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What does ‘Humans Are Not Broken’ Mean?

Humans Are Not Broken is a phrase that has helped me to think about things a little differently. The Humans Are Not Broken logo, highlights the You in Human, and it’s a reminder that…

  • No matter what happens to us physically or mentally, we are never innately broken as human beings.
  • Marketing and advertising are often designed to make us feel inadequate, incomplete, incapable and unhappy until we buy PRODUCT X! Doing what’s right for profitability is not always the same as doing what is right for human beings. Make no mistake, whether it comes from your favorite diet community or elsewhere.
  • Human beings are a natural part of the world. Like all animals, we can be nourished and lead fulfilling lives in our natural setting. This does not mean all of modernity is bad. But, it helps us recognize we are not separate from nature.
  • We benefit greatly from providing ourselves with our basic human needs. These include (but are not limited to): nourishing food, sleep, sunshine and time in nature, physical activity, meaningful work, creative expression, time with our loved ones, freedom, etc.
  • We are the heirs of millions of years of evolutionary processes. We can cultivate intuition that guides us to make the right choices about food and lifestyle. Doing this effectively may require quite a lot of unlearning.
  • Our bodies and our minds are not enemies that must be conquered. An adversarial approach against ourselves is destined to fail, eventually.
  • Any system designed for humans that does not promote health and happiness should be suspected of being broken. Many people believe themselves to be broken, when in fact it’s the systems they live under are really broken. The fact that a natural outgrowth of our current society and culture is so much obesity, lack of activity, separation from nature, depression, anxiety, and stress tells us something.
  • Any system that starts with a premise of “fixing broken people” is dangerous. Systems that begin with the premise that humans are not broken are more likely to be designed in ways that promote wholeness, including the whole health of people within those systems—whether government, employment, education, etc.
  • ‘Humans Are Not Broken’ DOES NOT mean: People never get sick; are never handicapped; never have disease; nor that we avoid external assistance from technology or modern medicine. Quite the contrary! But, when these externalities are needed, it is the most important time to remember that human beings are not broken—to make sure we have the basics covered before more extreme interventions are applied.

And here are some insights I’ve gleaned from this philosophy:

  • The cure is not necessarily the cause. For example, if aspirin makes your headache go away, it doesn’t mean your headache was caused by lack of aspirin. The same thing applies to carbohydrates, fish oil, sugar, fat, and any number of other foods and nutrients. Once health is regained, the cure may no longer be needed.
  • There is rarely one cause. Today, most of us lead extremely busy, domesticated, artificially stressful, artificially sanitized lives. We outsource nearly all aspects of our survival needs from food production to raising our children. We sit a lot — and perhaps worse still, we find ourselves doing meaningless tasks while we sit. We are conditioned to believe that the things we are passionate about are merely distractions. We are also conditioned to feel a constant sense of urgency and deadlines — ambient anxiety. Our health is further affected by abuse of all kinds: drugs, lack of real food, overeating, disease, distressed microbiomes, breathing polluted or stagnant air, chronic exposure to novel chemicals, and so much more. Cutting carbs or eating more kale cannot address all of these things — cure-all’s are sales pitches or over-simplistic thinking, often resulting from exposure to sales pitches.
  • Optimal diets change with phases of health and aging. Just as children start with breast milk and eventually move on to solid foods, I have come to believe that our food needs continue to change over time. Does a wise, old grandparent need the same food as a hunter, protector, and reproducing member of the group? Probably not. Does a sedentary, male office worker require the same diet as a female athlete? You decide.
  • We can be healthy without obsessing about health. Arguably, it is unhealthy to constantly think about health in everything that we do. The goal should be to integrate what we learn into our lives in such a way that we are nourished, stimulated, active, and happy without constantly thinking about or worrying about health choices.
  • The solution should not be part of a person’s ‘brand.‘ When low-carb, low-fat, HIIT, no cardio, Zone, or Paleo becomes part of a person’s very identity, he becomes closed to learning. When all you have is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. Dangerously, the one-size-fits-all approach denies the near infinite variables associated with any given person at any given time. I have also found that people who are married to a given solution are fantastic at tearing apart information or studies that are in disagreement, and yet give a free pass to sloppy thinking and research with which they happen to agree. We must all be careful of this tendency.
  • The dose makes the poison, or learn your U-curve. When I exercise regularly, I feel much better in all areas of my life. When I exercise too little, I feel fatigued and less happy. When I’ve exercised too much in the past, I’ve felt fatigued, and I’ve ended up injuring myself. Find your sweet-spot in everything.
  • The misses are as important as the hits…perhaps more important. Published drug studies, personal testimonials, even our own memories can be heavily biased toward the successes. In the case of drug trials, the misses can be deliberately hidden (i.e. unpublished). So even when available research points to a certain conclusion, we have to ask: What are the potential unknowns?
  • Never confuse the certainty of the messenger with the validity of the message. Bertrand Russell once said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
  • Trusting and listening to ourselves is crucial. Are human beings equipped with the ability to sense (physically and mentally) what it is that we truly need? I believe the answer to this is yes. I also believe that this takes quite a bit of experimentation, open-mindedness, and unlearning of conventional wisdom—and some of this runs extremely deeply into the fabric of our consciousness, a huge challenge! Some may call this line of thinking woo, but life and the Universe is full of mystery.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead — his eyes are closed.”
— Albert Einstein