If I had to choose one trait instrumental to success in life, it would be kindness. How can we go wrong, by being kind? Social media often receives backlash for being a dark place of ill-intentioned algorithms, but I have personally found it to be a potentially beautiful community, where like attracts like. If you put out goodness into the world, it will return to you. I try to treat everyone with kindness, and am overwhelmed with the kindness I have received back in return. When my apartment was broken into at the start of the pandemic, my audience raised a care fund for me. Hundreds of people I didn’t even know personally, offered their support.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Melanie Avalon.
Melanie Avalon is a wellness leader, brand owner, holistic nutritionist, and author of What When Wine: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, and Wine.
She also hosts two top iTunes podcasts The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast and The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. Melanie founded the supplement brand AvalonX tP provide the highest quality of supplements she believes in, formulated for purity, potency, transparency, and sustainability.
She is a certified holistic nutritionist by the AFPA, and creator of the iTunes app “Food Sense Guide” to help those with food sensitivities.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, driven by cliché dreams of the entertainment industry and plans to change the world. At 17, I left high school early to study Theatre and Film Critical Studies at the University of Southern California, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a double BA. While at USC, I interned with incredible film figures, including Jerry Bruckheimer and Jim Whitaker, at Disney Studios.
My optimizing health obsession arose when stereotypical dieting interest morphed into a fixation on the science of diet, as I not only found dietary approaches which worked for weight loss (low carb and intermittent fasting, long before the latter was colloquial) but which extended an encompassing whole-body effect with a collection of “nonscale victories”: clearer skin, vanished brain fog, more energy, and simply feeling healthier. Adopting a “Paleo” whole foods approach sealed the deal for me, for the effects of food on wellness.
After graduating from USC, a multitude of stressors, including a bout of food poisoning while living in a black mold-infested apartment (where the adorable 1950s oven was sinisterly leaking carbon monoxide every night), welcomed me to the world of digestive issues and the elusive catch-all term of “chronic fatigue.” I began seeking modalities to feel better, a journey that sparked my entrance into the world of “biohacking,” also long before the concept was colloquial.
As I continually experimented and found lifestyle interventions that radically affected my world experience for the better, I started a blog, and self-published a book, desiring to share my experience with others. This eventually led to the traditionally published What When Wine Diet, as well as my top podcasts, The Intermittent Fasting Podcast and The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast, which currently receive around 700K monthly downloads. The rise in social media and “influencer” life has also provided the perfect platform for sharing my findings with others.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Years ago, I would peruse Barnes & Noble, and visualize my book one day resting on the shelf in the “Paleo” section. After self-publishing my book as a first big step towards that, I next needed to sign with a literary agent to get the book into stores. I knew my dream agent was Celeste Fine, who often ranks as the top non-fiction health and diet agent in the country, according to Publishers Marketplace. For one month, I researched how to write my query letter: 3 paragraphs synthesizing the entirety of one’s pitch and potential (no pressure!). After sending the email, Celeste called to say she receives 10,000 unsolicited submissions a year and answers 2 of them. She was answering mine. I had no real platform to speak of, but she saw my potential. I cried from happiness.
Not only is What When Wine now on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, but many of the books alongside it are authors I now call friends! This experience iterated to aim for the highest goal, give it your all, and believe it can happen. Celeste could only see my potential, if I saw my potential. It sounds cliché, but dream big and take the practical steps to achieve it. Burdened by fears or self-doubts, many people never take that first step, but you can do it!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m extremely grateful to my friend Andrew Mayne, who I met on the set of his TV show, Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne. Andrew became an overwhelmingly encouraging role model in my life. A magician, inventor, best best-selling author, and podcaster, Andrew encouraged me to write a book and start a podcast of my own. In true mentorship fashion, he told me the exact steps to follow and believed in me all along the way. He is magic, pun intended, and I will be forever grateful for his support!
Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Kindness: If I had to choose one trait instrumental to success in life, it would be kindness. How can we go wrong, by being kind? Social media often receives backlash for being a dark place of ill-intentioned algorithms, but I have personally found it to be a potentially beautiful community, where like attracts like. If you put out goodness into the world, it will return to you. I try to treat everyone with kindness, and am overwhelmed with the kindness I have received back in return. When my apartment was broken into at the start of the pandemic, my audience raised a care fund for me. Hundreds of people I didn’t even know personally, offered their support.
I try to actively remind myself that avatars are people, and words on the screen have real life effects. One of my only real “rules” in my Facebook groups, is “Be Kind.” Everything else will follow.
Open-mindedness: In a world of defensiveness and judgmental opinions, I try to maintain an open mind, while constantly seeking truth. The one thing I know is that I know nothing. Looking at split-brain studies, we see that the language part of our brain can literally make up stories to explain the cognitive dissonance of our reality. I believe my Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast is unique, in that I welcome all opinions. For example, I interview legends in both the carnivore sphere (i.e.: Paul Saladino, Dr. Shawn Baker), as well as the plant-based vegan world (i.e.: Neal Barnard, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai), to see what they have to say. How can we find truth, if we cannot listen to all perspectives? If I ever feel defensive about something, I ask myself: “What am I afraid of here?” “Or how is my ego offended?” I believe we cannot blame other people for their ideas, or how they make us feel.
Positive outlook and growth mindset: I believe challenges and mistakes are stepping stones to a brighter future. I experienced a myriad of health challenges, ultimately leading to my obsession with the world of “biohacking,” as I sought tools and techniques to make myself feel better. Even when I didn’t feel grateful for the challenges, I knew that someday I would be. When I had heavy metal toxicity, or was hospitalized for anemia, or had my third colonoscopy before 30, I knew my challenges were part of the journey to learning more and ultimately helping others. You can’t fail because you can always keep going!
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity?
The word “authority” doesn’t particularly resonate with me, as I do not see myself as the authority on anything. I see myself as a flashlight rather than a lighthouse. I don’t hold the answers but help others find answers for themselves. By obsessively researching and self-experimenting, and interviewing the world’s greatest authorities on my shows (i.e.: David Sinclair, Wim Hof), I’m able to bridge the often challenging gap between the complex world of health science and longevity with the general public. I ask thought-provoking, “deep” questions in seeking truth.
In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I believe I make the science of longevity fascinating and relatable. Through my podcasts and social media platform, I grant the audience access to a deluge of health information while also engaging in it personally and sharing my experience. Rather than simply “telling,” I bring my audience along for the ride. I also approach everything naively, with an open mind. My audience trusts my recommendations dearly, and I would never betray that trust. I also bring a female perspective to an often male-dominated sphere.
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys?
I am obsessed with the science of longevity, and fascinated by all of the potential factors involved. I’ve dived deep into the world of “biohacking,” which has lead to experimentation with many fascinating modalities, including red light therapy, blue light blocking glasses, infrared sauna, cryotherapy, Wim Hof breathing, various techniques and technological aids for meditation, and even drinking deuterium depleted water. In researching the various longevity compounds, I launched my own supplement line, AvalonX, to create the very best versions of these products, which may help support longevity, including the proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase, and NMN, which boosts NAD levels. (NAD is a master coenzyme in the body, and its depletion is often linked to aging.) At the end of the day, I believe longevity likely lies in a wholistic lifestyle rich in non-inflammatory whole foods, fasting, and ample sleep, with a consistent effort to reduce one’s environmental toxic burden, and embrace social connection.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? — (Please share a story or an example for each)
Diet: What we eat literally builds the foundation of our bodies. How can we have a long and healthy life, if we are not using the best raw materials to build the vessel which carries us through it? Debates will reign eternally on the “ideal” diet, but I do believe a common principal unites them all: eat real foods. Processed foods contribute to metabolic syndrome by raising blood sugar, mess with hormones due to their toxic chemicals, and encourage overeating and obesity, thanks to their concentrated energy and addictive flavors. By turning to real food, we can nourish and support our body, and find the foods which work for us personally. (To learn more about the importance of diet, check out my interviews with Max Lugavere, Dr. Will Cole, Jonathan Bailor, Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, and Mark Schatzker)
Fasting: One of the most profound things I believe we can do for a long and healthy life, is a sort of not doing. When we fast, we give our bodies time to rest, rebuild, and recover. Fasting activates protective genes known as sirtuins, and causes our cells to undergo a self-cleaning process known as autophagy, in which old, broken proteins are recycled. Fasting also supports the immune system, lowers blood sugar levels, and can help reverse chronic disease. (To learn more about the importance of fasting, check out my interviews with Dave Asprey, Megan Ramos, Gin Stephens, and Cynthia Thurlow.)
Sleep: One of the strongest factors in our health arguably occurs when we are not even conscious. From an evolutionary perspective, sleep must have been very important, otherwise we would likely not have evolved to exist in such a susceptible state for 8 hours per day. I do all I can to support a good night’s rest, and honor it like none other. I believe we should live in accordance with our sleep chronotype, with the consistency of sleep being more important than the timing of the sleep.( ie: If you are a late night person, be a late night person, but do it consistently!) I engage in a multitude of sleep promoting habits, including using blue light blocking glasses at night, cultivating a cool, dark environment, (cooling mattresses and black out curtains are great!), and taking the sleep supplements that work for me personally. (To learn more about the importance of sleep, check out my interviews with Dr. Kirk Parsley and Dr. Michael Breus.)
Hormetic Stress: We often become fragile and lazy in today’s society, whereas our bodies are primed for (and thrive on) brief physical stressors known as “hermetic stress”, which actually turn on epigenetic pathways to boost longevity, as the body realizes it needs to put in mechanisms to survive. Examples of hormetic stress include fasting, cold exposure (I love cryotherapy!), heat exposure (I love sauna!), brief intense exercise, etc. (To learn more about the importance of hermetic stress, check out my interviews with David Sinclair, Morgan Levine (airing 10/21), and Dr. Valter Longo.)
Breathe: We need to breathe, both literally and metaphorically. On the literal side of things, did you know that lung capacity was the single factor in the Framingham heart study most linked to longevity? Proper breathing not only fills our body with the oxygen it needs for life, it also can activate our parasympathetic state and cultivate a relaxed mindset. To enter the more metaphorical side, we can focus on the present moment when we sit down and breathe. Research indicates that focusing on the present is one of the highest factors correlated to happiness. (To learn more about the importance of breath, check out my interviews with James Nestor and Wim Hof.)
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
So many factors go into the concept of “happiness,” with many people seeking happiness in unfulfilling objects of desire, such as money or social achievements. I have found that a true sense of purpose cultivates joy and happiness: waking up every day with feelings of bringing your worth to the world. Do what you love: have a vocation, rather than a job.
If you’re not sure what constitutes your “purpose,” ponder what activities give you energy, rather than drain you. These things which make you feel “alive,” likely tie into your true purpose.
Social connection is also key. Longevity research has found that social integration strongly correlates to longevity, including the number of social interactions a person has per day. Aiding others with kindness and cultivating empathy have been scientifically shown to relate to happiness.
Cultivating a mindset of gratitude can also be profound. It is impossible to exist in both a state of fear and gratitude and studies have shown gratitude practices can have a profound effect on well-being.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
An ironic aspect of longevity, is that it is perhaps entirely genetic, yet barely genetic at all. Research on supercentenarians (such as that conducted by my dear friend James Clement), indicates some rare “supercentenarian genes” may grant longevity, regardless of lifestyle factors. For everyone else who doesn’t win this genetic lottery, longevity is likely largely epigenetic, in which environmental factors influence which genes are turned on or off. It’s estimated that around 80% of lifespan may be due to these epigenetic factors: diet, food, sleep, mindset, exercise, hormetic stress, etc. While supercentenarians may harbor genes that grant them all the benefits of epigenetics, we all have the power to increase our longevity as well, through conscious lifestyle decisions. Agency is key!
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
I have experienced a multitude of health issues, which often felt like the bane of my existence, including diagnoses of IBS and SIBO, hypothyroidism, and chronic fatigue. I had anemia to the point of a hemoglobin of 4, requiring hospitalization for blood transfusions. I went through my personal “black hole period,” during which I hunkered down working on podcasts during the day and waiting tables at night, rarely showing my face to the outside world.
I reframed these challenges as catalysts to seeking knowledge and finding answers, which I could ultimately share with others. With my therapist, we reframed my “black hole period” as a time of rest and liminal space. Each new health challenge inspired me to learn even more, and inspired me to create content to share my findings beyond myself.
Gratitude has always been a saving grace, and I realize more and more each day how grateful I am for my life, and for the absence of maladies as they eventually fade. I’ve always been a glass-half-full girl, and never lost my resolve to find answers, and continue on the journey, hopefully even stronger and brighter on the other side. I’m fascinated by research on the concept of “resilience,” which is not some vague fluffy term we ascribe to ourselves for a cheap pep talk, but rather an innate evolutionary drive within us to persevere.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My personal motto in life is “live vicariously through yourself.” I believe it perfectly describes the way I desire to live my life. I hope I may never take any moment for granted, and rather than wishing I had the life of another, or dwelling in envy, or mourn what might have been, I choose to actively view my experiences as something I would dream to have. Whether it’s a grand achievement like hitting a milestone with the podcast (millions of listens!), or having an incredible interview with one of my role models (such as Robb Wolf, whose book The Paleo Solution inspired my journey!), or simply taking in the beauty of a fall evening, I hope I may forever view every moment as sacred, and cultivate a sense of awe.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I believe instilling a sense of agency in people to take charge of their own health is key. While conventional medicine and prescriptions can be lifesaving, their current saturation is literally killing us. Leading causes of death in the US include prescription drug overdoses and hospital errors, while prescription drugs often serve to mask symptoms, rather than address the root cause. Chronic disease is on the rise, much of which is lifestyle driven. I want people to know they can have their own health challenges with personal lifestyle interventions, and their current health constitutions are not their destiny.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
The Intermittent Fasting Podcast (available on all podcast platforms)
The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast (available on all podcast platforms)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.