changes and get back on track very quickly, because the body resets.
Just think about blood right? The human supply of blood resets every I think roughly 30 days, right? So just think about that and all of the other systems in our body that are constantly going through these resets.
This is a good example is fasting right? One of the biggest benefits of fasting—not long term fast, like 16 to 18 hour fast—is autophagy. It is the body killing off cells that need to die and go away, because part of that regeneration and resetting process happens every day.
And when we don’t go through that process, we keep cells around that shouldn’t be there, right? And our society has set us up to do that.
Raising Healthy Kids
Nikki Van Noy: You have mentioned that you have children. I am curious about what you do with them to set them up for success and looking at their health in this way.
David Hauser: Yeah, this is a really difficult area, right? Because kids don’t really care about this, right? This is not a conversation like, “Well, you know when you are 30 you might care,” they’re like, “No I want ice cream and cake.”
So when I try to set up all of those experiences, it’s much more about experience rather than the thing.
If as a family we are going to get ice cream, that’s different than just having ice cream. So make it more about the experience, less about the thing. And then also don’t take everything away from children.
People can buy into a diet and that’s fine. We want to buy high quality foods. We want to reduce sugar at home, all of those things. We don’t eliminate and say you can never have that, right?
Because it is not the world we live in, and I think that is setting them up for failure.
The other thing is, in my mind, really setting them up with the best education possible. So earlier in life they can start to think about these things with my encouragement, and if they have a critical mind and are willing to question things and look for what works for them, that I think is the best possible success.
Look for the Cause
Nikki Van Noy: For listeners who are hearing this and are motivated, what can they start to think about—how can they begin to recalibrate their own framework in an achievable way after they have finished listening to this podcast?
David Hauser: I think the first thing to do really is to think about what affects the most today, right? So stepping back and saying, “Why do I get a headache every evening?” and instead of taking the Advil or whatever pain killer, why is this happening?
What are the things that happened earlier in the day, if I make small changes like may having an effect on this, right? Looking at the things that our body is screaming about like that’s where I always start.
And that could be headaches, eye strain. That could be weight, that could be pain in the knees or back from sitting all day. There are so many things, and we try to either mask or hide the pain or ignore the pain rather than stopping for a second and being present and listening to the pain.
Nikki Van Noy: Right that is another interesting point. It seems to me that we can recalibrate very quickly. So after a while we stop even thinking about taking that Advil at the end of the day. It is just what we do without questioning.
David Hauser: Yeah and we’re like, “Well I get headaches every day.” And we just accept it rather than being like, “Why do I get headaches every day?”
I was that person, right? I used to get headaches from staring at my computer screen all day. I made small changes, I installed Flux. So I got rid of a lot of blue light on the screen. I changed the environment on my office to only have natural light and not fluorescent lights over my head.
So small changes, but I have gotten rid of those headaches 100%.
Same is true for back pain. At one point, I had so much back pain from exercising and biking and doing all of these things and all of this stuff I couldn’t sit in my car to drive a few miles without it hurting a lot. I switched to a standing desk in variation during the day and all of that back pain went away.
So the body was just telling me something, but rather than listening, I was like, “Ah I am just going to take an Advil at night.”
Nikki Van Noy: You mentioned earlier on in this conversation that at the point when you are not in a healthy place, you are working a 100 hours a week. It sounds to me like you are not doing that anymore, and I am curious if there is a relationship there.
David Hauser: I wish I could say magically it happened, right? I was reducing the amount of time I worked when I started exercising more. So it was before I started to really change my life, and that was just out of necessity. If you have to take a seven-hour bike ride you just can’t work it that many hours, and if you do it twice a week, there is 14 hours.
I think that pushed me a little bit, but that is when I started to realize that I could be far more efficient in my time during the day. And on top of that rather than trying to take these breaks and vacations and being like this work-life balance thing, I just tried to do work-life integration, right? So people always make fun of me—on vacation I will check my emails and respond to things in the morning, maybe for 30 minutes, an hour, maybe two hours, most of the time it is before everyone else has woken up.
So it doesn’t really matter what I have done with that time otherwise? But it means when I get back I am not overloaded with stuff. I can accomplish things. I can travel freely. I can go do the stuff I want to do with far less concern. I think that is a better way to approach it.