YouTube is trying to tell me something.
They’ve sent a shirtless, bearded man to warn me about my gut. “You know why running on a treadmill seven days a week doesn’t work for losing weight? Because it never has.” In another ad, the Jawrzsize adult pacifier promises to burn face fat and reshape my jaw into a snow shovel–shaped wedge mightier than Elon Musk’s.
Is YouTube’s algorithm reminding every Gen-X man that he’s falling apart? We Gen Xers may mock baby boomers and millennials for their self-absorption and superficiality, yet coping with the human body’s natural wear isn’t easily laughed off.
I recently read that the Gen-X lifespan will be notably longer than other generations, thanks to recent research on cancer and other life-threatening diseases. But those extra Gen-X years will likely mean more unhealthy decades. Clearly I need to figure out how to live an extended life that isn’t spent sleeping in a wheelchair in my old age home’s arcade room.
If you asked me 15 years ago what a Gen-X man’s middle age would look like, I would have envisioned a scene like the one I saw in a video for Cornbread Hemp CBD Oil. In it, Cornbread co-owner Jim Higdon wears a trucker hat and grandpa glasses, looking like Fall Out Boy’s long-lost roadie trying to find the band in a field of sky high cannabis plants. It’s chill, whatever, nevermind.
Behold the Biohack
Many Gen-Xers aren’t slacking toward middle age, though. A recent study by the American Institute for Cancer Research and International Food Information Council found we’re more concerned about losing weight than Millennials and Boomers. We’re also more focused on the connection between dietary choices and cancer.
Enter bio-hacking, a stack of Silicon Valley-approved “optimizations” that assure us wrinkles and inches can be erased with supplements, starving and Soylent meal replacements.
It’s not surprising that Gen-X men, or at least a particular subset of them, are trying to retool old age. We were the first generation that grew up with the belief that we could change the world sitting behind a Commodore 64. Plus the “Iron Man” movies offered up a model just as we sailed past the end of our official youth. Think about it: these blockbusters are all about an engineer who has no natural powers but is able to turn himself into a superhero with tech knowhow.
Watch YouTube sensation Alpha M’s video “What I Eat in a Day,” and you’ll get a taste of Gen X algorithmic eating. In it, 44-year old Aaron Marino grills up enough chicken legs, salmon filets and bison meat for a week. “Proper diet planning prevents poor diet performance,” yawps Marino in a scratchy voice that reminds me of my high school football coach complaining about my half-assed jumping jacks.
His “can do, will do” personality is reminiscent of Dave Asprey, the former marketing V.P. who left Trend Micro cybersecurity to build the Bulletproof butter coffee empire. Asprey, who’s 47 and wants to live to 180, recommends a very low-carb, high-saturated fat diet and extremely efficient sleep habits that require blackout curtains.
Sure, Asprey has no medical degree or nutritional training, but that hasn’t stopped Bulletproof from raising over $80 million in funding. When you have that much money, who needs to be right? After $50 million, you have enough to prove everyone else wrong.
Doing a procedure at one of Asprey’s Upgrade Labs — which may include an atmospheric cell trainer, ozone sauna or pulsed electromagnetic field therapy — costs $55 each. (Bargain hunters can buy a 24 pack for $1,075.)
The Doctor Is “In”
Wanting to figure out if I should start ozone therapy or eat bison meat, I tracked down Dr. Nell Smircina, who likes to be called Dr. Nell. Beverly Hills’ patients often wind up at her door after having attempted several unsuccessful cures. If you’re the last stop on the L.A. medical roller coaster, you probably have some good answers, or at least interesting ones.
Perhaps by consulting with her, I’ll learn the secret to looking like Joe Rogan or Mike Tyson — two middle-aged dudes who are possibly crazy, but definitely ripped. Tyson now eats only one meal a day and spends the rest of it mauling people in the ring. It seems like he’s doing a version of intermittent fasting, or in his case, occasional eating. Rogan mows down on wild game, kale and various supplements in between his hot yoga and heavy lifting sessions. Somehow they both find time to record podcasts.
Hmm. Will starting a podcast help me lose weight?
Before Dr. Nell diagnoses a patient, she requires them to fill out paperwork similar to any other physician. She’s a doctor, but probably not the kind you’re envisioning. She’s a DAOM (Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) and her expertise is in holistic integrative medicine with a specialty in ancient Asian traditions like cupping and cutting-edge, experimental treatments such as cryotherapy. If you’re worried, don’t be: She owns a very reassuring white lab coat.
Her practice Pique Health has a big focus on Andropause — male menopause — typified by increased body fat, decreased focus and suboptimal sleep. These guys, who “just don’t feel like themselves,” are the ones haunting my nightmares and YouTube ads.
“I think we do a disservice in conventional medicine by making people think that certain symptoms are just a normal part of aging,” says Dr. Nell. “Because it’s not all normal, a lot of it’s reversible, a lot of it is something that can be pushed off or adjusted if you find the root cause of what’s going on.”
A recent patient of hers was a middle-aged hotel chain exec who had been used to working 14-hour days but recently started burning out by 2 p.m. His blood work showed a high level of mercury exposure and really high sensitivity to egg whites. The cure? Supplements, acupuncture and dietary adjustments.
“The great thing about men who are focused and driven, when they really want to feel better, they will put whatever you tell them to do in their schedule. If they need to take this supplement, and need to come for acupuncture twice a week, it’s like it’s their job,” says Dr. Nell.
Science is the Cure
Many of her cures and optimization techniques like infrared sauna, and cryotherapy, fall under the adaptogenic umbrella: things that “help your body handle whatever stressor is occurring in that moment.”
“I’m very transparent with patients who are trying these new and experimental things,” says Dr. Nell, who notes that when noodling with these optimization techniques, it’s good to get baseline readings, bloodwork and research to prove that the treatments are working..
The most prevalent form of biohacking these days is likely intermittent fasting. The introduction to the Zero “IF” app claims the lifestyle can boost energy, improve body composition, accelerate cellular repair and mitigate your risk for metabolic disease.
Dr. Nell is a big fan of IF, and not just for weight loss: “With intermittent fasting, I’ve seen testosterone go from so incredibly low that someone is having, you know, all of the typical symptoms, to them having absolutely no symptoms at all.”
But will fasting help me live to 150?
“That’s not the typical lifespan,” responds Dr. Nell, with an even-tempered demeanor that makes me think she’s heard this question before. “We’re learning new things every single day. And my focus is more on your health-span than your lifespan, because like, what good is living to 150 if you’re feeling braindead by 100?”
Fair enough. I guess I need to scratch “Ruling the Earth for 100 Years” off my bucket list.
When Dave Asprey was in his mid-20s, he was 300 pounds, had “brain fog” and a high risk of stroke and heart attack. Now he’s in his 40s, at a healthy weight with just “10.2 percent body fat” and has admitted all this research into how to beat aging cost him a cool $1 million.
I guess now is the time to invest in myself to extend my health-span. The next time YouTube shows me a middle-age man dithering away in a crinkly toupee, I will not fear: I’ll be watching from the comfort of my new ozone sauna.
Next for X, sponsored by #disruptaging
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have.
Photo illustration by TueNight; image, Stocksy.