Scott Carney: What Doesn't Kill Us - Tapping Into Your Evolutionary Strength | 180 Nutrition

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Scott Carney: What Doesn’t Kill Us – Tapping Into Your Evolutionary Strength

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Guy:  This week welcome to the show Scott CarneyInvestigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney has worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. His work blends narrative non-fiction with ethnography. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and a 2016-17 Scripps Fellow at the Center for Environmental Journalism in Boulder, Colorado. “What Doesn’t Kill Us” is his most recent book; other works include “The Red Market” and “A Death on Diamond Mountain.” 

Carney was a contributing editor at Wired for five years and his writing also appears in Mother Jones, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. His work has been the subject of a variety of radio and television programs, including on NPR and National Geographic TV. In 2010, he won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for his story “Meet the Parents,” which tracked an international kidnapping-to-adoption ring. Carney has spent extensive time in South Asia and speaks Hindi.


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Questions we ask in this episode:

  • When you set out to write your book, you thought Wim Hof was a charlatan… Did you set out to debunk him, and if so, why?
  • You tested the WHM Wim Hof Method) on yourself over a six month period. What did you test and what were the results?
  • You climbed Mount kilimanjaro in your shorts. How was that?
  • Do you think our modern lives have gotten too comfortable?
  • After everything you’ve put yourself through and researched… How much of an impact do you believe the WHM has on one’s health? From the healthy to the not so healthy…

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Full Transcript

Guy 

[00:00:30] Hey everybody, this is Guy Lawrence of course, for 180 Nutrition and welcome to another fantastic episode of the Health Sessions, where we’re always connecting with global health and well experts … getting my words out … to share the best and the latest science and thinking to empower us all to turn our health and lives around. This week, our fantastic guest is Mr. Scott Carney. Scott is an investigative journalist and anthropologist. He has worked in some of the most dangerous unlikely corners of the world, especially when writing his books, and we’re here to talk about his brand new book today, “What Doesn’t Kill Us,” which is a New York Times bestseller, and I was so keen to get Scott on the show because essentially this book came about because Scott went on a journey to end up trying to debunk Wim Hof.

[00:01:30] If you’re not familiar with Wim Hof, we’ll get into that as well today, but if you have been listening to my podcast for a while with myself and Stu, you’ll realize that I’ve gone on and done Win Hof retreats, and spent some time with him, and I actually practice the breath work and [inaudible 00:01:08]. So it was great to get Scott on his journey and what he’s discovered through his own mission. Ultimately, he’s a really good, fun guy. He says it as it is. He wants to know the facts, and he digs deep to find out what’s actually going on, and where’s the line between myth and actually reality as well. It was a brilliant podcast, and I have no doubt you’re going to enjoy this show today.

As always, guys, if you are enjoying our podcast, please subscribe to us, five star us, and leave us a review if you’re enjoying it of course and you think it’s worthy. I read every review, I will shout them out on the podcast as well from time to time. It makes all the difference to help us reach more people that can listen to the same content just like yourselves. Anyway, let’s go over to Scott Carney, enjoy.

[00:02:00] Hi, this is Guy Lawrence, I’m joined with Stewart Cook as always, good morning, Stu.

Stu

Good morning, Guy.

Guy

And our awesome guest today is Scott Carney, Scott, welcome to the show mate.

Scott

Hey, thanks for having me on.

Guy

Really appreciate it man, really appreciate it. It’s a topic close to my heart, I was very excited about this one. Before we get into it Scott, we ask everyone on the show, if a complete stranger stopped you on the street and asked you what you did for a living, what would you say?

Scott

God, that’s a hard question because I don’t talk to strangers, they scare me. I was told never, ever to speak with them. I’m an investigative journalist and anthropologist. If that isn’t enough to bore the hell out of a stranger, I do not know what is.

Guy

[00:03:00] I really want to dig a little bit into your journey. Before we get into your new book What Doesn’t Kill Us, Scott, from what I’ve seen you’ve written three vastly different books. And they were probably topics I couldn’t have even have made up. Can you just share a little bit about your journey first, and what led you to what we’re going to be discussing today? Take us back a little bit for the people that have never heard of Scott Carney before.

Scott

[00:04:00] Sure. It’s funny that you say they’re not related, I see them as flowing into one another.. There’s a very obvious thread between the three for me. It  all starts at the end of my anthropological career. I was trying to get a PhD and I realized that that was not going well, so I was 26, 27 at this point. So I dropped out of the program and took this time to figure out what I was going to do with my life, and I ended up leading an abroad program in North India. It was called “From Brahma to Buddha,” we were going to look at all the spiritual sites in India starting at Delhi, Varanasi, it’s the holy city of the dead in Hinduism, and then to Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment about 2,800 years ago. This is going to be sort of a long story so just sit back and relax, you’re just going to have to flow with me on this.

[00:05:00] At this place in Poht Gaya, we did this 10 day silent meditation retreat in the Tibetan tradition. I had been practicing meditative techniques for a long time before this, but I was definitely not the teacher, I was just another student at this point. We’re learning about nirvana and enlightenment, we’re looking at our own life and the perspective of what happens when we die, and trying to understand this basic Buddhist philosophy. And we’re also not talking at any point on this retreat. On the last day, the best student in my program, the prettiest, the smartest, the most focused person, had been having a lot of oohs and aahs during these teachings that we had. She climbed up to the roof of the retreat center and jumped off to her death, committing suicide. Didn’t see that coming, did you. Nor did I, it was the worst thing that ever happened.

[00:06:00] As the director of the program, I’m suddenly responsible for bringing her body back to the Untied States and figuring out why she died. I opened up her journal, and she had been writing a lot in her journal. In the last page or so, it discloses the words “I am a bodhi sattva,” which in Buddhist terminology, this means I am on the path to enlightenment. Basically, a bodhi sattva is like an angel. And she had come to this realization in her mediations that she was just on the cusp of Buddha-hood, and all she had to do was commit suicide to get there. Obviously this sounds like madness, this sounds totally crazy. And as the same time as the director, I need to bring her body back home. For three days I’m stuck with her corpse, taking her through autopsy. People are weirdly fighting over her body parts. They’re trying to get pieces of her brain and her liver to various pathology labs, her family at home wants her body for cremation. And I’m negotiating this sitting by her corpse after meditating on death for some time.

[00:07:00] I had several realizations at this point in my life. One, I don’t want to go back to anthropology. Two, what is it about a person when they go from you and I talking in command of our environment and ourselves, to the meat of us that is suddenly now, I’m trying to protect her body from people trying to take it. That’s something that you and I do. This led me down this investigative path when I decided to become a journalist around this moment where I started investigating the ways that the body gets caught up in commerce. Especially in India, people buy and sell kidneys, skeletons, hair, teeth, you name it. If it’s part of you, it can come up for sale. I spent six years looking into organ trafficking in, I’ve become one of the world experts on organ trafficking. I’ve got a copy right here, I wrote this book, The Red Market, where I … can you see it?

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Guy

I can, yeah. It looks good.

Scott

[00:08:00]
I was working for Wired, I did stuff for NPR, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and I went hard in trying to understand what happens when we lose control of our bodies, and when economic systems start defining the value. I’ll tell you, it gets real dark. A lot of my characters die in this. While I was investigating this, investigating criminal networks of organ traffickers, I’m also wondering, going back to that moment where my student killed herself, and wondering how can something so beautiful as the search for enlightenment and nirvana, how can that go so wrong?

[00:09:00] I started collecting journals of people who either died, or committed suicide, or went to mental asylums on meditation retreats. It turns out, there’s a huge number of people who go insane when they get too focused on their spiritual practices. Oftentimes, it’s this allurement of superpowers of some sort. There’s this idea, I don’t know if you’ve ever meditated, but when you first start you might be sitting on your cushion closing your eyes, and you’ll see light flip behind your eyelids, and time will seem to speed up and slow down. And you’ll feel like you’re growing so fast. There’s this allure of what, in the yoga tradition, are siddhis, or miracles. If you look in the yoga sutras, it’s five chapters talking about breathing, being one with everything, and there’s one chapter about possessing people through their anus, walking through walls, floating, it’s crazy.

Some people get really caught up in this idea of going to the Himalayas and meeting some yogi and learning magical powers. That’s one of the things I saw happen with my student to some degree. Also, there’s an epidemic out there in general in various meditation communities … that led me down to this … look at this, I’ve got them all.

[00:09:30] Second book, A Death on Diamond Mountain, where I’m investigating what happens in the mind on a spiritual quest. I look at one guy’s death in the mountains of Arizona as he tries to get to enlightenment and become what he calls an angel himself. It doesn’t work, he dies. Then you could say, at this point, I’m a pretty A, hardcore investigative journalist, B, really skeptical about spiritual quests. That’s what we learned from this long diatribe I just gave you.

[00:10:30] Now, I’m probably 34, 35 at this point. And I hear about this guy named Wim Hof, who’s this Dutch guru who … the first time I see him, there’s a picture of him sitting on an iceberg somewhere north of the Arctic Circle in his skivvies basically, he’s got this smile on his face. I think that guy’s crazy but sort of interesting. I started reading about him, and he starts claiming that he can consciously raise and lower his body temperature, can take control of his immune system, and give people what are effectively superpowers. My spidey sense goes off that I found another Charlatan guru who’s teaching things that are going to get people killed, because sitting on icebergs is freaking dangerous and you shouldn’t do it because that’s horrible. I said I’m going to go prove to the world he’s a charlatan, he wasn’t famous at this point, no one really knew who he was.

[00:12:00] I flew out to Poland to do his training, and see him, what I was expecting, him milking is followers for money, and then putting people in dangerous positions that will ultimately lead to fatalities. But being an investigate journalist, I have to give people a fair shot, I have to try their trainings. And in matter of days, I’m actually repeating the feats he claims that he can do. I’m consciously raising and lowering my body temperature, and I’m learning the techniques that can take control of my immune system. And I’m seeing really obvious results after three days. I end up on such a journey that I’m now on this book, [inaudible 00:11:42], where I’m going down his path and understanding the positive side of the spiritual quest. This is the trilogy. It’s body, [inaudible 00:11:52] Market, the Mind in Meditation, and then finally the spirit, what is the good stuff that we can get? So I finally found some good stuff. That’s why you guys contacted me.

Stu

[00:12:30] Absolutely. Guy has been more exposed to Wim Hof than me, and is a little bit of a devotee of ice baths, I do see that as a little bit crazy. I did my first ice bath a couple of weeks ago and it hurt. I’m skinny, it really hurt me. But I’m intrigued in the science behind it, and that’s where I’m really pleased that you’re on the show because I love investigation and proof. For our listeners that haven’t heard of Wim Hof and not too sure about the practices, can you explain a little bit about his methods?

Scott

[00:13:00] His claims are that he can let you thrive in extreme environments. That’s basically what his claims are. And that by doing that, you can gain control of autonomic processes in your body. You want to know his actual breathing method? Do we want to [crosstalk 00:13:04]?

Stu

School us on that a little bit, yeah.

Scott

[00:14:00] The idea that you expose yourself to extreme-ish cold. Not space temperatures, but ice baths and things like that. Then when you’re in this stimulus that would trigger your fight or flight responses, you suppress and redirect that response to make it not happen. To give an example, in an ice bath, you get into the ice bath but instead of tensing up and being like “Oh my God this is horrible,” you relax in that environment and try to trigger a different way to warm your body through metabolic action instead of the tension of your muscles. He also has a breathing method where you basically, you hyperventilate and hold your breath. And what you’re trying to do when you’re holding your breath is stretch out that point where you feel the need to gasp. And by doing that, you’re also tweaking that fight or flight response. You’re tweaking that feeling in your body that seems autonomic, but you’re actually realizing that there’s some negotiation that you have over that.

Stu

Interesting.

Guy 

Scott, when you set out to debunk Wim, was there a book in mind at the time? Or …

Scott

[00:15:00] I was on assignment from Playboy magazine, and I have a Playboy here because … it’s not the magazine, but here’s a Playboy for real. I was on assignment for Playboy, I had been writing for them for a little while. The previous book had started as a Playboy article. I usually don’t start articles without saying I might do a book out of it, but I wasn’t sure at all there would be. I sort of figured it would be a book similar to the previous one where it’s like, “This guy’s a sham.”

Guy

Did Wim know you were coming to …

Scott

Oh yeah.

Guy

What was your first impression? The other question was, at what point did you think “Oh God, Wim’s onto something here,” and then your mindset must have shifted at some stage.

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Scott

[00:16:00] When you start the method, it’s this hyperventilation, and then there’s the cold exposure. The first thing we did was the hyperventilation routine. I knew beforehand that I could hold my breath for 30 seconds or 45 seconds if I just … and held it, that’s how long I could last. I knew in his method we were doing this hyperventilation stuff which looks like … for like five, or 10, or 15 minutes that we’re doing this. And then I hold my breath, and I can hold my breath for two minutes. I thought it was pretty cool, I didn’t think it was a miracle, but I thought it was pretty cool. Then we kept on doing the hyperventilation and he said “Let all the air out of your lungs and do pushups,” and I knew I could do 20 pushups, I am not a extreme athlete or whatever, especially at that point. I usually could do 20 pushups, but here I am with no air in my lungs, doing pushups and I put out 40 without breathing, and I thought that was just so cool. That was probably the moment when I’m like “Okay, I’m going to give this guy a shot to see what is actually happening.”

[00:17:30] Then, like you said, he said “Why don’t we go stand out in the snow?” This is the winter of Poland, so it’s the winter that stopped the Nazi army, it’s the winter that stopped Napoleon, and it’s January. We strip down to nothing basically, I have a bathing suit on, that’s it. Stand in the snow and it freaking hurts. Goddammit, I tell you, it sucked 100%, my feet, it’s like they’re on coals. After five minutes I run into a sauna, and it hurts even more when I’m in a sauna. Warming up sucks even more. And then I was like “Wim, you’re an asshole and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” But he was like “Yeah, yeah, I get that. That’s always what happens the first time you expose yourself. You’ll see what happens tomorrow.” And the next day I go out and I land 10 minutes before that same feeling of horror shows up. And the day after that it’s 30 minutes, and the day after that it’s an hour and I’m sweating after an hour. And I’m like “Holy crap, this is big. These are huge changes that are happening really quickly.”

[00:18:30] I was just living in Los Angeles before this, that’s like eternal summer. And going from there to this horrendously cold winter is crazy, and at the end of all the Polish retreats, you hike up this mountain called [Snezka 00:17:52], which is like a ski slope. It had just snowed the day before, so we had a foot of powder, that much powder, on the ground. It took us eight hours to get to the top and I was in nothing basically, just shoes and shorts and a hat. And I was sweating the whole way up. It just seemed so weird. Who knew my body had this power? It’s not a miracle, it’s not like he shot prana energy at me and I got this. The thing that’s really cool is that Wim’s method is not a superpower, it’s just an ordinary, human power that we have let dormant because we’re all wimps, and we like being in this comfortable 72 degree temperature all the time, and having no variation. What Wim is doing is just putting variations into your daily routine, and then triggering what is essentially evolutionary programming. Programming we have that has allowed our species to survive and get us to now. He’s just saying “Here’s how we activate that stuff.”

Stu

Brilliant. To play devil’s advocate and to address the skeptics out there as well, they could say “Well that’s just biology and human physiology.” You’re over-oxygenating your blood so you’re going to be able to hold your breath longer. The more oxygen you’ve got in your blood, the less lactic acid you’re going to have in your muscles. You’re going to be able to do more.

Scott

That is a skeptic? Or that is confirming everything I just said? Because you’re totally right.

Stu

Yes. Yeah. I think it’s like dialing into a biological response that we’re not used to doing because we lead these very comfortable sedentary lives. I’m interested in the health benefits. After dialing into his methods for six months or so, what health benefits did you see?

Scott

[00:21:00]
I didn’t actually dial in at that point. I did the practice sort of half-assed after that. Because I started writing a different book. This was in 2011, I actually had to write the cults and meditation kills you first. I had to write that before I got to this one. I actually had this time where I was sort of doing the Wim Hof method, and sort of investigating how meditation will kill you and your friends. Then, when I got around to this, this was in probably 2014, 2015, where I really went in hard and every day did it, every day took the cold showers, ice bath when I could, I saw … health benefits is weird. Because I don’t actually … I’m not a super unhealthy guy although I have a cold right now. So there’s that. In general I’m pretty healthy, so I didn’t see a huge [C 00:20:57] change. Like beat AIDS or anything like that because I don’t have those conditions. What I do have is I used to get these mouth ulcers, canker sores.

[00:21:30] Just white, painful sores. Because I started getting them when I was really young, they could get as big as an American dime, really [inaudible 00:21:18], painful, huge, couldn’t talk, couldn’t smile, really miserable stuff. Since doing the method I don’t get them anymore. Or if they start, they just go away really quickly. And that’s like the auto-immune thing that [inaudible 00:21:31]. Also, you lose weight pretty quickly, that’s sort of cool. If you focus on ice baths that happens.

[00:22:30] But if you look at the literature, you look at other people who do this stuff, you see them [inaudible 00:21:42] back a lot of different and varied auto-immune illnesses. But I don’t think it’s magic. I think your skeptical question is right on. I think thees are physical processes, and all we’re doing is reintroducing variations. The problem we have in the world, one of the many problems we have in the world we live in, is that we live in a static environment that’s always comfortable. But where we came from 200,000 years of human evolution, we always had to endure climactic extremes. It would go up to 100 degrees, and at night it would be down at 40. And your body is always like “Okay get ready for 100, get ready for 40,” and that change was constant, and it triggered autonomic, unconscious bodily functions that are there and they let us survive. But now that those things aren’t being used, we have this underutilized physiology, and here’s why I think auto-immune illnesses are connected to that.

[00:23:00] That underutilized physiology, by which I mean the movement of the muscles in your arterial system, and also your immune system which is connected to the fight or flight responses, it’s not being used. It’s not getting the variation, so it’s essentially, to use a very medical metaphor, it’s bored. It’s got nothing to do. So taking these cold showers and having extremes gives this predator in your body that’s going out to kill the microbes that go in, it’s giving that predator a chew toy. And that’s why it is useful to help treat auto-immune illnesses.

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Guy

Didn’t you run a test on yourself over six months period as well?

Scott

[00:25:00] I did, yes. If you look in the back of the book, I’ve got a chart. I’m not incredibly good at understanding all the science behind my own personal … I can’t find it. Here’s what happened. I got my [V02 Max 00:23:54] measured, and also at the Boulder Sports Medicine Center, a very well-respected sports medicine place, V02 Max puts me at increasingly difficult cardio exertion, and they measure what I’m using in my body, carbohydrates or fats, as I hit my threshold before basically I want to pass out. When we started, I had a pretty normal physiology, I was basically a majority carb burner, pretty normal guy stuff. After six months of just doing the breathing method, keeping my workout routine normal and ice baths and cold showers when I could, I changed from this carb burning guy to a primarily fat burning person. And the physiologist likened it to as if I was adding seven hours of cardio exercise to my routine every week, when in reality, I added only about those 15 minutes of breathing. So that was pretty cool. That’s a pretty nice change. In addition, I also increased the number of stages of the V02 Max test that I did. I did an extra stage, which means that I was a slightly better endurance runner dude after this. I am not an extreme athlete [inaudible 00:25:25] when it comes to physical activity. But for an ordinary guy, that was pretty awesome.

Stu

Fantastic. Did you run any blood tests around that period of time?

Scott

I wish I did. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the American health care system, but it’s not awesome. It’s sort of crappy. So I went to my doctor, I was like “What can I do to measure how this changes?” She was like “Nothing.” You can’t do anything.

Stu

[00:26:00] I’d be very intrigued to see what your inflammatory markers would be pre and post. I’d imagine that there would be some variance in there as well.

Scott

[inaudible 00:26:04] or test it on another person, because that sounds easier.

Guy

Do you still maintain it, Scott? Or …

Scott

[00:26:30] Yeah, every day. I still do. Because I thin it’s just awesome. The breathing method makes really strong lungs, sets my day up right. As I said, it stops these canker sores from coming to me, which is huge for me. Because … make it hard to talk or smile, and it’s only 15 minutes. It’s awesome, I love the method. I love getting into a really … jumping into cold water, and being in there, and being like “This is cool,” and other people are jumping in all tensed up and scared. I can just like … [crosstalk 00:26:47] because I know how to do it.

Guy

[00:27:00] It’s fascinating because like Stu said, he did his first ice bath a few weeks back. I actually held it at my place, I had about 10 people over and I took them all through the basic breath work. The fear that builds up before somebody gets into the ice bath the first time is quite extraordinary. It’s quite intimidating. But once you’re in and you let go, it’s actually, ahh, it could have been worse. I only kept them in for two minutes, though.

Stu

[00:27:30] I would jump in and say I wasn’t fearful at all, but I just knew that it was going to hurt. And I guess because I thought it was going to hurt, that it hurt. It’s just a mindset. But I’m totally into the health benefits of cold exposure, I guess, because just another little side story, we’ve got a good friend in Sydney who is from eastern Europe. He had to do some national service when he was a youngster, and this was out in … where is he from? Where is Miro from Guy?

Guy

Serbia.

Stu

[00:28:30] Serbia, that’s right. In my mind’s eye, that’s like deep, dark, cold place. He said throughout his national service and to this present day, he doesn’t take warm showers, he always does cold showers. We used to go on ocean swims when we lived in Sydney, and we’d swim in the depths of winter, it could be 15, 16 degrees in the water, and he’d come back and we’d be just running for the hot showers, and he’d go straight for a cold shower, always. And he’d never get sick, he is never sick, never, never a sniffle, nothing. Doesn’t pick up anything. He says “Well, I just have cold showers,” he said …

Guy

Even when he was training in the snow in the army, he said “Always cold showers after.”

Stu

Cold showers. There’s something there, absolutely.

Scott

[00:29:00] Good for him. What it’s doing is it’s triggering these responses that are autonomically in your body that you just don’t trigger all the time. I wouldn’t say that cold showers are going to be a cure for say, a serious illness. I think they can be a complimentary treatment, and I’ve seen some stuff that’s really cool that reverses things. It is really tempting for people to take these methods and say “Actually, they’re miracles,” and they’re not. It’s a different type of exercise. And what I’ve learned in this journey is that we used to think it was diet and exercise, diet and exercise, and that’s going to be the key to health. You just eat the right things and you use those right things with your body, you’re going to be healthy. But there’s actually a third pillar, and the third pillar’s the environment.

[00:30:00] And the environment you inhabit, you’re always getting signals. The room that you’re in might make you sweat, it might make you shiver, it might make you do things. The air pressure. All sorts of things are acting on you unconsciously all the time. If you can work on those three pillars now, you suddenly realize you have another tool in your toolbox to either work on health issues, sicknesses and whatnot, or also get peak performance in general. In the course of the book, I meet lots of people who are using the method.

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Guy

We had Laird Hamilton on the show last week, Scott. And I believe you’ve been working with Led, right?

Scott

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Laird’s fantastic.

Guy

He was telling us that he’s been experimenting with three minute ice baths, directly into 15 minute hot saunas. Actually, tipping both ends of the scale, he was loving it. He’s a big fan, definitely.

Scott

Yeah, yeah. I have a chapter on Laird’s workout routine in the book. He does a lot of underwater training, where he’ll do lifting weights underwater, different types of lifting weights underwater, not to be mixed with the Wim breathing, because the Wim Hof breathing can make you hold you breath for a long time but it can also make you pass out, and if you pass out underwater it’s really bad for you because you’ll die.

But Laird does the Wim Hof breathing as well on dry land. He’s a fantastic guy.

Guy

Did you do his [inaudible 00:30:57] course? Is that what it was?

Scott

Not a course, I just met him and hung out with him and did a couple days of his morning workout routine and met some of the other people around him. It’s funny, I was in a pool with Orlando Bloom and [inaudible 00:31:11] celebrities, because he’s in the middle of Malibu and he’s the most exclusive workout program in the country probably.

Guy

Yeah, great guy.

Stu

For everything that you’ve learned now, do you think that our modern lives have gotten too comfortable?

Guy

Yeah, absolutely.

Stu

Interesting isn’t it, how you can just spice that up with finish your hot shower with 15 seconds of freezing cold water, and bang, you can trigger something that perhaps is deeply seeded in our DNA.

Scott

[00:32:30] Think about your arteries and veins. I mentioned, you mentioned this as well, when you jumped into that cold water, the ice bath, you felt pain. That pain is partially because of the [vaso 00:31:56] constriction response. All of the arteries in your body, especially the extremities, have muscles that line them. Their job is to squinch shut to keep your core warm. So they restrict the blood flow to your extremities, and sacrifice the extremities to keep the core alive. That’s an evolutionary response. The only way to trigger that is by getting cold. You can’t think your smooth muscles to clench up. The only way to trigger them is to go jump in something cold and do that. You could also cut off a limb, you would also trigger it then, just send the blood loss, but don’t do that, it’s not a good training program.

If you think about this, the first time I jumped into the snow or you jumped into that cold water, you never really intentionally fired your vaso constriction muscles. [inaudible 00:32:52] very mild stuff. What happens when you try a hard exercise when you’re totally out of shape? It hurst, that is pain. And so you can think about your body and you could be working out at your climate controlled gym and get your six pack abs and your giant muscles and all that stuff, but you could have this totally wimpy circulatory system that has never had to lift a weight in its whole life because you’ve never given it the signal to do that. That’s one of the reasons why cold showers are so interesting, it’s why that third pillar is there is that even when you go in the shower and you go “Cold, hot, cold, hot,” you’re making it do this. You’re making it flex as you did, because you can’t consciously do these muscles, you have to have an external trigger to do that.

Stu

Interesting.

Guy

Do you have cold showers every day, Scott?

Scott

[00:34:00] Every day, that’s so easy to do. I actually start warm because if you want to get clean and smell good, you shouldn’t do a cold shower. Because your pores, there’s also autonomic stuff on your pores that when they get cold the constrict, so the oil gets trapped in the pores. If you want soap to work on your body, you have to do it with hot water, and then after that, then you switch it to cold. The tap in my house runs at 40 degrees, which in Celsius is like five degrees Celsius.

Stu

That’s cold, that’s cold.

Guy

We don’t have cold water up here where we are, it’s too tropical.

Stu

[00:34:30] Just a tight note, Guy, about the warm water first though. I didn’t want to say anything, but you might want to try it. Just thinking about your three pillars as well, Scott. Where does mindset come into that? Because you spoke about diet, exercise, and environment. How does that come in?

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Scott

[00:35:30] Mindset is part of all three. The intention to work on all three is mindset. The intention to be like “I am going to feed myself not Twinkies all day,” is mindset. That takes discipline to avoid the Twinkie aisle, and it takes discipline to go out and want to run and work out, and it takes discipline to say that you want to consciously work on your environment. That’s where the mindset works. Especially with all three of those, there’s always these challenges of where your mind works. But before you jump into the cold, you can panic first and be like “It’s going to hurt so bad, I don’t know,” while other people can handle the cold, I am especially susceptible, which is what everyone thinks right before they do this. Every one of your listeners is like “Forget that cold guy, I’ll just go to the next podcast,” [inaudible 00:35:39] right now.

[00:36:00] And the thing is because that evokes this visceral response in your body, in your mind, saying “I don’t want to do that, I’ve been warm all the time, and this is great. I found out one good thing in my life, why do you want to hurt this for me, Scott?” And it’s because it’s something you have to do. It’s something you can do to live a more full life. Because if you have these hidden biological abilities, why not use them? Why not activate that stuff? You could still live to 80 and never take a cold shower. You can still live to 100 and never have a cold shower. But why would you want to do that?

Stu

Good point

Guy

Absolutely, I get it, I get great pleasure doing it. I have an ice bath generally once a week because I can’t get … the shower’s just not cold enough. And every time I do it, I’m like “I’m glad I did that.” There’s no getting away from it.

[00:36:30] Talking about mindset, Scott, I’m really keen for you to tell us a little about your climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro, because I believe that’s a pretty high mountain as well if I’m not mistaken.

Scott

[00:37:30] We made it to like 18.6, we didn’t’ get to the summit, we got to Gilliman’s Point, which is the top place where you go up to the rim of the volcano and can look down the other side, but then there’s a little bit more that we could have gone up. Nonetheless, it’s really freaking high. It’s about 18.6 I think, and I think the whole mountain is 19 something. You Googlers can go look that up. The thing about this is that it’s really cold up at the top because you’re just so high up. The height is not difficult from a technical perspective. It’s basically a glorified height with some steep parts. But the difficult thing about Mt. Kilimanjaro is the rate of ascent can trigger altitude sickness and AMS. So usually it takes five to as long as ten days to get to the top because people take these very slow, sometimes excruciatingly slow, stages. But they do it because the mountain only has I think a 40% or 60% success rate, and everyone else has to turn back and it’s because of AMS almost all the time.

[00:38:30] That’s the five day route, I think it’s 40% failure 60% success. That’s if you take five days. What we did is basically tried to sprint up the mountain using Wim Hof techniques, and we made it to Gillman’s point in 28 hours. Which is really fast. The army, the US Army, I asked them before we went what our success rate would be at that rate, he said we would have a 70% AMS casualty. And the Dutch Mountaineering Association predicted 100% fatality. Which was, that’s rude. We would have turned back after one or two people died for sure.

[00:39:30] The trick was, this Wim Hof breathing is hyperventilation and breath retention, hyperventilation breath retention, and when you hyperventilate, you’re doing two things. You’re blowing off the CO2 out of your system, and you’re increasing your oxygen saturation up to 100%. You can’t get more than 100% saturation, normally you’re at 97%. When we do this breathing, and you hear the retention you can walk your O2 drop, if you have an O2 finger meter, down to as low … I think I’ve gotten it down to about 36% O2 saturation, for a very short period of time. We’ve been acclimatizing ourselves, essentially, with the breathing method to very low oxygen saturation. Then what we did when we ascended the mountain is we basically hyperventilated the entire time. We basically breathed fast to compensate for the decrease in oxygen saturation as you get higher, and we could measure our O2, because we had the O2 meters and when it dropped below 90 we would start hyperventilating faster, and the O2 would com back up. That’s how we defeated altitude sickness.

Guy

Did anyone get altitude sickness in the group?

Scott

[00:40:00] Two people out of the 28, yeah. We had two that had to go back down on the ascent, and I think we had one person get altitude sickness on the way down as well. So three out of 28 cases. No one died or anything, no severe side effects.

Guy

Was there any reason? They just didn’t respond as well as everyone else to …

Scott

[00:41:00] Yeah, everyone’s physiology is different, and you have to remember this is a real difficult expedition. It’s hard to do, it’s not surprising that we had some people come down with this. I also think that this was the third time that Wim had gone up Kilimanjaro with a group, and they had only had one case of altitude sickness in those two years prior. I think there’s a level of overconfidence when we went into it. We were like “Yeah, we can do it, it’s no big deal,” and so maybe some of that fear you might have to begin with might have, I’m speculating, might have had some impact on why people … got sick. Also, people’s physiology is different, and you can’t say that someone who does this method is going to be able to repeat all of the same things. When I do the breathing method, I do it every morning, I do a one minute breath retention, and a two minute breath retention, a three minute breath retention. For some people that sounds crazy long to hold your breath for three minutes, but some people can do it for five, and some people can only do it for one minute. It’s really about your own limits, and that’s what’s the most important thing.

Guy

[00:41:30] I’d be so interested to try that. I’ve been at altitude twice, once in Peru and once in Nepal. And twice, I got knocked sideways by altitude sickness. Once to the point where I was vomiting, and had [crosstalk 00:41:30] really bad. I’ve always had this mental fear of it ever since, maybe I’m not designed to go at altitude at all. After seeing Wim doing that, I’d be keen to retest it at some stage and see if it makes the difference.

Scott

[00:42:30] Just have proper safety protocol, be willing to go down. I think that there’s this element of machismo that goes around in the Wim Hof methods, like “Yeah, I can stay in an ice bath longer than that dude,” and that’s so dumb. It’s like, why don’t you guys get yourselves killed? All right, great. That’s my least favorite thing about the Wim Hof method is that it really, in general, attracts this sort of macho feeling, and then you get all guys in the group and you have 20 guys and it bros out and it’s totally not cool for me. And the thing with safety protocols, you might push yourself past where you should be. Because everyone really is different. This is not a team sport. This is you trying to get your body in order, and my body in order.

Stu

I think so. I think when I hopped in that ice bath, the first one, I heard the term “nerve damage” for newbies. So if you’re a newbie to this, there’s possible nerve damage if you stay in for too long. That was like … no problems, I’m out of there after two minutes, I’m not going to push.

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Scott

[00:43:30] I don’t think you’re going to get nerve damage after two minutes, but yeah. Here’s the thing with cold water, if you jump into cold water, even if there’s ice cubes in it, it’s never below zero degrees Celsius, it just doesn’t do it. It’s going to be predictably above zero for you. The thing that I think you get nerve damage, actually, is when you do some of the snow stuff. Like people who do barefoot runs in the winter. Then, sometimes the temperature can be a little bit more difficult to discern. I’ve gotten frost nip once shoveling my driveway in the middle of winter in bare feet and bathing suit. I was warm but [inaudible 00:43:41] the driveway itself had gotten cooler [crosstalk 00:43:46].

Stu

Have you noticed your neighbors looking at you in a funny way? Perhaps not speaking to you?

Scott

Yeah, they’re like “That guy’s so cool.”

Stu

[inaudible 00:43:58]

Scott

My neighbors are all reading the book, actually. This is viral, it’s crazy. My neighbor across the street takes ice baths every day for longer than I do. I don’t do ice baths because I find them difficult to manage getting the ice, I find the logistics a little annoying. But he has some serious auto-immune … not auto-immune … he was exposed to black mold, which [inaudible 00:44:22]. So he’s been using ice baths and other treatments to treat the black mold, so he is serious about his ice baths. He does 10 minutes a day, and I’m like, that’s hardcore. I’m not that weird.

Stu

How’s he going with it?

Scott

[00:45:00] He’s good. He’s actually almost cured. And it’s not just the ice baths and the Wim breathing he was doing, he also did O3 treatments, Ozone treatment. You put ozone into your blood which sounds crazy, but you did that, and that helped and I think he might be going to Johns Hopkins for some sort of experimental stuff. Black mold is serious, it really messes people up. So people just try everything they can because it’s such a weird thing. It’s like mold growing in your nervous system.

Stu

Interesting. I think we’re going to get a mold expert on very soon, aren’t we Guy?

Guy

Yeah, yeah.

Stu: The hidden dangers of mold. Just quickly as well, Scott, tell us about your nutritional philosophies. Have they changed at all over the period of time that you’ve been experimenting in all of these different philosophies?

Scott

No, not really. I didn’t want to write a diet book, or even go into that, because there are so many people who geek out on diet, and my philosophy is don’t eat so much sugar, try to eat healthy, whatever that means to you. I think if you want my diet protocol that’s what you should do. Because people have this ketogenic stuff, that’s great, they’ve got the paleo stuff, that’s great, they’ve got the vegetarian, the vegan, the blah, blah, blah. All of it’s great for your health. I think what’s important is that you think about this stuff consciously and try to be rational about it and not be extreme about it. Although some of the stuff is somewhat extreme.

Stu

[crosstalk 00:46:15] it’s a good point absolutely, it can … you can absolutely become a fanatic about your diet and that can be harmful in other ways because you’re so stressed about it you’re switching on your stressful mind 24/7 because you’re worried about what you’re putting in your mouth.

Guy 

What about your exercise philosophies as well? Especially since you’ve been doing Wim’s method, has that changed at all or did you find it complemented it really well, do you separate them do you do them together? Do you exercise?

Scott

[00:47:00] I have to say, I exercise a lot less than I used to now and it’s because of pure laziness and this publicity schedule that I have to deal with. I dedicate time every day for the breathing, but I go on hikes around Denver sometimes and thing like that, but I don’t have a really good regimen on a daily basis, and I think it’s really mostly because I am an investigative journalist, and I was an ordinary guy before, and I have not changed that [inaudible 00:47:13], I’m still an ordinary guy who does this crazy breathing stuff.

Guy

I just want to quickly mention your book, we’ve been talking about it the whole time, your book What Doesn’t Kill Us, if somebody bought it tomorrow, what can they expect, Scott?

Scott

They should expect an adventure through these methods, through human evolution, through meeting Laird Hamilton, an army scientist, and some pretty cool obstacle courses and some expeditions. It’s a really fun read, and since all of you are so excited about listening to my voice, I have an audiobook and you can go download that right now.

Stu

Brilliant.

Guy 

Perfect. Is that on audible? I’m guessing, I’ll just subscribe to it.

Scott

Audible, iBooks, wherever. You could probably pirate it. Please let’s not do that.

Stu

We’ll share the pirate link for you when the show [crosstalk 00:48:10].

Scott

Totally. Every day there’s a new pirated link that shows up on Google.

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Guy

Awesome, we have a couple of questions to wrap up the show that we ask every week. The first one is, what are your non-negotiables to be the best version of yourself?

Scott

What does that mean?

Guy

You’re the second person who asked that, I thought it was pretty clear. What

do you not shake on? What do you not budge on? Is there something that you do the way you live your life, and your philosophies, a non-negotiable to be that best version of you?

Scott

[00:49:00] For me, having time to dedicate to whatever I want to do, whether it’s procrastinating or doing something intense, having time to do that. Being more interested in time than money is the non-negotiable for me. I will never again take a desk job, I had a desk job for a whole six months of my life and it was horrible, and I never want to do that again. Time is the thing that is not negotiable for me.

Guy

Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Scott

Oh, man. Follow your dreams, man. Either there’s so much good advice out there, or not. I think don’t sell out, don’t seel yourself out. You only live once, and try to live the best life you can, whatever that means for you. I think that’s important. I don’t know if that’s advice anyone gave me, it sounds Buddhist or something.

Stu

I like it, it sounds cool. Like a t-shirt.

Guy

What does the future hold for you, Scott? Got anything exciting coming up or is it all about the book at the moment?

Scott

[00:50:30] Luckily, I think I’m going to be winding up publicity on the book soon. I’m still getting a whole bunch of requests, but I really want to start on the next project and I’ve got three that are coming up. Two book ideas and one TV show. Two of those things will build out of the base concepts here, and one’s just another investigative journey that’s different. I won’t tell you the subjects, but some of it will come out of this stuff and maybe give some practical advice, but also almost my philosophical ramblings and neuroscience and stuff like that. Then there will also be fun stuff. I’ve got fun stuff coming up.

Guy

Awesome, awesome. If anyone wants to find out more about Scott Carney, where can we send them to, mate? What’s the best way?

Scott

I’ve got all of the social media stuff, but also ScottCarney.com has a lot of my collected articles and things like that. You can look at the article that became this book for free if you want to read it there. Twitter, Instagram, Scott Carney is many name, I think SGCarney tends to be my username on a lot of this stuff.

Guy

Beautiful, beautiful. We’ll link to everything when the podcast goes live and share it with as many people as possible.

Scott

Excellent, hi people. That’s you guys, listeners.

Stu

Scott, thank you so much it has been fun as well, we had a really fun time today, which is excellent. It’s always good to laugh. Thank you for your time, your insights, and your humor as well.

Scott

Way to go 360 together, 180, 180, we’re back to where we started.

Stu

We’re back to where we started, even better. Let’s do it. Okay.

Guy

Good on you, Scott.

Stu

Thank you mate, we’ll speak to you soon. Bye bye.

Guy

Bye bye.

 

 

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