The Health Diaries

This CEO Is Convinced a Universal Healthy Diet Doesn’t Exist

‘What’s good for one person may not be good for another person’

There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.

NNaveen Jain is an entrepreneur with a track record of starting companies like InfoSpace, World Innovation Institute, iNome, TalentWise, and Intelius. His one driving belief, which he’ll tell you about within moments of meeting you, is that our only limits come from our imagination.

His newest company, Viome, aims to do gut microbiome testing. Jain believes that by looking at people’s guts, scientists can build personalized action plans to fight chronic disease. He has raised $15 million in funding to support his new business.

This week, Jain tells Elemental about his obsession with reading new studies and his nontraditional view on the definition of health.

I generally get up around 4 a.m. every day. I have never in my life used an alarm clock. I jump out of bed because the light is so amazing. For me, I think that if you don’t jump out of bed at 4 a.m., you’re working on the wrong things in your life. Then I go downstairs and start with my email. I also go through research articles, and I do this for two to three hours every morning because I want to understand what happened in the world while I was sleeping.

After I take a shower, I always find at least five minutes to meditate. I don’t care how late I am running to a meeting. I need to get myself into the routine and day ahead of me.

I eat a small breakfast and I start my calls around 7:30 a.m. I’m in meetings for most of the day but I do try to carve out time for myself to catch up and have quiet. Then I can think about where we are at as a company, what we need to do, and what is important. Most of the time, we get so caught up in the day that we only see the trees and we miss the forest. It’s important to me to define the top three important things we should focus on and I want everybody at my company to know about those things.

I bring my lunch with me from home because otherwise I end up eating all kinds of garbage. I often have broccoli and lentils, or smoothies. I’m a vegan, so I tend to eat different colors of vegetables and proteins. I have some type of lentils or beans with nearly every meal and I tend to avoid bread as much as I can. I also take vitamin D but that’s the only supplement I need. I think most supplements harm you more than they help you, or at least they do absolutely nothing.

I grew up in a family of vegetarians. When you eat like this for several generations, you end up developing a microbiome that can’t digest meat anymore. So if there’s even the tiniest bit of meat in something I eat, I end up with an upset stomach. Recently my wife found out that she was sensitive to almonds, and when she stopped eating them, she felt more energetic. This inspired me. So I did a microbiome test and found out that I was sensitive to dairy, and thus I became a vegan.

I typically leave my office around 6:30 p.m. and have a quick, small dinner. Then I get back to finishing up my emails before I go to bed. I want to get myself to inbox zero every night before bed.

I try to work out almost every day. If I can’t find the time, I’ll just do five to 10 minutes of pushups. If I do have time, I’ll get in 45 minutes on the elliptical and then 15 minutes for weights.

I go to bed at about 10 p.m. every night. You’ll usually find me going with high energy until 10 p.m. and then the minute I hit the pillow, I’m asleep. I’m not tossing and turning because I never worry about the things that aren’t in my control. And if things are in my control, I know I’m doing the best I can, so there’s nothing else I could be doing. I focus on karma and on my own actions. There’s also never a day when I don’t spend at least five to seven minutes before I go to bed recapping my day and counting my blessings.

To me, health is: Can you do everything you want to do with no limitations? Can you do the things you love doing? I don’t let anyone else define my health. Maybe I’m five pounds overweight but I get to judge that. If I can do what I want to do, I’m healthy!

Also, there’s this idea of “eating healthy” but I say there’s no such thing as healthy food. The question is: Is it healthy for you, or not healthy for you? Spinach can be great for some people, and for others, it causes inflammation and kidney stones. There’s no such thing as a universal healthy diet. What’s good for one person may not be good for another person.

Each one of us is only limited by what we believe. Until someone believed that they could run a mile in under four minutes, we didn’t do it. And then one person did it, so four other people did it the next year. My mother would say, “The sky’s the limit.” But she didn’t know that even the sky is a figment of our imagination. There’s no physical barrier in the sky! Our imagination creates those barriers. Don’t look at the world as it is — look at it as it could be.

I write essays, test products & produce content marketing for brands. I’m also a career coach for freelancers and the co-host of The Writers’ Co-op podcast.

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