"There is no failure, only feedback."
--Arthur De Vany
Readers, I'd like to recommend an extremely useful and insightful book to you: The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging by Art De Vany.
I'll start with the author's three central dietary and fitness principles:
1) Do not count or restrict calories.
2) Do not starve yourself, but do go hungry episodically, for brief periods.
3) Exercise less, not more, but with greater playfulness and intensity.
Interesting. Now granted, I know people who have had exceptional success counting calories. And I've seen (and have myself followed) advice to do extended exercise, particularly extended cardio workouts like distance running.
The thing is, most of us hate doing these things. Which is why a book that suggests you do neither is pretty intriguing.
Early on in his book, De Vany offers what I consider to be one of the best brief explanations I've ever read of why we humans are literally built to overeat and underexercise:
"We humans evolved when food was scarce and life was full of arduous physical activity. Hence, our bodies instruct us to eat everything we can lay our hands on and to exert ourselves as little as possible.
That's right. We are, in essence, hardwired to be lazy overeaters.
This was a perfect strategy for success thousands of years ago. No human could survive in 40,000 BC unless he or she ate anytime food was available. Our ancestors knew that famine was always close at hand--feast now or suffer tomorrow. They were also careful to expend as little energy as possible, because burning more calories than absolutely necessary was a threat to survival."
In short, the human body was designed for an insecure food environment. Which is why it's so easy to get fat today, when we're constantly surrounded by an abundance of delicious, tempting and high-calorie food. And it's not like we need to chase down any of this food either! In the mechanized, modern era you can go your whole life without intense exercise. It's easy to see why obesity is our primary health problem.
Thus when De Vany turns the standard diet/fitness advice on its head, it's with full awareness of this critical concept: our bodies are not designed for the modern era. Therefore, we need to imitate--as much as is practicable in modern day-to-day life--the food and fitness environment we are designed for. This is the central thinking behind paleo living. Not just paleo eating--but paleo exercising too.
De Vany tells you to mix your exercise routine up so you won't get bored, and to challenge your body in new and different ways to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Boring, repetitive exercise isn't a recipe for getting in better shape: it's a recipe for, well, getting bored. And quitting.
And De Vany's notion of avoiding boredom extends to eating too. Just as Mother Nature never intended us to exercise on a fixed, rigid schedule, she never intended us to eat on a fixed, rigid schedule either. The human body craves--and benefits significantly from--variation and randomness.
Which is why this book calls for a widely varied diet, not some self-parodying low-carb diet of slabs of meat and bacon. Carbs aren't forbidden: they're okay in moderation--usually in the form of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The author also suggests experimenting with brief and intermittent periods of fasting: "just remind yourself that your ancestors endured many episodes of hunger and that your metabolism is designed to handle brief fasts."
And while junk foods like processed chips, sugary cereals and soda are generally off limits, even the author himself indulges in a once-a-month piece of cheesecake. This flexibility and allowance for enjoyment is the central strength of De Vany's eating style. As De Vany says: "We are not trying to literally live in the Ice Age, just to emulate aspects of that diet."
Finally, The New Evolution Diet offers readers striking insights and new, healthier paradigms for how to think about food, fitness and the human body. Ideas like:
1) Focusing on building muscle instead of dropping pounds.
2) Using the 80/20 Rule and other non-linear paradigms (e.g., cascade effects, butterfly effects, even outright randomness) to think about the body and how it functions.
3) Adding "kurtosis" in various forms to your life. This might mean adding significant randomness to your workout routine, or varying your diet significantly. As we mentioned before, the human body craves variation. This is the kind of stuff that can make life fun, unpredictable and--most importantly--healthier.
Readers, I strongly recommend this book. It’s rational, practical, thought-provoking and an easy read. Have a look at it and let me know what you think!
Finally, a few things I'm planning to add to my life after reading this book:
1) Add some light exercise before dinner to raise my insulin sensitivity. De Vany explains that this helps train your body to turn food into fuel rather than fat.
2) Make my exercise routines much more varied and unpredictable. I'm the kind of person who craves steady routine, so this may be a challenge for me.
3) Add a few specific foods to my diet: canned salmon and canned shellfish. Both are great sources of lean protein, vitamins, minerals and essential oils.
4) I'm going to try some small personal experiments with intermittent fasting and see what the effects are.
Share your thoughts!
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