I have been thinking a lot about pre-historic men and women recently. Specifically, I have been thinking about how so much of the way our brains and bodies are programmed is still based on how humans behaved during the Paleolithic era.
First and foremost, our response to stress. Our physiologic response to stress is “Fight or Flight”. If we are faced with a bear, we will choose to fight that bear or run away (personally, I would choose the latter over the former). In order to do so, our brains and bodies undertakes several processes that allow us to think and act quickly. For example, your blood sugar rises to provide fuel for energy and blood is taken away from the gut, where it is not immediately needed for purposes of digestion, to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide more strength and speed.
While these are good reactions to have if we are faced with a bear, they don’t necessarily serve us well when we are faced with modern-day stresses and can actually harm us.
Similarly, when it comes to food our bodies react as if they were in the pre-modern era when access to food was precarious because it depended on what was hunted or gathered. So, when a person decides to go on a diet and reduces his or her caloric intake, the body naturally goes into starvation mode and starts storing fat thinking that it will not get food for some time. This is why lowfat diets generally don’t work.
As a matter of fact, one of the important roles of fats in our diet is that they allow us to feel full. The key thing is that we need to eat the right kinds of fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee.
This tells me that we need to be more mindful of how we live and what we eat so that we don’t allow our brains and bodies to react in this way. As a starting point, some things we can do:
1. Eat less sugar and refined foods which cause our blood sugar levels to rise very quickly.
2. Do some form of meditation or exercise to minimize stress.
3. Eat foods rich in fiber to stabilize blood sugar levels and to provide energy over extended periods of time.
4. Eat more whole, real foods to nourish our bodies and prevent them from going into starvation mode.
5. Eat less processed foods which our bodies can’t recognize as sources of nourishment.
Rachel Khanna is a Certified Health Counselor. She resides with her husband and four daughters in Greenwich. She has also published a cookbook called Live Eat Cook Healthy: Simple, Fresh and Delicious Recipes for Balanced Living which can be ordered on her website. Visit her website at: www.liveeatcookhealthy.com.