A Road Map Toward Perfect Health

…is not quite what you’re going to find here.  But I liked the way it sounded.

I’ve been projecting non-sense into the Interspace for quite some time now.  Never have I ever wrestled with a post in my head for quite so long.  Instead of trying to say everything, this post will serve as an introduction for what shall soon ensue.

Over the last few months, I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with health.  And I don’t mean the casually perusing Yahoo!’s “7 super foods for a summer 6 pack” variety.  I mean spending weekend afternoons learning the history of how the food pyramid was born (Good Calories, Bad Caloriesread it), falling asleep to various “Paleo diet” podcasts, and waking up to 90-minute keynotes on why sugar is a delicious poison.  It began solely as means to cure my ills, and has developed into a full fledged knowledge boner-orama.

For those who know me personally, they would attest as to just how far off the deep end I’ve gone.  A conversation about Wisconsin basketball can, and will, be twisted into a rant about methylation (a word not present in Zach’s diction 6 weeks ago). I tend to get obsessive when confronted with a new topic of interest, and I am currently traveling at the speed of sound down this rabbit hole, but also realize I’ve only scratched the surface.

All that said, what I have learned, and what you already likely already believe about health, is that it’s both confusing and over-simplified, inconsistent and dogmatic.  The perfect diet is different for everyone, has many more inputs than just diet and exercise, and can change over time.  One health guru promotes a raw vegan diet, the other says steak and eggs, and both have granite abs (proof one, proof two).   Your 85 year old grandfather plays golf 4 times a week, landscapes his yard, makes frequent, awkward, wrinkly love to your grandma (sorry for the imagery), all the while eating a pound of bacon for breakfast and drinking three martinis every night.  Pappy is breaking all the health rules, yet somehow still totally HAM (Healthy As a Motherfucker).

It is this confusion that causes people to gravitate back toward conventional wisdom.  If there’s dissension on what to believe, the power in numbers becomes the most compelling piece of evidence.

Conventional Wisdom

Calories in, calories out.  One hour of cardio five times per week.  Eat mostly fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  Avoid fat (especially saturated), sodium, and cholesterol.  That’s the recipe for good health, according to conventional wisdom.  However, through personal experimentation, I’ve come to learn that it’s an utter fucking lie, at least for me, and probably for  a larger portion of the population than we have been lead to believe.

If there’s one thing to take away from any proposed health ideology, it’s that even the best ideas are only concepts until tested.  It becomes a truth only when applied (and consequently, benefited).

Saying that [food X] is good/bad, is totally missing the point.   There are certain foods that tend to be good or bad for larger portions of the population. There are different qualities of the same food that have different reactions in the same body (grass fed beef from quality-controlled local farms vs. grain fed industrial beef factories).  Even spinach, something universally regarded as a “superfood“, can have a detrimental effect on certain individual’s health (if that person is especially histamine sensitive).  I’m not saying that spinach is unhealthy*- I consume spinach at a rate that would make Popeye blush.  The point is, when it comes to nutrition, dogma doesn’t work.

* = Editor’s note: I received the following note from my mom in an e-mail, “And by the way, food isn’t ‘healthy’  it’s ‘healthful.’  Healthy food would be a leaf of spinach running a marathon or doing push-ups.“  Maybe my spinach can do pushups, mom.

On Health

In my previous post, I announced to the world (i.e. the 16 people who read this) that the natural state of my brain was microwaved garbage.  For those who are curious, I feel substantially better today.  Although I haven’t conquered the title of “superhuman health” (still a ways to go in fact), my energy, mood, and clarity of thought are at their best since contracting West Nile virus.  At times, these markers (albeit qualitative and subjective) are better than ever.  Although other lifestyle changes have played a role, nutrition is undoubtedly a (maybe the) driving force.

And quite honestly, saying that I feel better is putting it lightly.  For the first time in a long time, I feel as if I’ve regained control of my life.  Even as of the writing of the previous post, I wasn’t fully aware of how bad my situation was.  Only through the contrast of clearing the fog and relieving the constant tension can I fully appreciate how awful it was.

I have a premonition- considering the current state of the western diet and lifestyle- that an alarming number of people go through life this way.  Not necessarily suffering to the extent that I was, but merely surviving instead of thriving

This isn’t a result of a lack of willpower or a defeatist attitude (although both play a role).  This is the result of bad information (see: conventional wisdom). 

We deserve better.

Cerebal Recalibration

Here’s the eleventy billion dollar question: HowHow was I able to fix a dilapidated brain?

That’s a two part answer.

1) Like I said, I’m not “there” yet, where ever there might be.  I’ve spent the last three months in an obsessive state of self-experimentation, research, and fine-tuning; I continue to refine.  Also, I’m human.  There are setbacks (which is code for whiskey).

2) What has worked has been largely unconventional.  The articles that will follow over the coming days, weeks, months (who knows?) will offer the full platter of unorthodox health tactics that have dug me out of the proverbial sewer.

Below is a box.  In that box is an area where you can input your e-mail address.  If you’re interested taking a trip down this rabbit hole with me, simply fill this box with the appropriate information (no, I don’t mean this).


  • Alyson

    I found your blog because you and my brother hiked the trail the same summer (Cackle, if you ever met him, and Moses hiked with him).  Anyway, then I was amused and now am fascinated.  I’m not being as obsessive as you – but I am beginning to believe that we are constantly being fed (pun intended!) a bunch of garbage concerning food and what to eat.  So, fascinated.  Interested.

  • http://zrdavis.com/ zrdavis

    Cackle sounds super familiar.  If I didn’t meet him, I certainly heard his name on the trail.  At the very least, I’m confident your bro has a killer laugh.

    And thanks for the note.  Hope you’ll join us down the rabbit hole.

  • Mtbodine76

    Hi Zach. I bought your book and finished it in one sitting. It helped assuage my anxiety a little bit(I hit the trail April 16).Anyways, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your book and the invaluable info. Considering the PCT?

  • Sara Barlow

    Zach! I was so ready to run down the rabbit hole and do push ups with your spinach, I jumped in the box to find out, I’m already in the hole! I’m proud to be one of the 16 or so. :)
    Here’s to your health journey! Hops, leaps, tumbles, jumps, falls, and all!
    ~Sara

  • http://zrdavis.com/ zrdavis

     If there’s someone who could beat my spinach in a pushup contest, it’s undoubtedly you, Sara.  Thanks for reading, as always!

  • http://zrdavis.com/ zrdavis

    Hey Mtbodine76 (if that is your real name)- Thanks for the kind words on Appalcahian Trials.  No plans for the PCT right now, although I have done a couple of short stretches and it is nothing shy of majestic.  But, never say never :)

    Good luck on your upcoming journey and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!

  • Melissa Goodwin

    Badger!
    Having just read the book “Clean” by Alejandro Junger, MD and gearing up to try it’s clense, I’m all for supporting mental and physical health and talking about it!  Even though we’re off the trail, it’s nice and comforting to know us AT alum are still traveling along the same path.
    Best ~ Click!

  • Melissa Goodwin

    Alyson!
    My dad and I hiked the same year as Zack and Cackle.  He was one of the 1st people we met, didn’t see him for months and then ended up summiting Katahdin on the same day.  Please say hello for me!
    Melissa “Click!” Goodwin

  • http://zrdavis.com/ zrdavis

    Always awesome to hear from you Click.  Clean is a great book and does a good job detailing all of the detoxification pathways.  I try to incorporate the liquid breakfast/dinner intermittent fast that he recommends at least once per week. 

    And yes, seems as if a half year of oreos and peanut butter has a way of pushing someone toward a few vegetables post-Trail. 

    Hope all is well in your world.
    Z