We are all animals! We may be the most social and intelligent animals on the planet—but animals nonetheless.
When thinking about our nutritional needs I reach back into my study of anthropology days.
So here is a quick lesson:
“modern” human beings have been on earth as far as we know for about 315 thousand years. Thank goodness those folks figured out how to survive so that all this time later we are here to write about them!
How did they survive? They kept it simple. Our theory is that the first peoples were nomadic which means they moved around all the time.
And by moved- I mean literally physically moved on foot with their possessions on their back. Kinda like backpacking through Europe without the cool travel guides.
Where did the move to? Well, wherever the food was. And by food I mean animals and wild plants that were in bloom. They ate whatever they could catch or harvest and they drank water from lakes, rivers, streams etc.
These people—our old ancestors—were healthy and fit. They exercised–through walking and hunting–and like animals they used their food for fuel in the body. The body instinctively knew how to use it efficiently and store some for times of scarcity—as fat in the body.
In this way we are just like animals.
Over time, many thousands of years, man found fire, taught themselves to farm, developed different lifestyles, settled, created cities, established centers of trade and commerce, learned to travel by different means and discovered spices.
Through these cultural and social changes–food changed from being not just a source of fuel and survival but a source of comfort, well being and status.
But the animal within us remains. The animal inside is still breaking down the food we give it to use for fuel and storing some of it for when the scarcity comes.
Unfortunately, 310,000 years later we don’t have to look for our food. We live in a beautifully abundant world. A beautifully intelligent world! A world full of convenience–full of processed and artificially colored, flavored, and shaped foods–and the drive through windows from which to obtain it. And we are killing the animal which was never made to break down all the chemicals and mixtures we have invented to simulate food.
That does not mean I recommend eating tree bark. But it does mean we need to be more mindful of what we eat and how we eat and how we use that fuel.
If we did not see every meal as a celebration to overload ourselves on the abundance available to us but to honor the function that food has in our lives–as the fuel that gives us energy–we would be as a species, in a much better place.
I can just imagine what my cousins of 200,000 years ago would have looked like and felt like if sugar had been discovered that much sooner. They would have never made it across the continents to create the different nations we are today!
Those ancestors were smarter–or at least more practical–in the foods they ate.
So how do we marry the two time periods of now and then to benefit the animal we are today?
In my humble opinion, these are the steps I am taking–which I started late in life–but which I hope will please the animal and improve my health.
- I am eating less–we intelligent humans have already figured out serving sizes of every food we have and the calories included in those servings. Instead of eating the whole bag of potato chips or carton of ice cream–have just a serving. I know at first the servings will seem small but I am fueling my body not trying to give it all the food it will need into the next millennia.
- I am eating better–science is a beautiful thing and because of science we have the ability to feed ourselves without the scarcity or lack of food in our societies. Each of us has a choice in the foods we use to fuel the body. I am choosing the best and most natural foods–that I enjoy–that will provide my body with the energy I need to perform, heal and survive in our current world.
- I am drinking more water–maintaining the proper hydration for the animal within helps the body regulate everything–cell growth, organ function, muscle repair and hunger control. When all that is happening it is easier to eat less and eat better because I am not craving the empty calories that do not serve me.
- I am exercising more–survival no longer means walking miles and miles in search of food. Survival is more about being able to survive in a society that values the exchange of goods and services for money that is used in the exchange of more goods and services. Foods of all varieties–and prepared for us by thousands of different restaurants–being a major good and service we entertain ourselves with.
So in the end, perhaps it is not my particular DNA in my animal body that will advance the species for another 300,000 years–but my example on caring for the animal that will be helpful.
Do what is right for your body instead of what is easy. Embrace the animal within you!
And have fun with it!