Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity was a fascinating and inspiring read, and it helped me reflect a bit on my own journey over the last ten years, which I am going to briefly share here, for the few folks that somehow find themselves on this review.
I have always been active, and I learned to eat (relatively) well in my twenties; however, after a severe case of burnout from too many years carrying too much weight at a software startup, my mental and physical health deteriorated through my early thirties. I stopped exercising as much as I had in the past, I ate too many empty calories, and I carried a tremendous amount of stress in my body. I spent years fighting constant gastrointestinal issues, depression, and a steady stream of illnesses as my burnout worsened.
I left the job that caused the burnout in January 2021, and began a long journey to restore my health, first mentally, and then physically. When I left the job that caused the burnout, I started building a software product of my own. My body was so rundown from stress and illness that something as simple as running a sales call for the product I was building would leave me bedridden for days after. There were times when I felt like I would never be healthy again.
Fortunately, I have slowly rebuilt my mental and physical health. The journey has been long, but the memory of being so sick at such a young age has been a strong motivator to establish habits that keep me strong mentally and physically. Nearly three years after taking the first step back to health by leaving the job that was killing me, I feel healthier now at 36 than at any point in my life. The biggest lesson I took away from allowing myself to deteriorate was that I never want to be in that state again. In Outlive the author talks about healthspan — not how long we live, but how long we get to live a healthy, fulfilling life. That concept resonated with me, and it is how I have been approaching my journey back to health over the last three years. I am prioritizing my health now, so that as I age, I can continue to do the things that bring me joy for as long as possible. Rather than letting myself slowly deteriorate over the decades, I put in the work now so that my inevitable loss of physical and mental ability in the decades I have left will be as slow as possible.
Reading Outlive helped solidify that I am on the right track, and the early chapters which dive deep into what we know about the causes of heart disease, metabolic dysfunction, cancer, and Alzheimer’s were full of new information. I feel better equipped now to make good decisions about my health, I know what questions to ask my doctors, and I feel more empowered to monitor my own health. Reading Outlive helped me feel more confident that I can give myself the best possible chance at living a full, active life well for decades to come. The later chapters on exercise, nutrition, and sleep were less informative, but the chapters on prevention (Medicine 3.0, in the author’s language) were strong enough to make the entire 400 pages feel worthwhile.