What Really Makes Us Healthy: The X-Factor

What are the most important foods for vitality and good health?

What are the most important supplements to take?

What are the best exercises to do?

If I had $7.95 for every story that’s ever been written about some variation of one of those three questions, I’d be writing this from my newly purchased villa in the south of France.

I get interviewed by magazines writers a lot, and if I had to characterize what we talk about in one succinct phrase I’d say, “we talk about the secrets to health”.

The interview, mind you, could be about anything. The writer could be asking me about superfoods, vitamins, fitness, even more “esoteric” things like stress reduction and sleep, but ultimately the purpose is to give the reader some new information about the “secret” to good health.

Which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

That led to my asking myself, what makes me, personally, healthy?

Sure, I eat the right foods (most of the time). I regularly take nutritional supplements. I have my hormones monitored. I exercise regularly.

And if I were a research scientist, studying “me”, I’d probably think I had accounted for all the “variables”.

Food? Check.

Supplements? Check.

Sleep? Stress Reduction? Yup.

Good genes? Probably, who knows.

But there’s something else.

I call it the X factor– and every one of us has a version of it.

Here’s mine:

Every Christmas morning I drive to the home of my friends Susan and Christopher. Susan has been one of my closest friends since the early 80’s. We did many shows together (Godspell among them) when she was a singer-actress and I was a musical director. I’ve known her since she was 21. About a decade ago she married Christopher who is now also my close friend. They now have three children, Charlie Ann, Miles and Brock. And every single Christmas day I pack up the car with presents, I drive to Santa Clarita, and I have Christmas morning with all of them. They make brownies, they open their toys, we play the piano, and I go home to my beautiful Michelle.


Hold that thought.

Every Sunday night I drive to Venice beach to the home of my dear friends Sky and Doug. She, her daughter Bootsie, her son-in-law Zack, their two children Luke and Sage and me have dinner ever single Sunday night, the only exceptions ever being when I’m out of town– and I try very hard not to be on Sunday nights.

I have been having Sunday dinner with this—my LA family—for the better part of a decade.

So yes, I eat the right foods. And I take the right vitamins. But there’s also Susan and her family every Christmas. And Sky and her family every Sunday. And Michelle in my life every day.

And the dogs.


And you know what?

I’m not at all sure that those things don’t count as much—or more—than the food, the exercise, the vitamins and all the rest of it.

In fact, I’m pretty sure they count for more.

Every one of us has an X factor. And I don’t think we give it enough credit.

Sometimes when we think we’re “accounting for all the factors” in our health, we’re missing some of the biggest ones.

And often the biggest ones are right there under our noses.

Just sayin’.

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  • Yes!! You are so right! Love your blog…practical and insightful. Thank you!

  • Jack Findlay

    Contentedness must matter a great deal. Take Warren Buffet for example. He doesn’t do all the right things nutrient-wise and exercise-wise, yet he is living a long, healthy, and productive life. Let’s put the people and the activities that are the most meaningful to us, at the top of our HOW TO KEEP HEALTHY list.

  • Newport Carl

    Jonny… Thanks again for what you do…for being so honest about your past life… For being so easy going. Now I am 64 1/2… 50 pounds lighter… Just got back from snorkeling in Hawaii for a month. Living low carb, diabetes under control, like it or not…you are my guru

  • Dave Bremers

    Thanks Jonny, just got off watching part 2 of our Catalyst series “Heart of the Matter” here in Australia.

    I think this ‘X-factor’ is very important. for me, it’s my mother’s home-cooked dinners when I visit. Generally doesn’t seem to matter what’s in them, I always feel good afterwards.

    Good on ya.

  • Thanks Jonny. I’m with Newport Carl on this one, you are the one that got me into eating healthy and that has changed my lifestyle completely! X-factors are huge, they aren’t found in the gym or a health book but still account for a huge part of our health!

  • This is really an Insightful post, Johny you are truly an inspiration to many.

  • Thanks for doing all this hard work Zeno – as someone who is often poorly I’m glad someone is doing it. I think it’s really important that stuff like this is challenged as the ‘free market’ in healthcare opens up.

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