I’m not a caveman, and neither are you. Yet, recently everyone seems to have decided that we should eat like one. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a serving of berries and Brontosaur leg as much as the next guy, but I don’t expect to live on it. The fact of the matter is, a LOT of time has passed since the Paleolithic era, and this world and its inhabitants have undergone many changes and adaptations since then. Even the common cold of today is not the common cold of my childhood. Entire indigenous populations have been wiped out because they were introduced to diseases that they hadn’t had time to adapt to. Our natural food sources have adapted and changed a great deal since then as well. If we were to hop in a time machine, go back to the Paleolithic era and have a nibble or two of the local fare, it’s very possible we wouldn’t survive the trip back. But, we’re really talking about more of a guideline, and hasn’t the Paleo diet been well researched?
Try as they may researches seldom completely hit the mark. [watch this video for a related laugh]. Even if they did, it would only be a static glimpse of a body’s needs. Let’s say research is 100% correct about the antioxidant benefits of a blueberry. There are always tradeoffs. Blueberries have natural sugars that need to be kept in check and there a probably a myriad of other factors, good and bad, that come into play at any point in time given an infinite number of external variables. Research would never be able to lock down all of these variables and develop an accurate playbook for a healthy diet. An individual body’s needs are too fluid and complexed. So, how do we know what our bodies really need…today…right now?
We’ve been led to believe that the key to a healthy diet lies in our ability to deny our cravings. Yet those cravings are our only truly reliable indicators of our bodies’ current needs at any given point in time. Our bodies keep a food registry based on experience, and when they are deficient in something, they pull from that registry and signal us in the form of a craving. [Of course, addictive substances can override these signals, but that’s a discussion for another time.] Remember, your body can only pull from past experience, so it’s important to continue trying new things and expanding that registry.
Have you ever had a craving for a hot dog and wondered why? I have. I don’t want to know exactly what’s in a hot dog, but I have been curious at times what it is that my body is deficient in that it only seems to think it can satisfy with a hot dog. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens sometimes. So, I continue to try new things. Maybe, when the next hot dog craving occurs, my body will say, “Oh, and new this week: Option B.” One can hope that this new option will be of a higher quality. In the meantime, I eat the occasional hot dog and press on, because my body has a better idea of how to keep things in balance than I do. The key is to stick with whole foods as much as possible, and don’t limit yourself.
Our bodies are also tuned in to our current level of activity and will respond with what it considers to be appropriately aligned cravings. I don’t know why this is, and I don’t need to. However, I’ve seen it in action, and I know that it works this way. When you are more sedentary, your body goes into a fat intake and storage mode (as if storing up for winter), and you will naturally crave more fatty foods or comfort foods. Conversely, when you increase your activity levels, your body naturally requires and craves a higher octane fuel. This is what I have been referring to previously when I’ve said that exercise drives diet. When you are consistent with your foundational exercise, it leads to healthier cravings, and the two in conjunction lead to increased desire for recreational activity. The benefit then becomes circular, and the whole process begins to function as a positive health cycle.
I was at the doctor’s office this week, and I’ve lost another five pounds since my last visit. I wasn’t aware of this, because I don’t monitor it outside of the doctor’s office. Some of you will hate me for this and/or claim that it is a simple matter of genetics, but the fact of the matter is, I practice what I preach. I put these things in motion a few years ago, and I’ve continued to benefit from it. It’s not difficult. I work with myself instead of against myself, and I enjoy life in the process. Still not convinced? Give it a try. And, try the garlic rolls from time to time. I think they’re delicious, and I’m sure even a caveman would agree…