Why did our ancestors’ ‘lifestyle’ work so well?

One Size Fits All

One size fits allOur species has been running on the Homo sapien 1.0 operating system for over 160,000 years. In that time, we have not had any significant ‘updates’ so, apart from differences in how we look, everyone on the planet is genetically identical and our bodies all work the same way.

Early human tribes moved from place to place in response to the changing seasons. Sometimes there was plenty of food, and sometimes it was scarce. Finding enough to eat each day was a challenge!

This was the ‘lifestyle’ our body was designed for – a year-long cycle of feast and famine, with simple, fresh nutritious food that took physical effort to collect, prepare and digest. Energy in, energy out. Perfect!

Devolution of manThe Devolution of Man

Around 10,000 years ago, our ancestors ‘got clever’ and decided to abandon the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, opting to stay in one place and adapt their lives to cope with the changing seasons. This is when things started to go downhill.

This ‘Agricultural Revolution’ provided an uninterrupted food supply and then, in the late 1700s, the ‘Industrial Revolution’ brought machines and technology that gradually reduced the effort required for humans to survive on a daily basis.

Our ancient metabolism is an automated production line with very simple wiring and switches. It is built to recognise fluctuations in food supply so, when food is plentiful, it stores excess energy in the form of body fat in preparation for the famine (that never seems to come).

When you suddenly reduce your food intake (go on a crash diet), your metabolism thinks the famine has arrived and slows down the release of stored fat to keep your body insulated and powered through (what it thinks is) the ‘lean season’. When the food supply is restored, your body relaxes and ‘lets go’ of excess stored energy.

Find Your Flow

So, if you want to lose weight in a sustainable way, you have to be patient and let your body gradually get used to the reduced (but reassuringly regular) input of food energy. Gradually increasing your physical activity is the other side of the energy balance equation.

The trick is to establish your own unique daily routine, which keeps you at a healthy weight and feeling energised! This will involve eating fresh, simple whole foods, avoiding free (added) sugar, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and doing something physical every day that works your bones and muscles, and gets your heart pumping.

This style of life will work just as well for us today as it has done for over 150,000 years.

Download the ‘Energy Match-Up’ activity to help your children think about ways they can use their own energy instead of technology.