Plantar Fasciitis, Why You Feel Gross After Eating Meat, Rotational Diets & How To Carry Heavy Shit — Q&A
Q: Plantar fasciitis is ruining my life! What do I do about it?
At the beginning of my career, I worked with dozens of middle-aged business men with tight, round shoulders and forward heads who were looking to get fit. With this demographic, the protocol was a near standardized approach of lengthening (i.e. stretching) the front that was tight, such as the pecs and a few neck muscles, while strengthening the back that was weak, including the rhomboids and lower traps.
I was very pleased with my work and as were my clients. They stood taller, weighed less, and could knock out 40-50 push-ups on demand. Here’s the catch… After 3-6 months of training, just as these guys would start getting fit and confident, many would succumb to intense heel pain. “It feels like I’m walking on glass!” they’d say. It didn’t take long for me to start wondering what the deal was with this plantar fasciitis thing.
It wasn’t until years later, when I began working almost exclusively with athletes, that I truly grasped the interconnectedness of the human body, and what I like to call the “toothpaste tube effect”.
Functional Anatomy as taught in University presents the body as if it operates as a predictable, turn-by-turn, system akin to the old days of Map Quest — following a sheet of paper with each turn that you should take to get where you needed to be. In reality, the body operates like today’s real-time GPS apps, where you have a starting point and a desired end-point, but nobody — not the car, not the GPS, and not you — really care which roads are going to get you there. In fact, you don’t even mind taking strange unfamiliar roads that you may never take again so long as it saves you a few minutes in the now.
The body is one piece. It functions not as a slew of individual muscles working independently, but a single system of 650 component parts working in collaboration at all times. These component parts are all structurally woven together by a thin sheath covering of fascia, which is really the boss of what specific role any individual muscle will play during any given movement.
Across the last 2.6 million years that humans have been on two feet, we’ve naturally developed our default and most reliable patterns, in addition to backup patterns, tertiary patterns, and contingency plans! These favorites have been brilliantly uncovered and popularized through the work of Thomas Myers in his book, Anatomy Trains. As it relates to plantar fasciitis, we need to look to Thomas’s Superficial Back Line, which through fascia, runs up the entire backside of the body connecting all muscles — from the bottom of the feet all the way to the back of the head in a single sheath.
The take-home message is that heel pain is only where the problem manifests, and its presence is indicative of the “toothpaste tube effect”. The real problem or limitation is likely to be elsewhere along the same line of fascia. I recommend beginning at the neck, with the sub-occipital muscles, and working down to the feet. If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll receive an announcement of the release of my new e-book, which has the exact approach I use to treat fasciitis inside it! And if you really want to get ahead, email RUNGA to order a set of our new mobility balls before they go public.
In the immediate term, reducing inflammatory foods and healing the gut is where all treatments start. Then, using topical CBD oils, and bioavailable curcumin extracts, such as Thorne Meriva-500, offer a means of reducing some of the pain and cascading some inside-out healing.
Q: Why do I feel gross after eating meat?
I hate to tell you this, and I will say this in the nicest way possible, but: It’s all in your head! There are two primary means by which people “feel gross” after consuming animal products. The first is simply an indication that the welfare of animals is important to you, and the second involves ideas about the harm that meat may be causing to your health.
First of all…
Some omnivores and meat-eaters ignore signs that they may not be fully aligned with the practice of eating meat — they may feel gross afterwards because in their subconscious lies a value to not cause pain or harm to animals. In fear of the unfamiliar (and of the inconvenience that shifting away from animal products would bring), they push the feelings away and don’t take the chance to explore and acknowledge them. If you did let the feelings arise, you would realize that they are simply an indication of something that’s important to you.
Well, here’s the not-so-scary part of this realization: there are conscious consumers of animal products, and you can be one too. I think the misunderstanding here is that you need to make some drastic decision from this place — such as going vegan or vegetarian. This is a common “pitfall” that can happen when folks finally let their true feelings sink in, and for many, these approaches aren’t sustainable or grounded, and can lead them to resent those who do not follow the same truths. Meanwhile, those people’s minds and body’s crave animal products and lead them to buy “burgers” that aren’t burgers but do their best to taste like burgers.
Knowing that animal welfare is important to you, we can let that knowing inform us when making choices, step-by-step. The first step is opting for the pastured and organic, grass-fed, grass-finished and wild options. Meanwhile, you might simply avoid animal products when traveling or when at a restaurant that doesn’t indicate any quality standards. You may also choose to decrease your meat consumption all together, and become “plant-based” without labeling yourself a vegan, and limiting consumption to times when your body really needs it.
Which brings me to…
Subconscious beliefs around the health effects of animal products are also common. I think back to 2007, when I first started to dabble in “high-fat” diets. As I was completing my degree in conventional exercise science and nutrition, I attended a holistic wellness. The reason I was there in the first place is that I was “doing everything right,” yet feeling consistently low on energy. At the time, I was eating very low-fat and consuming copious whole grain pastas and wheat bread sandwiches to fuel my active lifestyle. Meanwhile, I’d had a TBI about a decade prior and was reentering rehab for symptoms relating to neurological fatigue.
At this event, I was inspired to cut all gluten immediately and go on a higher fat, higher protein, lower carb diet. I cut the gluten, but due to my training in conventional nutrition I was afraid to increase my fat too much. You may even say, I “felt gross” after eating butter. Soon after, my neurologist told me that the brain is almost entirely made up of fat and cholesterol, that convention has it backwards, and that butter, olive oil, and fish oil should comprise the bulk of my calories in order to support my brain. So I changed up my diet — now with even more trustworthy support. Within the first few days of cutting carbs and dramatically increasing fat (for the first time in my whole life, growing up in a very “Food Pyramid” household!) I felt like I had taken steroids. Within two weeks, some skin irritations I had been battling for years had disappeared, and after a few months, my neurological issues were drastically reduced. Needless to say, I was a believer! (Just in time to finish up my degree in the conventional approach.)
As I began to take my newfound knowledge to my clients, I was met with a lot of resistance. Parents of young athletes demanded to know why I was pushing their “healthy” kids to eat more nuts and butter. I had a few adults leave my gym, as if the promotion of butter had hurt my credibility as an expert. I pleaded with some people, using the argument that I was aware very of convention — I even had a degree in it! I had very little buy-in, and the majority of people that decided to follow my instruction and add more fat felt “felt slowed down” by all of the fat, so ended up going back to the wheat bread.
Our brain is an extremely powerful tool. Needless to say, with the help of Bulletproof and others across the last few days, most people in the fitness realm do not fear fat these days, even if they opt for more coconut oil than butter. Meat, however, still seems like is an uncertain, slightly controversial topic with a lot of quality concerns, shrouded beliefs, and general misinformation that can be a challenge to fully “vacate” from our brains before each bite.
When consuming animal products, my recommendation would be to focus on sourcing and quality — remembering that none of the health proponents of meat are suggesting that factory farmed meats and non-pastured eggs are good for you. And second to that, take a minute to “bless” your food before eating it. Hold your hands over your plate, close your eyes, and expressing your feelings of gratitude and thankfulness for the animal that sacrificed themselves for the meal you are about to nourish your body with.
Q: What do you think of Paul Chek’s rotational diet?
I absolutely love Paul’s 4-Day Rotational Diet. In fact, I first dabbled with it during college when I first read his book and have gone back to it intermittently since. I find it not only energizing and gut healing, but super convenient!
In college, I would simply cook dinner each night, then consume the leftovers for breakfast and/or lunch the next day. This also helps put to rest the idea that there exist “breakfast foods”, “lunch foods”, and “dinner foods”. There is only food, the labels have just been born from marketing and culture.
The basics are quite simple, and the food lists and instructions for each of the four days are available in Paul’s book How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy. To summarize the protocol, many very different foods (such as cheese and macadamia nuts) share similar protein structures and digestive demands. When we contain these foods into compartmentalized 24-hour periods, the digestive system experiences more variation in daily demands, and processes fewer of the foods that require the most lift throughout the week. Furthermore, the rotation provides a break from any foods that we may have a subtle intolerance to. The concept really makes a lot of sense, and I’ve met very few people that would not admit to “feeling better” on a rotational diet, although the haters will always complain that it’s inconvenient and unsustainable for that reason. However, if you suspect you may have food intolerances, gut issues, or allergies, the Rotational Diet is worth a try.
My basic four day template in college was the following, keeping in mind there are probably 50 additional foods that fall into each day which you can mix and match:
Day 1: Red meat, raw cheese, macadamia nuts, white potato.
Day 2: Poultry, eggs, oatmeal with cinnamon, cauliflower and broccoli.
Day 3: Salmon, shrimp, beets, spinach, walnuts, and grapefruit.
Day 4: Lots of sweet potato, almonds, chickpeas, and pineapple. Occasionally, I’d also have some pork on this day if I was training hard, although more often than not I made it my “vegan day” given Day 1 was generally the “heaviest” and highest protein day.
The diet truly provides your body with a broader range of nutrients given it pushes you to consume different foods during each 24-hour period. Many people, especially in the fitness space, consume foods such as almonds and eggs every single day. The problem with this approach is that over time, you can literally develop an immune response to specific foods, especially as the microbiota becomes less diverse and weakened due to the lack of variety in the diet. In fact, it’s extremely common for “allergy tests” to show that you are are allergic to your favorite foods! In reality, you often just need to cut them out for 30-90 days to let the immune system reset before reintroducing them. The Rotational Diet can help in this case, and it may also give you a hint as to what foods are slowing you down, as opposed to speeding you up!
Q: My ribs hurt when I do really heavy carries. What’s the deal?
Heavy carries are my second favorite carrying exercise. My first favorite? Light carries.
Carries, heavy or light, demand a highly functional and integrated structure. This is why they’re so invaluable for lifters and runners alike — they expose weaknesses that squats, bench pressing, and miles of trail may only exacerbate. In the same vein, they are also one of my favorite breathing exercises because they provide a self-limiting environment for any breathing dysfunction that may exist, which I suspect is the root cause of the rib pain here. You see, it’s near impossible to vertically, “chest breathe” when there’s a load weighing you down. This forces the athlete to use the diaphragm and, if they enjoy air, expand their trunk 360 degrees around, against resistance, to get it. So the “highly functional structure” required for carries means an active diaphragm, mobile ribs and a thoracic spine.
Try this fix: Cross your arms in front of you, placing your fingers in the intercostal spaces (the spaces between your ribs). Take a deep inhale through the nose. Do you feel your shoulders lift and the chest fill? Or, do you feel the ribs broaden and those spaces expand, allowing your fingers to sink into them?
Regardless of the result, this exercise makes a great warm up for anybody that’s going to be carrying heavy shit:
Exhale all your air, squeezing your torso thin and your ribs inwards with crossed arms.
Inhale, allowing the lungs to fill and the ribs to bellow outwards. Your fingers should be sinking into the spaces between your ribs.
Do 10-20 breaths in your warm-up, and between sets of carries if you’re hurting.
Back to light carries. For those that have followed my work for some time, you may recall me saying in various places that I start every workout with a 7-10+ minute carry. I do this for the aforementioned reasons. It’s low amplitude, high volume stress that trains the system in a subtle way to do all the things I described above. It’s also an incredible grip and core exercise that’ll bombproof your body before a heavy lifting session. So if you want to do heavy carries, you better start doing light ones, too! (A related conversation can be found in this article.)