Friday, October 16, 2009

Ancestral Fitness: An Anti-Health Insurance Co-Op for the Ancestral Fitness Epistemocracy (AFE)

Above: My Cooling Inflammation self-experimental progress over the past year. Zooming out like this--in terms of tiling pictures of my face over time as Qualitative-Self data to capture results--filters out white noise and provides a solid medium for comparison analysis. The picture on the left is from September of 2008. The picture on the right is from August of 2009, which was one month into my current Fructose Detox / Hyperlipidity self-experiment. Of course, this before-and-after juxtaposition of photos also reflects another full year of living the Ancestral Fitness lifestyle to the fullest--it's a Carpe Diem, "Grok On," Primal/Paleo type of thing. From my vantage point, I notice more pronounced facial definition--stronger 'smile lines'--in the 2009 picture than I do in the 2008 one--Aaron Blaisdell noticed improved eye symmetry. All good things. (What do you see?). Trust me, cognitively, I tried to 'smile' the same way in both of these photos: a picture says a thousand words.

As I mentioned and alluded to briefly in previous posts, the Healthcare Epistemocrat recently picked up a new archetypal friend, Mythocrat, in the epistemocratic Blogosphere, uniting the Ancestral Fitness Epistemocracy (AFE)--where 'n=1' for the Patient of One--with the Living by Bliss Mythocracy--where 'm=1'.

And here's the Mythocrat's personal progress from leading that Ancestral Fitness lifestyle, tiled across time--Ancestral Fitness is one of the central myths in Brian's personal, 'm=1' portfolio of healthy my-thologies--those stories we tell ourselves and those rules/heuristics we live by:

It makes sense, then, that when it comes to health affairs, given our dire (SAD) state of affairs, folks like Brian who lead self-respecting, conscientious and responsible lifestyles deserve a health insurance product that supports their Ancestral Fitness journeys.

So, this is my Master of Health Administration, Physiological Economics for Health Care 'dream':

It's 'anti-health insurance' because the fundamental goal is to avoid medical needs that require insurance claims in the first place! It's learning by grace, rather than by hard knocks, as much as possible, as we 'seize the day'.

Above is a screen-shot of the simple, placeholder Web site that I designed briefly the other day; click on the link to go check it out. Keith Norris, Jeff Erno, Aaron Blaisdell, (as well as others) and I share kindred spirits on this lifestyle-based co-op approach to sharing the costs of catastrophic medical care: it's personal accountability to a dynamic community of bricoleurs. Over a year ago, Joe Sobolewski, one of my ever-insightful Master of Health Administration colleagues at USC, and I started discussing this form of ecologically intelligent risk sharing, in light of the reality that we face an impending tidal wave of lifestyle-based health maladies. From these vibrant discussions, Joe coined two valuable phrases: "Reverse risk pool" and "Healthy people opt in". Both of these phrases hint at 'grace nudges' and proper incentive structures--we must construct empowering 'choice architecture' environments that nudge folks gracefully--(yes, there's a hint of paternal libertarianism in this approach)--towards healthier lifestyle decisions and behaviors. Part of this starts by changing our defaults, or displacing existing detrimental defaults (escalators) with supportive alternatives (musical stairs): Ancestral Vending Machines, for instance, as Blaidell's idea, or Piano Stairs (thanks to Dave Lull), as another (possibilities abound):

Notice how quickly folks start to move differently when their options change; it's like Blaisdell's lab rats listening for tones, pulling levers, and then altering their behavior patterns in response.

Defaults matter. Options matter. We need healthier defaults; healthier options.

It's nudging folks out of and away from Quadrant IV, back towards their ancestral roots and lifeways in Quadrants II & III, preferably spending as much time as possible in Quadrant I, in order to reduce our healthcare system's systemic exposure to negative Black Swan health risks.

For this reason, I added two imperatives--"Insurance like Vibrams" and "Physiological Economics for Health Care"--to this quartet stream of phraseology, in hopes of helping people move differently, much more cautiously and conservatively, as they navigate the treacherous waters of a medical system where iatrogenesis lurks at every turn. With this set of values in place, I cemented the core foundational scaffolding for an anti-health insurance co-op: a 'dream' that needs to happen; needs to become a reality, and soon.

I own the domain (thanks to my friend Navanit Arakeri), so perhaps I will migrate this landing page over to that domain soon. (Hint: If there is anyone in the AFE interested in some Web work, please contact me ASAP!)

But, what would this Ancestral Fitness Anti-Health Insurance Co-Op look like financially and operationally? Well, I suspect that it would materialize like MediShare:

MediShare is a bottom-up, (religious) lifestyle-based medical cost sharing model that is quite innovative. Members of this non-profit co-op organization have eligibility rules--like no tobacco use--that members must adhere to. They also offer each other support during trying times and share lessons-learned with each other in order to uplift the health of the entire community. They even offer positive incentives as healthy discounts based on HbA1c levels, waist circumference, and BMI (not the exact same markers we would choose in our Ancestral Fitness community; my BMI is whack, thanks to all my lean muscle mass).

What happens when someone does get sick? This diagram describes the process:

In essence, MediShare helps negotiate the prices of a member's required medical services, and then these costs are shared with other members of the community who make payments voluntarily. Thus, it's not 'insurance', per se--this model would not be legal if it were--and they shirk the red tape by operating as a voluntary non-profit organization. This wellness-centered, intimate, grounded and socially-connected approach to paying for healthcare appeals to me in spirit: be accountable to a 'team' of like-minded people who share a genuine interest in your personal well-being (surviving, let alone thriving, is hard enough in this modern day Information Age).

Let's band together; as a groundswell 'uprising' of sorts: the Ancestral Fitness Epistemocracy (AFE) deserves a similar anti-insurance product to compliment their respectful lifeways: let's 'opt in' and 'reverse' our collective negative Black Swan health risks across the board.

Sporting our Vibrams proudly, of course. It's a barefooting to clip downside risk type of thing.

Let the t(h)inkering begin.

Because AFE folks like my super-lean friend, Will, go to work each day packing FAGE, raw almonds, coconut flakes, apple cider vinegar, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios in hopes of continually thriving while striving and waving their 'n=1' self-experimentation flags high:

That's his 'hyperlipid drawer'.

To good health,



  1. Great essay, Brent.

    Thanks for sharing the 'm=1' framework; it's a comprehensive approach to personal development. Follow what works to seed happiness.

    FYI - I've eaten mostly lipids today!

  2. Hey Brent,

    Total honor to see my name next to Keith's and Aaron's.

    The alternative insurance has to happen in my mind. Food is really really cheap and we are used to it being that way. Little do people realize that they are transferring costs from food to health care. Due to the way we live and the way traditional health care plans are we are subsidizing their dimishing health. We can't go on like this since we pay essentially for both. Higher quality, more expensive, proper food and for their health care. If 80% of all health care costs are avoidable then we are paying a lot for something only other people get.

    My wife's company is starting down this path. You get a discount if you don't smoke and your BMI is less than 30(my wife's is a bit shy of 20). A good start but a ways to go to make that close to reasonable.

    As to the picture. You look a bit leaner and more angular now, if that makes sense. Normally the "before" facial pictures are what I have heard called "carb face". You didn't quite have that but the improvement is still noticable.

    Also, I am not a web guy usually but I wrote code for a living. If I can lend a hand in that way please let me know.


  3. Thanks, Brian and Jeff.

    Ironically, Jeff, Brian's brother's name is Jeff as well. Good synergy.

    First: Good work on the lipids front, BG.

    Second: Jeff, Keith and Aaron are good company, indeed. I think that the descriptors 'more leaner' and 'more angular' capture my facial transformations succinctly. Good observations; thanks.

    On the Web front, we can pow-wow via GChat, and I would love your assistance.

    My approach to operationalizing this 'dream' is to employ the Barbell / 'Dentist writing novels on the weekend' entrepreneurship model:

    You start 'writing' in your spare time, with no end / completion date in sight, but you continue to 'write' because you know the 'novel' must be written. You keep your stable base in tact, at all times, writing here and there as time permits, and then one day, perhaps when you least expect, you reach the final page and you 'hit submit'.

    Brian and I are taking the same approach to conceptualizing, materializing, and operationalizing our 'dream' to start and run a school called 'Ancestry', in whatever shape that 'school' would take on.

    'Ancestry' and 'Ancestral Fitness' are my two 'dreams' that capture my values, missions, and passions: that's enough for one lifetime. It's time to just keep tinkering. We don't know when we will publish 'Ancestry' or 'Ancestral Fitness'--if we are lucky enough to do so--but the publication journey--the writing process--is all we need to lead happy, fulfilling, and healthy lives along the way. It's people-based entrepreneurship, and it moves in very nonlinear, diverging then converging ways.



  4. @Brant

    Good stuff as always. With regards to your pics, I don't think you had a lot of inflammation going on anyway, but now it looks as it is even less.

    In my two years or so now eating Paleo/Hyperlipid, my facial inflammation continues to recede even while my body weight has largely stabilized.

    This may be subjective, but I think with advent of Paleo/Hyperlipid that my face is more bilaterally symmetrical and that I am a bit more photogenic than I used to be.

  5. Thanks, Patrik.

    Glad to hear about your positive results.

    As an active athlete, I have always been 'fit and trim' on some level--I just used to be chronically inflamed.

    I think I have less water retention now too. Have you seen this in your case?

    I am also noticing that my skin--which was injured by carb-fueled acne--is healing thanks to my hyperlipid/fructose detox diet and from rubbing coconut oil on my face each day.