Staying healthy in a world where one is surrounded by all sorts of junk can be a daunting task at times, but it’s not an impossible task. With a bit of self-regulation, willpower and discipline, staying healthy won’t be such a huge issue, especially as you get older and your body begins to change. Alicia Dunams is joined by the author of The 5 Habits of Healthy People, Dr. Mark Chavez. Dr. Chavez dives into the different overlooked aspects of staying healthy. Have you been treating your body right?
Listen to the podcast here
Habits For Staying Healthy With Dr. Mark Chavez
I want to introduce Dr. Mark Chavez to the show. It is good to have you here.
It’s great to be here, Alicia.
You are the author of the book, The 5 Habits of Healthy People. Did you start this process in Bestseller in a Weekend?
What year did you publish it?
It was June of 2019.
Mark, tell me why did you write this book, The 5 Habits of Healthy People? What are the five habits?
I wrote this book for three reasons. The first reason was to get my message to a broader audience. The second was to get the ideas in the book out of my head and clear space for new ideas. The third was to start the process of writing because I knew that I wanted to write books. I knew I had to get the first one done before I could get the second and third. This was my first attempt and I learned a lot and I’m excited to keep writing.
You gave three reasons why you wrote the book. It was more of the mechanical reasons behind the writing of the book and that is to get your message out to a broader audience. Also, to get what’s on your mind out onto the paper, which is important. If we have it all in our head, all these great crazy ideas, it almost slows us down until we get to a point of committed action, getting it out there, then it becomes a product where people can consume. You love writing so this was getting over that first hump. It gives you that opportunity. What do I say in Bestseller in a Weekend or when I’m working with any of my clients is no one can take away the skill to write a book once you’ve written a book. Once you’ve written it, no one can take that away from you so you can continue to write books over and over again, which is fantastic.
I find writing challenging and I love challenges. This is something that I always knew I wanted to do, but I knew that it was not easy and that drives me to do it.
Let’s talk a little bit about the writing process. I know that you wanted to write a book. You were introduced to me via one of my other clients. There was a woman, she wrote her book through Bestseller in a Weekend and she introduces us. You attended Bestseller in a Weekend. That helps a lot of people in terms of starting the process, writing a 100-page draft book manuscript. When you finished the weekend workshop, how did you get from there to a published book?
That was quite a process because as you know, when you leave that weekend, a lot of things can happen and a lot of things did happen.
You always have a few reasons you'll find for you to write a book. Click To Tweet
I’m still practicing medicine. I got busy with some other projects. I have another business where I developed a product.
What is that product?
It’s called the Gravity Ball. I also created a new way to exercise that goes with that product called the Gravity Ball Method. I jumped into that and I started to work on that business, the branding, networking and getting that business started. This put a little bit on the table to the side a little bit.
It is because life happens. Let’s talk about this because we jumped right in. You’re a doctor. Give us a little bit about your background. What else do you do? You have a product, Gravity Ball. Give us a little of 30,000-foot view of who you are.
I was raised in a household where my father was a bodybuilder, so exercise is important. That’s something I saw him do consistently over a long period of time. That rubbed off on me and I understood how important it was to be consistent with exercise. Before I went to med school, I was a chemist. I helped develop Novel Drug compounds. That was something that I thought was interesting, but I missed the human contact with that. I was in a lab and we were doing a lot of organic syntheses, and that’s what drove me to medicine. I thought that would be a good way to connect with people and be able to teach them things about health that I had learned and that was important to me.
When I got into medicine, I realized the doctors weren’t trained in health in how they were trained in disease. They know little about how to keep people healthy. They interject at the point where people start to get sick. That was something that I found not fulfilling for me because I wasn’t informed on how to keep people healthy. I went on this journey and I learned everything I could about health, fitness and nutrition. I wanted to put in writing what I learned through that process, that journey, and then combined it with what I learned in medicine and gave people a way, an ability to empower themselves, to keep themselves healthy and not rely on their doctor and the medical system.
It’s almost like it’s backward. I know there’s a picture of that was online about a McDonald’s being in a hospital. I remember when McDonald’s was in hospitals like in California. I know maybe in other parts of the States, they still are. I have nothing against McDonald’s and it might not be the best choice in terms of location when people are sick. You said a fantastic stat is that medical doctors get how many hours of nutritional training before they become doctors?
In my curriculum, we got an hour of nutrition. It was an hour lecture.
If we peruse YouTube and watch nutrition videos, like myself, who I feel I’m up on nutrition in what’s healthy, then I might have even more experience than a doctor. Let’s talk about that. You are a doctor and you want to focus on health versus disease or dis-ease. When you came to write your book as a way to get these five healthy health habits out for people, you want to change the paradigm, change our mindset around health and how we can maybe stay out of the doctor’s office. How can we stay out of the doctor’s office?
The first thing you want to do is learn how your body works and what works for you. What I find is people don’t know what to do. There’s so much noise out there. Even if you go online or if you talk to people, most people are going to give you an opinion, but it’s not based on anything. I wanted to get the signal out there and eliminate the noise for people. That’s what the five habits are. It’s a basic, simple way to live. If you incorporate these five habits, then you don’t have to think about anything else. It simplifies everything. That I find is not the case in medicine. Things are made overly complicated when they don’t need to be.
For instance, your doctor, a lot of times we’ll talk to patients the same way they talk to other doctors and most of the time, patients won’t say anything. They’ll nod their head, but they’re not getting any useful information from them because they do not understand their language. It’s important to speak the language that people understand. Something that I learned in medical school, and that’s always been with me, is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That’s something that always stuck with me and it’s a guiding principle. That’s part of the reason I wrote this is it’s simple to understand and anybody can use it.
I’m sitting on the edge of my seat to find out what are these five simple habits of healthy people. Do you mind sharing?
No, not at all. The first one is the daily resistance exercise. That’s something when I was seeing patients, I realized that they didn’t do resistance exercise or strength exercise. Most people know the importance of walking, doing biking, swimming and doing what would be considered cardio-based exercise, but the strength training or strength resistance exercise was something that people ignored. I wanted to make it a mission to make it as well known as people understand the importance of cardio heart-based exercise that their musculoskeletal system also needs to be as importantly tended to and you need to exercise it on a consistent basis. The second one is daily movement and steps, which would be your cardio exercise. A lot of people don’t want to jump on bikes and bike 100 miles so it’s about moving throughout the day as opposed to sitting throughout the day.
It is like taking the stairs versus the elevator.
Anything where you’re going to move. That’s a great example. Even if you’re sitting, you want to get up and break that period of sitting every hour if you can do that. It’s a simple movement, a habit that you need to work into your lifestyle. The third is 80/20 eating. That means 80% of the time, you want to eat whole foods, unprocessed foods and then 20% of the time, eat whatever you want. I found in my experience, when you tell people not to eat certain things, they’re not going to eat them. If you say, “It’s okay to eat them, just don’t eat them not often,” and then you break it down 80/20, then people can do that and you could sustain them. If you’re eating twenty meals a week, let’s say 8 times 2 is 16. Those meals are going to be healthy and then the other four, you can splurge and do whatever you want.
The interesting thing about that is I’m rigorous in terms of intermittent fasting and whole foods. I stay away from gluten. If I want to eat something that looks delicious, like a piece of bread or whatever, I will but I most likely stay away from it. What I find is when I eat healthily, sugar, for example, I’ve been cutting back on sugar other than fructose, is that when I have some sugar, it’s almost like it’s too much and I’ll have an instant reaction. I don’t feel well as before when I used to eat anything. I never had that reaction or I guess I was used to feeling that way. When you do the 80/20, most likely you’re going to be opting for the 80% because you still know that you can get that 20% if you want to, but then when you start eating that, you’re like, “I’d rather eat the way I’m eating because I feel better.”
That’s exactly right and that was a secret that I didn’t want to tell people because I knew that would be a natural way that would happen. As you start feeling good, you want to keep feeling good. If you jump in and eat bad one day, you’re going to feel the difference and so that takes care of itself.
That was number three. What is number four?
Number four is sound sleep. There’s a lot behind that sound sleep, but you need to make sleep a priority. That’s something that I’ve learned going through this whole medical training and the system is we’re still sleep deprived when we’re going through training and as physicians, that takes a toll on your health. There are two things you can’t get back. You can’t get back time and you can’t get back sleep. There are a lot of people make a mistake is they’ll work hard and long hours during the week and then they think they can make it up on the weekend. That doesn’t happen.
That’s a fallacy. That’s one thing that I get enough of. Sleep is important to me. I’m probably close to ten hours and no one messes with my sleep. What’s number five?
The fifth one is five measurements that I would like people to take for themselves. One of them is a resting heart rate. It’s easy to do. As we’re sitting here, we’re both resting. We’re not exercising or anything. You should know what your heart rate is when you’re at rest because that’s a strong indicator of your cardiac health and how healthy your lungs and your heart at working together. The second is your percent body fat. You want to know what your percent body fat is, which is completely different than your weight. Weight is not important unless you have problems with your kidneys and you need to monitor water intake. Otherwise, you want to know what’s your body fat because the secret to youth, the fountain of youth is maintaining muscle mass throughout a lifetime. When you lose muscle mass, that’s when the chronic diseases start to kick in. That’s what I’ve seen in my experience.
The third is you want to know what your fasting blood sugar is. When you wake up in the morning, it’s good to be able to check and see what your blood sugar is instead of going years and years before you figured out your blood sugar has been high for many years. When you go to the doctor, they don’t check it. They’ll check it sometimes when you get blood work, but that is random and it doesn’t mean anything. You want to know several data points over time if your blood sugar is high in the morning when you haven’t had anything overnight. The fourth is a hemoglobin A1c, which will be tested usually by your doctor if you’re diabetic. If you’re not diabetic, it’s usually not checked and that’s something I encourage my patients to ask their doctors or I’ll check it if they’re my patients, but friends and family to have their doctors check that for them.
The last one is we went over your percent body fat, your fasting blood sugar, resting heart rate, and your hemoglobin A1c. You want to check your blood pressure regularly, which is the fifth one. Most people only check it when they go to their doctor’s office like once a year. That’s like checking your oil once a year in your car because it changes so much. It fluctuates depending on your stress, your sleep, what you’ve been doing, and what’s your emotional state. You want to check it on a regular basis. I suggest 2 to 3 times a week.
How does this even happen? Health insurance is precarious for some. How do you check these things once a week?
Out of those five, the only one that would need to be checked by a laboratory or through your doctor’s office is that hemoglobin A1c. Diabetics have these little portable monitors where they can check their blood sugar at any time. Those you can get at Walmart or a large retail store for $20 to $25. They’re inexpensive, as the blood pressure cuffs are. Those are automatic. You don’t have to do anything. You put it on, you press the button, it gives you the number and then you keep a journal. I like to use my phone because it’s easy. What I do is I’ll take a picture of the number on the monitor and then I favorite it or I put in a folder and then you can slide through and see all your blood pressure readings over time.
Is all of this laid out in the book?
It is. Everything is laid out.
I heard that Walmart, because of health insurance, a lot of people might not have access to it and it’s always under political debate here. It could be costly for some people is that Walmart is creating these drive-in clinics. Wherever there’s a Walmart, there’s going to be one and they do look like doctor’s offices. It has that look and feel of not being at Walmart, but being in a doctor’s office so that you can get these kinds of tests. I think that’s what’s happening with the CVS and the Walgreens is they’re bringing and making it easy for people to get this type of data, checkups or what have you versus having to go through to your doctor’s office. With the appointments or whatever, I thought that was interesting because more people are getting in charge of their health. It’s a must-have these days because even with the fact that you get one hour of nutritional training, by the time you’re sick, you could have done all these preventive things to prevent it from happening.
That’s why you want to measure these five things because it’s going to give you an indicator of what your metabolism is doing, what your body is doing, what’s the state of the inflammation in your body, way ahead of time before you start to get sick, then you can make changes that are simple, that will alter the course of your health in a positive way.
Going back to resistance training and your Gravity Ball, I’m excited about your Gravity Ball. When I think of resistance, I’m like, “Do I have to be at the gym and doing the squats? Can it be something like Pilates, strength resistance or yoga? What are we talking about resistance? How much weight should you be burying in resistance exercises?
Most people don’t understand that it does not require a lot of weight and even bodyweight is enough if you know how to use your body. The idea with the Gravity Ball is I saw that a lot of people, including myself, don’t like to go to gyms. It’s not my thing.
Doctors are trained in disease but not necessarily in health. Click To Tweet
I like being outside. Let me take the Gravity Ball and go to the beach. We want to exercise outside.
That was the idea behind the Gravity Ball. The medicine ball was created by doctors 3,000 years ago. They would prescribe the medicine ball to their patients and they would show them different exercises to do. I thought that was cool, but it hadn’t been updated in 3,000 years. I’m like, “I need to update this thing so that it’s more functional and it serves the needs of this new world that we live in.” Think of a medicine ball as a Swiss army medicine ball. There are 100 exercises in a single device that you can put it in your backpack, put it in your car, and take with you to the park or the beach.
Where can people find out more about the medicine ball?
It’s the next generation. It’s the evolution of the medicine ball that was invented 3,000 years ago. You get the Gravity Ball, walk people through your five steps. Give an example of the ideal healthy person. Walk us through the day.
I’ll take you through my day because I use the five steps all the time. That’s my blueprint for living. The first thing I do when I wake up is, I go through a fifteen-minute stretch routine. I call it a core stretch because at the same time, I’m stretching and I’m also working out my core. I’m using the Gravity Ball for both. The Gravity Ball works as a stretch drop. If you’ve ever used a Pilates stretch drop or a yoga stretch drop, the same idea, but it also has some weight to it. It’s interesting because you’re getting stretched, but you have some weight in these different stretches that you’re doing. It adds to the type of stress that you’re getting in the movement. Then I’ll go through either 15 to 30 minutes beyond that fifteen-minute stretching period where I’m doing resistance training using the Gravity Ball.
That’s more like a flow. If you would watch me use it, it looked like I was doing a yoga flow. I’ll go through several movements like that and then the daily moving in steps. I used to track everything. I had a ring that was an activity tracker, two different watches and a chest band. I’m not into tracking so much anymore because I got the idea and I got enough of that. I do steps and miles walked per day. I do between 5 and 10 miles of walking or running per day. It adds up throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be at one period of time or anything like that. I also do intermittent fasting. I typically will be exercising, fasted and I won’t have my first meal until about noon or 1:00 PM. I have a big meal at that time and then the rest of the day, I snack and have a light meal at the end of the day.
Define to everyone what intermittent fasting is.
Intermittent fasting is where the way I do it is I have my last meal about 6:00 or 7:00 PM the night before and then when I wake up, I don’t have a meal again until noon or 1:00. There are a good sixteen hours in between meals and that’s important. People don’t understand why it’s important, but if you think about it, when we’re sleeping, we’re not in a high metabolic state. We’re not going through a lot of calories. The last thing you want to do when you wake up is to eat a big huge meal because you haven’t done anything. That causes a couple of things. Your body’s already stored with enough sugar, glucose, which is stored in your muscles and your liver. When you take in more in the morning, those don’t get in the muscle or liver as stored energy. They get converted to fat because you’ve already filled all your stores of sugar. The second thing is when you add a lot of food that isn’t serving a purpose, like giving you the energy that you need, it creates an increased toxin load on your body. Your body has to detoxify a lot of this, especially if you’re not eating clean. That gets difficult on your organs, especially your kidneys and your liver. I like to do it 8-hour window to eat and then 16 hours where you’re not eating anything every day.
That’s what I do. When I’m at my best, I do eat breakfast. I might be switching it up because I had a green juice. I made myself green juice while I was walking. I got ready and then I walked the dog on the beach. I walk for about 40 minutes, then I came back. The reason I had juice because I’m going to have dinner. Usually, I don’t have dinner. I had some juice and I had some grapes. I had a few paleo crisps, which I know that’s processed, but they’re cassava, something crunchy. I’ve kept light. That is a green juice, grapes, and paleo puffs. I’ll probably do a salad. I’m 44. I noticed the older I get, the less I like eating. It may seem low calorie. I eat if I’m hungry, but I’m staying away from meat. I have nothing against it and it’s not aligned with who I am and what I feel like. I’m doing a lot of soups and salads, making vegan soups. I’m buying it from Creation, but I’m going to start making them. It was $8 for this much, but I’m like, “It’s good and I’m not the best chef.” I look at the ingredients, I’m like, “This is what they put in there. I’m sure I could put something into a blender and create something like that.”
In the meantime, I’ve been buying them and I feel content with vegan soup and salad. I put nuts on it and sprouted sunflower seeds. I do hard-boiled eggs for protein. That’s one thing I feel like I couldn’t stop eating and then fish and chicken, but minimal. If anyone is interested in the way I eat because I’m fascinated by nutrition. One thing I heard the news that a woman’s name, B. She used to be a chef in a healthy lifestyle, but she died of Alzheimer’s and/or complications. I’m going to ask you this as a doctor, I noticed when I do a lot of sugar, I get foggy-brained. I’m like, “Is that a precursor to Alzheimer’s? Is that a precursor because I think I get a foggy brain.” I also notice, if I don’t eat certain things or if I do fast, sometimes it’s like I have a foggy brain first and then it goes away. Is that even a thing that sugar would be a precursor to Alzheimer’s or processed foods?
Absolutely, 100%. In my experience and in seeing patients that have gone through the process of stages of Alzheimer’s, and including family members as well, the two things are processed foods that are high in sugar and fructose and then the lack of sleep. Those two together are a recipe for Alzheimer’s or dementia of some type. You want to be aware of how much processed sugars you are eating and how much quality sleep you’re getting if you do not want to get Alzheimer’s.
Is it preventable?
A lot of it is preventable, the majority of it.
Even though it could run in families, but you could do something to prevent it.
These genes are turned on and off by the kinds of foods that we eat.
Did you go through your entire day? We talked about the resistance training, we talked about your steps, and you’re doing lots of soups and salads.
The five measures, the first thing I’ll do in the morning, I do this about twice a week, but I did it initially for two weeks straight as I’ll check my blood sugar. Like a diabetic does when they wake up in the morning before they give themselves insulin. It’s a little poke on the finger and then you get some blood and you put it on this monitor that I told you to get from Walmart for $20. It tells you what your blood sugar is when you wake up. You want to record those and see what the trend is. It should be below 100 mg/dL if you haven’t had any food.
It’s a wake-up call because you need to know these things, especially if it’s over a 100 mg/dL, you need to ask your doctor, “Why is this over 100 mg/dL? Can we check the A1c?” The A1c is a marker of your blood sugar over three months. It’s much more detailed in terms of it will tell you what your average blood sugar is. I’ll do that once every three months and then the other measures, I checked my body fat once a month. The resting heart rate, I checked that once a week. Those are the things, they’re not done every day. Once you get used to doing them, then you track them periodically. Sleep, it’s about the same time going to bed and then waking up at the same time. Your body gets used to that. If it’s all over the place, it’s hard to get that habit and that sleep.
You’re saying to keep it pretty much have a set schedule. Go to sleep at a certain time, wake up. Getting on habits so that the back and forth and the ups and downs are not supportive. Have you ever met Dr. Michael Breus, The Sleep Doctor?
I’m going to have him on the show, but I’ve known him for a few years. Sleep is important. With this, what’s the response been from your patients and from readers?
I’ve had a lot of great feedback. People saying that, “I wish I would’ve known this information before. I wish all doctors would talk about these five habits and break it down simply.” The reason I also wrote this was because my mission is to create a new healthcare system. That’s my big vision. I believe that the healthcare system we have has let us down and it’s unfixable.
It’s a mess.
It’s beyond a mess.
I’m not aligned with it. That’s why I’m like, “How do I figure it out myself? Have you heard of Forward?
I use them for a bit to not to see it because I’m exploring what’s the best option for people who are conscious of this already, that it’s more being in partnership with your doctor than going in when the tires have fallen off the truck type of thing. What is your vision to reform the healthcare industry?
I believe that healthcare cannot be reformed, so my vision is to create a new system completely different than the current system.
The last thing you want to do when you wake up is to eat a huge meal. Click To Tweet
“Bless and release, we cut our losses and then we get to start a new because it’s a mess.” What is the vision of starting a new?
One of the problems that I’ve identified is many doctors and medical practitioners practice medicine in avoidance of getting sued. They’re scared that they’re going to get sued. The things they do aren’t about the patient. They’re about protecting themselves in the case that they are sued. Those two things don’t align, the patients’ well-being and doing things in case you get sued. You have this paper trail of things that you did. That cannot continue if we’re going to have a healthcare system that’s going to work. Part of it is having a limited liability healthcare system, meaning that you and I go into the partnership as an agreement that, “I’m doing everything I can for you because I want to do my best job for you. It’s about your health. As long as I’m not doing anything with malintent or to do harm, then I can be free to practice medicine without being concerned that I’m going to get sued if things don’t go exactly like you would want them to go.” There has to be a partnership like any other partnership. There’s an agreement with all parties that we’re going to do everything we can for each other. I think we start there, then things will change quite a bit.
I love that vision. This is one of the ways to get started. What’s your next book going to be on? It sounds like you wrote this first book and you want to write another one. Do you have the idea for your next book?
I do. The next one is going to be in on entrepreneurship and how to transition out of your job or position into being an entrepreneur. That’s something I’m passionate about and so I have a lot of ideas and I want to get them out and put them in.
Getting them out. Mark, how can people find out more about you? How can they find you online?
They can find me online. Our website is GravityBall.com. My personal website is TheHealthMD.com. I am branding myself as The Health MD. That’s my platform that I speak on. That’s where I write and blog on. The Health MD is something I want people to trust, get to know, and go to for their health information.
Any last words for our readers out there on how to create healthy habits?
You need to take your health into your own hands. I’m not saying that you should not go to the doctor, but when you do go to the doctor, I want you to ask your doctor for certain things. These things that I talked about in this book, the five measurements, share these with your doctor. Tell your doctor about the book. Tell your doctor that you want to take your responsibility and have them help you, as opposed to waiting around until something happens. That’s what’s going to make the difference in the lives of yourself and then your loved ones.
Mark, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Alicia. It was great to be here.
I am glad to have you here.
About Mark Chavez
Dr. Chavez is a medical doctor and entrepreneur who is passionate about promoting health and entrepreneurship to create innovative ways to keep people healthy and pursue their passions.
He is a graduate of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He completed his residency training at Stony Brook University Hospital in Long Island, New York. His passion is sports medicine and functional movement training. Dr. Chavez teaches a unique resistance exercise method that he created called the Gravity Ball Method which uses an exercise device that he invented called the Gravity Ball. The Gravity Ball Method is taught as part of this program working one on one with Dr. Chavez.
Known as “The Health MD” under which he offers health and entrepreneurial coaching to a select number of physicians each year. The purpose of this program is to transition doctors out of medicine to pursue their passion or start the venture they have always dreamed of doing. This is done through ongoing coaching and applied learning using the Health-CPR squared blueprint to become a Key Physician of Influence (KPI) in your chosen niche industry. The health component of the program is based on Dr. Chavez’s book, The 5 Habits of Healthy People. The entrepreneurial component of the program focuses on training each client to become a Key Physician of Influence in their chosen niche industry using a model called the Health-CPR squared system.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the The Authoring Life Community today: