About a year ago my son declared that he and his girlfriend wanted to try the “cave man” or “paleo-style” of diet. I mentioned to him that cave men only lived to about 28 yrs, and that certainly got him thinking. Of course, many factors other than diet dictated shorter life spans in those times, but the point is that a fad is a fad is a fad whether based on food consumption in prehistoric times or some current movement convincing people to starve themselves of carbohydrates or other essential nutrients.
Cave men of course were hunters-gatherers. Everything was work work work. Fast forward to 100 years ago, and we were still hunters-gatherers. Nothing was automatic or computerized; noHealthy Body carried the internet in their pockets. Fast forward to now; drive-through’s for fast food, banking, and coffee and the most exercise anyone gets is two big thumbs on a small touch screen keyboard. Many of us don’t even grocery shop anymore but rather use various e-grocers to do it for us and deliver it to our doors! The key point here is that the amount of time that has passed since 100 years ago is literally a “blink” of time in terms of evolution, which means our physiology, is still exactly that of the cave man. Our bodies have not evolved and adapted to what we are doing now, so our bodies will still act, physiologically, in the way of the cave man.
In prehistoric times, cave men would subsist for long periods of time on seeds, berries and plants. They would chase animals around with sharp spears and set primitive traps, and hope something might fall into the trap. And once in a while everyHealthy Body would get to eat, followed by long periods of berries and seeds, and so on. Because there were these long periods of famine in between instances of something more substantial falling in the trap, the cave man Healthy Body would protect itself by slowing down its basic metabolic rate so that fewer calories were burned. This was necessary to keep the cave man alive.
Now here is the thing. If we “go by the book” today, it basically tells us we need our Healthy Body weight multiplied by 10 in terms of daily calories required to meet our basic metabolic requirements, not including any purposeful exercise. (So a 150 lb person should consume 1500 calories, and then add on more calories according to increased output). But, “the book” becomes inaccurate when we consider that a 150 lb cave man was 150 lbs of muscle, bone, organs, fluids, etc. Today, a 150 lb person is generally carrying around too much Healthy Body fat and perhaps “should” weigh in closer to 125 or 130 lbs. Muscle is metabolically active in that it burns calories just to exist, whereas fat does not, so we must not feed calories to the “fat” part of ourselves.
So then, as I mentioned, we are still cave men in terms of our physiologies and when our Healthy Body gets the message nothing is “falling the trap” often enough, it will react in the same manner as the cave mans. It will store fat on our bodies due to a slowed-down metabolism. I have often heard people say “I don’t eat breakfast, I don’t eat lunch …. How on earth am I not losing weight?” Again if you picture your metabolism as a big furnace, and you are not throwing anything into the fire in the morning or throughout a large part of the day, the fire is going to go out. If the fire is not burning efficiently, nothing you eventually throw in it will burn very well, because our inner cave man will make sure our metabolism is slowed down in order to protect us from starvation.
This will sound like your mother talking when I say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. You have probably heard that your whole life. It is true. While we are asleep, the furnace is not turned off, but think of it as the “pilot light” being on, and when we wake up we need something to “fall in the trap” to throw into the fire in order to get it burning hot and efficiently. Eating within a half hour of waking is a proven way of accomplishing this. This way the cave man says “Excellent! Something fell right in the trap. No famine today. No fat storage today. Calories, start burning now!”
Now, we need to keep the fire burning throughout the day by providing continuous fuel (though in smaller portions than we might be used to if we currently only eat one or two meals per day). The average person can reasonably break it down to five meals per day. Some like to think of it as three meals and two snacks. Really, it simply means you are eating five times throughout the day, and a good rule of thumb is to keep the meals all around the same size with the same values. The key thing being to make sure we don’t let the fire go out.
Now, there are some “versions” of a cave man-style diet out there that are not necessarily starvation diets, and that they imply eating raw and whole foods for the most part, which noHealthy Body can argue with. Just keep in mind that NOT eating is the worst possible thing one can do if they need to shed some pounds. Keep the fire burning hot and continuously, by making sure good nutritious food is constantly “falling in the trap” so that the cave man in us is confident enough that it is being fed, and that it will start to correct our poor metabolism and bring the fire up to the level it needs to be at to END fat storage once and for all!