Scott Carney – Discovering The Key To Human Resilience

Content by: Scott Carney

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

Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Scott Carney back to the show. Scott is an investigative journalist, author, and anthropologist who has worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. In his latest book, The Wedge, Scott discovers how humans can wedge control over automatic physiological responses into the breaking point between stress and biology in an effort to understand what we’re really capable of. In this episode, we discuss his journey that included five hour sauna sessions, sensory deprivation tanks, and Amazonian shamans. Over to Scott…

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  • How do you define the phrase you refer to as ‘The Wedge’? (05:14)
  • Which of the practices outlined in the book challenged you the most? (10:10)
  • What can we expect from the new book? (07:56)

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Full Transcript

Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the health sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long lasting health. Now, I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of superfoods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is, 180nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay, back to the show.

00:44 This week, I’m excited to welcome Scott Carney back to the show. Scott is an investigative journalist, author, and anthropologist who has worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. In his latest book, The Wedge, Scott discovers how humans can wedge control over automatic physiological responses into the breaking point between stress and biology in an effort to understand what we’re really capable of. In this episode, we discuss his journey that included five hour sauna sessions, sensory deprivation tanks, and Amazonian shamans. Over to Scott.

01:25 Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Scott Carney back onto the podcast. Scott, how are you?

Scott

01:34 Hey, Stu. Great to be back.

Stu

01:36 Thank you so much. So we’re very, very excited today to be talking about your new book and digging into a lot of the adventures or misadventures that you put yourself through whilst writing the book. But first up, for all of our listeners that may not be familiar with you or your work, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, please.

Scott

01:57 Sure. So I’m an investigative journalist and anthropologist, written all sorts of crazy things. I started my career looking at organ trafficking in South Asia. I wrote a book on how meditation can kill you. And then the next book after that, I went off to meet this guy named Wim Hoff, who’s the Iceman, the Dutch mad guy who you’ve probably seen in his bathing suit on a glacier somewhere. I had gotten a commission from Playboy in 2010 to go debunk him as a charlatan. I flew out to meet him and it turns out I was able to duplicate his method, which is dunking yourself in ice water and then hyperventilating and holding your breath. Yeah, I mean, honestly if you’re listening to this podcasts, you probably heard of him at some way or another.

02:53 But I was the first sort of real journalist to look at him. There had been articles written about him like, “Look at this circus freak.” He was trying to show that he could teach people to control their immune system, control their stress responses. I thought it was fake and I was wrong, because in one week of doing this program, I was sitting in my skivvies in a frozen pond in Poland and then climbing up a mountain in my underwear and it turned out I can do the same crap that he could do. That changed my life. That was in 2010, 2011. Then out of that journey came the book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, which was hugely popular in the United States and in Australia. I mean, you should check it out. It’s a great book. At the end of the book, here’s the… You don’t listen if you don’t want spoilers.

03:46 At the end of the book, I climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in my bathing suit. It’s negative 30 degrees outside, I’m not dead, and we do it really fast. At the top of the mountain, I have this realization, and it’s the cheesiest realization I’ve ever had in my whole life. And it’s at the end of What Doesn’t Kill Us. And it’s sort of where this book starts. It’s I get to the top of the mountain and I realize that I am not on the mountain, I am the mountain. I know. My thoughts and I still laugh at myself or them, but it’s true. I have this feeling of oneness with nature and I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish these feats because of a connectedness, not fighting nature but working with it. And I realize I want more of that, I realize I want to do more than the Wim Hof method.

04:42 I wanted to use the principles that I learned with him and then apply it to everything, not just cold exposure but absolutely everything. What’s the fundamental principle of everything? And it’s the title of my book. It’s called The Wedge.

Stu

04:55 Fantastic. Boy oh boy! Well, I’m excited just to dig a little bit deeper. If you do ever decide to give up writing, I think you’d be great in t-shirt design, because I want the I Am the Mountain t-shirt. I’ll have one of those.

Scott

05:08 We could make that happen. Let’s do that.

Stu

05:10 All right.

Scott

05:11 [crosstalk 00:05:11] up on t-shirtmaker.com or whatever.

Stu

05:14 Let’s do it. So before we get into the book and all of its details, I’m intrigued as to the definition of the phrase, the wedge. So why the wedge? What does it mean to you?

Scott

05:32 Where I first came up with the idea was while I was sitting immersed in ice water with Wim Hoff right next to me, and he told me, “Relax.” Right? And your natural inclination in ice water is to tense every freaking muscle in your body and to shiver and squeeze every last bit of energy out of your body to keep yourself warm. That is our natural predisposition to ice water. Everyone’s got it. You can think about a cold shower right now and you’re going to want to do that. What Wim said is, “Relax. Do the opposite. Tamp down on that response, focus on the sensations.” When he said this, the image of a wedge drifts into my mind and I see it as amusing that sense of will, I guess, that sense of control to create space between stimulus, the ice, and my response. And it’s literally just pushing those places apart.

06:35 And that’s what the wedge is. It’s trying to put whatever that part of human… that human ability in between what is a stressor and what our bodies want to do automatically. And it’s [inaudible 00:06:50] do we all have and we’re using all the time in different ways, but it becomes very, very apparent in areas of significant stress.

Stu

06:59 Yeah. Fascinating. So the new book’s called The Wedge and it’s a continuation of the journey from your experiences with the cold and Wim and the breath and everything that you learned from there, which can be so unusually empowering. I took an ice bath and a Wim Hof breathing session at a local gym about a month ago. And afterwards, it was profound, because you go through pain as you know, and then there’s a realization of this new sensation in your body. But it was the prolonged experience of just an overwhelming feeling of being energized that was so profound for me. Four or five hours later, I just felt charged.

Scott

07:53 Oh yeah!

Stu

07:56 So I’m intrigued as to where you take this then in the book and all of the other experiences that you delve into. So what can our readers expect from the new book?

Scott

08:08 So it starts trying to create a fundamental understanding of how you can apply the wedge to everything. What is the grounding principle in everything? Once I’ve described that, I then take you on… well, along with my own adventure. I’m trying to figure this out at the same time the readers are, but I look at our fear responses. What is the visceral bit of fear and then how can you use that fear to get to a different place? I look at heat stress, I look at sensory deprivation, different types of sensory deprivation, whether it’s in a tank or eating just really bland food for a hell of a long time to change the way your taste buds appreciate the planet. I do different types of breathwork because breathwork creates different types of stresses in your body. And there’s so many different types of breathwork. I just dip my finger and I’m like, “Look, I did something cool. I want to move on to another area.”

09:09 I look at something called kettlebell partner passing, which is a technique that I use with another person where are you creating an environment that seems dangerous and visceral and then you control yourself and the environment and you end up dancing with another dude while throwing huge weights at each other. It’s crazy. And then accumulates with then looking at really major sensory experiences, things that are overwhelming, things like MDMA therapy, which is the party drug ecstasy, then taken into a clinical setting. I did ecstasy with my wife and two psychiatrists in the room as we went through a couples therapy session. I do a five hour sauna in Latvia and I end the book doing a 10-day Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, where again, I’m using all of the things I’ve learned, how to modulate my sensations in these environments to change, well, I mean, a lot of things.

Stu

10:10 Oh! Boy oh boy! So I guess from our listeners perspective, and from my perspective, I can associate myself with a couple of those things in terms of, sure, I swing a turtle bell in the gym and I have a sauna at home. And when I heard you talking about your experiences with the sauna, and I’ve read the section about the whole ceremony of heat, but it was the duration ration for me that was just mind-blowing, because I’m struggling to get out of that thing. I’m gasping for air at 30 minutes and my body say, “Get out, get out.” But you went into hours. So I’m keen to hear from your side of the coin, which of the practices challenged you personally the most?

Scott

10:59 All of them actually challenged me in different ways. And that’s the interesting thing about the wedge, is when you find stressors. I have 10 stressors in the book that I look at, but honestly, there’s hundreds of thousands. If your body can feel it, it can be a wedge. So this could be paragliding, this could be deep sea diving, this could be working out of your gym at home, Kung Fu, Qigong. All of that stuff has aspects of this in it. And anything that challenges you is a place where you can have growth, because that’s what a challenge is, it’s something that you can overcome. And we’re trying not to put you in challenges that hurt you. Right? We’re trying to get to the thing where you’re… before you’re hurt, but then you can still expand into new terrain. That’s the overall terrain of where the wedge can exist.

11:45 Now, for me personally, the most challenging was… it was probably convincing my wife to do most of this stuff with me. That was probably the hardest wedge, because she’s the real hero of this book definitely, and she’s going on my cockamamie adventures all around the world and then somehow our relationship survived and even thrived. So that’s probably the hardest wedge of all, is the marriage, and all this shit that I throw at it.

Stu

12:17 Dear me! Well, let’s dive into one of them then in a little bit more depth. I’m going to dial into the sauna then because I think that is an area that a lot of us can associate with being familiar with saunas and gyms and things like that.

Scott

12:32 Sure.

Stu

12:33 So tell us a little bit about that. I understand it was in Latvia and it wasn’t the regular sauna occasion where you hop in and hop out in a towel and maybe you’ve been in there for 15 minutes and come out and cool down.

Scott

12:50 No, no. This was a five hour journey. Every indigenous group around

13:00 Around the world has a sauna tradition. I don’t know if the Aboriginals do, but, but all the people in the circumpolar North do, where people go into saunas and they’ll be the center of the community, and oftentimes also center of like healing, healing rituals and also just medical treatments. It’s a sort of an all-in-one traditional space for healing, and in the United States we have a sauna tradition with the Native Americans here. The Lakota have a very famous one called Inipi, but many other tribes also have them. I really wanted to go do those, and I called around everybody, all the tribes basically, and they were like, “Sorry, a white man. We do not want you here stealing our traditions.” I was initially a little hurt by that, but then I was like, “You know what, we’ve a pretty terrible relationship over the last eons, and I get it.”

Stu

13:55 Yeah.

Scott

13:55 I was then looking around the world. I still want to look at heat. I want to see how people deal with heat, and I got this invite from a guy at a biohacking conference of all things in Latvia. He said, “I want you to come speak about your journey with Wim Hoff.” I was like, “Yeah, I love doing that.” He says, I don’t, I’m going to pay you with a sauna. I was like, “Who else is going to work?” Who else is going to be like, “Yes, that’s me.” It worked. Yeah, I’m in.

Stu

14:20 I’m in.

Scott

14:20 I’m in. I fly out to Latvia with my wife, and I do this great biohacking conference and there’s a lot of interesting people in the Baltic. One of the cool things about Latvia is if you ask just about anywhere, everyone, I asked what their religion was, they said “Pagan. I am a pagan.”

14:42 I was like, “Dude, this is amazing. Really? You’re pagan? No one says that I’m from.”

Stu

14:50 No.

Scott

14:50 They spend time forging the forest for mushrooms. This is like Druids and the old England, right.

Stu

14:56 Yeah.

Scott

14:59 We did the biohacking conference, and then the guy who runs this guy named Maurice, takes me and my wife into the flat lands, into this pine forest outside the capital city, maybe two hours outside. We get to this like super upscale sauna. This is an amazingly beautiful building. We walk inside, and inside there’s two hobbits, essentially. Two people with green felt hats on their head. They’re like five feet tall, and one’s a man, one’s a woman, and they don’t speak really any English, a couple words here and there.

15:39 We are out of our element, we have no idea how to communicate, but we’re going to work in it with them for awhile. The way they started off is with a ritual. We’re in this nice tea room and the sauna’s next to us and there’s a pond outside, right? It’s a beautiful place. They start by saying “Eat this food.” They had laid out like this tea ceremony, and in the food there was a tea made of wormwood, which is sort of a bitter taste, there’s honey with pine needles in it, flower essences in their bread. It’s weird tasting, but sort of familiar stuff. This is all very key. You’ll be like, “Why is he telling me this strange details?” It makes a lot of sense a little later.

Stu

16:29 Okay.

Scott

16:29 It’s weird food that we’re eating.

Stu

16:32 Yeah.

Scott

16:32 Then they say, “Okay, stand here and close your eyes.”

Stu

16:37 Oh, no.

Scott

16:37 Normally temperature room. They said, “Close your eyes.” Okay, fine. My wife and are next to each other, and then they start like dancing around us like freaking wood elves. This is all before the sauna. They’re hopping around and they’re shaking sticks, and there’s a rain stick. At one point, someone takes out a Fur Elise music box.

Stu

16:59 Yeah.

Scott

16:59 Ding, ding, ding.

Stu

16:59 Oh, my word.

Scott

17:00 You crank it and it. It’s freaking bizarre. I mean this is a weird thing and it goes on for way too long and I’m super uncomfortable. My wife is next to me and we’re both like, like it sounds like we’re in the middle of like a forest storm. They somehow like music it up like that.

17:19 Then we open our eyes and, and let’s say that’s probably lasted five or 10 minutes.

Stu

17:24 Yeah.

Scott

17:24 We opened our eyes, and then I’m like, “Wow, that was weird.” Then all of a sudden I feel ridiculously hot because I didn’t notice that as they were dancing around us like crazy wood elves, they had opened the door to the sauna, which was probably like 250-260.

Stu

17:39 Oh.

Scott

17:40 The room that we were in got really hot and they had been distracting us the whole time with their weirdness so that we didn’t understand that the heat was going on there.

Stu

17:47 Interesting.

Scott

17:48 Then we noticed. We’re like, “Whoa, we’re really hot” and then we start sweating. They’re confusing our sensory channels.

Stu

17:54 Wow.

Scott

17:55 All right. Now we’re hot, and now and now they said, “Get naked.” My wife and I strip off our clothes, and we’re really good looking people. I mean really good looking. Just imagine good looking people here naked. We walk into the sauna area and we lie down. Then, and this is a very long ritual and I can’t describe every bit of it, but essentially you’re lying in this room and it’s probably somewhere between 180 and 200. As we get really hot, they’re doing things. They’re massaging, they’re rubbing stuff on us, there’s coffee grounds on us and honey and there’s branches and all sorts of weird stuff.

Stu

18:37 Wow.

Scott

18:38 As we’re there, when we get to the point where we are too hot, we’re getting to that point where like, you said you’re claustrophobic.

Stu

18:46 Yeah.

Scott

18:46 You’re like, “I just got to breathe. It got to get out.”

Stu

18:48 Yeah.

Scott

18:48 They like dump a frond of like leaves into ice cold bucket and then sprinkle it on your feet. That brings you right down below your, what I call your red line behind before your breaking point.

Stu

19:00 Yes.

Scott

19:02 You’re at that point, and somehow they know that you’re getting there, and then they sprinkle some water your face. What they’re doing is they’re modulating your sensations and keeping you in that place. That’s cool. That’s a great way to keep you in your sauna, in this place, but then the weird shit starts happening.

19:25 Then they start, now it gets weird guys. They start slapping us with like Willow branches, right? I think they’re like wormwood branches and rubbing honey on us. As they’re doing this, they’re using the same stuff that we ate in the weird meal earlier. Pine needles and stuff like that, and they’re smacking our bodies and they’re like rubbing it on us. All of a sudden, I experienced synesthesia, which is the mixing and blending of senses that you’ve probably read about in that book, the man who mistook his wife for a hat, right?

Stu

19:59 Yes.

Scott

19:59 It’s this idea that you, you can hear sight, you can smell sounds, you feel pressure as music. It’s a bizarre feeling, but because they’ve sort of mixed all of these elements before and now you’re re-experiencing the same elements in different ways, my brain is hot wired. It’s weird. Things are weird here.

20:23 This ritual goes on for a very long time. At some point, they dunk us in that pond outside and then we come back inside have another weird tea ceremony, and they’re doing all of these things that are distracting our sensory palette. At one point, I start shivering because I’m so hot, which is a weird thing they managed to do.

Stu

20:43 Wow. Yes.

Scott

20:44 Here’s the question. It’s like, “Okay, Scott. You had this weird psychedelic experience with these like shaman gnomes. So what? Who cares?”

20:56 The way I liken it to, it’s like cleaning out senses you didn’t know you had, right? We have all these sensory experiences and our brains are wired through our sensory organs, and they all sort of work in a way that we expect them to. Kenny, getting out of there, it feels like everything is fresh again, like everything is new because you’re relearning your sensory systems, and it is like honestly a pirts. It’s called a pirts. P-I-R-T-S.

Stu

21:25 Right.

Scott

21:26 If you ever get a chance to do something like this, it’s bizarre and it’s totally worth a trip to Latvia from wherever you are to go do this and set it up. It’s one of the most treasured experiences that I had because we’re in there for five hours confusing all of my body.

21:43 The other thing that’s really fascinating about saunas, and you’ve probably heard Dr. Rhonda Patrick talking about this, you’ve probably heard Chuck Raison talk about this. There’s a lot of academic interest now in saunas.

Stu

21:53 Yeah.

Scott

21:53 What it’s especially good for, in addition to like having weird shamanic experiences, is alleviating depression. People who have, the research by Charles Raison who’s a some sort of scientist, researcher person at University of Wisconsin, Madison, he has made correlations between a higher body temperature and depression. If you’re depressed, you clinically have a higher body temperature and then if you can bring your resting body temperature down, the depression of alleviates. One of the ways you do that is you get someone used to using heat, right?

Stu

22:37 Yeah.

Scott

22:37 you To expose them to heat raises up their body temperature, right?

Stu

22:40 Yeah.

Scott

22:41 Then, when they come back down, they got to reset back down to a normal place instead of an elevated temperature. That relieves depression. I didn’t think it was real when I first heard that, I thought that sounded like some bullshit, but you can Google this shit. It’s out there and it’s like real reputable journals and stuff. Raison’s study and you can look at Charles R-A-I-S-O-N. Google him and body temperatures and saunas. What he’s done is he’s actually treated a bunch of people with infrared saunas in placebo-controlled studies where he shows that after one sauna session, or maybe it was three sauna sessions, I forget, the continuing effect and alleviating depression lasted up to three months. It was clinically more effective than your selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the Valiums, sorry, not the Valium. The Prozac and those sorts of, of drugs.

23:41 It’s fascinating that you can, why the saunas are so interesting to me is because we’re able to use our sensory systems to modulate how we feel about the world and we don’t actually need to go into medication. You can actually achieve similar results by modulating the inputs that are coming in from the outside world and having predictable physiological responses.

Stu

24:03 Wow.

Scott

24:03 I use the sauna as a [inaudible 00:24:05] look at how the placebo effect works, how our bodies naturally heal themselves. It’s a wild ride.

Stu

24:14 That is absolutely bizarre. Completely surreal. It almost sounds like a David Lynch movie, which is…

Scott

24:24 Oh, come on. Someone put me in touch with David Lynch.

Stu

24:30 How did you feel when you came out of there, maybe for the preceding days. Did you, and a couple of, throw a few questions at you. Did you sleep better that night and have you changed the way that you use saunas from that experience?

Scott

24:47 Did I sleep well that night? I have no idea. I do not remember at all. I wish I could be like, “Yes I did,” but I have no clue.

Stu

24:55 Yeah.

Scott

24:56 Maybe?

Stu

24:57 Yeah.

Scott

24:58 We also traveled. We were probably jet lagged, right? We just got into Latvia and we were in an Airbnb so maybe not, but I don’t think that had to do anything with the sauna. I will say coming back, one of the first things I did was purchase a traditional sauna of my own so that we can do this. Unfortunately I don’t have like these garden gnome shamans in my life. In general, you have to go to Latvia to get them, but I sit in there for long periods of time, probably three times a week, up to an hour on a session. That sauna is usually around 180 to 190 is where I keep it.

Stu

25:35 Wow.

Scott

25:35 It’s pretty hot. What do I do there? I usually am sitting in there with my wife and we’re just chatting about our day and just using it as a space to connect with one another because connecting with somebody under stress is a great way to continue your relationship. We talk about that in other parts of the book, but that heat stress can open you up and

26:00 It can be a very comforting thing and it’s also that distraction. If you keep your mind engaged on something that’s not the heat, you’re able to sort of bear the heat more and we get out… We’re pretty… At this point, I’ve probably had done 200 saunas, in the last two years. At this point, we know when we’re getting to that red line area and we get out well beforehand.

Stu

26:24 Yeah.

Scott

26:24 But you don’t want to stay in when you start feeling claustrophobic, right?

Stu

26:28 Yep.

Scott

26:29 You don’t want to stay in when that sort of tightness goes because saunas can kill you.

Stu

26:33 Mm-hmm (affirmative), absolutely.

Scott

26:34 There’s no doubt that you could die.

Stu

26:35 Yeah.

Scott

26:37 But they could also incredibly healthy and actually a lot of the things in the book that I write about can kill you, but if you use them responsibly, it’s good. So ask your doctors before you read my book.

Stu

26:53 So given the nature of what we do, I think our listeners will be quite intrigued for you just to relay a little bit of your journey from the nutritional perspective, particularly in with the potato in mind. So we had a guy on prior, must’ve been five, six months ago who went on a potato, strict potato diet and lost a ton of weight.

Scott

27:20 Right, right.

Stu

27:21 But I was intrigued to read your account of the potato and how removing a lot of the stimulus in terms of flavoring and texture and all that kind of stuff.

Scott

27:32 Right.

Stu

27:33 Can kind of reset systems in the body.

Scott

27:35 Right.

Stu

27:36 So tell me about your potato experience.

Scott

27:39 Well, I want to point out that I am not a nutrition expert and I had this section about potatoes in the book.

Stu

27:48 Yes.

Scott

27:49 And you can lose a lot of weight. So these are things that are true about the potato diet, but I’m not recommending this as, this should be your new diet. You just eat potatoes and you’ll be a superhuman. That is not the point of me doing this chapter. And I don’t recommend any particular diet plan. What I’m interested in as a writer are the sensations around us and what that sensory environment is. And if you think about where we live in the modern and we’re not going to grocery stores anymore in America because they’re all closed because of COVID-19, but in theory before, in the olden days we would go to grocery stores and you walk down the aisle and there’s a cereal that’s promising to have a party in your mouth, right?

Stu

28:37 Yeah.

Scott

28:37 There’s milk that makes you smarter and there’s…. They’re creating this and from the marketing level they’re bonding emotions and sensations and trying to make you buy their product. And we, at some point, our ancestors had associations with food, were flavors meant something, right?

Stu

28:59 Yes.

Scott

28:59 You taste a berry and the nutrients were important and the flavors were connected to the nutrients. Now that was well before I was born probably well before you were born where that was a real thing. But our sensory systems are important and now that they’ve been completely hijacked by marketing and by the incessant availability of food.

Stu

29:19 Yeah.

Scott

29:19 If you went to our paleolithic ancestors, food was boring and it was hard to make, really labor intensive and really bad in terms of flavor palette. But the taste systems or something tasted good, it’s because there was a nutrient in there that you wanted and it wasn’t just sweet and sour, right. There would be an herb and you’re like, oh there’s that quality of that herb, which is so subtle and interesting. I wanted to try to get back to that to some degree. And the reason I went to for just potatoes is one, they have some cool nutritional benefits that let you lose a lot of weight. But I wanted to do essentially a fast without feeling hunger.

Stu

29:57 Right.

Scott

29:58 And the cool thing about potatoes is they’re the most satiating food on earth according to, I think that the research is actually done in Australia interestingly enough, but of all of the foods out there, the per calorie satiating factors. So satiating means doesn’t make you not feel hungry, it’s higher than any other food on earth by a factor of three. So you can eat a lot of potatoes and get like very little nutritional value out of it but still feel full. And so I wanted to make a fast without actually having to feel hunger.

30:30 The potato was the perfect thing to do that. And then for three days my wife and I just ate potatoes and I’m not talking french fries. Everyone’s like, yeah, I’ll just fucking eat french fries for three days, whatever, that’s a great. No, no, it’s potatoes, it’s boring ass potatoes. You get a potato, you boil it, you put some salt on it and that’s as flavorful as you’re going to get, it’s a very bland diet. And my wife almost divorced me over this. We’re never doing the potato diet again, I hate it. For me, I can deal with that monotony maybe a little bit better.

Stu

31:01 Yeah.

Scott

31:01 And what was really just interesting is to see how my passive associations with food are wired just into the environment. I would just be walking over to the refrigerator to open up a yogurt and not even realizing why my body was bringing me over there.

Stu

31:17 Yeah, oh.

Scott

31:18 It was probably some sort of emotional thing going on in my screen and it was just a break-

Stu

31:25 Yeah.

Scott

31:25 … from all of that. I think I lost, some amount of pounds, five or 10 pounds on this, which I got back right away after going back off the potato diet. But for me it’s that cleanse. And then when I did eat the western diet again for the first four or five days, everything was amazing.

Stu

31:45 Yeah, no doubt.

Scott

31:46 No Cheeto ever tasted as Cheeto-ey as that Cheeto that I’ve just ate. I feel like I could sense nutrients in vegetables that I couldn’t before. And also the cravings that I had while I was on the potato diet. Some of them were weird associations, like a Cheeto which has no natural cognate to it, right? And then other times you’d be like, I want dill. Well, why did I want dill? What is it about dill that actually had something on? So you start to learn nutrient sense when you’re on these sorts of fast. And that was what was interesting to me about this.

Stu

32:21 That’s fascinating. Has that shaped the way that you eat from that point forward in any way?

Scott

32:30 I’m a little bit more attentive to flavor and tried to think about flavor. But honestly a lot of the things that I do in this book are about giving insight to how the body works. And then, at this point, I’m probably a year and a half outside of doing the potato hack.

Stu

32:49 Yeah.

Scott

32:49 I’d like to say that, that three or four day period that I was just eating potatoes changed my life. But no, I’m me again.

Stu

32:56 Yeah.

Scott

32:57 But what it’s about is in those moments, it’s that lens and you sort of need to be doing these practices if you want to have those effects.

Stu

33:07 Yeah.

Scott

33:08 But one thing that is very interesting as you do, do something like the potato hack before you do an Ayahuasca, which is where I end the book, I’m doing Ayahuasca and you want to have a very bland diet beforehand and not really do much. You sort of lie around all day because they’re trying to reduce all of your stimulation so that when you take the Ayahuasca, which is a very powerful psychedelic that gives you visions for eight hours at a time.

Stu

33:37 Yes.

Scott

33:37 They want that to be the very strong stimulus that comes in. So you’re paying attention to that because if you’re adding all this other crap in there that can get in the way, that change your experience.

Stu

33:47 Got it, got it. On the flip side, so a lot of these practices that you experimented with and wrote about in the book, it’s all very knife edge about being comfortable and being super uncomfortable and outside this zone that we all live in. So I’m intrigued to hear what your thoughts are on our current comfortable way of living. Whereas we just flop into the chair and watch Netflix and we’ve got hot showers and we’ve got products and nutritional-

Scott

34:20 Right.

Stu

34:21 … foods for everything under the sun. Is it making us stronger or weaker?

Scott

34:28 Well, that’s actually the… It’s a really good question.

Stu

34:31 Yeah.

Scott

34:31 And also your a little kicker questions also really interesting and I’m going to deal with your kicker first.

Stu

34:36 Okay.

Scott

34:36 Is it making us stronger or weaker?

Stu

34:39 Yes.

Scott

34:39 I would say the modern society and the way we live right now, we are living in the very best time to be a human in the entire history of humanity, right? Pick the timeline, throw a dart at the timeline and you probably don’t want to be there unless we ended up right where we are right now.

Stu

34:56 Yeah.

Scott

34:57 Because life sort of sucked in the middle ages. You died early, your teeth fell out, you lack proper medical care. And so it comforts, whatever our technological abilities have given us or a lot of abilities that are beyond what our biology is able to provide on its own. However, and here’s the caveat, our ancestors, even in the middle ages, hundred years ago could act in a lot more environments without technology than what we can do now. So the technology has sort of cuddled us and made us, I mean, in a way, right now we’re having this conversation over Skype, you’re in Australia, I’m in the United States.

Stu

35:42 Yes.

Scott

35:42 If someone in the middle ages saw this, they’d say we’re both witches, right? We were like, oh, it’s like telepathy or something. We’re like, no, it’s like electric wires and stuff that makes this happen.

Stu

35:52 Yeah.

Scott

35:53 I still don’t understand it, do you?

Stu

35:55 No.

Scott

35:59 No, but I will use it, right?

Stu

36:00 But the thing is, they’d burn you at the stake, but you’d be able to withstand the flames because you’ve been through all that. So it’s all good.

Scott

36:07 That’s a really good point, I could do that, yeah. The thing about our ancestors, that they would exist in a very wide range of climates, a wide range of stressors. Like when you’re on the African Savannah and a lion is chasing you, you have a huge adrenal response. You’d be able to runaway more effectively than I could run away. You could fight that lion more effectively than I could fight that lion.

Stu

36:34 Yeah.

Scott

36:35 So there was something about them because they were forged by natural stresses, which was really, really, it had to form their bodies to be harder and stronger than what we are able to do. And this leads to the concept of what we call an evolutionary mismatch is that, so our bodies are still the archaic bodies that we had 300,000 years ago. We could breed with our 300,000 year gold ancestors, and I don’t know if you’d want to, but you could do that.

37:04 And so we’re basically the same species but our stresses are very, very different. Right now, I’m worried about the economic situation around COVID-19 and we’re all worried about the economic situation and the deaths of our loved ones and all that stuff. That’s all roiling around our mind. And the other day I had opinions about this and I was putting them on the internet. I told the internet about my opinions, maybe you’ve done something similar. And I was very caught up in the cycle of opinions because that stress was an existential stress.

Stu

37:38 Yes.

Scott

37:38 But I have no control over.

Stu

37:40 Yeah.

Scott

37:40 I was trying to control it on the internet, which didn’t work. And then I got really, really anxious which is totally predictable.

Stu

37:47 Yeah.

Scott

37:47 And the way I got out of this cycle is… You have to think about your ancestors. When there was a stress, there was a lion, they had a physical response. They didn’t post on Facebook about, hey, a lion’s chasing me dudes and that alleviated the situation. No, they ran from the freaking lion. So what do we do now is you need to find an exercise, you need to find a stressor, a cold shower, too much heat, something like that, in order to give your body a physical stress in order to come back into balance. And since most of us don’t do that, most of us don’t want to push ourselves, that energy of that stress turns inside that cortisol released, the adrenaline we release, it sort of wreaks havoc on what we have going on inside. And so in that sense, we’re a lot weaker than our ancestors.

Stu

38:39 Yeah.

Scott

38:40 In that sense, we were not using our bodies the way they were meant to be like our ancestors did. Long winded answer.

Stu

38:48 Good answer. No, I love it. Absolutely right. Yeah, fascinated by all of the external stresses, I think today, and it can be a thought that just ruminates in your mind that

39:00 Just devastates your day or your night, you can’t sleep because you’re looking at Facebook or the news of the updates and you think, oh my word, everything falls apart. So I’m thinking about everything that you’ve learned through this journey of exploration while writing the book. And I’m intrigued to hear how you incorporate any learnings into your everyday life. Now I’m cognizant that you’re probably not going to be in lockdown in your apartment and throwing kettlebells at your wife. And like you said, you haven’t gotten-

Scott

39:34 Sometimes.

Stu

39:35 Yeah, no. Well, not every day. You don’t have dwarves in the sauna, and you can’t get to the shops-

Scott

39:44 No, no sauna dwarves.

Stu

39:45 … to buy potatoes. But what-

Scott

39:46 Yeah.

Stu

39:46 What have you bought home? What did that journey of writing and discovery bring home for you to instill in your everyday to make you stronger and more resilient?

Scott

39:58 Still, every morning, we do the Wim Hof Method. That’s a very basic thing. And this has been instigated for 10 years in my life, before writing What Doesn’t Kill Us, through writing What Doesn’t Kill Us, and even now. So I do this very stressful breathing protocol. Wim Hof is breathing is like hyperventilating, then holding your breath, and hyperventilating and holding your breath, and then dunking yourself in ice water. I don’t have ice water available. I have a cold shower, but I do that every morning. And it was interesting, after I was posting crazy on Facebook, and then I was up all night ruminating on stuff that I couldn’t control. The thing that brought me out of it was actually doing the breathwork in the morning, in my normal routine. And then that was enough to break the cycle because when you’re doing that breathwork, you have to be in it. It forces you to be in it because you’re hyperventilating, so your brain is sort of just looking at your physiological processes. It doesn’t have time to ruminate. And if it does, you’re not doing it hard enough.

Stu

41:00 Yeah.

Scott

41:02 And then that broke the cycle. And I had so much anxiety relief out of that just because I wasn’t just chewing my own tail anymore. I was like, oh wow. And then I realized I can’t control the world.

Stu

41:15 Yeah.

Scott

41:15 I can’t get out there, and my opinions don’t matter. I am not the president, I am not an important person in any sort of political sense. And no one cares if I like or do not like the public health response or our leaders. Whatever, I am totally out of my control. What I can control, however, is how I respond. And then I also have a regular exercise practice. There’s things I do, whether it’s kettlebells. I have a solo kettlebell routine. I also have one where I throw with people. I go hiking, I do go biking, I try to get outside, and I think that’s all really important. And I don’t have one prescription for really anybody for what they should do physically, except that they should do things physically.

Stu

42:02 Yes.

Scott

42:02 Right. They should come up with something that is important to them that speaks to them because, for instance, I hate the gym. You told me before we logged on, you’re like, I can’t go to the gym every day and that sort of sucks. And for me I’m like, I hate the gym. I would never want to go. But that doesn’t mean that the gym is bad because it works great for you. And for me, I’d rather I’d rather be on a bicycle out on a bike path, a million times.

Scott

42:27 And I think that we all need to find those practices that can become wedges, that we can link a sense of joy and fulfillment to, and that’s really the key. If I went to the gym because I wanted to get a six pack, I’d be like, I need a six pack so I’m going to work out. I’m locking anxiety into that workout because the goal is the six pack. And the goal shouldn’t be the six pack. But that you want your six pack to work for you, not you to work for your six pack. And so for me, the gym has those associations with it. My wife loves the gym.

Stu

43:04 Yeah.

Scott

43:04 She loves the gym. And I’m like, cool, that’s great. And she’s a lot closer to a six pack than I am, so maybe that’s the problem.

Stu

43:13 That’s awesome. We’re about coming up on time, but I had a question, and you kind of answered that to some degree just now, but I’m intrigued as to your non-negotiables to ensure that you crush every day. And these might be a little bit different now that the majority of the world is in lockdown, but non-negotiables. And it could be sunshine on your face, clean water, and like you said, the breathwork in the morning. What do yours look like?

Scott

43:46 Try not to take things too seriously is one thing. Realize that I have control over certain things in my life, and I don’t have control over other things. This is very important in the covid time period. And it’s true all the time. There’s things we control, things that we can’t, but I can let those go. I can be like, look, there’s a lot of problems in the world, and there’s certain things where my actions do have meaning, and so I should double down on those actions. But where my actions don’t have any meaning, I can’t take it seriously. I try not to make the world a worse place. I’m not an internet troll or something. And I think that’s important. I think taking risks is important. Being comfortable taking risks, and actually trying to take a risk every day of some sort, whether it’s a physical risk, again, not one that’s going to kill you, but when that sort of ignites you, something that you can push up against. Eleanor Roosevelt said it better than me and earlier than me, which was do one thing every day that scares you.

Stu

44:46 Yes.

Scott

44:46 And I think that’s really important. You should be finding an edge to push against, because when you do that, you’re engaging your emotions and often your physical self. But the risks that we take, the stresses that we overcome, those are the things that make us real. It’s not the sitting in the comfortable chair, living the same day you had yesterday. No one at the end of their life ever said, “God, I’m so glad I didn’t take any risks.” No one’s said that.

Stu

45:20 True. I’m so glad I watched every single program on Netflix. Success.

Scott

45:25 Yeah.

Stu

45:27 So what’s next for Scott Carney? Do you have another book in the back of your mind?

Scott

45:34 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stu

45:35 Have you got any projects coming up this year?

Scott

45:38 Oh my God, I have so many books in my mind. Yeah, so I run a small media company in Denver called Foxtopus Inc., and we do a lot of podcasts as well. They’re sort of narrative long form podcasts. We have a podcast coming out in July called The Syndicate about a big marijuana bust in Denver.

Stu

45:56 Okay.

Scott

45:56 And it’s sort of a true crime podcast. My wife has one called Wild Thing, which is about her… She’s related to the world’s preeminent expert on Bigfoot.

Stu

46:05 Oh, wow.

Scott

46:05 And he’s her cousin. And so she’s a reporter for National Public Radio in America, which is I think the ABC in Australia, similar to them.

Stu

46:15 Yes.

Scott

46:16 And so she spent a year tracing her uncle’s footsteps, and under trying to understand why this tenured professor spent his life looking for Bigfoot. So that’s been really fun. And she has a sequel coming out called, it’s season two of Wild Thing, which is about the search for extraterrestrial life. So it’s like we take these sort of zany topics and take it very seriously, and it’s both fun and informative. And we’re not totally crazy. We’re not just chasing telepathic aliens throughout the universe. And then I have another book about climate change in Bangladesh that I’m working on. I work on a lot of random things, man.

Stu

46:56 Yeah.

Scott

46:56 All over the place.

Stu

46:58 It’s you. Put it down to that Latvian bread that you ate. That’s excellent.

Scott

47:04 Totally.

Stu

47:05 That’s awesome. And for all of our listeners that want to find out more about you, want to follow you on social, want to purchase the book, want to read that book, where can we send them?

Scott

47:19 Yeah. So my website is scottcarney.com. You can get a free excerpt of the first chapter of the book there, so you can decide for yourself whether I’m crazy or not. Give me your email address, and I send you an email every now and then. But there sometimes pretty good, and you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to. And on all social media, it’s SG Carney.

Stu

47:43 Yes.

Scott

47:43 And this book should be available in Australia through all the normal channels. I know that it’ll be available on Kindle and all that stuff. There’s some print run there too, so you should be able to find it pretty easily.

Stu

47:56 Brilliant. Fantastic. We will ensure that all of the links that we’ve spoken about are presented in the show notes in their finest fashion.

Scott

48:04 Awesome.

Stu

48:05 But Scott, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, so thank you so much, and-

Scott

48:09 Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

Stu

48:10 Yeah. Until next time.

Scott

48:13 All right, sounds good.

Stu

48:14 Thank you, mate. Bye, bye.

Scott

48:16 Yeah.

Scott Carney

This podcast features Scott Carney who is an investigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney (scottcarney.com) 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... Read More
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