New and Improved – an Interview

by Mayk Senden

Healthy Lives has gone through a lot of important changes recently. To bring you up to speed, I’m interviewing Healthy Lives’ owner today. Who incidentally also happens to be me.

So, an interview with myself. What’s the point of that?

Good question! Obviously I could have just written an article listing all the changes we made and why we made them. But I thought it’d be more fun to interview myself. I’m also slightly curious whether I’ll learn something about me I didn’t know yet.

OK. So maybe you can start by telling us a little about yourself, Mayk?

No no, it’s pronounced “Mike”. Don’t worry, a lot of people get that wrong. I’m 45 years old, and I live in Utrecht (Netherlands) with my wife and three kids. On my day job, I teach business innovation to college students in a nearby city. I started Healthy Lives in 2017 while I was in between jobs, and over time it grew from a single idea to the full blown health system it is now.

Let me interrupt you there. What single idea was that?

Well, I’ve always been interested in whole foods diets. I started my first year of paleo in 2003, when paleo wasn’t even a word yet (it was still called the paleolithic diet). I loved it, and over time I’ve always drifted between a paleo-ish whole foods diet and a more traditional Western diet.

But the paleo diet only looks at which foods to eat, not how much of them. It’s all fine and good eating the foods our ancestors ate, but our ancestors couldn’t just walk into a supermarket to buy everything they needed. They had to go out to hunt and gather food first. So they would sometimes have to do with less and would also mainly eat foods that are readily available.

My single idea was to create a system that allows you to “gather” the foods you eat by doing exercises.

And that’s what the app does?

It was almost precisely what the first version did. But over time it became clear that what the app really provided was a motivation to go out and exercise. The whole “gathering your food” story was cute, but the app worked fine without it. The first version was also focused mostly on earning your daily healthy meals, while most of the motivation came from earning cheats. The app also lacked an incentive to stick to other healthy habits, focusing almost exclusively on exercise.

All in all, I felt we needed a new version. One that was more focused on motivation and less focused on exercise alone.

And the new version is ready now. In a nutshell, what are the main changes?

The core principle of earning foods has remained, but the focus of the activities has broadened. Now, things like drinking enough water, putting away your phone at night and fasting also earn you foods. Although exercise remains a core ingredient of this mix, adding other things has made the app both more effective and more fun to use.

We abandoned the old 2×3 foods system and replaced it with a simpler 4 food system, making it easier to earn your daily healthy meals. We’ve also introduced stars as a flexible currency you can use to buy missing foods or cheats.

Lastly, we introduced different levels. The Fresh Start level now fits seamlessly with our Fresh Start program, while the Winter Reset and Summer Boost levels allow you to follow the seasonal rhythms of nature. This also keeps things fresh when someone is using the app for a longer time.

Aren’t people supposed to use the app all the time?

Well, yes and no. The app certainly balances fitness discipline with enough freedom that you could keep it up every day. On the other hand the reality is that sometimes life just gets in the way. I personally use the app for most of the year, but during summer vacations and the end-of-year holidays there are so many distractions I find it easier to just take a break for a few weeks.

So that must mean you’re on a break now. When will you start using the app again?

On January 3rd. I always schedule the day I will return to the app the moment I start a break. This way, I won’t forget and I don’t risk my break becoming a permanent “vacation”.

This year, I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to do a Winter Reset starting January 3rd.

Ah, the new level. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Certainly, but first let me say something about resolutions. I think there are two things to keep in mind when choosing a new year’s resolution.

First, don’t plan for a result but focus on an effort. So, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” is a bad resolution while “I’m not going to drink alcohol for a month” is a good resolution. You can’t really control results and if things don’t go as you imagined them, it can kill your motivation completely.

Second, define a timeframe. So, “I’m never drinking again” is a bad resolution while “I’m not drinking for a month” is a good resolution. To be clear, it is possible to succeed in “not doing x ever again” but it needs a complete shift in mindset, and a random January 1 doesn’t usually provide this new mindset.

OK. And the new level?

Oh, right. Well, the idea is really simple. In nature, people would eat a lot of food in the months leading up to winter to build up their reserves. This is also why many cultures still have so many food-oriented festivities when winter is approaching. But in our modern lives, the scarcity of winter never comes and the reserves we built up are never used. This is one of the reasons we often gain “holiday pounds” and then never lose them again.

The Winter Reset simulates the scarcity of a natural winter. The diet is a little more restricted and it includes a lot of fasting. Doing a Winter Reset after the holidays gives your body a chance to use up its holiday pounds and reset itself to a more natural metabolism.

That sounds tough. Are you looking forward to it?

Actually, I am. I’ve done strict diets in the past, so I know what to expect. And to be honest, this December has been more gluttonous than ever (thanks to Dutch Corona measures forcing us to spread our social engagements over many days). I really feel I need a break.

Of course, I know it’s also going to be hard. I’m planning to write some sort of diary, so if people want to read along with my adventure they can follow it on Instagram.

Well, good luck. And because I’m doing the Reset with you, I really mean that. Any last words?

Not really. I hope everyone that reads this will try out our new app. It’s free, so there’s nothing stopping you. If you don’t understand something in the app just long press on it to see an explanation. Or drop us a line at info@healthylives.com.

I’m very curious to hear what people think, so if you want to share your thoughts on the new app with us it would be much appreciated!

We can certainly agree on that. Thanks for the talk, Mayk.

You too, Mayk.

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