Biohacking, a phenomenon with roots all over the country, has fiercely taken over the competitive tech world of Silicon Valley. Executives are taking nootropics to gain the extra edge they need over their competitors, entrepreneurs are fasting to stay clear-headed as they accelerate company growth, and even everyday joggers are tracking their footsteps and making micro-adjustments to their diet and training to beat their PR. Thanks to dedicated media reporters, everyone around the world can learn about this pivotal time of human improvement and join in.
Episode 45 features Melia Robinson, a senior reporter at Business Insider. Melia's forte of covering the advancements of the 21st century led her to become intertwined with the biohacking community in Silicon Valley. She's been around the block by interviewing countless biohackers and sharing their regimes, experimenting with the ketogenic diet for 2 months and publishing a popular feature about the experience, and falling in love with Soylent (a meal replacement drink)...which led her to realize that biohacking can be for everyone.
Geoff and Melia discuss her history reporting on the biohacking culture in San Francisco, the challenges and triumphs she had following the ketogenic diet, the rise of hospitality businesses in the marijuana industry, and answer questions from the community.
Geoff: Welcome to the HVMN Enhancement Podcast. I'm really excited to have in house today Melia Robinson, a senior reporter with Business Insider. I think she's really made a claim to fame with really covering all things innovation, from Biohacking, to growing marijuana business, to ... I think you're going through your story list recently. Going from like weird culture of Silicon Valley to just weird culture happening in 21st century. How would you describe your beat?
Melia: I'm living vicariously through all the San Franciscans who make more money than I do, I think. I bounced around beats several times since joining Business Insider. Been there four years now, but currently I cover the culture of the San Francisco Bay area, which includes Silicon Valley. It's about how techies eat, sleep, shop, spend their money, enhance their mind and bodies, re:Biohacking. I've also covered legal marijuana as you mentioned as sort of part of that and I am a big fan of using my body for weird experiments on behalf of our readers.
Geoff: I know there's some interesting stories around ketogenic diet, and I see you got Soylent in front of us, and let's get into that. What is your background? Where did you grew up? Did you grow up in the Bay Area?
Melia: No. I couldn't be further from it I guess. I grew up in New Hampshire, in a small town about an hour north of Boston, which is like we have civilization there. We had more people than cows, but I always wanted to be a reporter my entire life. I think I was really lucky in that way because I had so many friends who through school were still trying to figure it out.
Geoff: I think most of us still don't know what they want to do, right?
Melia: Yeah. I just wanted this so badly. I loved talking to people. I always ask too many questions, and I went to Syracuse University, and studied magazine journalism, and information management and technology. It's kind of a mix of what I wanted to write about and how to write. I started out in our New York office.
Geoff: For Business Insider?
Melia: For Business Insider, yeah. I actually got the gig out of college. We had recruiters come to a career fair and they hired a bunch of us out of Syracuse. We have like a little mafia going at BI.
Geoff: Okay, I'm actually interesting over the folks that are interested in the journalism or reporting path. Did you like blog while you were in school or was it sort of ... like how do you ... and I know it's not easy to ...
Melia: Like break in.
Geoff: To break in.
Melia: Yeah. I didn't blog through school, but I was very much embedded in our student publications. I worked for several doing writing and then I was editor in chief of our school's cultural magazine 360 Degrees. Shout out.
Geoff: Shout out to the college days, yeah.
Melia: Yeah, and so I tried to get as many clips from the real world as possible. I went to New York city about every summer through school.
Geoff: Okay wow.
Melia: Tried to get internships. I had some weird ones. My first internship was at Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine.
Melia: Do you know who Rachel Ray is?
Geoff: The celebrity chef.
Melia: Yeah, okay. Good.
Geoff: She got into ... I remember her getting into some trouble with some non-PC stuff, or is that someone else.
Melia: That's Paula. You might be thinking of Paula Deen.
Geoff: Maybe, okay. Okay, maybe Rachel Ray is not in trouble.
Melia: I think Rachel is cool.
Geoff: Okay, okay.
Melia: She was my first foray into magazine journalism writing. At that time I was just doing subscriber newsletters and research for stories. The next summer I went to O - the Oprah magazine, which is like a step up in celebrity icon publications. I did see Oprah once. It was the highlight of my career.
Geoff: Did she look at you? Did she say hi to you? What was the tipping point to go more into your current beat? How did you transition from entertainment to ... I think I heard a little bit of the story of how you started getting into Biohacking, and interesting foods, I'd love to hear that story. You have Soylent right in front of us, right here.
Melia: I moved into an innovation beat a couple of years later. Then it was really an umbrella term. I struggled because I wasn't making really strong source relationships like I'd hoped, in part, because I think I wasn't an expert in any given area. I was just spreading myself too thin. I was trying to hunt down a beat that I could really own, that I was really interested in. One of the first that really made me passionate was legal marijuana. About a year and a half ago I was in a marijuana dispensary reporting an article.
Geoff: This was in Colorado, probably at the time?
Melia: In California.
Geoff: Okay, California, okay.
Melia: It was a medical marijuana dispensary, but not just any marijuana dispensary, but the Apple store of pot shops. It had made headlines for its smart design. I was doing the story there and about 10 minutes in the guy is taking bud out of the cases, and I'm photographing it, and getting the tour, and I started to feel really light headed.
Geoff: You didn't eat anything? You weren't smoking or anything?
Melia: I wasn't smoking anything. I did have breakfast but I think I was really dehydrated. I started getting tunnel vision. I could see the guy was talking and I couldn't hear anything.
Geoff: You're like, "Whoa, what the fuck is going on?"
Melia: I passed out.
Geoff: Oh gee.
Melia: I fell face forward on the cement floor. I broke my jaw in three place.
Melia: Which I like to think is the closest I'll ever be to becoming Kanye West who famously broke his jaw in three places after surviving a near fatal car accident in 2002, there's a song about it. What followed was I had a surgery to reconstruct my jaw and I had my mouth wired shut for about six weeks. I didn't have a lot of options for what to eat then. I had a NutriBullet system, and I was blending lasagna, and omelets, and chicken pad Thai, and all sorts of things you would never want to see pureed. It was getting exhausting because I was having to clean my blender six times a day, having these really small meals through a straw. My boyfriend who works in the tech industry recommended that I try Soylent, which I'd had before in the powdered version and hated, and have photos of me gagging on it because I thought it tasted like chalk paste. I gave it a try. By then Soylent 2.0 had come out, which was their bottled version. I started only drinking Soylent, about six bottles a day.
Just to paint a picture, at this time in my life I was in a really dark place. I was hopped up on all these pain medications. I wasn't eating enough so my energy was really down. I was having really severe panic attacks because I was so nervous that I was going to pass out again. I was scared to leave the house. I had taken time off of work during my recovery. In that time Soylent became this island unto itself. It was the one thing in my life that I didn't have to think about. There was no preparation, no clean up, I knew that with every bottle I was getting 20 grams of protein.
Geoff: The macronutrients, right.
Melia: 20% of my daily nutritional needs. I started never leaving the house without it. It went with me on trains, and to doctors appoints, I had a very ill timed trip to Florida and I shipped cased of Soylent to my hotel ahead of time so I knew I would have it.
Geoff: Because your mouth was just wired shut and you just couldn't eat anything else.
Melia: Yeah, I couldn't eat anything.
Melia: I became obsessed with it. I think more importantly is it made me feel really empowered. I was making this quirky food choice, living off of a meal replacement shake, but it made me feel good. I felt like it served me.
Geoff: Rob and the Soylent team should take this clip and leave it on the website.
Melia: I know. I think at that point I had this aha moment. Until then I thought Biohacking was something that was reserved for people who wanted to implant antennas in their head to hear color, and ...
Geoff: Yeah we had Neil Harbisson, the guy that did that on our program.
Melia: Okay. The human cyborg.
Geoff: Yeah, yes.
Melia: Awesome. Or people putting chips in their fingers to unlock doors. I dismissed it as this weird Silicon Valley thing. Soylent showed me that there's room for everyone in Biohacking, that we can make simple choices to be smarter, and stronger, and healthier, every day. I'm a Soylent lifer now. I mean I eat other food now, for sure, I eat other food now, but I still have Soylent everyday for breakfast. After that experience I became more empathetic, I think, with the Biohacking community. I wanted to embed myself and learn more about what decisions they made that other people raise their eyebrows out, but I guessed from my experience, made them feel really good. I wanted to bring a voice to their interests.
Melia: That's kind of how I got into Biohacking. One of the first companies I covered was actually HVMN back when it was Nootrobox. In 2015 I wrote about Go Cubes when they launched, and I think when they went Amazon, and that was kind of on the same spectrum as Soylent for me in that it was something that I think catered to everyone. Everyone eats, everyone drinks coffee, and you could use biology, and technology, to serve yourself better.
Geoff: Right. That's a little bit like how do we re-engineer something that is more of like an automatic cultural phenomenon, how do we optimize it for a modern use case is essentially.
Geoff: A little bit the Biohacking in the broad consumer sense, right?
Geoff: The way I think about it is that computers weren't necessarily designed for everyone 30, 40 years ago. It needs to be progression to bring these concepts that's successful to everyone.
Melia: Yeah, it's not so much a dark web thing anymore.
Melia: I have these companies to look at that are hiring scientists on their team, and doing the research, and there's a level of accountability that makes it presentable for mainstream audience.
Geoff: I would say sometimes the most interesting stories are the dark web crazy people. In your reporting have you met ... I'm just curious, the spectrum of folks you talk to, were there any instances where you're like, "Whoa these people are super shady but like super interesting?"
Melia: I don't want to talk smack.
Geoff: Just high level, you don't need to name names, but just the concepts [inaudible 00:11:49].
Melia: I think that there are maybe some companies in Biohacking that rely too heavily on their own in house studies to promote their product. I think one of the most widely publicized cases of this is Bulletproof Coffee who, Dave Asprey, their founder, has built this multimillion dollar empire on one thing, buttered coffee.
Melia: From there it spawned bestselling books, and conferences, and they now have a line of cafes that are coming to LA, and I want to say New York. I would just love to see from these more cutting edge biohackers a little more transparency, I guess, in what evidence they have to support their claims.
Melia: Probably one of my earliest exposures to a more niche biohack community was going to a We Fast breakfast.
Geoff: Our fasting community.
Geoff: I know a lot of our listeners were a part of that.
Melia: Yeah. I think it was ... Was it Kara Swisher who first wrote about you guys for Buzzfeed? No, that wouldn't have been it.
Geoff: Natasha Tiku.
Melia: Yeah, Natasha Tiku wrote about it. Thank you. I read her story and was blown away. One think I try to do differently is bring visuals to my story I'm an amateur photographer. I think I had approached you and your co-founder, Mike, about coming to a We Fast meeting because I wanted to talk to these people, and document them through my camera. Intermittent fasting is a hack that I have never tried on my own but is endlessly fascinating to me.
Geoff: Have you not tried fasting since then?
Melia: I've never tried fasting.
Melia: I'm really freaked out that I'm going to pass out from not eating.
Geoff: Okay. Okay.
Melia: Well probably because I have that personal history of passing out once.
Melia: And breaking my jaw. I've written about it several times and I know that some of the biggest names in tech are obsessed with it. I just read a story about Phil Libin, the former CEO of Evernote, who runs a AI startup now. He fasts intermittently.
Geoff: He does pretty long fasts. We became friends recently.
Melia: Oh really?
Geoff: Yeah, he does three, four day fasts pretty continuously. He's getting into the blood measurements of measuring his ketones and glucose.
Geoff: He's like true, full believer.
Melia: Yeah. Okay, also, another big concern I have about intermittent fast is I'm very prone to hangryness.
Melia: Had hangryness been an issue for you before you started intermittent fasting?
Geoff: Yes. I think when I first started fasting ... I like how your report instincts kick and now it's a question to me. Yeah, I grew up having a fairly quick metabolism, was generally a thinner person, would lose weight if I wasn't exercising and trying to eat a lot. When I first heard about fasting, this is not two years ago now. Yeah, this is insane, why would I starve myself, get weaker?
Geoff: I want snacks. We're all use to snacking.
Geoff: You know, we committed to it, Paul, one of our colleagues, our second employee, was like, "Hey, interesting data around longevity out of USC research. Interesting data, TED Talk from a King's College researcher, Doctor Sandrine Thuret, she's really into neurogenesis, growing new neurons. There's really interesting data around fasting to grow new neurons." It's like, okay. This sounds like it will suck but we're biohackers, we can experiment and play with it. Yeah, admittedly, the first couple times was just hard because your body is so use to having constant glucose, constant insulin spikes, and then you're taking that away. It's like, "Whoa, what's going on?"
Geoff: I think the third, fourth time fasting ... We nicknamed one of the fasts, one of the 36 hour fasts, a monk fast, because it felt very calm. I know you started to started doing that ketogenic diet.
Geoff: I want to get into that.
Geoff: They're very related in some ways.
Melia: Yeah, I learned about the ketogenic diet after going to a WeFast meeting.
Geoff: The hangryness, did you get hungry on a ketogenic diet? I'm just actually curious because on a ketogenic diet you're taking your glucose load very, very low.
Geoff: You're probably not drinking too much Soylent. I don't know if you were drinking a lot.
Melia: I wasn't drinking Soylent. That was one of the hardest adjustments.
Geoff: Yeah. I know that kind of macronutrients ratio change shifts your metabolism in a way where there probably was some carbohydrate withdrawal.
Geoff: Then as you get more use to using fats and ketones as fuel, sort of rebalance out, and you're like, "Okay, this is very steady mental state."
Melia: Yeah. Let me just back up and say, I remember when I went to the WeFast breakfast. I had this thought that if I were to fast for 36 hours, the first thing I'd want is a plate of fried chicken and waffles drenched in maple syrup, a big creamy, sugary, cup of coffee. No one ordered the grand slam at this restaurant you guys were at. Everyone was just eating eggs, and bacon, and I was like, "That's fun but that's not super indulgent. You guys just fasted for 36 hours, treat yo self."
Geoff: We use to start like that.
Melia: Oh really?
Geoff: The first two, three times we fasted, this is just our team, because we didn't have a community. Just us, yeah, we had the pancakes, and the waffles, and then we realized that we felt ... We were super clean and we went ba bam, just carb overload.
Melia: What I learned from talking to people at that meeting was that a high fat meal kind of helps ease you out of the fast and keep your ketone production high. I was like, "Okay, I'm probably not ready to commit to intermittent fasting yet, but I could eat eggs and bacon." I have been someone who has tried every fad diet, I think, imaginable.
Geoff: What like juicing, whole 30? A lot of people have a whole 30, that kind of stuff.
Melia: Yeah. That's really popular right now. I mean, this is isn't so much a fable like I did-
Geoff: I think Carrie Swisher was on doing that when I talked to her like two weeks.
Melia: Oh, really?
Geoff: Yeah. I'm on my whole 30.
Melia: It's very popular right now. I think it's probably really similar to keto, I'm going to guess.
Geoff: I think it's like less, no refined carbohydrate. I think it's just like a healthy balanced diet. For standard American diet, it's just kind of shitty. But whole 30s is
better and keto is cutting out carbs more extremely.
Melia: Well, the deity I stuck with the most was weight watchers, which I did through college and is like how should I basic of diets. But I was attracted to the Keto diet because weight watchers they use a point system, different foods have different point values. And you have to stay within this number if points per day. And things like nuts and eggs and cheese were very severally punished on the weight watchers system because they were high fat. And I happened to love all those foods. So the ketogenic diet appealed to be because I could eat those thing, end mass. And when I decided really early on that I was going to try it and I was going to write an article about it. So my editor insisted that I see aa doctor to make sure that I was going to be safe about it.
So I teamed up with Dr. Priyanka Wali, who I think has been on this or is friends with you guys.
Geoff: I actually met her when I gave a talk at a world fair NLSF and she's also like a comedian. So she was like on the Comey track. And she came up afterwards, she's like, "I'm her for the comedy show but I'm not your doctor. And you're talking about Biohacking, we should hang out, we should talk." So that's how we met.
Melia: She's great.
Geoff: And I knew that ... She was one of the emerging doctors that was using ketogenic diets in her practice.
Melia: So she's like an internal medicine position at California Pacific hospital here in San Francisco. And she works mostly I think with people who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. And so she uses the ketogenic as part of her treatment. And similarly, she's used herself as a guinea pig first and tested it out to make sure this is something she felt comfortable prescribing. So I met with her a couple of times and we went through my medical history and she taught me about how to count carbs the right way. I wasn't just looking at the total carbohydrates but I was subtracting the dietary fiber because that stuff just passes through your system.
Geoff: Just the net carbs that count.
Melia: It's the net carbs that count. And my first week doing it, she was really nervous about me suffering from carbohydrate withdrawal, which you just mentioned. Which I think is a real thing because at that point I was eating like 250 grams of carbs a day, a lot.
Geoff: How much is in a Soylent?
Melia: 34. But like I ate a ton of fruit, I love pasta, I love sandwiches, like a lot of carbs. So to start, she had me just do breakfast and lunch ketogenic and dinner I could eat normally. And the first week was really still miserable. I got a lot of migraines and I don't that was more cranky that usual but I thought about food a lot. The cravings were so real. And we have these peanut butter filled pretzels in our office that are my brand of crack, and I'd get up and go for a handful not even thinking about it, just mechanically and then have that realization and go sit back to my desk.
Geoff: So what were you eating in that morning and lunch period?
Melia: I just started waking up earlier-
Geoff: And you were preparing eggs, avocado.
Melia: Eggs, and bacon, and avocado. I remember fried eggs weren't doing it for me so much by day three and I switched to scrambled. But it felt very different me, those breakfast because I mean for one I normally every drink Soylent for breakfast.
Geoff: And normally you were drinking a drink of Soylent 2.0?
Melia: Yeah. So I was like eating these really high fat meals for breakfast. And in the beginning, I would feel a little queasy about it because I think I just wasn't used to eating so much fat.
Geoff: Did you do any blood work or anything before then?
Melia: Yeah, I did. I did like a resting insulin panel and she checked my cholesterol. And all of my-
Geoff: Nitro glycerides, cholesterol, sort of the lipid levels?
Melia: Yeah. I don't really know what those things means. But she told me that they were normal. So fortunately, I didn't have a ton of room for improvement I guess, but there is always room. But a couple of weeks in, I started feeling fully longer instead of my typical lunch ,which would be a sandwich, I love tender greens like baja salad place but I would order it with a side of mashed potatoes or even a food truck like carry up now for lunch. Instead, I was eating a lot of like sad desk salads with tons of chicken on it. I now every week bring a block of cheese to work and one of the perks of pre sliced salami from whole foods.
Geoff: That's your go-to snack?
Melia: That's my go-to snack, cheese and salami. And at the farmers market on Thursday, there is a booth that seels raw nuts and I buy the salted ones. That's become by peanut butter filled pretzel, like brand of indulgence.
Geoff: So week two you were going full ketogenic meals every single day?
Melia: Yeah. By week two. And by week two, I didn't feel like there was a big noticeable difference and I think started to get really impatient like I feel the same but just missed carbs.
Geoff: Of eating different stuffs?
Melia: Yeah. And week two, I started using a, what do you call those things?
Geoff: Finger pricks?
Melia: Yeah. I started finger pricking
Geoff: So you're mashing your glucose and ketone levels?
Melia: Yeah. I just took ketone level, but I bought the Abbott.
Geoff: Precision Xtra.
Melia: Precision Xtra device on Amazon from a third party seller.
Geoff: Were you scared of pricking yourself?
Melia: Oh, my Gosh, yes. I remember the first time I was doing in the office and I kept psyching myself out like I'm going do it, I'm going to do it, no. And finally built up the courage, and it kind of does hurt. I feel really bad for people who have to do that every day.
Geoff: I'm so used to it now.
Melia: Yeah. I'm sure.
Geoff: I was just as scared as you and being too I didn't want to just jab myself. It's just like I replay breath monitors to detect ketone levels but I think blood is only the way to go.
Melia: Way more accurate.
Geoff: It ends up being just very quick too.
Melia: Yeah. It turned out to be not a big deal although it took forever just to learn how to use that thing. But yeah, I started pricking myself. And having a precise measurement of my ketone production really appealed to me especially someone who had weight watchers for so many years because I really liked track-
Geoff: Quantifying it, right?
Geoff: Like you're subjectively, I don't know, maybe I'm just like psyching myself up but it's like, "Hey, your ketones are actually going up, it's actually the macros
are actually right."
Melia: Yeah. So even though I wasn't seeing a noticeable improvement in my energy, I could start to see the changes on my ketone monitor. And I stuck with it, I stuck with it hard. I really didn't have many cheats. I remember once eating it in individual personal pizza that was unfortunate. And once my parents came to town and that was Mardi Gra and I just went to town on everything that they wanted to spoil me with.
Geoff: So two times of carbs out of like two months.
Melia: Two months. I ate it for two months. And by week four maybe it was a world of difference.
Geoff: Like cognitively?
Melia: Yeah. I started to have boundless energy. I would get up in the morning and I just felt like ready to go. I would still have a cup of black coffee or maybe half and half, but I wouldn't need three more cups of coffee after that.
Geoff: And how did your ketone levels evolved through that time?
Melia: So I think about-
Geoff: To give people the sense, if we're eating a normal typical American diet will be 0.1, very nominal levels of ketone.
Melia: By my second week, I was at 0.4 and then by about a month in I peaked at 0.9.
Geoff: It's pretty good.
Melia: I remember I dmed you because I had remembered from reporting on your journey in the keto diet that you were above the single digits. And I was like, "Oh, I had Geoff. What is he doing? And why can't I pass one." And I talked to doctor Wali and she made me feel better because she said that you really can't achieve that kind of ketone fast unless you're doing [inaudible 00:28:21] fast. Is that true in your experience?
Geoff: Well, if you eat super kitchen, like in your super, super rigorous around not just carbs but also proteins, because proteins actually convert into glucose through gluconeogenesis. So when a lot of people are trying to eat keto, they often at times over weigh the protein loads. So typically it's like a 4:1:1 ration, four parts fat, one part protein, one part carbs. So protein often at times ends up creeping higher.
Melia: Yeah. I definitely can see that was true in my case. And I also spent a lot of my carb allowance on fruit, which can catch up to you I think, like berries in particular.
Geoff: But I know that's like if you're going to 0.9, that's very good. We've had people in the office who are like, "Oh, yeah, I'm eating people." And we jab them and it's like 0.3, it's like nah, nah.
Melia: Back of the line.
Geoff: No. I mean it's just hard to do it because there is so many carbs and proteins just hidden and everything. But yeah, I think 0.9 ... I mean, typically over 0.5 is like classically ketosis. You're definitely burning through fat reserves.
Melia: So I had a lot of energy. One of the most magical things is I thought about food all the time before keto. Before keto, I thought about food all the time and would think about what my next meal was and where it was coming from. And I snacked religiously throughout the day. And once I was like in the thick in the keto diet I would look up at the clock and see it was noon, it was time to each lunch and I had bodily signals that that was time.
Geoff: Just chilling.
Melia: Yeah. So when I wasn't thinking about food so much, I actually think I was focusing on work more. And I really wished I had use some kind of productivity tracking software-
Geoff: Like RescueTime, we use that.
Melia: Which one do you use?
Geoff: RescueTime, which is a little background process, like a little-
Melia: Yeah. I really wished I had done something like that because I felt more focused, I felt cleaner and happier. I think by then I wasn't really experiencing hungriness so much anymore. I also drive into the world of like ketogenic online community ruled.me, I wasn't say is like a popular site and I went to them for tons of recipes and they're like mom bloggers who post high fat recipes. I was introduced to the fat bomb, the idea of making a meal that.
Geoff: Super fatty.
Melia: Super fatty. Because one of hardest parts I think about the keto diet was just making sure I was consuming enough fats, you're not going to put butter on literally everything. So what are the ways you can sneak into your idea so make sure that your body has enough to fuel on. So my go-to was cauliflower. Like a cauliflower take on a loaded baked potato. So it was like mashed cauliflower with sower cream, cheese, bacon, chives.
Geoff: It sounds pretty good.
Melia: And the one thing I couldn't bring myself to do during the keto diet was putting butter in my coffee, which I have ever seen do it at WeFast breakfasts. And I've seen doubled in a lot of butter coffees. But I get now why people do that because it's just like another way to sneak fat into your diet. So now months have passed and I am sadly back on carbs, which I'm so embarrassed to admit.
Geoff: No. I mean, I will cycle into the creak out of keto into carbs. You need carbs for anaerobic exercises, carbs are useful for certain things. Is this hard to maintain?
Melia: For me, it was more like the craving or just really hard. It was really hard to maintain for me. Even though I felt incredible, I missed my favorite missed, I missed pizza and spaghetti. And I'm also cooking for my boyfriend who I think.
Geoff: Didn't want to eat keto?
Melia: No so much. Right now I'm trying to convince him to do a vegan diet for another article on Business Insider but he's not so much into that one yet.
Geoff: You just have shared a fun experience.
Melia: Yeah. So yeah, I've not stuck with it because I just find it really difficult to maintain. But I think I'm making better choices still, I still bring my block of cheese and salami to work every week and I still eat nuts as my go-to snack.
Geoff: It seems you just like smarter on your balanced diet.
Melia: Yeah, I think so. One question I've had these last few weeks is I'm making better snaking choices and I do make eggs for breakfast a lot more often than I used to, but like do you think you can maintain some level of nutritional ketosis if you're only half-assing it, you know what I mean? Your ketone production is not going to be there, but does it still count for something?
Geoff: Well, if you're not depleting your glycogene then you're not losing ketones. But I think a lot of the emerging, I don't know if you've seen this latest study published a few weeks ago. It was published-
Melia: I know what you're talking about.
Geoff: The pure study. It was interesting result where overall mortality dropped with a little bit higher doses of fat. But this is not like ketogenic levels of fat, this was like 10%, which was the quantile of fat to 35% fat calories, which is the highest quantile of fat. And folks in that top quantile lived longer, overall mortality had the lowest cardiovascular incidences. So it was interesting. So basically, I think some keto people stretched that result too fat in saying that, "Oh, it's proven that keto is right." Well, keto is not 35% fat, that's still very, very high carbs in the keto perspective. But it seems that there is at least a large data set, this is 35,000 people showing that very, very low levels of fat is probably not that good.
So I think it's like you're probably just getting to a more sensible balanced diet, where there is just too much carbs just floating around. You're just shifting into more balanced life.
Melia: I think I've definitely toned down my carb intake, there is no way I'm still above 200 carbs a day like I was before doing keto.
Geoff: Your insulin levels, they're down?
Melia: Oh, yeah. They've prompted, when I last checked, I was at 0.2.
Geoff: That's good.
Melia: I'd like it to be better, but I just re-uped on my supply of lancets and the test drips because I want to start tracking again, tracking brings a levels of accountability and it kind of makes me competitive with my myself. So I think if I start getting back into that habit maybe I'll stick with those few choices more.
Geoff: I think for myself a mix of intermittent fasting and eating ketogenic meals to break fats is a helpful way to like not necessary, just like a spike in and out of ketosis pretty quickly. So like the way typically you start on 16 to 24 glycogen, if you fast through that period, eat keto and you'll get into 0.5 to 0.7 pretty quickly. So that's how I kind of play with it without having to be like, "Boom, I'm eating butter and avocado and eggs and that's it. I mean, it's just hard to do. I understand completely that I think people that even say they eat keto are not doing it properly unless you're measuring and showing like 1.0, 2.0, those numbers.
Melia: So one thing that is really interesting to me right now, I've been writing about a lot if butter coffee, which I brought up earlier. I see it as an extension of like the keto movement.
Geoff: The Keto Tran is massive, have you looked at Google trend, it's just like poof.
Melia: Oh, really. Well-
Geoff: I'll just pull it up for you, it sounds [inaudible 00:36:57].
Melia: I totally believe that because I think one of the ways we can tell something is going mainstream is when we start to see segments about it on the morning talk shows. And there was a segment on GMA about the ketogenic diet a few months ago and my dreams game true when recently the Today Show asked me to go on and talk about my ketogenic diet experience.
Geoff: Today Show?
Melia: It didn't work out. They ended up not doing the segment. But like, the Today Show wanted to talk about the Keto diet. That must mean it's a thing.
Geoff: I think the biology is just getting better, there's more doctors that are just like, "Okay. This is not just freaking crazy." I mean, it just it's interesting. I think it makes sense how these diabetes on these exploration where people are getting more open to the options.
Melia: Yeah. And I think there have been some mainstreams studies in the last few years that no longer make fat out to be the bad guy.
Geoff: I mean, there are some interesting authors who have been in this show like Gary Tabbs, who's really talking about sugar versus fat, different industries with a different interest are lobbying FDA and USDA to do different dietary [inaudible 00:38:10]. You can get like pretty conspiracy theory.
Melia: One of my favorite conspiracy theories happening within keto is ... So I don't know if you know about cauliflower is like the new kale, it's like the sexiest new vegetable. Between 2015 and 2016, sales of cauliflower in the US spiked something like 13%. Google in 2016 named cauliflower a rising start according to its search trend data. And not only are we seeing people eat cauliflower in rise form in the Biohacking community but brands like Trader Joe's and Green Giant and Kroger's are selling microwave little bags of riced cauliflower. And it's a really easy entry for people who want to reduce their carb intake by swapping in carbs, or swapping in cauliflower. The rice industry is furious. Apparently-
Geoff: Rice sales are dropping.
Melia: Rice USA is a lobby group for the rice industry and they say that they plan to ask the USFDA to review its definition of rice because they're really pissed that the cauliflower people-
Geoff: It's calling themselves rice.
Melia: Are calling themselves rices and cutting in on their market. And I guess the consensus is that they probably don't have a case because no one owns the word rice and similarly lobby groups for almond and soy milk have ... Oh, sorry. The dairy lobby groups have fought producers of almond and soy milk over the year because they're like, "This is not real milk." But they haven't made much progress there.
Geoff: That seems even more sensible.
Melia: Yeah. So long live and prosper to cauliflower but the rice industry is coming for them.
Geoff: Well, I have some audience questions. And I think the way you're talking about actually kind of relates to what some of questions are. Like what are your favorite keto meals and did you go to restaurants and places to eat keto? I think for people in San Francisco, did you find any keto spots?
Melia: Eating out was definitely the hardest part because I mean, I couldn't eat anything, I felt like ... So I.
Geoff: By the way, these questions I'm converging from Daniel and Paul Benigeri, who is a HVMN colleague.
Melia: Excellent. Hi, Paul. So eating out for breakfast was one of the easiest things to do. So on weekends, I tried to make brunch dates more so than like, "Let's go out for dinner," because I could eat eggs and bacon. And a lot of places that you like swap out hash brown and grits for a mixed greed salad on the side. Some of my favorite keto meals were, I ate a lot of cauliflower rice. There is this on demand meal delivery service called Meal Maid in San Francisco and they cater to a paleo crowd and they had a lot of cauliflower rice based dishes. I went to hamburger places a lot and ordered it with a lettuce wrap instead of bread, that was really easy. I still went to In and Out and I still went Super Duper Burger.
Geoff: That's kind of my order at In and Out. I'll have one normal burger and then a couple like protein style burgers.
Melia: A lot of the times when I was eating out, I just had to make compromises by ordering the things I wanted but parting with the things I couldn't it. So I would tacos but I'd eat the taco filling out the shell, The saddest thing I ever ate was I really craved pizza. And so we got a pizza and I like at the cheese out of it and licked off the toppings and left the crust. And we ordered it to go, I wasn't going to do that in public.
Geoff: And that's really sticking to it, that's hard to do, just [crosstalk 00:42:41] crust is a nice.
Melia: That was probably the biggest test of my will power I've ever experienced is not eating the crust on the pizza, but it was doable.
Geoff: Haley Bozeman, that's a cool ass name asks, what drove you to be reporter and what continues to drive you? I mean, it sounds like it's a childhood dream, but I guess did it stick up to your expectations now that you've a senior reporter?
Melia: Yeah. I loved talking to people and I loved telling stories, that's what drove me to being a reporter. The thing that has helped me to stick with it over the years is that it's just I'm always learning and I think there are only so many careers that give you that opportunity. I can dive into any number topics that I know remotely nothing about and hopefully emerge a few weeks later like a pseudo expert because I have the opportunity to talk to the experts in their fields and pick apart their brains and emerge with what my readers need to know. So I like that this job helps me to learn all the time. And four years is a pretty long time to spend at an outlet I think in journalism but I have bounced around beats, which keeps it fresh.
I've also recently been doing a lot more photography work for the site. The benefit of working at an online newspaper instead of a print one is that there is no word count limitation. You don't have to worry about the money it cost to print big beautiful photos. So we can go ham with our visual elements and I try to do a lot of multimedia story telling like big photos where the captions read like texts in a story sequentially. And I just think that's a more complete way of selling a story. It gives the reader another window into it.
Geoff: That seems of the future, right? Obviously, people talk about long form dying, but I don't know if it's dying or not. I mean, there's definitely a place for it. But if you're going to have pictures, that's just a lot more accessible, if you're just bouncing something and it makes sense.
Melia: We take the approach the approach that length should be the exception not the rule because most people don't have the time or want to put in the effort to reading long form.
Geoff: Sit down for 35 minutes.
Melia: Yeah. So you kind of want to get the story in like as few words as possible, which was a really hard and it's still a hard transition for me to make especially from studying magazine journalism. I wanted to work at like Cheeky Magazine and the New York Times and places that put out features. In this fast pace media world, you got to be on your toes.
Geoff: Well, its typical turnaround. I think this actually it's getting a little bit ... I'm just kind of personally curious about the reporting world. I know I've had people me what's the best way to even pitch you or get your attention. But even from there, how fast are you turning these things around because it used to be a month long, you seek it, you're put on the assignment, you come back in a month and you have a story. And it's all you need to do for the month.
Melia: My average turnover is probably two to three days. So it moves a lot quicker now. I'm not a breaking news reporter, which kind of sets me apart. There are definitely people in the BI newsroom who will make calls and aggregate the reporting out there and put up a story in 30 minutes. Because I do more like evergreen stuff, I'm usually doing the reporting that week and publishing it before the end of the week. There are certain features that I'll spend months on, like the ketogenic diet story I wrote.
Geoff: Yeah. That was a couple of months long.
Melia: That was like months of researching. And then some stories that I do just have a lot more legwork involved in planning them. I've done tours of super exclusive restaurants where Google and Apple executives eat. And those take a lot of convincing of me convincing their PR people to let me in and write this story about just how the dining experience is. Recently, I wrote a story about, it's called Hiroshi, it's a Japanese restraint.
Geoff: Yeah. I saw the article. The pictures were ... you had pictures, $300 a person.
Melia: It's $600 a head, they overnight.
Geoff: Sorry, 300.
Melia: They overnight wog you beef from Japan and it's served with sprinkled gold leaf on top. And there is only one table, there is on one seating a night. The restraint has no windows because they want to ensure absolute privacy. And the guy wouldn't name names but said Google, Apple, and Oracles execs have come in to eat and some even hold presentations there because they have this giant picture of rainforest that slides over and reveals a computer monitor behind it.
Geoff: How was that? That was a fun story, right?
Melia: Yeah, that was fun.
Geoff: So you ate there?
Melia: No. Everyone thinks I got to eat there.
Geoff: So you just took pictures?
Melia: Understandably because the headline is like inside the $600 restaurant where they eat. But I never get at this place.
Geoff: They let you take pictures?
Melia: They let me take pictures though.
Geoff: And then they took the food out to the, and you were like give me a bite.
Melia: So they will either make a few meals ahead of time for me to photograph or they'll make a few on the stop for me. But at the high end restaurants, I never get to eat. And I'm guessing it's because the ingredients cost too much and they might be ... Some of the meals they might be just making ahead for that night, like the wagyu beef that I photographed was for that night's dinner. But I also do a lot of stories on fast food chains.
Geoff: How did you convinced the editor to be like, hey. You get a little bit more personal-
Melia: I need a budget.
Geoff: Personal tasting experience too.
Melia: Fast food restaurants always want to feed me though. I've covered a ton of fast food chains here and they like have to roll me out because I got a ton there. So one trend I've been covering more lately is healthy fast food chains.
Geoff: Awesome. Sort of wrapping up here, what are the interesting trends that you're excited about? What is capturing your attention at this time?
Melia: So healthy fast foods is definitely one of them because that market is a multi billion dollar industry and it's begging to be disrupted I think. So we're seeing an increasing number of Americans crave just healthier fast food. Places like McDonald's and Taco Bell have had to rethink their menus because of this trend in recent years and they're sourcing better healthier ingredients for it. But then we're also seeings chains emerge that are just like want to serve low calories responsibly sourced meals. So actually just two weekends ago, I went to Amy's Drive Thru. Amy makes the frozen foods meals that you'll find in the grocery store. They have a drive through that is 100% vegetarian and I ate a veg bean bugger and a non-diary chocolate milkshake there. The meal was great.
Another one around here is Local. The have a location in Oakland and they have one in-
Geoff: It's a couple of celebrity chefs who are making things like.
Melia: Yeah. And their restaurant made the headline this year because the New York Times for running food credit, Pete Wells reviewed it, which is kind of bizarre because he wouldn't normally do fast food restaurants.
Geoff: He goes for the Michelin star thing.
Melia: But I think the restaurant had like big meals behind it. And he just panned it, he was not about it. But there was a lot of backlash because you're like holding a fast food restaurant to the same standard you might Michelin star restaurant and the idea that like this restaurant is using.
Geoff: It's like a sub 7, $5 meal.
Melia: Yeah. It was so cheap. I think I got two on trays and three slides for less than 30 bucks or less than 20 bucks even. And they're doing really work there using more organic and sustainably soured ingredients in fast food and they're still keeping it really affordable. So I think all more to them. But coffee like I said, it's one that I'm following closely in the last month and two brands have actually brought ready to drink bottled butter coffee to whole foods, which is like ... I feel like if you make to whole foods, you've made it. Bulletproof coffee and specialty coffee brand out of Boston called Picnic are both rolling out to like 400 whole food store this fall.
Geoff: It's definitely duking it out.
Melia: Yeah, totally [crosstalk 00:52:17].
Geoff: Both kind of launched at the time.
Melia: Yeah. It's kind of weird that they both launched at the same time. And the smaller brand beat them to it. And then this is kind of unrelated but I cover legal marijuana. When California legalized recreational marijuana, you can't buy in stores yet, that doesn't come till 2018, but you can legally gift to people up to eight ounces of concentrate and a gram ... No, an ounce of dry marijuana flower.
Geoff: It sounds like the club donation thing.
Melia: Yeah. So I could give you up to an ounce of pot if there was no money or services exchanged. And so because of that dynamic we're seeing a lot of hospitality businesses getting on it. So in the last year I've tried ganja yoga, which is a.
Geoff: You pick a yoga class and then there is some weed there.
Melia: And then there is just weed there. And it was as expensive as a normal yoga class and every week they have like a different vendor donate supplies. They gave us like brume farms that we [inaudible 00:53:28] vapings and we all vaped before class. And they also offered edibles. And that one, I don't know that I'll be returning to any time soon because yoga is really hard high, really hard. I've also done a puff, pass, and paint class, which is just like those wine classes where you follow the instructor and paint a picture.
Geoff: Painting night and you have something like.
Melia: Paint night, yeah. But this is with weed. I just loved that they are now experiences for people who prefer marijuana to alcohol. I am not a drinker, I think I might have a sensitivity to gluten and beer because it always makes me feel like garbage.
Geoff: I've been drinking very rarely too. It's just embedded to our culture, like, "Oh, let's go and drink." It's like let's have some soda water.
Melia: And whether you're taking a meeting with a PR person or hanging out with your friends after work, it's like always centered around alcohol. And I think there is a growing subset of Americans who prefer marijuana. And because of that gifting structure that I talked about, we're seeing more legal experiences for
that audience, like the puff, pass, paint class. Another really fun one is the Canasora series, which is a underground supper club series.
Geoff: Oh, I think I've heard of it. They basically cook with marijuana ingredients.
Melia: Cook with marijuana, yeah. Even things like as this industry matures, we're seeing the rise of micro dosed products. So these are mostly edibles that have as little as like 5 to 10 milligrams to THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana.
Geoff: It makes a lot of sense.
Melia: And sales of micro dosed products are taking off because it's a way for people to consume responsibly. They can take it just like they would if they wanted to get a buzz on from alcohol, like having a glass of wine at the end of day. And it's no longer ... actually, I hate admitting this. I really hope my parents don't watch. I went to a friend's house a couple of weekends ago when I was visiting Boston and she shares some edibles with me and they weren't in a packet, I don't know who she got them from. And it was like, I had forgotten how spoiled I was by living in a legal state and going to a prohibition on.
Geoff: It was unknown and you got super freaking high.
Melia: I got super freaking high. And it was so uncomfortable. We went to the museum of science and I begged her to just go see the IMAX movie over and over again because I didn't want to go walk around. So consumption is only getting safer as legalization rolls out.
Geoff: Yeah. I think that's been feedback. I remember had a funny story where he went to school at Berkeley and there was edibles on the counter and he just ate some. And they were just super dozed, he ate a quarter of the brownie and he was just so high. He was like, "Oh, my God, what the hell is going on?"
Melia: Just for the record I want to say that I am a medical marijuana patient and I'm legally permitted.
Geoff: Yeah. Don't break any laws, follow your local laws for all the listeners out there.
Melia: Thank you for letting me make that disclosure.
Geoff: Absolutely. Only endorsed legal and safe activities here, right?
Melia: There we go, there we go. I've written a lot about other drugs that are popular in Silicon Valley like iowaska, which is a plant based psychedelic and cacao is the new one. People are eating raw chocolate that they say makes them ... Or like increases your blood flow. So it supposedly just makes you a happier person. But I have yet to give those a spin. I think I'm going to stick with my cheese, eggs and butter for now.
Geoff: Maybe these mare future stories?
Geoff: Cool. And then I guess the wrap up here, how do people reach you? I mean, it's super interesting to hear your full spectrum of experiences. I think a lot of people enter the world of Biohacking through a lot of different routes. Either it's like of pseudo force in the sense that you got you face broken, you got like a Soylent to wanting to optimize oneself for all that. So I think it's awesome to hear your particular path, to be like, "Hey, I think more and more people are going to be adopting certain parts Biohacking into everyone's lifestyle." Just like everyone is using computers in some part of their every lifestyle.
Melia: I think we see companies in Biohacking going more niche and that's opening up doors for people who want to get into it. I would never have doubled in nootropics back when it was something that only existed on Reddit. But with companies like human existing, there is just like a level of accountability there that makes me feel comfortable trying these products. So yeah, if you're an entreprenuer and you're working in the Biohacking space, I would love to hear from you.
Geoff: I don't know. Now, you're going to have a deluge of emails.
Melia: That's okay, that's okay. So generally, email is best when talking to reporters. I think most us hate getting phone calls.
Geoff: Yeah. I don't think anyone wants to be like, "Who is this?"
Melia: In your pitch, try to make it a personal email. I hate getting email blasts where you can just.
Geoff: Hello, whomever it may concern.
Melia: Yeah. Make it personal. You can always tell the ones that are copy and pasted because the font is different every other paragraph. And don't do that thing where you're like, "Oh, I just read your story on how this San Francisco skyscraper is sinking and leaning and I thought you might be interested in my totally unrelated product." It drives me crazy when people-
Geoff: It's too cheesy.
Melia: Fake read my story.
Geoff: It's super cheesy.
Melia: They are so cheesy. And make sure the pitch tells me exactly what it is. If I read a pitch and at the end of it I don't understand what this product is or who it is meant for, I'm probably just not going to respond.
Geoff: Because there is too much cut out of load.
Melia: Yeah. And then once we get to the interview, don't say things that you don't wanted to printed.
Geoff: I can see the personal story there of people that's angry because they said something and you were like, dude.
Melia: I just wrote this story recently and source was really unhappy with me that I included the quotes and I think ... I recently wrote this Joan Didion quote on a poster note and put it on my wall that I wanted to share. It's something like, I'm paraphrasing, "I'm so physically unobtrusive and small but people forget my interest as a reporter always running counter to their." I don't know that my interest always running counter to yours, but my job is never to serve the source but instead the reader. I'm nobody's presage, I'm a reporter. So if you don't want to say dumb, don't say dumb things.
Geoff: It seems obvious. But I guess it's a part of your job is to list some truth from the source.
Melia: Yeah. And I take a pretty conversational approach to my interviews and I'm generally pretty friendly, so I think people forget sometimes that they're talking to a reporter. But keep that in the back of your mind. And also, I never mind if people want to include their marketing person or PR person on the call or bring them along to the meeting. And if you're thinking that that person's presence will.
Geoff: Help you.
Melia: And keep you on message, I don't mind at all.
Geoff: You're professional, you don't care.
Melia: But yeah, I'm always happy to hear from people. If I don't get back to you right away, I get dozens of pitches a day and please bear with me. Feel free to ping me again and again, but maybe not every day in a roll. And my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can reach me there.
Geoff: Awesome. Thanks so much Melia, this is a great conversation.
Melia: Thanks Geoff.
Geoff: As always, find us on Google Play, YouTube, Apple, and SoundCloud. We'll definitely stay in touch and follow your stories. I mean, I think you're doing great work in just covering all the craziness of what people are doing. So I think it's personally super interesting. I think it's just also good for the Biohacking to get the stories and the people and the efforts out there.
Melia: Thanks so much, that's for having me.
Geoff: Yeah. See you guys next time.
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