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Presentation: Debug Me: Learn to Optimize your Personal Health



1:40pm - 2:30pm

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize when you might (or might not) have symptoms of a larger a problem
  • Learn simple techniques to take your health into your own hands
  • Embrace the hacker ethos and learn what is going on in your own body


Overall, technologists are sicker than ever, fatter than ever, and perhaps most unfortunately, more tired than ever. Most of us know (deep inside) that we’re not supposed to feel this way. Many people have turned to supplements, diets, exercise programs, doctors, and various other “cures” in order to try to improve their health and wellness. And often, those “cures” will work, but only for a percentage of people, and often not forever.

The problem is that no diet or exercise program can fully heal someone who is sick. Somebody who has bacterial or yeast infections, parasites, or broken hormones needs more than a one-size-fits-all approach. These issues are incredibly common and widespread. But almost no matter where you live in the world, doctors and medical professionals often don’t have the training or the leeway to fully figure out what’s going on in a patient’s body.

In the US, insurance companies usually won’t pay for all the necessary testing, and in other countries like the UK, a national health system similarly constrains its doctors. So, in the end, many people are left to take their health into their own hands, and that’s exactly what many people are doing. And who better than a group of people who already possess the mindset required to critically evaluate and debug a complex system?

Interview with Christopher Kelly

QCon: How you get started in this field?

Christopher: I think it's important to say right up front that I'm not a doctor. I'm a computer scientist. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science and one in electronics. Prior to starting Nourish Balance Thrive, I was working as a software engineer at a quantitative hedge fund in Walnut Creek, California.

A few years ago, I was working as a developer in London. It was Yahoo, the tech company, that brought me over here. Soon after arriving in the US, my health started getting worse. I put on a lot of weight, about 10 pounds, in the first few weeks eating the type of food that you see in the canteen at Yahoo. Then I started developing some neurological symptoms that I would describe as brain fog—just an inability to concentrate, a lot of fatigue, and insomnia. My sex drive went away. A constellation of signs and symptoms that many people would consider “normal.”

I'm a pro mountain biker and I was competing every weekend in races and doing pretty well, but at the same time, I had all these symptoms. When I came to the US, for the first time I had private health care and I thought it was going to be great. I went to the doctor and said, “Hey, I'm tired. I can't sleep.” I had expected them to have good answers, and the doctors didn’t. They had no answers at all in most cases and sometimes were actually worse than useless when it came to solving the problems I had.

I got into diet and lifestyle hacking because of my own need, and all of this knowledge I've accumulated is really just enlightened self-interest.

QCon: Your QCon talk is called Debug Me. Are you going to show us some of the ways that we can monitor our own health? Ways we can tail our own body so to speak?

Christopher: Yeah. That’s a great analogy. Just watch the logs, and see what happens. There's lots of ways that you can monitor what's going on in your own body. For example, checking your blood glucose is something you can do with a seven dollar finger-stick test now. That is one piece of information I've seen be extraordinarily helpful for hundreds of individuals now. It can be, I think, probably the most important thing you can do to prevent diabetes, which is a really serious diseases and is also extremely common.

QCon: What am I going to learn in your talk?

Christopher: The main thing I hope to achieve through the talk is to help developers like me understand that the same critical thinking they use on a day-to-day basis is also useful for evaluating their diet and lifestyle. You don’t need a doctor’s permission in order to lift the lid on your own body. I consider this idea to be a fundamental part of the hacker ethos.

Since when did you need permission to look at the source code for a computer program? You don’t. Biochemistry is the same. As a hacker, you should get great results hacking your diet and lifestyle just as you would your favourite open source project.

QCon: What is your main goal for your presentation?

Christopher: I want to show developers that the ability to critically evaluate a complex software system is equally applicable to biochemistry. There are multiple levels of difficulty. First of all, most developers don’t know they have a problem, they don’t know what normal is. The second problem is that the doctors, especially primary care physicians, don’t have good answers. Even if they did, the doctors lack the time or resources to properly problem solve and educate.


Covering innovative topics

Monday Nov 16

Tuesday Nov 17

Wednesday Nov 18

Conference for Professional Software Developers