Could a return to how our ancestors ate cure global diabesity and rid us of ‘modern diseases’? Many researchers believe famine and feasting are both natural and healthy – could it be that simple?
If you have read any of my previous blogs you know I like to expose the truth about nutrition, dieting, and weight loss and debunk the myriad of myths that are contributing to our global decline in health and our increase in weight. These alarming trends directly coincided with the move away from the cyclic patterns of ancestral eating which have now been replaced by a leap into an overabundance of convenience food.
Traditionally we would have cycled between famine and feast not only seasonally, but on a daily basis, fasting until late morning/lunchtime and then eating a big lunch and dinner.
This seasonal oscillation between feast and famine made perfect sense. Feasting traditionally occurred over spring and summer when food was more abundant and we required more energy to hunt and gather and prepare for the lean months ahead in autumn and winter. During winter, conditions were ‘famine’ as we lived off stored food and stored body fat.
In fact, it was not unusual to have a 7-10kg weight variance from summer to winter and it was not uncommon to fast for several days at a time.
Recent research points to evidence that fasting reduces the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. These conditions deemed ‘modern diseases’ were rarely if not ever found in our ancestors living on traditional, seasonal diets.
Advances in our understanding of cancer are demonstrating that both carbohydrate (sugars) and protein (amino acid) restriction prevent cancer cells from thriving. This will explain why both ketogenic diets (carbohydrate restriction) and vegan/vegetarian diets (protein restriction) are both thought to result in lower incidents of cancer.
Fast forward 100 years and there is still a collective practice of bulking up and then trimming down. Only now former ‘seasonal’ foods are available all year round in abundance – there are no more periods of ‘famine’.
From an ancestral perspective, we have also reversed seasons for this practice as we choose to bulk over winter when we are less active, and slim down for summer. Whenever we mess with nature and the natural cycle of things there are always repercussions and the reverse timing of the feast and famine cycle is no different. Suddenly we are gaining weight at a time when we are more sedentary, spending more time indoors because of the rain and cold.
Cellular and genetic memory also plays a role here. When the cold weather begins to set in humans are triggered to eat. As soon as we feel the cold our brain signals us to eat more believing that because winter is coming (a statement not wasted on Game of Thrones fans), then famine too is coming. Our very genetic makeup is driving hunger so that we eat more to bulk up for the ensuing famine ahead. The problem is THERE IS NO FAMINE COMING!
So now suddenly the weight variance is not 7-10kgs it is 10-20kg and summer isn’t long enough to shred it all, so we arrive at our next winter bulking cycle already overweight and things just compound.
This is just one example of where our ancestral past has crept into our modern world like Chinese whispers and is now nothing like originally intended.
The practice of intermittent fasting, whether daily or seasonally now frightens many people inducing a panic as real as our primitive fight or flight instinct, and yet the benefits are widely documented and dramatic.
By reversing natural cycles, eating seasonal foods all year round and the overabundance of food annually we go against nature and have managed to reverse our health and our healthy weight fluctuations so that we are sicker and fatter globally.
The way out of this unnatural cycle begins with daily intermittent fasting, which lets the body heal and a gradual stabilisation of portions all year round to reflect our modern world.