Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Intersection Of Health, Technology, And Paleo

Paleo, Crossfit, tech, and healthy cities
Paleo cities via Google Trends


Is being healthy a combination of being current on science, tracking progress, being analytical, Crossfit, and eating Paleo?

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Most people get lost when it comes to health. It's a case of paralysis by analysis. There's too much information out there and trying to unravel it all becomes daunting and confusing. Who better to analyze all that data than the people who process data all day for a living.

In researching the healthiest cities were, I discovered that the cities with the most amount of engineers were the healthiest. What are engineers getting right? They deal in systems and they take a systematic approach to their health.


  1. Washington, DC
  2. Minneapolis
  3. Portland, OR
  4. Denver
  5. San Francisco
  6. San Jose
  7. Seattle
  8. San Diego
  9. Boston
  10. Sacramento
*According to ACSM


  1. Seattle
  2. San Francisco
  3. Austin
  4. Portland, OR
  5. Denver
  6. Boston
  7. Providence
  8. San Diego
  9. Minneapolis
  10. Kansas City
*According to Travel + Leisure


Education, research, and information leads to better health choices. The motivation is - better health improves work performance, which leads to more financial rewards -- health being the driver of performance. Technology is predicated on always coming up with better performance. This is different from the traditional motivator of vanity. Now looking better is an effect of being healthier, and not vice versa. Like a top tier smartphone, function first, design second. If they can produce top level functionality, they can raise money for top level design. This is the same in health, the most athletic people will also look the most athletic.

It's a combination of seeing health as something that can deliver an actual return on time, and the ability to separate information from noise. For employers, offering healthier options and including wellness in their culture, keeps their workforce healthier, and at the same time keeps employees working longer.

Education is clearly linked to health and looking at the average income of engineers, it's also directly linked to wealth. This is why they've been dubbed the "knowledge class." The more you earn and the more educated you are, the better you eat and live -- which is why obesity is the biggest issue in populations that rank lowest in income and education.

People in the tech industry are also more likely to track data with wearables like The Fitbit, or track their own biomarkers. Making health both trackable and actionable. They're also more current on technical and scientific news. It's often times a part of their job and culture.


  1. Portland, OR
  2. Seattle
  3. Denver
  4. Austin
  5. San Diego
  6. San Francisco
  7. Nashville
  8. Boston
  9. Phoenix
  10. Washington, DC
*According to Google Trends 12 month average as of 10/29/14


In no particular order:

  • Portland
  • Seattle
  • Denver
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Boston

Notable mentions:

  • Washington, DC
  • Austin
  • Minneapolis



Add Paleo to the list along with health, wealth, and tech -- as these are some of the most Paleo cities as well. It shouldn't be surprising as Paleo has the same motto as Silicon Valley: abandon all ideologies and politics and let data drive all decisions -- progress is the order of the day. Paleo is also ever evolving, constantly being updated -- the only open source diet/lifestyle, constantly being fine tuned by a tech-savvy collective. It's also viral, spreading mostly through blogs, message boards, Google searches, and podcasts. Though at first it seems contradictory for a group interested in the future of technology to look at the past; tech and startups are most interested in functionality. Good function is based on intuitiveness, applications and gadgets that work the way we think they should work. It's about behavior, and behavior is an evolutionary response. That's Paleo. It has the DNA of technology, making for a natural marriage. Rather than most diets endorsed by celebrities and health gurus, this was the diet of academics and nerds. Think about the first time you heard of Paleo, it wasn't from your health nut friend who is on top of all the newest diet trends, nor the yogini, or gym bro, like many of us it was our techiest friend who first brought it up -- the same friend who introduced us to Reddit. It's like bulletproof coffee or bone broth, which has become the tech industry's juice cleanse.

If Hollywood is known for low-fat diets and mysticism, Silicon Valley is known for Paleo and big data. Even shows about the tech industry like HBO's Silicon Valley and Amazon's Betas have made references. Crossfit has also been a force behind Paleo coming to the mainstream.

Crossfit originated next door to Silicon Valley and has been a popular workout for engineers. It rose in popularity as Apple, Google, and Facebook was on their meteoric rise. The workouts are known for their intensity, complexity, and efficiency -- it's not about where you feel it like most workouts, but about whether you can perform the task or not. There is no gray area. All the same conditions coders have to deal with when writing a program that's supposed to work every time the consumer uses it. Apple wouldn't be Apple if their products only worked 95% of the time.

Paleo is about eating and exercising the way we were programmed; but it's a two way street. If it's a diet and lifestyle based on programming, than we should be able to use diet and exercise to update our programming -- so it runs better. Paleo is not as simple as eating like a caveman. It's about understanding saturated fats, cholesterol, inflammation, insulin, blood sugar, gut bacteria, farming practices, getting to know local farms and butchers, and more. A complex diet for a complex group.


1. Track your progress and activity - See what works and what doesn't work. Your feelings might tell you one thing but the data may say something else.

2. Don't be dogmatic, be open to change - Ask yourself, "how is this working for me?" Look at the data, if it's not working for you, change something. If it works for you, keep doing it. We're all different and we all react to things differently.

3. Train with intensity - The one thing Crossfit has taught the world was, train with intensity because it works. Other people have said the same thing but none had the amount of social proof as Crossfit.

4. Do your homework - It's easy to take someone's word, especially if they're attractive and fit. It's okay to be trusting, just make sure you verify as well. Don't just rely on "experts," do a little work and be your own expert.

5. Focus on process - It's more than an end result, it's the series of daily things you'll continue to do to be optimal. End result is about being optimal on deadline day, performance is about being optimal every day.

6. Leverage technology - Make your life easier. From Evernote, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Jawbone, or the upcoming Apple iWatch, use available technology not just to improve but "hack" fitness.

7. Increase protein - We're much more likely to store carbohydrates in our fat cells than we are protein. If you are what you eat, then eating protein equals lean muscles.

8. Be consistent - Consistency is boring, and one thing the tech world has taught us from Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs is, boring people create big changes. Zuckerberg is known to wear the same outfit over and over, and Steve Jobs literally owned one black turtleneck. Just get the job done. Routine is not always a bad thing.

9. Manage your time better - Time will be your biggest health obstacle. Productivity is something you hear tech people talk a lot about. Rather than wasting money on methods to create abs in six minutes or less -- prioritize, delegate, remove busy work, use technology, use online assistants, and free up more time so you can exercise, prep food, recover, and enjoy your life.

10. Be a part of a community - When you look at areas with the oldest people, diets and activity levels vary but they all have community in common. No one gets healthy in a vacuum. Community gives us other people to be healthy for and creates accountability. A bundle of sticks is much harder to break than one solitary stick.

Ultimately being healthy is complicated and it's tempting to look for simple solutions. People from technical backgrounds have a better understanding of complex systems and aren't overwhelmed as easily. They see it as an evolving process instead of an end result... and so should you.



My name is Sam Yang. I'm a martial artist, entrepreneur, fitness nerd, information geek, and productivity nut. For more useful information, join my newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

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