Ben Greenfield is a health and fitness expert, personal trainer, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author who’s been featured on Fox News, CBS, NBC, Runner’s, USAT, The Huffington Post, WebMD, and Shape.
When he’s not running around with his twin boys, running his personal training clients hard or running to speaking events, he runs obstacle course races, his own health and fitness brand and a wildly popular blog and podcast!
Here, Ben chats with us about health, blogging, nutrition and fitness research, and how people can make the biggest, most positive impact on the world.
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This article is part of the Nutrishatives’ Ask an Expert Series, where we chat with movers and shakers in health, wellness, nutrition and medicine about their careers, their current work and their expert opinions on… well… their area of expertise!
Your resume is unbelievably impressive. It seems as if you could have gone into nearly any field of work and enjoyed serious success. What made you decide on a career in health and fitness?
What made me decide on a career in health and fitness was the fact that I got very interested in tennis when I was in high school. Up until that point, I was president of the chess club, played the violin for 13 years, was a quintessential geek who loved fantasy fiction and World of Warcraft, but it was really tennis that got me very interested in the health and fitness sector. After walking onto the college tennis team, I declared myself a kinesiology major and continued to just geek-out on health and fitness and medicine for the rest of my career.
And what a career you have: coaching, public speaking, running your own supplement and fitness gear brand, managing a blog and a vibrant online community. You are a seriously busy man. How do you find time to take care of your own health (and do things like, you know, run an Ironman race) with so many other things going on in your life?
Well, I have intense rituals and habits and routines, and you can go read the recent post that should still be on the front page of www.bengreenfieldfitness.com to see those.
And in addition to that, I really am kind of an idiot savant. I don’t pay attention to politics or pop culture or any of those things. I just focus on family, on health and fitness, on hobbies, and on those things I know move the dial most in my life and allow me to fulfill my purpose in life, which I believe everyone should have and be able to very strongly define. And that purpose is to empower people to live a more adventurous and joyful and fulfilling life.
Browsing your website — the public face of your business — one notices very quickly that the content is as diverse, impressive and eclectic as your personal background. How do you choose what topics to explore, which experts to interview and what content to publish? Do you have a process or guidelines for deciding what makes the cut? Or do you simply try to include as much, and as much variety, as you can — a kind of “seize every opportunity” approach?
Honestly, the way that I choose what to write about is what I’m interested in and delving into, you know. Recently, I published a post on smart drugs and psychedelics because that’s an area I’m exploring quite a bit. Often, I will prioritize something if it appears the rest of the world is interested in that, too. With the emergence of Michael Pollan’s new book [about psychedelics], for example, that is called How to Change Your Mind, that is indeed the case [with smart drugs].
So, it’s kind of mix of what I’m interested in and what the world seems to be interested in because if I write about what I’m interested in, my purpose and my passion is going fuel that content and if the world is interested in it, of course, they are going to come and read it.
In addition to being broad, your content is also very inclusive. For example, you interview ketogenic diet experts, but also vegan athletes. There is no dogmatic spin to your site in any way, shape or form. Does Ben Greenfield Fitness reflect your personal approach to health and nutrition? Or do you see your site as a platform to discuss health and nutrition, in general, and you hold your personal beliefs at a distance?
Yes! We live in an era of self-quantification and customization. A single solution isn’t right for everyone. That ketogenic diet that worked to help your neighbor lose 20 pounds not necessarily going to work for you because you have a PPAR-gene issue, or a familial hypercholesterolemia, or you have a saturated fat digestive enzyme deficiency that keeps you from properly digesting those fats.
So, ultimately, I try to approach everyone as a unique individual person and I do not have a dogmatic approach at all. You are correct.
Are there any health claims you wouldn’t let on Ben Greenfield Fitness? That is to say, do you think there are some facts in health and medicine that are so clear, that you should not publish opinions to the contrary? If so, what facts are they?
Well, I’m not a big fan of health claims that simply say, “Oh, because people have done this for hundreds of years, or thousands of years, it’s right” or “it works.” I’m also not a fan of health claims that don’t really have good research or studies behind them.
So, generally, I have to be able to trace a health claim back to a research study, preferably in humans and preferably something that simulates, you know, the actual dosage and environment used in that particular study for me to recommend it. I certainly follow quite a bit in terms of PubMed and science feeds and spend nearly an hour each day just immersed in articles and reading and researching and writing to allow for that to happen.
One of your other main projects, in addition to your website, is your health and fitness brand, Kion! Could you tell our readers a little bit about what inspired you to found Kion, your goals for the company and the types of products you offer?
Well, you can just go to www.getkion.com and grab what you want [in terms of information] over there! Ultimately, it is designed as a place for me to take all these unique formulations and supplements and strategies and produce them and make them available to the world, specifically, things that help people to really optimize their bodies and their minds and their spirits and equip them to go out and live their own joyful and fulfilling and adventurous life.
Do you have any exciting new products or projects coming up (whether in Kion or another part of your business) that we should have our eyes peeled for?
As far as exciting new products and projects coming up: yeah! We’re really focusing on some very cool things coming up in the longevity and the stem cell sector for that site, so, we’ll be doing quite a bit in that regard. Blood sugar management, hormone management — we’ve got a lot of really key products coming out — sleep management! So, if you go over there and you go through some of the supplements, you can see we already have quite a few. We have a robust partnership with Thorne, which is of the world’s most respected vitamin and supplement manufacturers.
So, yeah, those are some of the things we’ve got coming up!
Between the Ben Greenfield Fitness website, your public speaking and your personal coaching, you get to talk to all kinds of people about health, nutrition, and wellness. Have you noticed any persistent misconceptions about healthy living? Do many people believe similar erroneous things about a nutrition, exercise or general health? Do you have any idea about where these fallacies might come from?
I’ll tell you one of the biggest ones, that you’ve got to exercise to stay healthy. We don’t see that in any of the Blue Zones. We see low-level physical activity all day long, but beating yourself up with hard gym workouts and dieting is not necessarily how to stay, ultimately, healthy and fertile and live a long time.
It’s clean air, good light (natural light), lack of exposure to dirty electricity and pollution in general, not smoking, eating wild plants, spending a lot of time with family, love life, social relationships; all these things we see the Blue Zones do. That’s how you, ultimately, stay healthy.
The biggest misconceptions from people arise from the idea that you have to do all these artificial things to stay healthy (you know, biohacking and bench pressing and running indoors on a treadmill and all that jazz) when, in fact, we don’t see the longest living people in the world doing much of that at all.
This question might overlap a bit with the last one, but if you could get everyone in the world to make a single healthy lifestyle change, what would it be and why?
Honestly, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit here. But I would say the number one thing would be to walk more. Especially in America, people just don’t walk enough and, granted, ironically enough, I’m sitting in an Uber (or a Lyft) while I’m recording this on my way to get somewhere, but it’s because it’s miles and miles away and I just can’t effectively walk there. But, ultimately, in a lot of these places where people live a long time, they walk a lot, like 15, 20, or 25,000 steps a day.
I think people should start walking more. It’s a good time to meditate, it’s a good time to think, and it allows you to engage in low-level physical activity all day long.
What impact would you like to have on the world?
I want to empower people to live a more adventurous, joyful and fulfilling life.
Is there a question you have always wanted to answer in an interview, but you’ve never had the chance to? The metaphorical con is yours if you’d like it!
It would be this: What can someone do that can most impact the world after they’re gone?
I’ll tell you this. My grandma recently died and, while she had a great personality — she was happy, she was joyful, she was giving — I don’t remember all those things about her as much as the stories.
She’d fly up from Miami and bring bagels with cream cheese from the Jewish bagel store in Miami to our house because she knew my dad loved them.
She would prepare my brother a French bread and escargot gourmet meal at night because, for some reason, he really like that. He thought it was cool that he could eat gourmet snails and the rest of us didn’t like them.
She would bring me out to buy any shoe I wanted, no questions asked, whenever I had a basketball game or a soccer game or anything like that — just no questions asked. She’d buy me any shoes I wanted.
When we went to Costco for big shopping trips with her to the grocery store she would always let us children guess what the total was on the bill. Whoever was closest would get to go back and get the biggest giant box of candy bars from Costco they could get.
Creating stories like that for the people who love you is probably one of the most impactful things you can do in the world. So, don’t just think about what you say to other people and what you do for other people, think about how you make them feel, think about the story they’ll tell about you at your funeral, and that’s really how you can make a great deal of impact on the world.