The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self by Michael Easter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s hard to argue with the basic premise of The Comfort Crisis. There’s little doubt that a mostly sedentary lifestyle where we stare at screens most of the day and subsist on processed foods is far from ideal. Michael Easter goes to the opposite extreme as he alternates chapters of lifestyle suggestions with an extreme hunting trip to the Arctic. This expedition is an example of a misogi, the Japanese term for an extremely challenging task where you only have a 50% chance of success.
Some critics of Easter and this book object that only the relatively affluent and privileged can drop everything and go off on a misogi. While this is true, that doesn’t negate the value. Similarly, people may object that Easter downplays the fact that many people in America (and other developed nations) are suffering from a shortage rather than an excess of food. Again, this is valid but is not really the topic of the book. Furthermore, one of the paradoxes of modern life is that people can be both malnourished and consuming excess calories.
I listened to the audiobook version and I’ll confess I didn’t always love Easter’s style, which is quite similar to quite a few other extreme self-help authors/lecturers such as Tim Ferriss who hit you with a constant barrage of studies, experts, and research. While research is great, these authors seldom acknowledge the existence of research that contradicts their biases. For example, Easter is a firm believer in the “more is always better” school of fitness. There is also research, though, that correlates certain health problems, including heart issues, with excessive exercise. I think there’s room for debate on this and many other matters.
In between his borderline fanatical rants about misogis and extreme sports, he includes some helpful tips that can accommodate more moderate lifestyles. He quotes studies that show being in nature for as little as 20 minutes 3 times per week supports better health and mental states. Probably my favorite takeaway is the activity of rucking, which is simply walking with weight on your back. Taken from the military, it’s a way to add both cardio and strength-building benefits to your daily walks.
Overall, I think Easter’s book is a healthy antidote to a society that often prioritizes comfort.
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