Katy and Arthur Haines talk about re-wilding, and ancestral actions that have largely fallen by the wayside in a sedentary culture, with tips you can use right now to revive some for your health and fitness. Plus, Katy answers a listener question on her cold plunge practice. And Eva Nemcik of Happy Feet blows Katy’s mind with an alternative use for her alignment socks.
00:04:30 - Listener question from the mailbag – Jump to section
00:9:58 - Meet Arthur Haines – Jump to section
00:16:07 - "The Wall of Grief" – Jump to section
00:18:46 - Arthur's First Tip - Jump to section
00:23:52 - Katy's First Tip - Jump to section
00:26:50 - Arthur's Second Tip - Jump to section
00:32:19 - Katy's Second Tip - Jump to section
00:38:26 - Arthur's Third Tip - Jump to section
00:50:13 - Katy's Third Tip - Jump to section
00:58:32 - Meet Eva Nemcik of My Happy Feet - Jump to section
01:08:30 - High Heel Holiday Hangover Bonus Tip - Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
The Dynamic Collective
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Hello! I am Katy Bowman, and this is the Move Your DNA podcast. I am a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and seven other books on movement. On this show, we talk about how movement works on the cellular level, how to move more and how to move more of your parts and how movement works in the world, also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome here. Are you ready to get moving?
KATY: You have probably heard me talk before about something called “re-wilding.” It came up in my conversation a few episodes back, I think, when we were talking about long distance walking. In general, to re-wild means to restore an area of land back to its uncultivated state, but in the way, it’s commonly used in natural movement or discussions surrounding diet - paleo diet, natural diet, ancestral health, - a person is attempting to restore themselves in this same way. So someone could eat a more wild diet, or move in nature in natural ways, decrease their screen time, reduce artificial light distribution or sources. There's many different ways to “re-wild” oneself. In either human or land re-wilding, the opening argument is that our body/the earth’s body works in its wild state but not as well in a cultivated one. We re-wild land so that it is able to serve all the functions it once did, and similarly, we re-wild ourselves to restore functions that our body has lost due to being cultivated for a particular civilization. We remove behaviors that are required for certain aspects of civilization as well as add some behaviors that have also been removed, and we get a different physiological experience. So, I take off my shoes to move my feet - to give my feet (and my knees and my hips and my spine) the movement that they need, so I'm restoring this natural or wild practice. Or I'm getting rid of shoes - I'm getting rid of the practice, the non-wild practice, so it just depends on how you look at it. But once I do that I don’t fit as well into society. I get rid of the furniture standard to this current society to move more and also fit in less. And the same thing goes for a dozen other things I do. So to re-wild is, in this case, requires I behave untypically, but for the same ecological reasons, a biologist would advocate for restoring wetlands or preserving a forest. The earth works in a certain way, and humans too have always worked a certain way with the earth, and the way we’re behaving now is not really working well for us or the earth. And I’ll also just say it, re-wilding the land is very much tied to re-wilding our own bodies. Each informs the other, and each goes stepwise, lockstep.
In 1854, Henry David Thoreau did his own version of re-wilding. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” he famously wrote in his book Walden. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” (end quote) Interestingly enough, sucking bone marrow - not the metaphor - is likely part of some of you listeners’ re-wilding practice. Note Thoreau also built a little cabin and planted a garden, and lived simply on Walden Pond for a little over two years. I also heard that his mom was close by and did all of his laundry the whole time. Just a fun side - just a fun fact. He eventually moved back to the city, but he understood and wrote about the value he found in self-reliance and solitude. So, I’m hoping to actually go the other way, to write about it as I have already done, and then go live it. So that's my plan just in case anyone's listening. If Thoreau were still alive, I would try to get him as a guest on this podcast. But in his absence, I’m gonna talk with Arthur Haines, super cool Arthur Haines; a primitive skills mentor who will be here with three tips to help you reclaim ancestral ways of living - help you re-wild a bit, wherever you are.
So I picked this question because I thought it lent itself nicely to this conversation of re-wilding. "How’s the cold plunging going? What’s your practice? Do you follow any protocol?"
So I notoriously do not follow protocols. Like I'm not really a system user or a protocol follower although I do appreciate large principles and ideas and then I kind of find my own - the way that it works for me - the practice that allows me to adapt it to my body, my situation. So cold plunging is not something that I do in the same way that I would make sure I'm eating vegetables every day. I'm not sure that I cold plunge every day. For me, and of course, I'm fortunate enough to be around natural bodies of water quite regularly, so I'm kind of reminded by, if I'm out by the river, I should probably go in it. If it's convenient enough. So if I'm camping near of body of water, days of celebration, especially if they're celestially based or nature-based to me, kind of call out to have some sort of element of something startling which is going in a cold body of water. How's it going? I would say in the last two weeks I've gone into two different rivers and this is early to mid-November. Freezing rivers. But I did it with other people. I've done it for bathing while camping. So again, that would be my practice. My practice is to do it in a way that most makes sense. Now that all being said, I do like to sauna and if I sauna I will add that cold water element because that is, for me that's another movement feat I enjoy which is to go hot and cold, hot and cold. I think of it as exercise for the cells of my body that aren't moved as regularly. So that's it. And that would be - I would say a lot of people would put being able to tolerate. And Arthur and I will get into this later on. I've got this in the questions. This idea of being more tolerant or resilient to more scenarios opens up the experiences that are available to you. So I was having this discussion the second to the last time I was in a cold river with friend and colleague Kristen Marvin. I will link to her Instagram in the show notes because she was, while I was getting in and out of the water, she was kind of lingering around and swimming kind of like a sea lion for 20 minutes comfortably in this really cold water. But we were talking about one of the reasons that we're doing it is not for the health benefits. The health benefits are definitely a byproduct. But more because it opens up so many more experiences when you can tolerate or when your body can cope with and deal with the extreme and recover. Right? That's the same reason people do cardiovascular exercise. They're plunging into something that challenges them for a short period of time. But cardiovascular fitness is really more the ability to recover after doing it. Everyone can be startled and have their heart rate thrown up or have to do something strenuous. The resiliency of the heart and the lungs and really the entire body in that environment of intensity is that you can recover after it. And so for us, the reason that I go into cold water is yes, for the fact that this is a bit of landscape on the planet that I was able to interact with because of the work that I've done with my body. So I get that experience. But it also means that I don't have to, if I perceive that something's going to be cold or wet like the weather, it does not automatically mean that I have to stay inside my box. Or stay inside a particular set of clothing. That I don't have to have so much stuff for my physical body to be on the earth comfortably. So that is really my perspective. And that's the same reason, really, that I'm moving in the way I'm moving and going into nature is that I believe first and foremost that I'm a person of the planet. And I want to make sure that the planet and I are in a harmonious relationship. So how is the cold plunge going for you? That's my question for all of you out there. So if you have a question, anyone else listening, you can email email@example.com. This podcast is supported by the Dynamic Collective which is made of up UnShoes, Venn Design, Soft Star Shoes, Earth Runner Sandals, and MyMayu. Over the last five episodes, we have met the brains behind the brands, and this week, we’ll welcome a new sponsor to the show. This is Eva Nemcik from Happy Feet Alignment Socks. She's gonna talk about how her foot alignment socks came to be - and what’s next for the company that she built.
ARTHUR: Thanks so much for inviting me, Katy.
KATY: Well, I feel like I could probably talk to Arthur Haines for hours. I'm not sure how great it would be to listen to a recording of it, but I have a lot of ideas, and I would say that there's not a tremendous number of people that I could bounce ideas off of with certain areas of my work. But again, some time I hope that sometime we have extended time to work through some of these more biologist questions that I have. But we'll have to keep this to a respectful 30 to 40 minutes. How did you first get interested in foraging and other primitive skills?
ARTHUR: Oh, good question. It's something that, where I grew up, was an activity that a lot of people participated in. Partly out of tradition in some cases. I mean there were a lot of people where I lived that wouldn't be described as wealthy or even middle class who foraged for various things during the year just as a result of a financial need to secure inexpensive food. Of course as I grew older and started to do research on the nutrition that was found in rare plants, I started to realize that this wasn't just a way that we could potentially save money, but it was a way that we could really bolster the amount of all these nutritional elements that we don't necessarily get in a deep way from our cultivated diets. And so there's been a lot of different avenues that I've become reinterested over and over again in foraging.
KATY: So it was originally dietary nutrition that piqued your interest, but I think people who are familiar with this concept of re-wilding recognize now it's so much more than food. So when did you start to think, I guess beyond the diet.
ARTHUR: More recently. I mean later in my life, Katy, I started thinking of foraging as being more than just what we put in our body but also starting to be a really important part of our life way here because foraging for wild plants is a way of securing food that leaves the forest standing. It may be one of the most sustainable ways to secure food in human history. And understanding that not everyone based on their location and their knowledge base and other factors can participate in foraging but those who can should.
KATY: What have you observed that convinces you that these skills or honing these skills over time is a good investment?
ARTHUR: Well, I mean the most obvious one is health. And we could talk about human health. We could talk about ecosystem health. I mean there are people that I have met, and this also would include myself in many ways, where there were significant health issues, chronic health issues that had been experienced in some cases for years. There's a person who is close to me who is having tremendous gut dysbiosis for example and was experiencing diarrhea essentially every single time this person went to the bathroom for years. And after spending some time committing to learning about wild plants in addition to some various tests and things to find out food sensitivities, this is a person who now is experiencing very regular bowel movements without those watery stools and has been able to upgrade their health, they're overall physical fitness, pretty tremendously from wild foods. And we could use a number of examples of people that I've worked with regarding wild nutrition.
KATY: Yeah. I'm currently reading Jeff Leach who started a lot of the research on the microbiome Honor Thy Symbionts, and that's kind of a theme there as well. I think that when people hear "diet of wild foods" they're thinking, of course, of maybe the nutritional profile of those foods, but nature is so complex. There's so many variables and another variable added is not only the nutrients of these foods but the microbiome that comes from diversifying greatly. I think he recommends 30 different food types every day just to get your gut basically what it needs. So I've just been interested in expanding the idea of food being something that gives you more than just dietary nutrition. And one of the ways that I've expanded upon that is by talking about the movement that food can give you. I've talked a lot about it on this show, and it's in the books that I write. Which is, we have a long-term relationship with food, but we have an equally long-term relationship with the movements to get that food and so I kind of introduce the idea of mechanical nutrients. And so the natural movement paradigm that I like to write about really involves food and wild food and also kind of the middle step which is cultivating your own food in your own space which has an element of gardening which I think has some human history behind it as well to various extent. So I want to talk a little bit about easy tips.
ARTHUR: Well yeah. The wall of grief is that thing that humans come up against when they really start looking into the changes, and often these are drastic changes, and they are not for the good changes that have happened with modern living. We know that we're experiencing unprecedented rights of chronic disease, that we have huge amounts of depression that was not seen in intact hunter-gatherer cultures. We know that we're polluting our ecosystems and that it's now hard to find food that is clean. Recent research was showing when they were looking at breakfast foods, that nearly all of the samples, various cereals and other kinds of breakfast foods, are all contaminated with glyphosate, one of the ingredients in round up. The ecoside that is occurring. We're entering the world's six major extinction. And we could keep going especially if we started talking about the lack of community and the feelings of isolation that many people have. And when all of this starts to be known, and we look into these things, this is a pretty heavy feeling. It's a pretty serious thing. And I find many people run into the wall of grief where they have a lot of despair. They don't know which direction to turn, and it can be paralyzing because it feels like, in some ways, almost every aspect of modern living has been touched in some negative way by this industry that we rely on.
KATY: So, when I read that, I guess it made me happy that I've been trying to do this series. I've been doing a podcast for a long time, and sometimes the theory gets so heavy that I feel like when people hear all of the work to be done, it almost keeps us from doing anything. This wall of grief. I've never heard it put that way. It's always framed as, "don't be so lazy" or "come on step up." But it really is this grief. It's an emotional weight that the inertia of it is so great that to take a step seems impossible. So I wanted to offer this short series of simple action tips that could help people move beyond what I'm now going to call a wall of grief, using your term. Just so they can feel like something is possible. Something is possible pretty immediately in some way. We're gonna give six tips. And we're gonna do that right now. I asked you to bring three tips for taking any general action on recultivating an ancestral way.
ARTHUR: Well for me it's figure out a way to incorporate more phytochemistry in your diet.
KATY: What's phytochemistry for the listeners at home?
ARTHUR: Well funny you should ask. Phytochemistry is a fancy term that's talking about plant compounds or these chemicals that are found in plants. And these have some pretty manifest interactions with our health. And I'm generally speaking about very positive ones. And what's really important that people understand is that the cultivated produce that we rely on has been shown through a large body of research at this point to contain fewer and sometimes less diverse kinds of these beneficial phytochemicals that used to be very abundant in our diet. Some examples: Wild blueberries contain up to 3 fold the level of antioxidants (and these come from anthocyanins that are a class of pigments that are found in plants), so wild blueberries contain up to 3 fold the antioxidant capacity of cultivated blueberries. Now, remember these antioxidants are very important for us. They fulfill a lot of roles including quenching oxidative damage and being sort of part of an overall strategy to fight various things like inflammation and potentially even protect us against cancer. Similar studies have been done with blackberries showing up to 80% more beneficial phytochemistry, and I'm talking again specifically about these antioxidant compounds in wild versus cultivated species. Wild strawberries, another one. Many many times the level of antioxidants. I think maybe one of the best examples the I enjoy using in my lectures is just the fact that when we go to the store to purchase grapes, almost all of the grapes that we purchase and that are even available to us in the marketplace are seedless. But of course, grape seed extract which would be something available to us with seeded grapes which is what the wild species are is something that also has a host of research demonstrating that it's really beneficial to humans. We know that it accelerates the healing of soft tissues. It has benefits for oral health. It can even protect against ultraviolet radiation which helps us with getting conscientious sun exposure without the harm, boost blood vessel health. There's, again, cancer prevention and treatment. It's an antiviral. And we could go on with all of the research that backs up grape seed extract, but of course, we have bred the seeds out of modern grapes, and so we just completely miss out on this unless we go to the health food store to buy the grape seed extract. And it seems kind of strange - we breed the medicine out, and then we go buy it. So wild plants offer us this really easy way to upgrade our intake of beneficial phytochemicals.
KATY: Because we're a science-based culture, we tend to parse for understanding, and I feel like we also parse, like literally parse our food apart. So we've taken the seeds out. So I wonder, what was the original complaint of seeds? That people don't like the way that they feel in their mouth, which is that texture element? We've bred out if we can use bred out of our walking paths as well. Any texture beneath our feet. We're so averse to any sort of - you know texture is really just a different tongue orientation. It is just a shape. I have little kids and so naturally putting everything in their mouth and working with different speech pathologists who are like, yeah, they're getting the motor skills to deal with that texture, that shape, to be able to expel it as necessary. They're strengthening all those parts. So we got rid of the feeling that we don't like, but then we still have, somewhere along the line, identified it as medicine so then somewhere, someone is pulling out all these grape seeds and pressing them to get the medicinal oil which is also free from its seed. Right? It's in a bottle now and requires all this extra energy. So that phenomenon of why we do that. Why are we averse to the intact thing? Is it just the movement required for it - whether it be whole body or of the tongue?
ARTHUR: There's a number of factors that play in with different species of seeds. But it is interesting that we want this more homogenous experience as we bite into the flesh of the fruit, be it a grape or a banana for example.
KATY: Yeah. Is it bitterness? Definitely, in this culture we are not comfortable I would say, with bitter.
So this is this idea of returning to ancestral practices for personal health, but I would say also for family/community/ecosystem health. For me, I did not come up in an ecological model of understanding - even my own work in movement. But the more you learn your own trade or your craft, the more ecologically geared questions you have to start asking and then eventually arrive back to well the most complex model is the model we're after. And so I find that re-wilding has a lot of just this idea that we're after the complexity now. We're not complexity averse any longer. So with food, so much of the food that we eat, the movement has been taken out of it. People listen to this show through a movement filter. They're trying to figure out how to add more movement into their life. And the mindset is get more exercise. But I'm really interested in the nutrients of movement: what are their types and then what are their volume or distribution throughout a year - throughout a season, or a year, or a season of life. And so I would recommend that people start trying to restore food preparation motion. So that would be - it could be gathering your own food. But it could also be grinding your own food or chopping your own food. Look at the foods that you buy. Is it a giant plastic bag filled with already peeled carrots or can you get closer to the whole and then do the preparation work that you prefer yourself? Can you grind your own coffee beans? Or mash your own coffee beans, if that's what you're eating? So figure out the foods that you eat and see how you can move a little bit more for them. And it's not only for the motions. But it is, it's about connecting to your food. It's about - maybe connecting at first to the movement that you're outsourcing for the convenience of your food. And it increases appreciation. It prolongs maybe the interaction that you have with your food. You're smelling it. You're seeing how it comes from the earth - what shape. No carrots come out looking like the baby carrots that people are massively consuming.
KATY: Why are we averse to the lumps and the bumps and the texture of a carrot? At what point did smooth, infant looking carrots become the ones that we gravitate towards? So that's my start ancestral health practices. And it can be done in the convenience of your own kitchen. It usually just requires that you make different choices when you're sourcing or purchasing your food.
ARTHUR: Well for me, conscientious sun exposure is a really huge one which means getting outdoors. And despite the fact that a recent New York Times article was kind of signaling that maybe the Vitamin D craze - one of the things that is produced when UVB rays shine on our skin, particularly in conjunction with the sebum, the oil on our skin - suggesting that maybe we've gone a little overboard and we don't need as high a levels as we believe. The fact is when sun lands on our skin, there's a whole cascade of beneficial reactions that take place. I mean there's just too many for us to discuss. It isn't simply that we create ultimately this form of Vitamin D that our bodies can use. It creates a host of other things. For example, melanocyte stimulating hormone which is known to reduce appetite. It obviously boosts skin pigmentation when the sunlight or these rays are creating more of this particular hormone. But it also even increases libido, and we could go into other things that that does. One of the really interesting things for me is that people often don't realize that in order to get a really good night's sleep we know that we need darkness. And we need lights that are poor in the blue wavelength so that we're not stimulated into alertness. But on the flip side, to help with our circadian rhythms and to generate alertness at the right times of day, we need to be out in the bright sun, out in the bright part of the day to let our body know, "Oh, this is day. This is when I'm awake. And this is when I need to be alert and completely focused on my task so that my body then knows when to essentially shut down for sleep." And many people don't realize the interior of our homes, even if there are many windows, are simply nowhere near as bright as the outdoors. And so getting outside to simply experience as bright a day as possible and to, again, help set those circadian rhythms so that they know when to go to sleep is really important. My sleep is definitely compromised if I have those days where I'm unable to get outdoors to let my body know, "Ah ha. This is when I'm supposed to be alert." But I just hope that people realize that there's a whole suite of things: a beta-endorphin, we have substance P, and all of these compounds that are up-regulated when light shines on our skin that do these really wonderful things for us - it's not just about the Vitamin D production when we get outdoors and let light shine on our skin.
KATY: And don't windows block most UVB anyway?
ARTHUR: They do. It's the UVA which is able to make it through. But UVB which is one of the more beneficial wavelengths, while UVA does have some benefit - for example, it can upregulate nitrous oxide from storage - the release of it so that we dilate our blood vessels and it reduces blood pressure, but we miss out on this large suite of advantages that UVB provides us.
KATY: I just think that it's so helpful to clarify because when you don't understand sometimes the nuts and bolts of things like interaction between things, it's not only that you see the brightness of the day. That's one element of sunlight. In that case, a window works. But when we're talking about interaction you have to look at all the barriers - I call it we just have massive exoskeletons we've built up all around us trying to select the things that we perceive as less harmful in. So we put in windows, but you've actually blocked some nutrition that way. Your windows, while they're letting in light are lacking certain nutritional elements. But I like the idea of adding the word conscientious in there. So why do we need to add the word conscientious when we're talking about sun exposure - for the people who run with the idea that more sun is better.
ARTHUR: Right. Yeah. More is not necessarily better because we do want to be careful not to overdo it. One of the things that for me that I always try to get across is your sun exposure in some ways has to be correlated with your diet. Do you have the dietary elements? Those antioxidants, those compounds that protect us from the sun, in your diet? Otherwise, you're doing potential harm to your skin and while what we call a quote "sunburn" often isn't a sunburn. It's our skin's normal response to dissipating the energy that's absorbed. We can actually go too far and blister our skin and damage it which can potentially set us up later in life for skin cancer. And so it is important that we consider sun exposure as something that we get but only in the amounts that our skin is capable of getting which is partly based on the phytochemistry we're bringing in our diet.
So natural movement practice is something that I recommend. But that's very large. Right? So to keep from hitting that wall and to keep things easy, ground sitting or floor sitting. I find that to be the foundation to larger movement feats. And floor sitting is also great. So floor sitting is inside. Ground sitting is outside. The pressures are a little bit different but in the end getting up and down are the same thing mobilizing various parts and maintaining certain strengths to be able to do that is part of the movement nourishment to be found in an ancestral health practice. If you can make a priority to sit on the ground outside, then you would be getting both my and Arthur's tips, right? You would have some sun exposure. You can also have some ground sitting using it as nature observation or if you add food processing while you're sitting there. So once you start doing things like, if you take my earlier tip - preparing more food by hand - you'll find that it takes more time, but it adds more movement, so, therefore, you're getting food and movement at the same time so it ends up saving time later on. But if you're sitting outside in the sunshine processing your food - especially if you've processed more nutrient dense food or some wild food element, you'll be doing all four tips so far at once. So I'm a big fan of not hearing what Arthur and I are saying as increasing your to-do list by four, but ultimately nature should - all the things that you need from nature - the bulk of them should be able to be happening at the same time. So that is what complex systems do is all of the things at once. So we are advocating, I would say, a more nutrient dense moment in time. That's how I think about it. I think of stacking functions from a permaculture is you're increasing the nutritional density of a period of time in your life.
ARTHUR: Yeah. I think that's really really good, Katy, to help people realize they don't just need to have a longer day to accomplish all these things. You wrote about that in several different places in at least the latest book of yours that I had read. And as I recall you might have referred to it as stacking and I just really thought that was a great idea to pull in all these different things. And I do hope that while this is all going on, and you're kind of alluding to it, that your listeners are thinking of nutrition not just as what you put in your mouth. You know it isn't just what we get from the animal, plant, fungal, and bacterial kingdoms but it's also the elements that we need to be exposed to and also the experiences that we need to have which includes a wide array of things. But movement and movement diversity is one of those things. So I sort of look at it as having these six food groups rather than just four that is often discussed.
KATY: Yeah. And then we can add, I find community to be another primary nutrient. So it's so interesting when you are talking nutrients, volume to me really dictates importance. I mean there are nutrients that are trace, and there are nutrients that occur to greater volume. So I think we've kind of classified our nutrients by volume. However, we tend to, I think, as a culture, see volume or I would say we probably see magnitude as greater importance than trace. But that's why I like to bring in this idea of volume because if you have something that's occurring in volume like community in an ancestral setting - especially in intact communities - I strive for adding what I call vitamin community to my food and my movement. That's a really big part of my personal re-wilding practice is to go, "What does the group of people that I'm with look like right now." When I'm making food. When I'm moving. Are these solo activities? Are these involving a greater diversity of people: age groups, skill levels. Because I'm always trying to, again, increase that nutritional density of a moment. So things like food processing - when I had young children and I'm writing books and I've got all this work that I'm doing and I'm striving for more community, it was really surprising to find that I could go to my personal elders - my grandparents - and then recall that they had always sat around and cracked nuts as a group and contributed to the volume of movement for a community. They couldn't go out and jog with me for five miles. But that was one very low magnitude movement compared to all the other movements that I needed to be able to eat for the day - just found that I could include so many more people. And then the stories and the interactions between - oh, and then now the young children can also move alongside me. And I just really I am a big fan of that diversity in community and bringing that in. That's just a bonus tip for everybody. Because that wasn't a planned tip.
KATY: I just think that community is a big thing for me. Texture or diversity of movement, diversity of the dietary nutrients, and community. These are all main axis as I'm figuring out how to spend my day, you know? Which is really just figuring out how to spend my life.
ARTHUR: My third tip is to find every way possible to remove polymers, in other words plastics, from your life. I think that it is not exaggerating to say that this is almost like we've entered this new materials age. Where we had the copper age, the bronze age, the iron age, and now we've moved into the plastic age. And unfortunately, while we went kind of headlong into this dependence on this diverse array of materials, we never really stopped to find out and do the thorough testing to identify how safe these compounds were. We assumed that they were inert. That things that we put in containers made out of them would come out exactly the same. And we've learned that that's not the case. That things leach into the liquids in particular the fatty liquids and those things cause us harm. We could talk about a wide array of these things like bisphenol a, one of the compounds that is still widely used and in fact even those things that were often touted as being BPA free, this particular compound that's added to plastics - really the industry does not ever say BPA free what they say is BPA not intentionally added because it often contaminates the other plastics they use through the dust and this kind of thing in the factories. And remember that babies who are born to mothers with a higher exposure of BPA show lower birth weights and smaller heads. In other words, they have smaller brains. Fetal growth metrics are reduced and these kinds of things. Unfortunately, it isn't just BPA, but we have a host of things that are found in polymers but also even showing up in really weird places like cosmetics and things of that nature like phthalates. Phthalates is another chemical that is used to help make polymers flexible. And these also leach into the liquids and the fatty things that we put in contact with them. And what's really I guess important to remember is that these are endocrine disrupters. They mimic estrogen in some cases, and the last thing you want to do is mess around with your hormone system. These are compounds that work in tiny trace amounts at just the right time. And we know that fowling with our endocrine system is a really effective way, if you will, to help increase the incidents of cancer. But we also see studies showing that when we are exposed to abundant phthalates, we also have various issues coming up which include recent studies showing that higher phthalate concentrations in moms, we have greater degree of social cognition, communication, and awareness issues in the children they give birth to. These are real. While the industry likes to describe them as safe, nearly every independent study demonstrates that they can cause harm to them. And of course, we know where they're ending up. They're ending up in our oceans and in our groundwater.
KATY: Yeah. And I live in an area kind of heavy with Orcas and Salmon, and it's an issue here for sure - what's in the water. We made a pledge to give up plastic in our food. And again, that wall. If you could just pick one thing at first. So plastic in your food could be one thing. But if you need a smaller step. I mean the number of disposable cups with plastic lids that I see people just grabbing once or twice a day. It's so much. A really good tip is to just start carrying a jar with you wherever you go. And I just did - my tip's gonna be long distance walking because I find long distance walking to be a really great ancestral practice for not only the movement but also for a few other things that I'll talk about. So I just did a big one in the city because I do them kind of the more rural wild place where I live. But because I recommend it so often and because so many people live in urban settings, they're like, "You need to do your 20 mile walk in an urban setting to give us that perspective on this recommendation" and I brought a glass cup with me like I always do. I went to a different country for a couple months, and our entire family brought, because when you're on the road quite a bit it's very easy to use plastic because you're not prepared to not use plastic.
KATY: That's the big thing. If you want to stop using plastic you have to be prepared not to use it. If we're going to talk about food that's a napkin, silverware or utensils is a better way to say it, and a glass or a cup. If you can have these items at your ready. They go into your purse. They go into your backpack. You wash them regularly. We were able to go two months not being at home, traveling abroad, and used zero disposable plastic items.
ARTHUR: That's awesome.
KATY: A family of four. But it took a lot of preparation. And also, it took times telling us no - telling ourselves ' In the same way like for parents you are used to, I would say you are trying to guide your offspring on learning the art of dealing with consequence, but I don't think we're that practiced at dealing with consequences. We have kind of an "I want it so I deserve it, so I'm going to get it." But I found myself really wanting that quick thing to get and really feeling like I needed it but I didn't bring my cup or whatever, then I don't get it. I don't allow myself to get it. Because I have to have external, kind of subjective guidelines or else I'll always convince myself that what I need is what I need. So I have that as a thing, "Am I going to have to use plastic to get it?" No. Giving up straws. It's just another kind of crazy thing that we do. Put plastic straws in all of our drinks. And I have a six and seven year old now and really just having to have this regular reminder of why we don't do straws and taking them out in the world to see what some of the consequences are to all these things in an age-appropriate manner where they themselves are going, "Yeah, I don't want a straw." They can get that. It's a family project. It's a community project. So definitely work on eliminating plastic.
ARTHUR: We do the same here. We have tried to create in some cases very creative ways of even bringing story into why we don't like plastic in our lives aside from the health issues. And different stories can work in different families. Here because there is an animistic spirituality if you will that we're breaking into and I don't mean to go too far here but we, knowing that plastics are coming from oil, and these oil deposits are coming from these long-extinct forests, we're literally describing these plastics as being made of the spirits of long extinct life. And these life forms wanted to remain in the ground, and they come back to haunt us if you will when we disrupt them. And that's just a way that we have created a story around why we avoid these plastics because my daughter was, you know, is young. She's only just turned 5. And to sit down and give her all of the scientific research is simply too much. It doesn't mean anything to her, so we've had to create story for now around why we avoid plastic. And we, it's like you said, it becomes a family and a community level act that we all participate into the degree possible. Instead of storing in plastic bags we use glass storage containers including even just mason jars and things like that. There's a thousand ways to avoid this much of which is based on convenience that we've gotten used to. People don't like to have to carry things. They just want to get a throwaway version wherever they happen to be eating or getting a drink and so on. But I really appreciate what you've done and just turned and get into this family activity.
KATY: Well it's just so weird. It can be so simple. Again, I'm very interested in - I'm interested in movement, clearly. But I'm interested in our tendency towards convenience. In not framing it not as a human deficit but humans really behaving entirely appropriately given the environment that we've created. It is much easier to invite community over and use disposable. Why? Because it saves time in terms of prepping and washing and so I do it because community is one of our big three axes of how we're setting up our day. We have a lot of communal eating, and we don't use disposable stuff. And we also feel perfectly ok setting up wash tubs so that everyone can wash up their stuff when they're done. Or sometimes we have so many people over, and we don't have enough stuff for everyone, so we're kind of washing as we're changing courses or over a period of time we're washing up our own stuff. But I'm just really interested in, is all of this convenience, like even down to things like plastic, is at the root of it our tendency towards sedentarism? Which is just simply perfectly natural behavior given this habitat. Could we expect anyone to behave any differently in this habitat? Which is why when we are collectively as a group of people making decisions about habitat, and that can be government structures, schools, communities, whatever level you want to look at it. What I'm always saying is if we're going to add something, if we're bringing a new technology or new materials to this piece how is that going to affect the behavior of the humans in that space? Is plastic just another symptom of lack of movement? I try to normalize everything to movement - it's my bias. Admittedly.
ARTHUR: Right. But in a way, I agree very much with you. That comfort and convenience that comes with all of this research that we've put into the TV remote, for example, so it can operate multiple electronics at the same time. We're just creating more comfort and convenience that allows us to be more sedentary, more still, do less movement, less kinds of movement, less total movement. Plastic definitely fits into this comfort and convenience sphere that I think is really contributing to a lot of the dis-ease that we have today.
And the long-distance walking, you know I am always trying to stack as many things on to anything that I do. Again, is this the most nutrient dense moment that I can realistically create. And so for me, that long distance walking is - yes it is an opportunity to get myself into the nutrients of a long distance walk. There's ways of using your body for walking that you never tune into. There are movements that you never get otherwise. Because walking - we think of it as one particular pattern. The longer you walk over a distance you have to start letting certain things rest and start calling on other movement pathways that you would never get to. So you can't even get to - I mean if you think of yourself having walking muscles, you have maybe 5 miles walking muscles, and then you've got 10-mile walking muscles, and then you've got 20-mile walking muscles and so on. And so there are patterns, there are uses, there are depths to muscle use they can't get otherwise without this extended period of time. But there's that. But there's also ... we don't practice discomfort. So I could also say that my 20-mile walk was practicing discomfort. And so, yes, you can think of it as adaptation to endurance but it can also be a very conscious toe or foot into discomfort and dealing with it - the mental state of going "I have to finish this thing," and that's something that's common, I would say, in many ceremonies. Traditionally is this idea that there would be milestones where you have to kind of get comfortable with discomfort - ironically becoming more comfortable. So, in the end, you are becoming more comfortable. But it's less because of - less because of a really marshmallow cozy place that you've set up where you dwell and you're comfortable really given a broad variance of things that might happen. I've had to do my 20-miles, or my 30-miles, or my 40-mile walks in pouring freezing rain. And that's just what I'm to deal with. And so 20 miles could be a long distance walk. So could 7 miles. So could 3 miles. Just maybe pick something that sounds like it is beyond your comfort level and then try to do some prep for it obviously if your body is not conditioned to moving at all there would be many preparatory things that I recommend and have recommended ad exhaustion. But find something that feels slightly uncomfortable and do it, not just for the movement but for all of the other reasons. Okay, those are all my tips. Do you have anything else that you would want to leave the listeners with?
ARTHUR: I would just really like to echo the ideas that you just presented that come with long-distance walking that are suggesting that we need to sometimes be uncomfortable in order to be able to receive a benefit from a particular activity. I think that that idea that we were just talking about - the comfort and convenience - comfort is something that we're getting less and less able to move out of and the more we seek comfort, the smaller the set of conditions that we can actually be comfortable in. It's a sort of feedback loop. And so I'm just really very happy that I get to hear somebody else suggesting that we're not looking to have these terrible experiences where we're injuring ourselves, but we're moving beyond comfort barriers. So thanks for saying that.
KATY: Well, you know, I feel like where this is still being said, I think that the idea of taking yourself through something that you know before you start is going to be hard, the fact that you choose it, the fact that you do it to completion, when you pass through that set of hoops there is a condition, a phenomenon. We can call it a nutrient, a feeling, I don't know if it's hormonal. I don't know. I haven't thought it through, but that what we're trying to create through comfort is like the synthetic version of what you get when you pass through those hoops. And the place that I still see people encouraging other people to pass through hoops comes in sports. Right?
KATY: So we have, as a culture, it's almost like we've found this vitamin that we know is necessary but we've set up kind of athletics - I mean it's even celebrated really if you think of things like the Olympics - people who can push themselves. We love watching it. We want to hear the stories. It's so clear - you can see it on people's faces, and it's just been kind of exclusively presented as here's that way. Well, that is not the only way to get it. I mean I think that we can start thinking creatively and looking, again, historically to just appreciate what it is about that sporting process. And if you're getting it through sports, that's great. But if you're not getting it, sports doesn't have to be the sole way to challenge, test, and kind of put yourself against yourself and the environment, right? Which is what sports often are. Teamwork, right? The fact that you have to sometimes do it with people and move a whole group forward. Because I come from a movement science background and because populations moving that are probably studied the most in movement science are athletes.
KATY: That's kind of the source of movement - the bulk of movement knowledge right now is with this kind of small subset of people who do this thing which is challenging movement, persevere through pain and injury and come out the other side. But again, it's an ancestral practice. It's not rooted in sports. It's rooted in all those other things. Perseverance, discomfort, and triumph.
ARTHUR: Yeah and that even includes diet. We're going back to the phytochemistry tip that we talked about earlier in this podcast. People will have a domesticated palate in terms of what chemistry they can tolerate, and we can try to expand our tolerance of bitters and spicy and other things that are indicative of greater levels of phytochemistry in plants. And ultimately, hopefully, expand our comfort region with those kinds of things. So this idea of pushing through and creating a greater tolerance has a lot of application for the things that we have been discussing.
KATY: Well Arthur, I want to be respectful of your time. I want to say thank you so much for joining me. It was a pleasure to have you.
ARTHUR: Oh I'm so happy that you made this time.
KATY: Oh yeah! Well, you can find more about Arthur Haines at ArthurHaines.com or follow I think it's your community, Wilder Waters community on Instagram, is that correct?
ARTHUR: Yeah. Wilder Waters Community. That's mainly my wife who runs an Instagram page there. But she's posting things that we're doing all the time from foraging to hunting, making medicine, and sometimes our philosophical viewpoints on how we try to interact with the forest around our home.
KATY: We will put links to all of these in our show notes. And Arthur where can people order your book?
ARTHUR: I guess the easiest way is just go to my website and you can click on Work With Me and you'll see a tab for books there. For people that don't remember that it is available on Amazon. All of the books that are in print are currently available on Amazon, so there's plenty of ways to get them.
KATY: Thank you, Arthur, so much.
ARTHUR: Thank you again, Katy.
But today we get to meet Eva Nemcik. She's a chemist who came to the United States in 1971 from Checkslov with her husband and her two children. She worked for GE lighting division for 26 years, and she played a lot of tennis. And then she had some foot trouble. And out of that Happy Feet Alignment Socks were born. Hello Eva. Welcome to Move Your DNA.
EVA: Hello Katy!
KATY: I think that's a great story. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your company got started? How does a chemist who works for General Electric end up developing foot alignment socks?
EVA: Well it was really out of necessity. Because as you said, I am an avid tennis player and when I retired I had lots of time on my hands, so I was doing lots of physical activities. And my feet didn't like it that much. So I tried to do some home remedies from the catalog. They were all helpful, but they really were kind of user-unfriendly. And me being an on-hand person so I said, "I can probably do something better." And I made myself a pair cut out from the regular socks, the top, and sewn by hand. And I made a couple of prototypes and gave it to my friends who suffered the same with the feet. But the idea actually came from my yoga teacher. She said, put your fingers between your toes and wiggle it and holding it is good for your feet and so I thought, if it's a minute or two it's helpful. You can't really sit longer than that twisted like a pretzel holding your toes.
EVA: So I thought, well probably longer exposure is better. And that's what actually came to my mind to create these dividers. And I sewed it to the socks.
KATY: I didn't know that. That's great. So you had kind of an efficiency personality type of going, "Ok, if I need to do this to get better I need to be able to do it for more than my time in class." Ok, so making something to solve a problem for yourself and then mass producing something to take to market, what made you want to do that step?
EVA: Well because I made several pairs and everybody just loved them. I said, "Well, maybe just maybe, we can make a business out of it." So, I was looking for a manufacturer. Of course in the United States, nobody even wanted to touch it because they like the idea but it wasn't a mass production at that time. An old lady has a good idea. That doesn't mean that you can put it into a big production. But fortunately I found the small company in China, later on, they went out of business as lots of small companies do, and they made a sample, and I liked them. And I asked them, I said, "What is the smallest amount that you can make me?" They said well a unit is 1,000.
KATY: Did you have that many friends?
EVA: I said, my gosh, 1,000 pairs? What am I going to with 1000 pairs? Well, they sent it out in writing, and I find out it was 1000 dozen.
KATY: 1000 dozen pairs? 12,000 pairs?
EVA: Yes. That was the minimum.
EVA: So we took a second mortgage on a house...
EVA: ... and I said, "Let's try it!". We got it, and three months later we were out of inventory.
KATY: Wow! Where did you sell them at first?
EVA: Well, the catalog, Dr. Leonard picked it up. And then actually Dr. Leonard got us into SkyMall.
KATY: Good old SkyMall.
EVA: And that made us kind of world widespread. Yeah.
KATY: For those of you who haven't read SkyMall, it's a catalog that's almost all in airplanes, right?
KATY: I just imagine all those trapped readers, because that's when I read SkyMall - "this is what I'm going to read." People will achy feet. I mean, a lot of people have achy feet anyway and really, your socks are such a simple solution. I mean they are a solution that a lot of people are completely blown away: "How simple. Why didn't I think of this?" type of stuff.
EVA: Practical. Very practical.
KATY: Yeah. You just put them on while you're doing other stuff. Which everyone who listens to this show knows I'm a big fan of getting movement while you're busy doing other things because many people don't have time to sit there and spread their toes and only spread their toes for a long period of time. So here's my question: I've recommended your socks for years. You've been selling your socks for years. At what point did you add to the label, or has it always been on there, the idea of if you're going to start wearing alignment socks ... and I just want to take a second to explain to everyone listening what alignment socks are. These are socks that basically don't cover the toes. Instead when you put them on your toes go through the socks so that you've got this kind of finger-sized bit of material between each toe which pushes your toes away from each other, which spreads the toes. Kind of like the exercise that I have people do a lot - it's the opposite if you wear tight shoes or shoes with small toe boxes that push your toes together, it's basically like a sock that does the opposite to what your too narrow shoes might be doing to your feet. So I've recommended them for years and when people put them on for the first time they can only wear them for a small amount of time before, you know, if you've sat with your fingers between your toes for 20 minutes, that's a lot of exercise. It's a lot of exercise for a tiny muscle that has spent a lifetime not getting that much movement. So at what point did you add the, it's not a warning, but kind of a user note saying, you use these little bits at a time until you're able to tolerate them for longer. Was that always from the beginning or was that based on user feedback?
EVA: I think it was from the very beginning because I find that on myself that I couldn't take it too long. Or when I relaxed, and I had them on for a half an hour, took them off, it felt good. But when I tried to use it overnight, I just had to jump up and rip them off in the middle of the night because they were really uncomfortable for a longer period of time.
EVA: So I think that they were from the very beginning.
KATY: Can you sleep with them throughout a night now?
EVA: Oh yeah. Yes.
KATY: So I go through periods of just being really diligent about wearing my socks and then, you know, then I get diligent about doing other things. But I started putting them back on in the summer time when I was doing a lot of movement. I like them because they just keep my feet mobile which, in the end, really helps my knees and hips deal with a lot of exercise. Especially when I'm done with winter time when I've been in shoes. I kind of use them more as I'm transitioning more to summer feet, right? Where I'm usually barefoot more often. So they're part of my training program. But I still am not an all the way through the night person. If I put them on, I don't wake up and rip them off my feet. I take them off in my sleep at some point. I don't know when that is, but I've never been able to make it all the way through. So that's going to be my goal.
EVA: Yeah. Try not to pull them all the way down to the bottom of your toes.
KATY: Oh right! I always wear them all the way down.
EVA: Yeah. You know, Katy, we came out together, I think, with this slogan that high heeled antidote.
KATY: High heel hangover antidote.
EVA: Yes. I can not emphasize enough for people who are wearing high heels at work, and then they come home with achy feet. Please, wear those socks. Because later on, you will pay for those pretty shoes.
EVA: That's a news for me, the ice bottle. That's a good idea!
KATY: It's a good one because it's basically round, so it massages your foot, but it's cold. So if you also have the inflammation, you can deal with the cold and the circulation or the mobility at the same time. You can do all those three things stacked, but you need to put your bottle in the freezer before you go out. Because you're gonna not want to wait for it in the morning. So if you've just got a couple of those going in the freezer throughout the holiday season you feet will thank you.
KATY: Ok. Do you have the best story? Do you have people submit, not testimonials but how much they love your socks and what they did?
EVA: I have one wonderful one. The lady wrote me that "I have two pairs and I go to bed. I put one pair in my hands and the other pair on my feet." And I just kind of wonder why she's putting them on her hands. Well, in the course of the month, I developed neuropathy in my hands.
EVA: And I tried those socks, and I can't believe myself how much difference do they make in the morning.
KATY: You're blowing my mind right now. You're just saying that My Happy Feet can also be My Happy Hands!
EVA: That's right.
KATY: It's blowing my mind because I teach all of these hand stretching exercises. If everyone puts their hands in the computer position right? They're close together. Wow. I can hear all of the My Happy Feet users now just realizing that the medicine that they've been putting on their feet in the form of socks can also be used on their hands.
EVA: Yeah. And ...
EVA: From a lady who uses these socks.
KATY: I know. That's the beauty of it. Is that innovation. People are so innovative. You create a thing, and now someone else is going to create a thing. That's amazing. I was very sorry to hear that your husband passed away in 2016. So you've been experiencing some life changes at the end of last year you sold My Happy Feet, but you're still involved. So what's next for the company?
EVA: Well, it's surprisingly... I was approached with several podiatrists to do baby socks.
EVA: Because a lot of babies are born with some deformities in their feet.
EVA: And they are putting them into casts, which is overdone. It's a little bit more than they really need but they don't have anything else to start with. So I started doing baby socks. It's a little bit challenging because baby feet are growing very fast.
EVA: And plus, they are not going to be able to, I won't be able to order 12,000 pairs.
KATY: Yeah, yeah.
EVA: Of one size of baby socks. So it's kind of challenging, but I am on my ... a pretty good cooperation with the manufacturer so we came out with some solution how we can kind of make it stretchy that they could use it longer. But it's, again, what size the dividers? How big? How fat?
EVA: So it has to be kind of tested out more thoroughly than just put it on the market and have the users decided whether they are comfortable with the size of the dividers or not.
KATY: Yeah, my mechanical brain is working just to think of how everyone could scale the material between the toes. How could that be scalable and adjustable?
EVA: Yeah. That's what I am wrestling with.
KATY: Well, once I'm thinking about it I won't be able to stop thinking about it. In my mind, I can think of air. You know what I mean? Like Nike Airs - the fact that you can pump them up to the extent that you want, but you can also remove the air to make them scalable. And also how to make them more, I don't know what the word is, durationable, is not the right English word. But how someone could use the same pair even though the foot was growing by being able to add or remove mass. Ok, well I'll think about it, and I will let you know if I come up with anything!
EVA: Oh. That sounds good. Sometimes the idea is wonderful. The execution is more challenging.
KATY: Oh yeah.
EVA: But it's probably doable. Yeah. Thank you, Katy!
KATY: Well, anything else you want to tell our listeners?
EVA: Well, keep wearing those socks because if you have any problem with your feet, you don't have to run for professional help. Because sometimes it's not something which needs more than just a little help.
KATY: Yeah. I think that in many cases what's ailing so many people's feet is a lack of movement of the feet themselves, right? So just always start by changing up your movement a little bit. Or a lot.
EVA: Yeah. Well, I live what you preach. Move Your DNA! And I am exercising three times a week, and in my age, it is sometimes challenging. But that makes me going. Because I keep moving.
KATY: Well, are your feet happy?
EVA: Oh very much so.
KATY: Well that's all that matters! Eva Nemcik is the founder of My Happy Feet Alignment Socks. You can find out more about them at My-HappyFeet.com, and we'll link to them in our show notes as well. And also Happy Feet is offering you 12% off your next purchase through their website. Just use the coupon code, are you ready? KATY. That's K-A-T-Y. Why, because that's how it's spelled. I have been lots of things, friends, but this is the first time I've ever been a coupon code. Eva, thank you so much for coming on the show.
EVA: Well thank you very much. And keep writing those wonderful books. I enjoy them.
KATY: Oh, thank you.
Ok, that is it for Move Your DNA this time. If you are a long time listener, you know what time the end of November is. It is almost time for your exercise advent calendar. This year we are going to rock Advent, that's a clue, together. I'm going to start posting your daily dose of movement fun on Instagram. So you do not have to join Instagram to see what I'm up to over there. You can just go to Instagram.com and type in nutritiousmovement all one word on the top. If you're not on Instagram as a member, you won't be able to comment, but you'll still be able to see the posts, follow along, read the comments of everyone else. So for those about to rock, I salute you... On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. Until next time - go wild!
VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.