You might ask why there is so much information or guidelines pertaining to lifestyle regarding food, exercise, sleep and the list goes on.
The simple reason is, there are no “guardrails” any more. So now you ask guardrails? What can you possibly mean? Here comes the ancestral explanation.
The environment which our primal ancestors lived in had “guardrails”!
When the sun set, it became dark, they went to sleep - “guardrails”!
The food available was animal (or marine) based, leaves and greens, nuts and berries (for example) - “guardrails”!
As herders/nomads they moved, likely had to chase down their animal meal, so they were active - “guardrails”!
The environment we live in today has “no guardrails”!
When it gets dark, we turn on the lights. This can affect sleep duration, sleep quality, or circadian rhythms “no guardrails”!
We have unlimited food choices 24/7 365 days a year, including those that are not natural and are altered in some way - “no guardrails”!
We have solved the problem of having to be active. We can drive everywhere, we can take the elevator, we don’t have to herd or relocate for food or safety - “no guardrails”!
The point is:
No organism evolves or survives in a toxic environment. Some times they are able to adapt. Maybe take a look around and see how well we are adapting to the environment we have created.
We did not have to think about what to eat, how to be active, when to sleep or how to get enough sun because we had “guardrails”!
We have now removed the “guardrails” and we are struggling with staying on the road!
Our primal ancestors did not have to know anything regarding sleep, food or activity because the environment was conducive to our survival and evolution. It was defined. There were no choices.
Because we have figured out how to remove the “guardrails” we now have to know an extensive amount about how all these choices, which are not representative of our natural evolutionary environment, affect our bodies and health while we try to stay on the road without “guardrails”!
Here are a few examples of how the environment has changed:
In the primal environment, you would not find a singular food that had high amounts of fat and sugar together. For example you might find berries with some sugar content but not fat in it. You would find an animal source of food that has protein and fat but not sugar.
Then you might say, but I could have an animal source of food and then eat some berries. Possibly, but the berries would have no where near the sugar content of foods these days. Also, the berries might be only one serving a day and a decent amount of work had to happen to pick them rather than purchasing a pint.
Have you ever heard of eating seasonally? Did you wonder what that meant?
From a primal perspective (depending on geography) we might have fruits/berries available late summer. Consuming these along with leafy greens is much easier and more readily available than hunting down prey and might be the bulk of our food source at that time of the season. Perhaps there was a mix of these foods but leaning heavier toward a more carbohydrate based food source. We might even over consume more sugary foods and put on some body fat. That’s what the body is supposed to do, store when food is available. The bodies metabolism shifts to accommodate these foods - more glucose based.
During the cold winter months, the fruits/berries would not be available. The sources might lean toward animal foods, perhaps nuts. These foods consist of protein and fats. These foods may even be scarce. The bodies metabolism shifts to accommodate these foods and even utilize body fat, effectively more fat based. That's what the body is supposed to do, use what it stored when food is not as plentiful. Perhaps feasting and fasting.
So what about living at the equator? Pretty much the same season with lush climates allowing for plentiful fruits and vegetables. How is that explained?
Everything depends on the rest of the “context” or “environment” in which it exists. Perhaps those at the equator would not have had a significant level of animal protein and fat. Also, the presence of more fruits was during a season that was pretty much the same all the time allowing for summer like activity.
You might also be interested to know of research that is finding sunlight plays a role in fat cells releasing fatty acids (fat loss) and also plays a role in how cells make energy. So those at the equator with more sun exposure (and less clothing) would receive this biological benefit. Interior lighting (LED), clothing inhibiting sun exposure, and working inside do not allow for the proper light exposure. The image next shows the difference in natural and artificial lighting.
Blue light aids fat loss and red light aids cellular energy production. The natural environment we evolved with had this all under control. That’s why as an organism, we functioned well and evolved.
Do we have the ability to adapt? We do, just not at the rate we are changing our environment and maybe not to all circumstances. Take for example skin color. The dark color of those at the equator controlled the dose of sunlight these individuals received. As we migrated north, our skin color adapted to allow us to obtain the sunlight needed at a geography where the sun was less intense. Now here is another interesting point. You might know that sun exposure aids in our production of vitamin D. But did you know that the process of making the vitamin D uses cholesterol? This isn’t to say sun exposure is the solution to your high cholesterol, but it is a component to how our bodies are able to be healthy when present in the environment it evolved in and that it works in harmony with the environment. We might inappropriately believe that our health and biological function can be independent of our environment.
Hopefully from some of the scenarios and the few facts given here, you can appreciate why understanding how our bodies work within the environment we have created is important to your health. Hopefully you gained an appreciation of why in our evolutionary past, we did not need to know anything about food, exercise or sleep and why now we do.
You now have a couple options. 1) do not make an effort to learn how your body works relative to this new environment and try and stay on a road with no guardrails and with no knowledge of how to drive resulting in going off the road (or poor health), or 2) learn about how your body works and what it needs (and what it should avoid) in order to be able to drive on a road with no guardrails (good health),
At the Lifestyle Works Clinic, we provide the education needed so that participants can achieve wellness within an environment with “no guardrails”, resulting in individuals achieving the evolutionary biological needs that lead to good health.
* The content in this article is not meant to be all inclusive and completely comprehensive. It is meant to highlight key aspect that individuals may want to investigate further. Any data point can have different meaning, relevance, or credibility based on the rest of the context-environment.