This week we're covering the S.A.I.D principle - a foundational first principle that helps us understand how our bodies adapt and change over time. First principles are fundamental, indisputable truths that allow us to think for ourselves instead of simply believing what others tell us.
In my life, I’ve found that better health begins when I accept full responsibility for my well being. By accepting that how I feel and my state of health ultimately rests with me and the choices I make everyday, I gain agency and a sense of control over my health. If I make better choices, I can improve my health. That can be both a scary realization and an exciting one. Scary because its all on me. Exciting because I’m now the master of my destiny. My health is no longer determined by my doctor, therapist or podiatrist, it’s determined by me and how I live my life. We can seek help and guidance from those who can inform us but they can’t live our lives for us or make decisions for us.
The word responsibility can be broken down into two elements: 1) response, 2) ability. Accepting responsibility for our health requires us to improve our ability to respond to challenges that we will inevitably face in our lives. That ability requires us to understand how our bodies work and adapt at a fundamental level. The SAID principle describes exactly that.
SAID is a mnemonic that stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.
This principle states very simply that the human body adapts very specifically to the demands we impose upon it. Said another way, the body adapts to how we use it.
If we assume that the body is intelligent, self healing and self organizing (which I do), then every issue we face (injury or disease) is simply an adaptive response to an imposed demand. Pain is an adaptive response, a stiff joint is an adaptive response, swelling is an adaptive response, a bunion is an adaptive response, even cancer is an adaptive response to conditions we are creating for the body.
Often, the imposed demand (root cause) that is causing a problem (symptom) is something we don’t realize we’re doing or don’t realize is causing the problem we’re facing. We tend to over-focus on and try to change the symptom (the specific adaptation) when what we really need to focus on and change is the cause (imposed demand).
Albert Einstein once said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”
It’s easy to know the said principle. The point is to understand and apply it. That’s the harder part. The reward for understanding the SAID principle, is that you become capable of troubleshooting any physical problem you encounter.
Regardless of age or current level of function, our body is constantly adapting to the information we give it. If we give it better information, it will function better. Sitting in a chair for hours each day and wearing unnatural shoes gives our body unnatural information. The result of that unnatural information is unnatural adaptations which can result in injury and pain. Spending time on the ground in a variety of positions and wearing natural footwear gives your body natural information which results in better joint mobility, posture, foot strength and toe alignment.
Let’s run through some concrete examples of the SAID principle:
- If I do bicep curls with a dumbbell (imposed demand), my biceps will get bigger and stronger (specific adaptation).
- If I wear a cast on my elbow for 6 weeks (imposed demand), my elbow becomes stiff and sore (specific adaptation).
- If I wear unnatural footwear that angles my big toe towards the others (imposed demand), my big toe adopts that position (specific adaptation) and creates something known as a bunion.
- In response to the imposed demand of wearing a cast on our wrist for 6 weeks, the specific adaptation is stiffness and weakness in our wrist joints and muscles due to the disuse (use it or lose it). Once the cast is removed, the adaptation to the imposed demand of moving our wrist joint and loading our forearm muscles is improved mobility and strength.
- In response to the imposed demand of wearing a stiff shoe that prevents our foot joints from moving naturally, the specific adaptation is a loss of mobility in those joints and a stiff, weak foot. Conversely, the imposed demand of wearing a flexible shoe without external support creates the specific adaptation (if we are moving regularly) of increased foot joint mobility and strength as a result of motion and loading at our feet.
- In response to the imposed demand of prolonged periods of time sitting in chairs, the specific adaptation is tight anterior hip muscles, reduced range of motion at our hip joint and reduced ability to stabilize the hip joint due to disuse. The specific adaptation to the imposed demand of sitting on the ground and training our balance is improved hip mobility and stability.
Based on the SAID principle, our physical health is the output of the inputs we offer to our body. If we eliminate harmful inputs like unnatural footwear and prolonged chair sitting, we offer our bodies an opportunity to restore natural function.
The process of improving your foot health is the process of consistently eliminating unnatural inputs and increasing natural inputs. Achieving healthy feet isn’t a destination, it’s a process we must choose to consistently engage with in order to achieve meaningful results.
The foundation of my understanding about how the body changes and adapts is built upon 2 first principles:
1) My body has the innate capacity to heal itself
2) My body organizes itself efficiently based on the S.A.I.D principle
Every problem I face an adaptive response to poor inputs. If my body is failing me, I assume I’m using it improperly, and not that my body is making a mistake. It’s a very humbling truth and also a very liberating truth. The body does the heavy lifting, we just need to treat it well.
Understanding the SAID principle arms you with a very powerful tool for troubleshooting issues with your body. More importantly, assuming first that issues are caused by how we’re using our body and not by a flaw in the body itself fosters a mindset of personal responsibility.
If something hurts, it’s because I’m doing something incorrectly and It’s up to me to figure it out. Sure, it can be helpful to consult a pro or guide to help me work through what the cause might be, but the sad reality is that most professionals are trained to treat symptoms and not explore the root cause of problems.
Solutions to pain and dysfunction are no longer found externally (drugs, artificial support, treatments), but internally by thinking deeply about how we’re using our bodies and making small, consistent changes in how we live our lives to offer better inputs that lead to better function.
At The Foot Collective, we view health as the result of three elements: Truth, Fun, Community. Those are our values as a global health community focused on feet. First principles, and in particular the S.A.I.D principle, represent a core truth that we used as a foundation to explore truth on a deeper level together as a community.
I hope this Microdose provides helpful, practical information that helps you reclaim responsibility for your health and well being.
If you find this 5 minute read useful, please share it. Share it with your friends, family, clients, patients and anyone who is suffering from foot pain and is ready to make changes to take better care of themselves.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting our work at Sole Freedom and thank you for taking care of yourself.
Next weeks Microdose for the Sole topic: Disease care
Wishing you a wonderful week and lots of Love