Biohacking is Research

Not into the whole proto-cyborg thing...

Not into the whole proto-cyborg thing…

Normally I don’t tell people I’m into biohacking.

Because it sounds pretentious & weird.

Something a socially awkward person says at a party.

And admittedly, some biohackers are weird. Proto-cyborgs full of electronic implants.

But I’m a vanilla biohacker.

Just nutritional & lifestyle hacks for me!


In truth, I’m so into biohacking I have a blog about it. Here it is~! Biohacking autoimmune & Biohacking Peak Experience is the byline.

But, as mentioned,  normally I don’t say biohacking out loud.

Except recently. I was an evaluation conference at an airport hotel in Winnipeg & somehow, in that setting, it felt appropriate to speak about it.

Nobody knew what biohacking was, but all my fellow evaluators understood when I explained that I apply evaluative thinking to my personal life with the goal of maximizing my well-being. I run nutritional & lifestyle experiments, & use the data to fine-tune the strategies I use to achieve my goal.

In the company of other evaluation geeks, this made perfect sense.

That’s because an evaluative midset is all that biohacking requires.

Biohacking as Research~

Evaluation spiralEvaluation is research, and can be divided according to 3 purposes:

  1. Summative Evaluation:  To make a judgement at the end of an intervention;
  2. Formative Evaluation: For improvement during an intervention;
  3. Developmental Evaluation: In complex, dynamic contexts when the intervention is adaptive rather than predetermined.

You can use all types for biohacking.

Summative Evaluation

Use summative evaluation when you follow an established elimination diet, like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Gather data about your health & well-being before you start (that’s your baseline), engage with the protocol exactly as prescribed, & gather data at the end. Then determine if it is worth continuing with the experiment. It’s important to stay with the protocol long enough to generate useful summative data for evaluation.

Formative Evaluation

Formative evaluation improves an intervention. For example, if you’ve been on the AIP (or another protocol) for a reasonable length of time, and you aren’t getting the interim results you hoped for, you might assess your fidelity to the protocol (are you following it exactly?) & discover that some refinements can be made in this area. Or you might level up to a coconut-free, low-FODMAP or a ketogenic version for a period of time, and continue to evaluate the results of this change.

Developmental Evaluation

Developmental Evaluation assists with learning & tracking progress when there is no predetermined intervention; conditions are complex; and causality is hard to track. It assists with developing an intervention inside the mess of real life. You might use it when nothing seems to be working and environments both inside and outside your body are unpredictable. Gradually, through self-experimentation, you might develop a pattern (an intervention) that can be evaluated formatively or summatively, but in the meantime, developmental evaluation allows you to observe and interact with complex systems and adapt as you go.

The internet has allowed people who are innovating in this way to communicate the results of their experiments with each other, enabling Developmental Biohackers to accelerate learning & pattern-finding.


Biohacking is a way to use evaluation to achieve your wellness goals & change your life.

In my case that means achieving peak experience or flow more frequently. In Matthew’s case it means reversing his disabling autoimmune conditions.

Mark Moschel calls biohacking a “systems-thinking approach to our own biology.”


Evaluation is research.

Evaluation research includes “any effort to judge or enhance human effectiveness through systematic data-based inquiry” ~Michael Quinn Patton.

N=1, in the language of evaluation & research, simply means an experiment with 1 participant. You!

The assumption inherent to n=1 biohacking experiments is that universal solutions to complex problems can have limited effectiveness, as we each have unique histories, genetic profiles, environments and patterns of responding.

We are complex systems living in complex systems.

And an evaluative mindset is what we need to leverage this complexity on behalf of our health & well-being.

6 thoughts on “Biohacking is Research

  1. You’re back! Missed your (blogging) face 🙂

    1 – you are so not a vanilla biohacker. I think you are more like an autoimmunity-fighting and peak performance-finding pomegranate flavoured biohacker…

    2 – If I have learnt nothing else during this AIP caper, it is my conviction that we are complex systems living in complex systems. And, that we have complex systems within our own individual systems that we need to help thrive!

    3 – The piece I still struggle with is how my thoughts affect my health. It’s a work in continuous progress… Argghhh!

    Did I mention how happy I am to see you?

  2. Glad you are back blogging Petra, always inspiring. I describe my autoimmune biohacking journey to my friends as ‘working on a complex jigsaw puzzle’. Once you start to get a view of the picture some pieces fall into place easily and other parts of the jigsaw are much trickier and take various tries to get right. It’s a ‘super jigsaw’ though because sometimes (after enough pieces are in place) the picture shifts a little!!! My last dabble with ketogenic (Wahls Plus) left me with thyroid issues. Having solved this I am back to keto again with thyroid and adrenal modifications. LOVE BIOHACKING!

  3. Pingback: Biohacking: the Ultimate New Years’ Resolution | petra8paleo

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