Hi there, and welcome to The Next - my take on health, wellness, and company building.
In the last few years I’ve founded 3 health brands (Kettle & Fire, Perfect Keto, Surely non-alc wine), which each do tens millions in revenue. I’m now working on TrueMed, which allows health and wellness brands to accept HSA/FSA funds. Previously, I worked in tech and had no experience in CPG, DTC, or any other 3-letter industries.
If you missed past episodes, I recommend checking out Episode 37 on the bonkers Tuft’s Food Compass - the one that claims Lucky Charms are healthier than steak. Otherwise, let’s dive in!
🆕 What’s new
I’m getting married later this month, so it’s been a bit all-hands-on-deck over here. So What’s New this episode is that I am pretty behind getting this out the door 😅.
That said, for the married couples out there, if you have advice around the wedding day or advice for the newly married, I am all ears.
💪 Health stuff
28 years ago, zero states had obesity rates north of 20%. Today, zero states have obesity rates lower than 20%. And we’re being told that this is normal we should look elsewhere. Sorry Matty, but no.
Obesity imposes $170B+ in annual healthcare costs. Not to mention heaps of body issues, self-esteem problems, and mental health challenges. (As an aside, the link between mental health and biological health is a thread I’m pulling pretty vigorously right now).
What is going on?
Slime Mold Time Mold thinks it’s lithium (Less Wrong disagrees). Others think the issue is wheat, eating meat, not eating meat, nutrition guidelines, seed oils… theories abound. But what most of us not-insane people can agree upon is that there’s something going on, and we should probably try to fix that something.
At least, that’s what most people think. Unfortunately, there seem to be relatively few sane people at the policy level, as politicians, doctors and researchers get paid to suggest that obesity is a genetic disease with a drug as the only solution.
Let’s talk about Ozempic.
Semaglutide (sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy) is an antidiabetic medication used to treat type-2 diabetes. It’s currently exploding in popularity due to its weight-loss properties, as many trials have shown fat loss of 15%+.
I am sure that this will help many adults who have struggled to lose weight. If you’re overweight, use whatever means necessary to accelerate a path back to health. For many morbidly obese (it’s a medical term, pls don’t shoot the messenger) adults, this could be a godsend. Couple Ozempic with changes in diet and lifestyle, and (according to studies) a patient should lose about 15% more weight than otherwise.
Take Ozempic, be less hungry, and lose weight. Awesome!
However awesome, Ozempic (and this class of new weight loss drugs, or GLP-1 agonists as they’re called) are not a panacea. They are weekly injections that drive weight loss by suppressing appetite. And unfortunately, all the weight comes back on if you come off these weekly drugs. Not to mention that it seems 35%+ of weight lost on these drugs comes from muscle and bone density loss: not ideal for health or longevity.
These drugs don’t get to the root of why people are tipping the scales at historic weights. Obesity is a symptom of a broken metabolism, and the result of the highly-processed, toxin-riddled food system most Americans experience on the daily. Ozempic and the like may address one symptom (obesity), but do nothing to treat the underlying causes driving a broken metabolism and a chronically sick population. Yes, Ozempic will help many lose weight: what will it do to the record levels of chronic disease, inflammation, anxiety, depression, etc that we see today?
Nothing. Which makes it all the more concerning that the American Pediatric Association has begun recommending Ozyempic for overweight kids 12 and above. Weekly injections, given to kids, for literally the rest of their lives.
Seeing this frustrates me. It frustrates me that as soon as this class of drugs gets approved for kids (based on a 16-month trial with just 134 teens, and no long-term follow-up) the APA and others line up to recommend and promote it. Yet at the same time as these organizations promote a $15k/year, not-covered-by-insurance class of weekly injections to kids, when they have the opportunity to stick up for kids and remove soda from schools, or respond to bills attempting to mandate chocolate milk in schools, they remain silent.
I’m even more frustrated because I think these drugs are likely to become among the most successful class of drugs ever released. We’ll be fed lines about how obesity is genetic, obesity is due to your special brain chemistry, no our record levels of obesity have nothing to do with anything in our environment.
Never mind that Japanese living in America are twice as overweight as their (genetically similar) counterparts living in Japan. Genes, huh?
Here’s what I suspect will happen. Billions and billions of dollars will get spent on this class of drugs. Many people will experience weight loss, a fair number of them will experience side effects, and rates of chronic illness, obesity/overweight, and mental health disorders will continue to climb.
Personally, I would stay far away from this class of drugs unless I (or a loved one) was obese and struggling to make lifestyle interventions that (in my view) help reverse the tide of obesity and chronic illness. For me, I see side effects like drooping faces, pancreatic damage, few long-term studies, and I choose to stay far away. But that’s just me.
If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, Scott Alexander has written more on this class of drugs. I still strongly believe the way to fix our current mess is to fix food, not pharma. But what do I know.
🤑 Biz stuff
I’ve written before about wellness as entertainment. The idea that for many today, drinking at loud bars while consuming copious amounts of alcohol just isn’t as fun as it once was. (Though Zbiotics sure help).
Because of this, I’m starting to see more wellness venues think about entertainment, not just exercise. There’s demand for community spaces (gyms, saunas, yoga studios) to host their own community events, to bring people together, to entertain.
A few years back, my buddy (and former Fomo co-owner) Ryan Kulp and I were jamming on how to make going out to eat more entertaining. How to make it more of an experience than just sitting at a restaurant with friends.
What we came up with is still, in my view, a fantastic idea. When I am pressed for time but still want to get this newsletter out, sometimes you’re left with old idea writeups from sometime in my past. Like this one 😬
Introducing… HUNGER GAMES
Shows like Chopped, Iron Chef and Top Chef have exploded in popularity. I think there’s an opportunity to bring the same competitive cooking experience to cities all over the US.
Here’s how it’d work:
3-5 Local chefs apply to cook a meal. Same dish, same ingredients for everyone. Up-and-coming chefs, recent culinary grads, or even your mom could apply to be one of the chefs for the Hunger Games event.
Customers purchase a ticket for the seating (say, $100/ticket).
Customers get served 3-5 different bites from each chef throughout the 4-course meal. Throughout the experience, guests vote on their favorite dishes.
At the end, votes are tallied and the victor is announced. The winning chef gets 50% of the pot from the night, tips are split evenly among contestants and serving staff.
Following each meal, patrons are encouraged to write reviews, share photos, and create valuable assets that up-and-coming chef contestants can use in the future.
While over 2 million foodies watch Top Chef, a mere 2 dozen experienced the food prepared by Jeremy Ford in an intense atmosphere of free-range stoves and dramatic countdowns.
More votes are cast for American Idol than for the Presidential election. Americans love democratized talent. By combining games, tech, and food, we can create a Top-Chef-like experience that anyone can experience, and create a path for local chefs to grow their audience and become entrepreneurial.
Thinking more on this, you could also have:
A GoPro camera on each chef’s head that customers can view at any point (or are displayed on TVs throughout the venue)
Planted cameras in key angles above stove, cutting boards, etc
All ingredients locally sourced, guests can vote on ‘themes’ via an interactive website before the event begins
A MC can narrate the dishes, nudge the contestants, share how ingredients were sourced, and generally bring the energy
Themed soundtrack for each event (could be crowd-sourced by a DJ)
Live tweets of scores between courses (vs waiting until the end)
I think this would be one heck of a good time and flip the traditional, stodgy restaurant experience on its head.
A friend in ATX is starting to pull together some more fun culinary + entertainment experiences. If you’re interested in coming to one, let me know here!
😌 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 - Scott Alexander (yes I’m a fan) breaks down the decline in sperm count in his typical hyper-thorough style. I continue to believe this is one of the important issues of our time, and only over the coming decades will we appreciate the extent to which PFAS and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals disrupted our hormones and shaped our society.
📚 Book rec - Continuing on my spiritual kick, I really enjoyed The Way of the Spiritual Warrior. It’s less a work of philosophy, more a work of fiction that describes one man’s spiritual evolution. I enjoyed it as a quick read and easy reflection on the spiritual path.
⌚ Cool product - I am so stoked on Paka. They’re using sustainable alpaca fibers to make jackets, sweaters, socks, you name it. I recently met the founder and am just in love with what they’re doing from a sustainability and chemical exposure standpoint.
🎵 Music - New Lane 8 - woot!
🏀 Random - I recently went on the HNGRY podcast to talk about our messed up food system and my experience building companies. I haven’t been doing many interviews and enjoyed this one - would love to hear thoughts if you give it a listen!
🙋♂️ Ask - A friend of mine is working on a project to help founders and executives become influencers (like having your own personal ghostwriter + marketer). If you or someone you know is interested in growing your profile, I’m happy to connect you!
That’s all I got this month gang! If you enjoyed this, do me a favor and share this with someone you think would enjoy it.
Otherwise, enjoy the month!
Congrats on your marriage! (Most people would say on your wedding but the engagement and wedding are just the carrots and dip before the wonderful prime rib and lobster dinner of marriage 🥳) Our 28th anniversary is a week from Saturday and I love being married. It’s work of course - but great!
Best advice from someone married and with 2 married daughters - the wedding is just a party. Stuff will go wrong. Laugh about it. Enjoy the party, talk to people you never see, dance and eat cake. You won’t remember a lot of it the next day and there are people who came from far away that you didn’t get to talk to - and that’s ok. They’re there to enjoy your joy, and that’s enough.
All the best!
Congrats on the marriage!
Couple months back, you recommended pliability for mobility exercises. Just curious, are you still using it?