The Next, Episode #36
Psychedelic therapy for couples, food allergies, and making reality dope
Hi there, and welcome to The Next - my take on health, wellness, and brand building.
In the last 4 years I’ve founded 3 health brands (Kettle & Fire, Perfect Keto, Surely), which each do tens of millions in revenue. I’ve raised ~$20mm to build Kettle & Fire, gotten into 10k+ retail stores, bootstrapped Perfect Keto, launched 80+ SKUs… and have a small portfolio of Shopify apps I run on the side. Previously, I worked in tech and had no experience in CPG, DTC, or any other 3-letter industries.
If you missed past episodes, I’d recommend checking out Episode 35. Otherwise, let’s dive in!
🆕 What’s new
A few weeks back, I shared something that has been key to making major strides in my relationship with my fiancee:
Psychedelic therapy today is completely legal, and I’ll bet there’s a provider within 10 miles of where you live. (Or, use Mindbloom for at-home treatment). Though legal, psychedelic therapy is still very much in the early adopter phase. When someone is struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, or any number of other issues, doctors today almost never mention psychedelic-assisted therapy as an option. Despite recent studies pointing to it being far more effective than SSRIs or talk therapy for treating anxiety, depression, addiction, and a whole host of other maladies.
I firmly believe psychedelic therapy will make a big mark on culture and help millions of people dealing with the above conditions. However, I think it will make an even bigger mark as a tool for couples to work through their stuff and better understand one another’s perspectives.
Personally, this is where I’ve found psychedelics most powerful. There are few tools (outside of extended meditations, or a really frosty cold plunge) that so reliably lower my ego and make me less defensive (a trait I struggle with) and more open to my fiancee’s thoughts and feelings.
In every relationship I’ve been in, there have been a few “things you can’t say” to your partner. Things that when brought up are near-guaranteed to upset one of you. In the context of psychedelic therapy, we’ve been able to actually talk through some of the hot-button issues in our relationship, and work through a lot of stuff as a result.
In a world where divorce is so prevalent, I’m bullish that this class of therapies will help more couples deepen their relationships, work through challenges, and develop better partnerships, period.
💪 Health stuff
There was a time not long ago when humans just ate all the foods they had access to. There were no peanut allergies, lactose intolerances, or gluten sensitivities. That was my recollection of growing up, as my family would eat pretty much whatever we wanted. Anything but soda, which my Mom wouldn’t allow in the house no matter how much we complained about it.
By the time I was in college, both my mom and brother had developed rather severe celiac’s, to the point where consuming gluten makes both of them sick for multiple days. And they’re not alone, as today an estimated 26 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and millions more struggle with food sensitivities that cause inflammation and digestive issues. And in today’s game of Depressing American Health Statistics, between 1997 and 2011 food allergies increased 50% in American children.
In the wake of the explosion in food intolerances, many companies now offer at-home food allergy tests. Some of these tests claim to determine sensitivity to hundreds of foods and ingredients with just a single strand of hair or spit sample. Unfortunately, these tests have almost no proof that they actually work (more here and here).
Other blood-based tests are more reliable than hair/saliva tests, though unfortunately, the science is still far from settled. These blood tests screen for food intolerances by measuring antibody levels in the blood. These tests are looking for elevated antibodies produced as a reaction to an allergen’s introduction to the body: sounds great, but can often lead to false positives when one eats a lot of the food that’s being flagged.
Why have food allergies and sensitivities exploded in the last few decades, and what can you do about them?
Unfortunately, it seems highly likely that the explosion in food allergies is related to the general decline in health we’ve seen over the past decades. As Chris Kresser mentions, food sensitivities and allergies are often due to poor gut health. And that by fixing your gut - working with a functional medicine doctor, taking supplements, drinking bone broth - you can improve and reduce the impact that food intolerance has on your health. Beyond gut health, I suspect the increased chemical and toxin load we face today vs our ancestors also plays a role, but that’s an area I’m still researching.
For those starting on their food allergy journey, I’d recommend starting with an elimination diet like Paleo AIP for 30 days. And at the end of that 30 day period, only then start to foods that you’re sensitive to: gluten, dairy, soy, and so on.
To be honest, there may even be a decent business here for someone that wanted to go after it. Simply create a month-long program that includes prepared foods from a chef, a list of local restaurants you can eat at (and what you can order there), all geared towards an elimination diet that slowly reintroduces certain triggering foods feels like a business opportunity for any enterprising food people out there.
🤑 Biz stuff
The internet has enabled so much that’s good in my life. I’ve started and sold several businesses, made friends, built companies, and have the opportunity to communicate (via this newsletter) with humans that I’ve never met 👋.
Yet as magical as the internet can be, I still don’t believe humans should spend their lives plugged in and staring at screens. Sure, we can, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the youngest generations have both record levels of screen time and record levels of depression and anxiety.
Yet as firmly as I believe humans need real-world action and connection, I’m concerned all that’s interesting and creative in the world today happens online. And I suspect a large reason for this is the massive, massive startup costs that go into doing anything in the real world.
One of the magic things about online is just how easy it is to start something - anything - on it. When I first had the idea for Kettle & Fire, I spun up a landing page, bought some ads and tested the idea for less than $100. After I validated the idea, I set up an online store for $29/mo on Shopify. When I started tweeting, it required only an email address and some time to start building an audience. And to start this email newsletter took about $0 and 15 minutes.
Now compare that to doing anything in the real world. Not all of us have the misfortune of trying to open an ice cream shop in San Francisco like poor Jason here, but I think we all can appreciate just how expensive and intensive it can be to do anything in the real world.
Link to this sad SF story
Want to start an ice cream blog or Instagram account? 20 minutes, $0 and it’s done.
Want to start an ice cream shop? $200k and years of permitting work await you. And even then, it may not be enough.
If you want to cook and sell food, cut hair, sell flowers, manicure someone’s nails… all these things, in nearly every state in the US, require some sort of license or startup costs. Why aren’t our streets filled with small merchants, with art, with popup restaurants, with human creativity on like my online feeds? In large part, the answer is regulation, compliance, and startup costs.
When the cost of creative self-expression is high, it means less creativity energy in the real world, and more creativity online online. And that, I have to believe, entices people to spend more and more time behind screens. After all, it’s where the good stuff is!
I suspect there are a whole host of useful tools one could build to make building in reality that much easier. Over coffee a few weeks ago, a friend shared with me his toy model of a bookstore he’s building. Rather than invest in a big retail bookstore buildout and hope it works, he’s spending $2k on a modular wooden bookstore setup that he can install as a short-term popup. And when/if that works, he can invest further into creating a more permanent bookstore.
I can imagine a whole host of businesses that lower the cost of experimentation. Maybe that means setting up a restaurant and having a new chef cook every month, hosting ticketed dinners on a regular basis with a new food + entertainment theme, or creating a network of homes that allow local entrepreneurs to bring their creativity to life in reality. This could take a lot of forms, but I am 100% positive that by lowering the costs to experiment we’d see a lot more creativity in our towns, cities and neighborhoods. Hell yeah!
This isn’t really a business idea as much as it’s a rant, a call for something I wish existed. I want to walk down streets lined with vendors, try new things, taste, feel, and see 100 times more creativity in my life. I want more in reality, and less online. And lowering the cost of experimentation feels like a way to get there.
😌 Dope stuff on the internet
Some of my favorite things since the last newsletter (note: I don’t get paid to recommend anything here):
📰 Article - My favorite read this month was Erik Torenberg’s How the Elites Abandoned the Masses. Erik makes some good points: that elites often celebrate the exact behaviors (divorce, single parenthood, fat-acceptance, anti-work) that they themselves eschew: the same behaviors that make them elites. The whole thing is worth reading (and hard to pull into a single soundbite), but I think you’ll enjoy it.
📚 Book rec - I’ve recently felt more of a pull towards my spiritual life, for whatever reason. Michael Singer’s books have been hugely impactful on this journey, and I’ll now add Anthony De Mello’s The Way to Love to the list. It’s a beautiful series of short essays on love, presence, and focusing on what matters in life. 9/10.
⌚ Cool product - I’ve recently been enjoying a new olive oil brand, Single and Fat. The packaging is great and the product is among some of the best olive oil I’ve had, right up there with Brightland. If you’re looking for an olive oil upgrade, definitely check it out.
🎵 Music - My name is Justin Mares and I’m still listening to Fred Again.. again. This month’s listen-on-repeat was his studio 2 set - much more chill than his epic Boiler Room set, and easier to work to. I think you’ll enjoy - the guy just continues to blow me away with his creative genius. If you’ve enjoyed any of his stuff, his new album just dropped which is also spectacular.
🏀 Random - I recently got access to Lex, the AI writing assistant (link here for those who want to skip the waitlist). I just started playing with it and man… it’s pretty good. It is not hard to imagine that in 1-2 more years, AI writing will be nearly indistinguishable from your average writer, as my friend Nat talks about here. With this new wave of AI-enabled tools (DALL-E, Lex, etc), I suspect the returns to being early users of these tools and figuring out how to incorporate them into your workflows will be tremendous.
🙋♂️ Ask - If you or someone you know is trying to get pregnant (or thinking about it in the near future), let me know. I have a friend working on something in the fertility space who’d love to chat.
That’s all I got this month! Enjoy November, Thanksgiving, and all the good things coming up the next 30 days. I’ll catch you the last month of ‘22 - what a year it’s been!