Many people seem to think that nothing can influence their state of health—it’s just like a ticket in the lottery. They do not realize that it is optional, and that the way we eat and lead our lives will decide how we will end up!
Recent studies suggest that each of us has the capacity to live for 100 years, fully functioning to the very end.1 But that is not happening in today’s world. Instead, the average American man will live for 76.4 years and the average woman for 81.2 years.2 And worse yet, they will spend, on average, the last eight years of life disabled.
Paleo in a Nutshell is going to show you that it doesn’t have to be like this! We can take control of our lives and live in harmony the way nature intended—and, by doing so, maximize our lifespan.
What do we need to do? Let me give you an idea: Even a child knows that if you put a cat, a canary, and birdseed in a cage, the cat eats the canary, not the birdseed. We accept, without doubt, the principle that cats and canaries eat differently. Yet we naively think we can feed ourselves—and our kids—anything. Many researchers and consumers now know that this is totally wrong and that there is a special feeding pattern for us humans, too.
But the realization does not stop there. Just as zoos now recognize that it is vital for an animal’s health that it live the uncaged lifestyle that is right for its species, so we now recognize that it is vital for human health to live the lifestyle that is right for our species.
A new science explores this fascinating subject: “Evolutionary Lifestyle Anthropology.” That is a bit of a mouthful, so we will call it simply “Paleo Lifestyle,” so called after the way of life forged in humanity’s crucible during the Paleolithic era. This will be explained further in Part 1, “The Paleo Lifestyle.”
“The Paleo Lifestyle” is the spellbinding story about what it means to be human, in lifestyle terms. It provides an extraordinarily powerful understanding of how, by living in harmony with the way our bodies are designed, we can rejoice in the best possible health and relish the prospect of a long life.
In this book, we focus on the main aspects of our lifestyle that mismatch the way nature designed us. In particular, the food we currently eat is a major culprit, but it is followed by other factors too, including physical activity, stress, environment, sunshine, and sleep patterns. An important lesson of this book is that it is not enough to rectify just one of these factors; we have to get all the pieces in place.
With regard to feeding patterns, we accept that lions and gorillas have bodies, digestive systems, feeding patterns, and lifestyles that are adapted to the environment in which they live. Lions, who live by catching and eating fleet-footed antelope, have razor-sharp claws, needle teeth, and powerful stomach acids. Gorillas, who live by chomping through vast quantities of vegetation, have massive molars and long colons. Lions’ bodies are designed to work on the food that lions eat and gorillas’ bodies are designed to work on the food that gorillas eat. Yet we imagine, incorrectly, that humans are made to eat anything. The digestive systems we have and the food our ancestors ate millions of years prior to the development of agriculture say otherwise.
What feeding environment are human bodies designed for? Nutritional anthropology shows that there is a very precise specification for the human diet, developed by our human ancestors over millennia, and that our bodies are designed to work according to those instructions and no others. It is an adventure story—stretching across the globe and into the distant past—to discover what humans were designed to eat.
THE PAST IS THE FUTURE
Modern-day humans have changed very little, genetically speaking, and we are still living with bodies and mentalities that nature designed for us to thrive in that far off time. But we are also living with hundreds of lifestyle diseases that our ancestors never experienced. I believe the blame for the emergence of these sicknesses lies with the poor diet and passive lifestyle that we have adopted over the years. Examining our ancestors’ way of life provides powerful clues to how we should be living today. These remarkable insights show how, in many surprising and unsuspected ways, we can make critical, life-transforming adjustments. The way humans have been eating and living for many thousands of years has not been ideal. In this book, you will learn how we discovered this and come to understand what you can do to improve and enrich your own life right now.
Our first goal is to open your mind to a whole new way of thinking about the lifestyle that your body needs. Once this reality is accepted, we can move forward to learning how to practice this way of living in today’s world. The news is good—we live in a society where we can take control for ourselves. For example, today we have a huge variety and abundance of food available from all corners of the globe at any time of the year—we just have to learn how to choose wisely. We can take charge of other aspects, too: with our heightened awareness, we can introduce more physical activity into our lives; we can switch off the electronic devices in the evening and get an early night’s sleep; we can actively seek out both the daylight every morning and also the sunshine when we can; we can organize our lives to eliminate avoidable modern-day stressors; and, with thoughtful planning, create a harmonious environment which, by emulating our ancestral landscapes, gives us feelings of reassurance and contentment.
One of the most troubling aspects of our busy lives is the constant bombardment of conflicting messages directed at us by the health and food industries. In this book, we show you the way to peace of mind. The insights of the Paleo lifestyle empower you to judge for yourself. They bring clarity to the confusion and allow you to select with confidence which claims to accept and which to reject. After all, our ancestors knew they were living in a dangerous, treacherous, and unpredictable jungle. They had the skills to survive: They knew how to circumvent a hungry leopard and which mushrooms were poisonous. This book teaches you the skills to survive in today’s “supermarket jungle.”
The insights of the Paleo lifestyle get at the root causes of the “diseases of civilization”: Cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more. These diseases are not inevitable, they are optional. These are lifestyle diseases that can be avoided and, if present, can be stalled and even put into remission. By understanding the principles of Paleo lifestyle and living in accordance with our naturally adapted origins, you can improve your health to be better able to combat any disease and live longer. Your body will find its natural ideal weight, either losing or gaining according to its needs. Instead of losing yourself in the sweeping current of life and circumstance, you will be able to take control of your lifestyle habits and thus your life.
These are powerful claims, but as a scientist, I am not given to flights of fancy or guesswork. All the information in this book is based on evidence-driven science. These insights are new, because the various pieces of the puzzle have only recently been put together. For example, peering deep into our DNA is one of the exciting new tools for unlocking the secrets of our genetic heritage. And there are many other fields that are yielding fascinating new insights about how human beings are “designed” to live. This book gathers this scattered, cutting-edge information and synthesizes it into a coherent whole.
But this is not just theory—the ideas work. Over the past two decades, thousands of individuals have been empowered by this information. I have personally worked with many of them to understand the nature of disease, to take control of their eating habits, and to help them live a healthier lifestyle. Many people’s lives have been transformed by the insights of the Paleo lifestyle and its handmaiden, Nutritional Anthropology.
THE JOURNEY AHEAD
Part I of this book explains the Paleo lifestyle—how we know what it means to be a human being in lifestyle terms. We highlight the consequences of our divergence from the ideal eating pattern. This part of the book deals with how, as humans, we moved away from our naturally adapted environment, feeding patterns, and lifestyle, and looks at the science supporting our claims. Then, based on these insights, we develop an “Owner’s Manual” for how we should be living and feeding ourselves and show you how to put it into action today.
Chapter 1, “The Paleo Feeding Pattern,” describes the remarkable discoveries about human origins, where we come from, and the lifestyle which our ancestral heritage designed for us. It goes on to describe the kinds of foodstuffs that our bodies are designed to eat and the ones that are a mismatch with our ancestral past.
Chapter 2, “Living the Way Nature Intended,” describes the main factors of lifestyle which affect us today and compares them with the way they would be in a state of nature. These factors include feeding patterns, physical activity, stress and social environment, nourishment by sunshine; and sleeping patterns.
Chapter 3, “How Did it Go Wrong?”, describes how, over the millennia, more and more new food group interlopers have become part of modern diet. We explain how they undermine our optimum health in a wide variety of ways, many of them sneaky. It goes on to describe the basic specification for an ideal food intake in the modern world.
The conclusion to Part I, “Healthy Lifespan and the Best of Both Worlds,” describes how we can have the best of both worlds: avoiding the lifestyle diseases of modern societies and avoiding the vicissitudes of life that carried off our forager ancestors. We show how we can aim to not only have a long lifespan, but one that is a healthy lifespan right to the end. It is not normal to be sick in old age!
Part II begins with “The Owner’s Manual,” which summarizes the various aspects of lifestyle and how to harmonize them in a way which our bodies and mentalities recognize. In order to help you make wise food choices, the feeding pattern section grades modern foods according to how well they conform to the Paleo template.
The second chapter in Part II, “Eating the Paleo Way,” is a practical guide to preparing food on a daily basis, for all kinds of consumers from children to the elderly, and for those with special dietary requirements such as vegans and vegetarians. It suggests ways of adopting the Paleo way of eating in three easy stages and gives ideas for the various meals of the day from breakfast to supper.
The book concludes with two appendices. The first, “Population Studies Supporting the Paleo Lifestyle,” explores a vital source of information: the effect different lifestyles have on health and lifespan as practiced by different populations around the world. This is an important piece of scientific evidence to support the Paleo way of living, but there is much more. This book cuts to the chase on the Paleo lifestyle and does not go into great detail of the scientific evidence. For those who would like to get deep into the scientific background to the Paleo lifestyle, please see my book, Deadly Harvest.
Appendix B features Paleo-conforming recipes. Eating the Paleo way can be kept very simple, just by cooking and preparing generic foodstuffs. However, it is also quite possible to produce delicious Paleo-conforming gourmet meals that would please and surprise any dinner guest. In this appendix we include some sample recipes extracted from Nicole Bond’s cookbook, Paleo Harvest.
This book’s fusion of healthy eating with healthy thinking could not be more important, dealing as it does with the absolute fundamentals of human nature. In this guide, you have a focused road map for a trouble-free lifestyle and bodily and mental nutrition. It will be a relief to be clear about where you have to go, and you’ll feel better about yourself for taking control of your destiny.
You will find the secret to what it means to be a human being living in close connection with our natural lifestyle. Everyone can use these ideas to enhance their image, inside and out. This book contains the easy-to-learn skills of how to harmonize your life with human genetic programming. We can make adjustments to our ways of eating, our ways of thinking, and our lifestyle so that they coincide as closely as possible with our inherited natural traits. These are the keys to a long, healthy, and harmonious life.