The Experimental LIfe

According to Wikipedia “An experiment is an orderly procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Controlled experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Controlled experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”

Love this graphic from HD Wallpaper

As a species, us human beings have come quite far from the hunter-gatherer caveman.  Technology today makes it possible that a person could live out there entire lives without moving more than a few feet throughout the entire day.  You can work from home, over the phone or internet, you can call someone to deliver your food, you can pay with a credit card number instead of cash, entertain yourself through TV and the internet, date online, chat with friends, go to school, you can basically do everything.  Right now, the only thing I can think of that you would have to move for, is to use the bathroom.  And that’s only because robot-automatic-bed-toilets haven’t been made popular yet.

How did we get to such a point?  How have our inventions come so far?  In order to continue to advance our technology, we must begin with previous knowledge and inventions.  An app creator today doesn’t first have to invent a computer and the internet and he doesn’t have to be fluent in code.  That pool of knowledge already exists.  Someone else, with their hard work and toil has lay the groundwork for the next person to build upon.

This goes for any how-to these days.  We have to accept a certain amount of knowledge that we build on.  This is awesome in many cases.  Cell phones, facebook, medical technology- these wouldn’t exist unless we could build on something that was already there.

Up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have said there was anything to worry about.  But then I started to realize that in some areas of my life I was trusting too much to the “experts” that had done the legwork for me in previous years.  As a child I was very trusting.  A rule was a rule.  If an adult said it out loud, then it had to be true.  What I didn’t realize as a child was that adults are just leaning on what they learned from the adults in their life and on and on and on.  The problem comes in when a generally accepted piece of information is actually not true.  When that groundwork is not stable, everything built on it can come crashing down.  And it was making me sick and fat.

For the longest time I relied on conventional wisdom to get me through.  It was after dieting for my wedding in 2007 that I started to realize that conventional wisdom might be wrong.  For a full year I had restricted calories and fat and exercised 6-7 days a week like the Heart Association recommended.  I ultimately lost the weight I wanted to- and I looked great in my dress.  But I didn’t feel healthy.  I should have been the healthiest I had ever been.  I should have been strong and have tons of energy and feel great.  But I didn’t.  I was exhausted.  The ADD I have struggled with all my life was full force.  My already thin hair was falling out.  I was unhappy at work and I had depression and anxiety constantly creeping in.  I had injuries that wouldn’t really go away.

I knew that this was not the way it was supposed to be, but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I was following the mainstream advice on how to be healthy.  It wasn’t until years later that I finally went to a therapist, and started to really do the mental work that I needed to.  At first, I just started to google my symptoms.  And more and more the answers that made the most sense were popping up in unconventional sites.  People like Mark Sisson and Dr. Mercola, which the mainstream would laugh at, were giving me answers that given a try would actually work.  Those sites started to really intrigue me.  They might not have been popular or followed in the circles that I was used to, but they were very popular according to the number of followers they had.

Take notes. Journal. You’ll be surprised.

Cautiously I allowed the thought that these oddballs might be on to something.  And I started to test things out on my own.  And I found that a lot of things I had been taught were just wrong.  Some were just a little off, like how much red meat you should include in your diet and some were just plain backwards, like how much fat and calories and grains you need to eat.  At the time I was focused mainly on nutrition/exercise information.  I had always thought that I was knowledgeable in this area and I was intrigued that maybe some of the adults in my life had been wrong.  I certainly took my time before I started living what I now call “an experimental life,” but finally, in January 2010 I started my first Paleo challenge.  Paleo really went against a lot of the conventional wisdom on diets.  There was NO SUGAR allowed.  It wasn’t about everything in moderation.  It was adding in fats.  Cutting out all grains, even the brown stuff.  No soy.  No corn.  Previous to this challenge I wouldn’t believe that this could be healthy for me.  But I was floored.  I lost weight fast.  And I was so energetic and strong.

Ever since I figured out that it was possible that the experts I had been listening to might be wrong, I started to research everything. I decided that I will no longer rely solely on someone else’s opinion for advice.  I will research multiple sources and then I will do an “n=1 experiment” (just means that I am the only research test subject).  I will no longer trust commercials or my local news to tell me how to be healthy.  Instead I will try things that I research and I will listen to my body.

Running, running, running!
Running, running, running!

Some recent examples in the physical health part of my life include eating way more fats.  I used to think this would kill me.  Turns out it does not make me fat and my arteries are doing well.  I don’t eat very much dairy at all.  Sometimes I have grassfed mozzarella cheese on my omelettes, because it’s something I love.  Do I get enough calcium?  Yes.  There is plenty of calcium and other wonderful minerals in green leafy vegetables it turns out.  My bones have yet to snap and crumble into dust.  I do not eat grains most of the time (for health reasons, man do I love bread, so I have it sometimes).  According the USDAs guidelines I should be quite undernourished since I never eat brown rice or pasta.  I don’t eat quinoa, I don’t eat crackers, I don’t even eat beans.  Removing grains and beans for me reduces the amount of bloat I carry around my belly line and the best part is how my mind- my actual clarity of thinking- has improved.  I also don’t try to work out for an hour every day.  I do crossfit 3 times a week and I walk my dogs.  My dogs don’t walk very far, so it’s mostly just crossfit.  It’s intense, but there’s very little cardio, except on random days when the WOD includes running.  Has my body become a puddle of fat?  Have my muscles withered away?  Or do I have massive man muscles from all of the lifting?  None of that.  If I do say so myself, I look pretty darn good.

In my career life, the experimental life has also helped me immensely.  For many years I spent a lot of time thinking that if I did certain things, then surely I would be immediately tarred and feathered and then promptly terminated.  The past couple of years I tested out the theory that if I did my job really well, and then blurred the other lines a bit, maybe no one would care.  The truth is, they don’t.  I made sure I showed up for the important stuff.  I did therapy, made sure the important paperwork was done well.  I helped kids get better and I helped families feel better and healthier.  And I often went in late and left early.  Unless there was an early meeting or a late one.  I would be on point and on time for those.  I didn’t want to be lazy, I just didn’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s by sitting around in the office when there was nothing to do.  So I tested it out.  Not one complaint.  Ever.  If there had been a complaint, if it had been rubbing somebody the wrong way or something wasn’t getting done because of my behavior, I would have changed back to being promptly on time immediately.  But it turns out, people like it when you do your job well and are super happy.

And there’s so many more examples in my life, where being brave enough to test out “common knowledge” in my own life has freed me from unnecessary guilt, and work, and pain.

Tell me, are you willing to experiment in your own life?  If you discovered you didn’t have to do it, what is one thing that you would stop doing today?  Comment below!  I would love to hear it!

Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what's important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I've learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

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