January seems like a good time to write about health and fitness. I have learned more about diet and exercise in the past five years than the 40+ previous years. This learning was prompted by the mid-life observation that I was obese. Yikes. I have turned that around completely and am fitter now than when I was 30. I’d like to share a fundamental lesson — diet is more important than exercise. Maybe this is a mistake only men make, but diet accounts for about 70% when it comes to weight loss. Exercise is important too, I give it 30%, but regular exercise is more for mental than physical health. I learned about diet from many sources and one important book is Geoff Bond’s Deadly Harvest.
Using research in nutritional anthropology, Bond asserts that humans are still tropical creatures and our diets best suited to that build. The human species emerged in East Africa over a million years ago, homo sapiens 190,000 years ago. It was only 60,000 years ago that we left Africa and migrated to the rest of the world. The Africa savanna was formative in the building of our bodies. Our homeland was savanna — open rolling grasslands, occasional trees and shrubs, many lakes and rivers depending on the season. The temperature was mild to hot with unpredictable rain storms. We shared our home with animals. Evidence for the savanna lifestyle is gathered from the San Bushmen. Women spent considerable time gathering plants and roots, concentrating on 15-20 species that were reliable to find. Men engaged in hunting, usually small game or larger ones with sporadic results. They were healthy and lived long lives. The savanna pattern continued for 2000 generations.
About 11,000 years ago people started farming. Everything changed. Grains and legumes were introduced into our diets. Farming caused us to settle in fixed locations. Housing and property were established. Chemicals and fertilizers were invented. Mechanization and food processing expanded. Food was preserved and transported. Farming led to a diet for which our bodies were not designed and caused poor health, hence the book’s title, Deadly Harvest. Obesity is not a problem of excess but of want for good food.
Bond provides an “Owner’s Manual” for the human body, simple rules that have worked for me:
- Three-quarters of your diet should be low starch plants and fruits. Think greens and dark berries. My daily lunch is a hearty salad. Many dinners are stir-fry, soup or vegetable stew.
- One-quarter of your diet should be protein. I cured carb addiction with protein bars.
- A tenth of your calories should come from specific fats: Omega 3 and Omega 6. I am now pescetarian rather than vegetarian, i.e., I eat fish.
- Avoid grains, legumes and potatoes. They contain sub-lethal does of poison that our bodies cannot handle. I have greatly reduced my bread consumption, though I still like a hearty whole grain bread with my vegetable soups.
- Avoid dairy. Antigens attack our immunity.
- Feel hungry thirty minutes twice per day. Glucagon is the hormone that converts fat to sugar in the bloodstream. Blood sugar must be low to activate it. I allow for that hungry feeling late morning and late afternoon, i.e., no snacks.
I am not purist — I allow occasional indulgences in my diet — but this basic pattern has put me back on track to health. I hope it is of benefit to you.