TEI 230: Optimal health and performance for product managers – with Dr. Gus Vickery


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A value proposition for feeling good for product managers.

Product Manager Interview - Gus VickeryPerforming at your best requires a lot of mental dexterity. Product managers need every edge we can get to beat the competition and create successful products. To be at your best, you must also consider your health, and our guest, medical doctor Gus Vickery, is the go-to person for this.

He is an expert at getting your body and mind performing well, and his book Authentic Health provides the actions we can all take. He also goes further, helping individuals hack their health for even greater performance.

Optimize your health and use it to your advantage as a product manager and in all aspects of your life.

Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

[2:39] How did you come to do this work and write the book?

I started practicing as a family physician and ended up walking into what I’ve described as an epidemic of poor health. Rather than treating acute problems, I was treating chronic diseases. I realized that the toolbox I had of prescriptions and referrals was not adequate to address what was going on. I had to dig deeper to find out what was really going on and take a more holistic look at human design. That’s what I try to do in the book.

[10:47] What can people do to help manage their weight?

The first thing is to understand the truth about what causes us to be chronically overweight. Our bodies have a genetic baseline of what a healthy weight is for us; it’s not a conscious choice. If you have short periods of overeating or undereating, your body will eventually make it back to that state. Over time, people can develop visceral fat, which is linked to high blood sugar and triglycerides. When you try to lose it, your body will try to pull you back. In order to make weight loss last, you need to reprogram your body to a different threshold. We are not designed to eat all the time; feeding and fasting periods are important to retrain your body. You also need to eliminate processed foods from your diet. Your body does not know what to do with them so it triggers an inflammation response. The final aspect is mindful eating — being conscious about what you are eating and how you are eating it.

[20:14] How does fasting help your body?

Our body is a closed energy system. It’s designed to go for a while without putting more energy into it based on our ancestry. The only way to restore metabolic flexibility is to go through fasting periods. Leveraging sleeping time helps make fasting easier. If you can give yourself a 12 hour window where you aren’t putting anything into your body, you can begin to reset you body.

[23:50] Why is sleep so important?

Everything else you do as far as diet and fasting is no good if you are not getting enough sleep. Our brains are designed to have a period of rest and recovery each day. It’s like running a factory without ever stopping to clean the machines. If your brain doesn’t get that rest period, it will send signals to your body that something is wrong and create more stress hormones. Almost everyone needs 7-8 hours of sleep. Beyond just getting enough sleep, you need to get good sleep, which is difficult to do with technology and other distractions in our life. When people are able to get past these things, their performance increases and they find energy they never knew they had. Naps can be effective to recharge your brain, but they are not a substitute for sleep deprivation in the long term.

[30:11] What can we do to better manage stress?

The first step is mindfulness and recognizing that stress is there and recognizing that it’s okay. We’re always exposed to sources of stress — cable news, social media, demanding jobs, etc. When you trigger a stress response, you’ll inhibit your higher mind function because you go into survival mode. Your ability to innovate and think creatively declines. Start taking control of the stressors that you can and give your brain a break from technology. The book Deep Work goes into this in more detail. If you do feel stress, stop and examine where it’s coming from. Take the energy and feed positive emotions by thinking about everything that’s good. When you do this, you become the master of your own emotions, rather than letting external stimuli dictate you how feel.

[43:45] Are there supplements we should be taking to support healthy habits?

Everyone should take an Omega 3 supplement. Even healthy eaters are Omega 3 deficient and you won’t harm yourself by taking one. I also recommend a high-quality multivitamin to help replace trace minerals and things we don’t normally get in our diet.

Useful links:

Innovation Quote

“Surrounded by all sorts of conflicting claims, by traitors, by half-hearted timid men, by Border States men and Free States men, by radical Abolitionist and Conservatives, he has listened to all, weighed the words of all, waited, observed, yielded now here and now there, but in the main kept one inflexible honest purpose, and drawn the national ship through.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe about Abraham Lincoln


Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.

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