Mission Statement/Intro (of sorts)
I write mostly about technology and health/wellness. Where “wellness” isn’t that snake oil bullshit they sell you on TikTok or in popular magazines or blogs, not a pastel colored unattainable state, but the very simple question: do you feel good in your skin?
You don’t have to meditate over your organic mate tea smells, you don’t have to listen to hours of affirmations on YouTube or one of those expensive pay-per-month apps. You really don’t have to buy someone’s supplements or expensive online “tutorials.” Instead, for 95% of us, all it takes is a weekend hiking, an evening stroll, maybe a food diary, and the firm commitment to never, ever, let anyone (me included) tell you what makes you well or happy.
Now, let’s bring those two apart: wellness is part of health. But not all health is wellness. For your health you have one, exactly one, source of truth: your physician. Emphasis on “your.” Wellness is less and simultaneously more. It’s also an easy out for “gurus” and other scumbags trying to sell you something. “It’s not health, it’s wellness,” they crow and thus avoid being held accountable for their actions and statements.
But it’s also more. Wellness is the basis for health. Mental and physical wellbeing, feeling good in one’s own skin, knowing where to work and where everything is fine and within healthy parameters, that’s an important part of being or becoming healthy. And it is the almost whole science of preventative medicine, a field that is sadly much neglected in the world.
In short, preventative medicine is the idea, that it’s better to manage health than manage disease. To offer tools and advice that prevents many illnesses, rather than firefighting when they happen. The recent pandemic has shown this in 4k: masks, vaccinations, distance, all those were preventative medicine, while whatever happened in the hands of physicians was therapy, the managing of disease.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, we all need some help in this regard. I know, I do. And I know, my friends do. Inherently, we’re our own worst enemies, when it comes to wellness. We find many excuses why a little activity, right now, isn’t in the cards. We explain to ourselves why it’s OK to eat a whole 500g bar of chocolate, and it makes perfect sense. And we’re notoriously bad at estimating our food intake and activity levels.
That’s where technology comes in. Studies  suggest, that “gamification” can greatly increase both adherence to healthy habits as well as make them fun. In a nutshell, if your Garmin watch has you compete against 15 strangers to get your 75k steps in this week, and ranks you, that’s gamification. If your Fitbit tells you, you’ve just walked the equivalent of once around the moon, that, too, is gamification.
Technology is also a useful tool to verify one’s efforts. Like above, we need positive feedback and affirmation. But health is sneaky, slow. Walk 20k steps every month, and you won’t feel any different. Not because you aren’t, you are, but because it sneaks up on us, little by little, nickel and dime, and we’re really bad at detecting subtle changes in us. That is, by the way, why 50 year olds think they still pass as 25 year olds. To them, little has changed.
So, technology is a force for good. But it can also be the opposite, and way too often it is.
Since the widespread introduction of HRV and VO2max in fitness watches and chest straps, questions on forums like Reddit have skyrocketed, with users genuinely anxious because one metric dropped or didn’t rise as quickly as they had hoped. Health Anxiety is a huge problem, and simple numerical displays further it more than they prevent it. Gain a pound? Could just be you drank a 500ml bottle of soda, but those numbers feel painful, don’t they?
Another issue is your health data itself. Your data are not rarely “caged” in, locked behind a walled garden. Companies like Abbott, makers of a glucose sensor, and many third party smart watch makers delight in making it neigh impossible to get your data out, have unfettered access to it.
And then there’s the question where those data land. A smartwatch advertised on TikTok and Instagram, supposedly able to measure blood pressure and blood glucose values, turned out to have sent everything, including GPS locations and more, to a server in China not affiliated with the company selling the watch. Your data should always be private.
But it’s not just technology.
It’s the 20s. And the net is full of people selling supplements and “easy out” solutions. Semaglutide (the active compound in drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy) has become an Internet fad trend for weight loss, so much so, that people pay upwards of 30k a year for the, now very rare, weekly shot. To the detriment of those, whose medical conditions require them to take the drug.
If I listened to the Internet, I’d pop 34 supplements in the morning, 12 more for lunch, and 22 for dinner. While sticking to a phyto-based, keto, vegan, FODMAP, Mediterranean, smoothie, with whey protein, diet. I’d make my bed in the morning (ok, that one’s harmless, and you should totally do it), ice bath before getting dressed, spend 60 minutes, three times a week, in a sauna, and run a half-marathon every morning before work.
Getting the tools to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, on the other hand is hard. Definitely harder than the purported benefits of a cocktail of supplements for male enhancement, peddled by presumably knowledgeable physicians and scientists online. The lure of quick riches can turn even the most science focussed scientist into a total shill.
Doctor’s really effed up
By focusing most research and research funding on “managing disease” rather than “managing health,” by allowing insurers to essentially neglect prevention over therapy, because prevention is a subscription model, while most therapy isn’t, the medical world has hurt everyone tremendously. It is much easier (and cheaper) to instill healthy habits early than to manage a disease like Type 2 Diabetes or the consequences of an unmanaged chronic illness. Not all illnesses can be prevented, but very often wellness and healthy habits can reduce the amounts of flare-ups or acute exacerbations of a chronic disease.
But we left that communication to the magazines, blogs, TikTok, Instagram, and others. To lay people, to gurus, to self-promoters. To, essentially, cults, that emphasized eminence over evidence.
There’s little out there, that cuts through the bullshit and explains the rest
I know there isn’t, because I looked for it myself. So, instead, I am turning myself into a test bed, and tell you about it. It’s important to always remember, that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. Just because something works for me, or doesn’t, does not mean, it works for you, or won’t. Instead, take it as the life log of a guy who reads a lot of studies, tries not to fall for marketing speech or gurus, needs that health intervention as urgently as we all do, and has the time on his hands, to write about it.