Healthy Lives aims to provide the benefits of a natural diet and exercise regime within the realities of modern life.
But what is a natural diet? A lion would die if it had to live on grass, while a cow eats nothing else. Any species thrives on the foods it evolved to eat. And humans are no different. Unfortunately, most of us have forgotten which foods make up the natural human diet. Lions eat meat, cows eat grass. And humans eat… a Big Mac? Chocolate sprinkled donuts? Tofu patties?
Modern day foods
Many of the foods we eat today were not part of our natural diet. As recently as 5,000 years ago, most humans still lived as hunters and gatherers, foraging for edible plants and hunting and fishing for protein. Our natural diet consisted of just meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
As our society transitioned to agriculture, we added grains, legumes and dairy to this diet. But we didn’t jump to donuts and tofu all at once. Traditionally, grains and legumes would be soaked and fermented for many hours, making them easier to digest. Similarly, most dairy would be fermented to make yogurt or cheese. Later, as food technology advanced, our foods became more and more processed, giving us things like wheat starch, sugar and soybean oil.
Unfortunately for us, evolution has not kept up with these rapid recent developments, and our primitive bodies struggle to handle our modern Western diet. The unnaturally large amounts of sugars and starch in our modern diet disturb our blood sugar balance, while the highly processed seed oils increase the amount of unhealthy trans fats we consume. On top of this, many people suffer from lactose or gluten intolerance and diet-induced allergies.
Food required work
And there is another big difference. For most of human history, what you ate was closely linked to how hard you worked. If you wanted nutritious, tasty food, you had to find or produce it, catch it, bring it home and cook it. Acquiring food was the main focus for much of the day.
How different things are now. When you are hungry, you can find food at any street corner. Ready to eat, tasty and cheap. Food is omnipresent and effortless. And that makes it hard to resist.
Sometimes food was just scarce
Nature was also unpredictable. Sometimes, you just wouldn’t find much and you’d have to make do with a modest meal or skip it. We tend to think of breakfast, lunch and dinner as the “natural” meal times. But meal times have varied a lot throughout history (as recently as 200 years ago, most people only ate one meal a day). Fixed meal times were not common in nature, as food supply was so unreliable.
The seasons had a big impact on food availability. Spring and summer would bring fresh fruits, eggs and nuts, while in winter food would be scarce and getting enough calories would require a lot of effort. You certainly wouldn’t find shelves full of fresh produce all year round.
Back to the future
All this means modern life is bountiful and cosy. Food is everywhere, your car takes you where you need to go and your roof keeps even the most extreme elements outside. But although this pampered life is pleasant, it is also slowly killing you. Your body is built to survive. To work hard, skip meals, go without food for a few days, endure heat and cold. But in our modern world, it doesn’t have to do any of these things. And it grows lazy and out of shape.
We believe it is important to reintroduce a natural balance between work and the foods you eat. Using the Healthy Lives system, you can still have all the foods you crave. As long as you put in the effort to earn them. This simple principle allows you to occasionally indulge yourself without sliding back into the boundlessness of modern Western life. At the same time, having to earn your sugary snacks will guide you to a more naturally balanced sugar consumption.
For the timing of your meals, our advice is to keep to the breakfast – lunch – dinner rhythm as a baseline, but to also skip a meal now and then. Your body can easily handle skipping a meal and intermittent fasting has been shown to have many health benefits. On the other hand, snacking in between meals is a potential minefield. It is certainly natural (and perfectly OK) to occasionally munch on a walnut or a blackberry, but modern day snacks often consist of substantial portions of quick calories. On balance, don’t make snacking a habit. Don’t carry snacks with you wherever you go and learn to sometimes let yourself grow hungry (it’s a very natural thing to do). But it’s also fine if you sometimes eat a little healthy snack to hold you over until your next meal.