FED: What diet makes sense?

We think of civilisations such as the Incans and the Romans as ancient. But humans have only been living in cities and cultivating crops for a tiny fraction of our existence.

For the vast majority of time anatomically modern humans have been on the face of the earth, we were hunter-gatherers, living a nomadic lifestyle and eating what nature provided for us.

When we look at humans who still live this way today, their diets have several things in common.

  1. Their diets all include animal protein
  2. Their diets are seasonal, eating what they can find when it is available
  3. The majority of their calories come from animals, not plants
  4. Food can be scarce at some times, and at other times is in incredible abundance. Humans eat what and when we can, taking advantage of every opportunity for calories
  5. Nothing is wasted.

This is very different to modern Western eating patterns, in which

  1. We often include no animal protein, or animal products at all
  2. We often largely ignore the seasons, with almost all foods available almost all year around. Seasonality and locality are virtually irrelevant
  3. The majority of our calories come from plant products, plant oils and processed plant foods
  4. Food is incredibly abundant all the time. It is difficult to avoid food and food availability
  5. Vast amounts of food are wasted.

THE EXPERTS SEEM CONFUSED!

Medical practitioners talk about a “high quality diet” but what this means seems to vary according to eat “expert”. Some experts seem to push a plant-only diet (which historical humans have never eaten!), while others seem to advocate no change from modern, disease-causing dietary habits at all.

Little of it seems to make a lot of sense!

RETURN TO EVIDENCE, HISTORY AND COMMON-SENSE

This is why I think it makes sense to throw out modern trends and fashionable diets, and instead look at ancient evidence, backed up by millennia of historical human eating patterns.

If we look at the evidence of history, a healthy eating pattern clearly:

  1. Includes a majority of calories from unprocessed animal sources, ideally local. This includes whole animal products such as offal, high fat cuts, skin and bone products (marrow). Choose cheaper and fattier, rather than lean and expensive, cuts of meat.
  2. Include seasonal greens, fruits, nuts and herbs. Grow a garden if you can. Eat edible peels / skins and stalks.
  3. Avoid all processed plant oils. Instead cook with hard animal fats, locally sourced if possible.
  4. Make fasting a part of your lifestyle, mimicking feast / famine cycles of natural living.
  5. Waste nothing. Compost leftovers or, if possible, keep chickens to dispose of food that cannot be consumed. Then eat old / spent chickens once their laying cycle is ended.

Over coming posts, I’ll talk more about great meal options that are healthy and affordable, and ways to eat well even when you’re unavoidably eating out with friends at junkfood chains.

FIT: What exercise makes sense?

The takeaway: Do what makes you happy.

The first marathon runner, according to legend, was a soldier named Pheidippides. He ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to report the victory, a distance of 26 miles and 385 yards, then promptly dropped dead after giving his message.

That might be inspiring to some people, and it sure is a great story, but it doesn’t make me want to go out and do a marathon!

Humans are built to sprint, run, jump, walk, and carry significant amounts of weight. Like all animals, we’re built for movement.

Even very elderly people in good shape are able to do all of these activities. Fauja Singh is a centenarian (currently 109) who has competed in numerous marathons, as well as shorter distance events. And, as any parent will know, from the moment a baby first starts to crawl, there’s no stopping them!

WHAT EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOU?

Medical evidence is clear: exercise is healthy for us. The evidence also seems to suggest that pretty much all exercise is good for us, as long as we don’t overdo it.

If it hurts, stop. If you feel pain of any sort, stop. If you have an injury, stop. If you get hit by someone or something, stop. And, of course, get advice from your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you are older or have any health complaints.

DAILY EXERCISE

Walking is a great exercise. If your workplace is close enough, try walking to and from each day, or get out at lunchtime and walk during the break.

Lifting weights is also terrific. It doesn’t cost much to buy a set of weights for home use. I have various sets of weights that I use five times a week, and I’ll run through my daily routine in another, upcoming post.

Buying a set of weights is a lot cheaper than a gym membership. You can start with just one set, and build up from there as you develop strength and a range of weightlifting activities you enjoy and are comfortable with.

My “starter” set is 7 kgs (15 pounds) dumbbells. I use them for everything from overhead presses and biceps curls through to weighted lunges and weighted squats.

As you become stronger, you can buy heavier sets of weights one set at a time, while keeping your first set for exercises that are more challenging or require greater numbers of repetitions – I still use my original 2 kgs (4.5 pound) dumbbells for side raises and front raises.

The main thing with any exercise plan is to develop a routine, so you know what you are doing and when. It will soon become a habit that you will enjoy and gain a lot of reward from.

Modern evidence: The “Alone” show

What would YOU eat if you were stuck out in the wild on your own, to live as long as you could, with nothing but ten survival items (and no gun)?

This is the premise of History Channel’s “Alone” show. It is riveting viewing. Ten individuals are send to different challenging wilderness locations to survive as well as they can, for as long as they can, with virtually nothing apart from a tent, sleeping bag, a knife, and a fire starter. They film their own footage, and they have to find whatever food they can to survive.

Last man – or woman – standing will win.

The show, which has run for a few seasons now, is a real eye-opener. Straight away you realise how calorie-rich our modern society is, and how different things much have been not so long ago in our history.

As you can imagine, some individuals don’t last very long at all, but some do – and their experiences are everything from heartbreaking to glorious.

Regardless of how long these people survive in the wild, their dietary experiences are all the same, they all live on the same things.

They fish, hunt, trap, gather greens, some insects, find a few berries. Mostly fishing.

Overnight they all become hunter-gatherers. And the diet they follow is the keto diet. Meat and plants, fish and plants, insects and plants. With the vast majority of their calories coming from animals.

When we watch the “Alone” show, we’re looking at our own history, and what we too would have eaten, not so long ago. The show teaches a new respect for the land, and illustrates brutally how far removed we have become from nature in our modern society.

I strongly suggest watching the show to catch a glimpse at what life might have been like – minus the cameras and the modern equipment, of course. But it does give a glimpse into how we may have eaten.

It also provides more strong evidence for what the natural human diet, outside of modern society, may be.

If you can’t access the show, Bear Grylls did similar survival shows which are available on YouTube. Look for them, and you’ll see the same dietary patterns emerging.

To my mind, the evidence is clear.

Looking to our ancestors for lifestyle evidence

Asking the big question: What is the natural human diet?

There is a lot of debate about what the correct / natural human diet is. This isn’t surprising, because humans live all across the world in everything from ice and snow (the Inuit) through the Africa and Australian deserts. We’re very adaptable, and clearly very flexible with our diet.

Until very recently with the development of supplements that enabled the arrival of the modern vegan diet in 1944 (which is not even a blip on the scale of human history), no human society on earth has evolved or subsisted on a completely animal-free diet. All societies and cultures consume and use animal products to greater or lesser extents, and the vast majority consume animals as a significant part of their diet.

Furthermore, as more than 90% of human history predates agriculture and the advent of farming, humans developed as hunter-gatherers, and I believe it is safe to say our bodies and brains naturally evolved and are suited to this lifestyle.

Farming is very recent to humanity. Agriculture is believed to have been developed about 10000 years ago in the area that is now Israel and Syria. China is believed to have developed rice cultivation approximately 6000 years ago. By comparison, anatomically modern humans have been hunter-gatherers for at least 200,000 years. Some societies around the world never developed agriculture and are still hunter-gatherers.

WHAT DO HUNTER-GATHERERS EAT?

Hunter-gatherers eat by consuming wild animals and plants, and do not generally have a fixed meal routine (i.e. three meals a day, eating a standard number of calories every day).

Their nutrition is very seasonal, their food is local, and there are often significant differences between the periods of feast (particularly in spring and summer) and famine (in autumn and winter).

Contrary to common beliefs, archaeological and modern evidence suggests human hunter-gatherers were and are, for the most part, well nourished and well fed, rather than starving.

Typical foods for human hunter-gatherers include large game animals, seafood, nuts, eggs, fruits and insects.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ALL THIS?

We can learn the following from all this:

  • Physiologically speaking, human bodies are primarily “designed” for hunting and gathering, as for more than 90% of our history this is exactly what we were doing.
  • All human societies included animal products in their diet. Typical animal foods included big game, seafood, eggs and insects.
  • Some human societies, such as the Inuit, consume virtually no plant-based foods yet remain completely healthy, which indicates that plant-based foods do not have to be the core of the human diet.
  • Hunting and gathering included irregular eating, periods of fasting (no eating) and no set meal schedule.
  • Food was seasonal, local and unprocessed. Fruits in particular would have been available only seasonally.
  • The foods of farming (bread, cereal crops, grains, processed sugars and refined oils) came much later on and much more recently.
  • All hunter-gatherer societies included significant movement in their lfestyles, but none needed to go to a gym to keep fit and well!

Introduction

Fit, Fed and Fasted is a complete lifestyle transformation. It is a completely new, holistic approach to diet and well-being, based on science, modern data and ancient knowledge.

It is an alternative to the common and ineffective “eat less, move more” advice routinely offered by physicians. If the standard advice offered by doctors actually worked, being fat would rare. People would simply follow their doctor’s advice and their weight problems would be solved.

Fit, Fed and Fasted is different. We’re putting together a powerful mix of changes that actually work.

Fit, Fed and Fasted is a three-pronged approach to lifestyle change:

  1. FIT We build fitness, strength and well-being through sensible, enjoyable, regular movement and exercise which will become habitual for you.
  2. FED We work to reduce poor quality foods in the diet and eliminate bad habits one by one, while increasing the percentage of good quality, affordable foods in your diet that are wholesome and nutritious.
  3. FASTED We support the above two changes with the weight loss powerhouse that is intermittent fasting.

Here at this site we’ll give you all the information you need to lose your excess weight, achieve a healthy weight, and become fit and well.

HOW DO I KNOW THIS WORKS?

A personal journey – real time, right now!

You’ll know this works because I’ll be doing the program right along with you! I’m a middle-aged mum dealing with middle-aged spread, and I’ll be using this program to lose the 30 kgs / 66 pounds that I need to lose to reach my goal weight over the coming months.

I’m so convinced that this program works, that I’ll track my changes right here on the blog, so you can see this is working. That’s your proof! I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Then, when I’m done, I’ll prove to you that this program can not only help you lose large amounts of weight, but keep that weight off!

HOW DO I KNOW IT WORKS IF I’M STILL OVERWEIGHT?

I’ve been doing this program for two weeks now, and already I’ve lost 7 kilograms / 15 pounds.

But that’s not how I know it works. I know it works because I understand science, and the evidence and data is all on my side.

Subscribe, and over the next few months I’ll explain the evidence behind the Fit, Fed and Fasted approach, and why I am certain it will help you just the same as it is helping me right now.

Is being hungry really all that awful?

I haven’t eaten in four days. It’s Thursday afternoon now. My last meal was Monday night.

I’m hungry. Right now, a great steak would sliiiiide down real well. Maybe with some chips, or some stir fried veggies – I love my greens! Some chocolate afterwards, sitting on the sofa, watching TV? Hell yes.

Instead, I’ll have nothing tonight. Not until tomorrow evening, when I break my fast.

I decided to do a four-day fast for a whole range of reasons, but one of the main reasons that I keep coming back to was I wanted to know: Is being hungry really all that awful?

Now I know the answer.

It’s one of those questions you never can know the answer to, not unless you try a longer fast yourself. Like riding a bike, you have to get on and do it.

I can’t remember what I had for dinner on Monday night, the last time I ate. You’d think I would be able to, but I can’t. I have the vague suspicion it was lamb roast, but don’t count on it. It might have been chicken.

Whatever it was, I know it filled me up, because I didn’t start to feel hungry until about midday Tuesday.

When, for the first time, I decided not to eat.

That decision was really interesting. I stopped at that point, thought about my hunger for a bit – the point at which I would normally had gone to the kitchen to fix myself some eggs, or some noodles, or maybe a sandwich – and decided not to eat.

I realised, with a shock, that I wasn’t ready to eat because I was actually truly hungry. I was ready to eat because my habits told me to eat.

My hands – not my stomach – needed something to do. My hands needed to put food in my mouth, even if my body didn’t need the food there.

Half an hour later, I wasn’t thinking about food any more. I carried on with my work. The day went on.

STARTING TO FEEL HUNGRY

Not surprisingly, I started to feel hungry again around dinnertime. My partner and I went for a drive to give the car a run, and within a few minutes again, distracted, I wasn’t hungry any more.

I was beginning to learn that my brain seemed to get much hungrier than my stomach!

We got home again, and I sat on the sofa and played a game on my phone while the family ate.

That night – Tuesday night – I slept better than I have in months.

A SECOND DAY OF FASTING

Wednesday morning, and I felt good. I was well rested, and not hungry at all. I’d expected to wake up ravenous, but that did not happen.

It’s true what they say about hunger coming in waves. It’s also true what they say about hunger passing after a while. And it’s true that being distracted helps a lot with hunger.

Wednesday wasn’t too bad at all. There were points when I was hungry, but not really any more hungry than I’ve experienced before in my lifetime. It’s not like it gets worse as you go on.

There are points in between the hunger waves – most of the time, in fact – when you just feel like you usually would. You don’t need to eat, and you don’t feel like you need to eat. You’re just getting on with your day, doing whatever you do (in my case, working from home), and everything is like ordinary.

DAY 3

So here I am on day 3. I know the answer about hunger. Hunger is really not that awful. It’s just another sensation that we in the well-fed West are not used to.

However, I’m in a luxurious position in time and space to be able to say that. While hunger isn’t a bad thing here and now, I have a choice in the matter. I know there is food in the house in plenty.

Any time I choose I can end my fast, go into the kitchen, and get something to eat. There is so much food available to me that I could stuff myself senseless. My hunger is a choice. Others through history have not had that choice. I’m fortunate to be able to choose to fast.

I know I will complete my fast. My first meal will be Friday evening as planned. I’ve learned a lot – about myself, my body, my mind, my habits. All of this would make a fast worthwhile, even without the physical benefits that fasting brings.

I am glad I’ve chosen to fast. I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to try it and is healthy. This is an experience that has been valuable to me, and that I paid nothing for.

I think it is making me a better person. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow through this.

23 April: Day 3

It’s Day 3 of my four day fast.

I’m doing alright, but I’ve actually felt quite hungry today. I woke up this morning, and had a little bit of the shakes when I was first up, but they cleared and I was back to normal within a few minutes. I don’t know what that meant – it didn’t happen right away, it was a few minutes after I got up. Who knows?

It could just be that I was cold, but I figured I’d report them anyway.

Apart from that, my weight is down again. I’ve lost just over 4 kgs (8.8 pounds) so far on this fast, which is incredible. I never thought it was possible to drop so much weight in a week! Of course, a lot of that is water weight, and it’ll come back on, but I think a bit of it will stay off. Certainly it’s enough to make me think that fasting might be a seriously powerful tool for weight loss.

I’m managing to deal with being around food quite well. One thing I didn’t think about before starting on this path was how my children would react to seeing me not eating. My daughter (age 13) in particular is a bit worried about me, and I haven’t really explained what I am doing with her. I think I need to. I just said “I don’t want to eat right now” and haven’t explained it further. I’ll have to do that.

Part of me wants to go longer with this fast now than my intended plan of finishing up tomorrow evening, but I will stick with the plan, and have dinner tomorrow night. Then I will eat normally for at least two days. Then I’ll figure out what I intend to do next.

TWO DAY ALTERNATE FASTING – OR ONE, OR FOUR?

I haven’t really decided whether to go with two days on and off, or one day on and off (traditional alternate day fasting), or four days on and off at a time.

I’m actually thinking I’ll do two days at a time, mainly because it will make food preparation and management easier. By doing two days at a time, I can take advantage of buying multi-packs of meat, larger portions of vegetables and so on, and know that nothing will get wasted. I can also prepare a few meals at a time, and not have to worry so much about freezing food, which I would have to do with the more traditional day on, day off approach.

Apart from that, evidence seems to suggest that with a two day rotation, I’ll get deeper into ketosis, which I have had difficulty getting into in the past. I don’t think I’m insulin resistant – yet – but I certainly have had more problems getting into ketosis than my partner has.

I might see how I go with two days on and off, and see if that works for me. If I find that too difficult, then I’ll switch down to regular alternate day fasting.

PHOTO: Taken at our local park.

I’m thinking that four days at a time won’t work for me on a regular basis. Today (Day 3) I have noticed I’m not as mentally alert as I should be, and I did get the shakes a bit, which might not be a good thing. I want to challenge my body, but not too much.

Why start fasting with a four day fast?

Most people fast just to lose weight, but I’m fasting for other reasons as well, and a longer fast as a starting point is a good way to begin.

A longer fast is kind of like diving in at the deep end – and I’ve always been a diving in at the deep end kind of person! A longer fast will give me stronger results and get things kick started a whole lot better than just fasting for a few hours.

I mean, how hard can it be to go without food for four days?

I guess I want to find out!

I figured I’d start with the goal of four days. If I really couldn’t do it, then I’d stop. But I think I can probably do it. At the moment, halfway through, I feel like I can do it.

WHY FAST AT ALL?

ALLERGIES: Fasting is reputed to really help with skin and allergic disorders, which I’ve dealt with for a lot of my life. My skin is allergic to pretty much everything, and I get hayfever and other allergies as well. I figure a break without eating can’t hurt me too badly. It might even help.

TYPE 2 DIABETES: Fasting is supposed to prevent and even cure Type 2 diabetes. I don’t have diabetes – yet – but I know I am a sitting duck for it, as a close relative has the disease and was diagnosed with it at roughly my age. I don’t want to go down that path.

IMMUNE ISSUES: Fasting is also meant to help with immune issues, and with the coronavirus (wuhan virus / covid 19) going around at the moment, I want to make sure my immune system is as healthy as possible. We’re currently in lockdown here in New Zealand, but we’ll shortly be ending that, and I do not want to fall sick with the virus if I can help it. Fasting should help me improve my immune system and strengthen up against any nasties coming my way.

LOSE WEIGHT: Of course, I also want to lose a bit of weight. It would be really great to get back down to the weight I was when I was a bit younger. Fasting enables people to lose weight without slowing their metabolism. I’ve done the yoyo dieting thing, and found out just how fast my metabolism can slow! I don’t want to lose weight, only to regain it, which has been my experience up until now.

22 April: Still Day 2 of my first fast

They say time goes slow when you’re fasting.

It’s true.

It’s the middle of the afternoon. While I’m not exactly hungry. food is there at the back of my mind. I know I’m going to complete this four day fast that I’ve set myself, mainly because I don’t like to fail. But that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy.

Right now, if I could eat, I would. I’m not going to, but I would. Ironically, something that helped me when I was going through another phase like this (when I was finding things difficult) was thinking about What Exactly I would Eat Right Now If I Could Eat Anything In The World.

The answer made me realise I wasn’t actually hungry. Because there were a lot of things I would like to eat, but nothing I was absolutely desperate to eat. I figure if I’m not absolutely desperate to eat anything, then I’m managing okay and not starving. Yet.

HUNGER COMES IN WAVES

Hunger definitely comes in waves, and for me the worst waves seem to hit mid-afternoon (i.e. NOW) and evening time when my family are eating and I am not.

The good thing about hunger waves is, you know they will pass. The bad thing is you start to learn when the next one is likely to start, and they’re not exactly a welcome thing.

I’m new to fasting, and I have been told that the hunger does subside over time, and fasting does get easier. I’m hoping that’s true for me. I think it will be.