Us Health nerds will always have these first thoughts when we see people not like “us.” This distrust (amygdala) and even disgust (insular cortex) is deeply wired. You must let these first thoughts go; they are pure sub-cortical bullshit. The people that don’t care about Health have not-so-nice first thoughts about your chewy granola ass as well.

Inadvertently, moving to Costa Rica was the best thing I ever could have done as a Health nerd. Here is why:

1. I can’t speak the language well enough for people to think I am smart. I sound like a seven year old pretty much all the time.

2. Food is not just food. Food is family. Food is home. Comida Tipica is Costa Rica.

3. In the general population, the Nutrition IQ here is very low, so you get to watch daily what humans with very little cortical knowledge or regulation of food intake will do. The nutrition IQ in the Unites States is generally very low as well, but ask anyone about nutrition, and they have an anecdotal opinion, therefore, there is generally a lot of cortical garbage to unpack and people make not-so-rational (ketogenic) decisions.

4. I have absolutely no influence on public policy and will likely never have any influence on a large population level. Most of us don’t have any say over this in the States either, but it bears mentioning, because if I am going to create any type of change, it is going to be at the grass-roots micro-environment level.

Now, in this new foreign environment, where I am an unknown guest and essentially nutritionally handcuffed, I have two choices.

1. I can create resentment and a divide between the different looking people who lift and buy vegetables. I can judge these wonderfully helpful, industrious, and happy humans for their sensible choices OR

2. I can shut my judgmental gringo mouth and listen, watch, and learn from the situation and maybe, just maybe help.

Diving into the appetite centers of the brain has assisted me in understanding that these humans are doing exactly what they should do in their current environment and that I am the nut-job buying an apple instead of an ice-cream bar.

Thus, if I am going to move someone to change, it has to be self-initiated. It can’t be me serving up a daily bolus of tough love in the produce aisle or passive-aggressively bitching on Facebook about the family in front of me that bought their three year-old the gummy worms she was reaching for in the check-out line. Those gummy worms likely cost that family an hour or more of wages, and I cannot do anything about any of that on the macro level; what I can see is that they care and love that child. They smile at her and want to make her happy.

The irony is that the “in” for me doesn’t have anything to do with food and likely never will; it seems to be training.

In a highly patriarchal society, I win their respect because I leave 300+ pounds on the bar, and they come by and can’t even budge it off the ground, and with little effort, I pick it up for reps. They do not like this AT ALL, and I like all of it because a seed has been planted.

I garner some semblance of influence by bringing a bunch of healthy, happy, and nice Gringos to Costa Rica who also lift lots of weight and eats lots of vegetables.

They are intrigued.

“What is going on over there? Some of these people look they should be in the movies. What the hell are they doing with that metal stick over their heads? What do they eat?”

I went to Mono Congo the week after the last retreat, and one the workers asked me if I had seen the professional football team that was staying in Uvita. Ha.

One of my other favorite moments was when the garbage man was talking to James Cerbie outside our rental house. The man with gloves who throws around 10-20 kilos bags all day was making lots of gestures at shirtless James. Cerbie speaks zero Spanish so he was just nodding politely. I thought we had done something wrong, so I walked over.

He was just asking and pointing, “Como consigo brazos asi mae.”

Or “How do I get arms like that?”

So the next time you see someone eating something you don’t agree with or performing an exercise you think is asinine and unproductive, shut your mouth and let it go. Point the finger inwards, and maybe just work on getting arms like James.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
―Anne Lamott