By following the lifestyle of humans in the wild, we can benefit our bodies today. Give up sugar, give up grains, cut the carbohydrates and you'll win at weight loss and health. That's the message in a new book that preaches Paleo and other low-carb diets for health and weight loss: "Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization."
We interviewed the authors to learn more about their belief that eating fat, avoiding refined carbohydrates and steering clear of sugar provide the keys to a good life/
"The best evidence comes from paleoanthropology and from two centuries worth of investigations of diseases of civilization. The former has compiled about fifty years worth of mostly skeletal evidence from around the world looking at the remains of early agricultural people and their contemporaries who were hunter-gatherers," they said.
"The overwhelming conclusion is the hunter-gatherers, the “primitive” people, were healthier. Meantime, data collected as Western imperialism spread the Western high-carbohydrate diet found that afflictions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease suddenly appeared among people who had no history of these diseases coincident with the arrival of the Western diet."
By using today's scientific methods to comprehend the reasons, they've found that "all of these diseases and many others are in one way or another rooted in insulin resistance and inflammation that results from excessive carbohydrates, especially sugar. Sugars and carbohydrates were in very short supply in human diet before the invention of agriculture allowed us to produce grain. Agriculture has been with us only a few thousand years, and our bodies have not had time to evolve to deal with this radical change."
For those who stress about doing the Paleo diet correctly, the authors say to relax.
"The good news is, we don’t have to get diet exactly right. Our ancestors certainly didn’t and humans are evolved to tolerate some variability. What we are not evolved to tolerate are excessive carbohydrates. Thus, over recent years, a number of diets have been developed to address this: Atkins, the Zone, low-carb, ketogenic and of course Paleo. All of these head us in the right direction. We like Paleo a lot, but if your situation and preferences steer you toward a low-carb variation that works for you, fine."
Are you seeking a way to lose weight and repeatedly failing? The authors make it simple.
Taking an evolutionary approach to weight loss introduces some ideas that we think may help a great deal. First, we need to understand that our bodies have built in feedback loops that tell us when we are eating right. The problem is, excessive carbohydrates short-circuit those feedback loops. Eliminating those carbohydrates re-sets your body to its default settings, so you can start trusting what it is telling you. And one of the first things it will tell you is you no longer like sugar. The taste for it goes away in a matter of weeks.
But in evolutionary thinking, we also understand that hunger and starvation are truly powerful psychological forces that demand attention. Research done on starving subjects has shown the experience is deeply disturbing and often psychologically damages people for life. The message here is don’t starve yourself to lose weight. You’ll make yourself crazy. Don’t diet; simply change the way you eat. Forever. This begins by understanding that by eliminating carbohydrates, you eliminate a lot of calories and you need to replace those calories. You do this with fats, healthy fats. Nuts are great, but also the whole list of natural fats, especially from meat, eggs, fish and olive oil.
And here's the good news: Your food tastes will change as you evolve. "As your tastes change, follow them in a positive direction. Eat what you like to eat. Our bodies are made up of and powered by more than protein, carbohydrates and fats. We need an incredible array of minerals, vitamins and micronutients, and we get these by eating a wide array of fresh foods. As your defaults re-set, taste will steer you toward these, and you will find yourself enjoying the experience."
In addition, the book discusses life beyond diet.
"Finally, realize that your weight problem is not simply a factor of what you eat. All of your body’s systems are connected, an idea we explore fully in our book. Losing weight may also depend of exercise, of course, but also sleep, state of mind, even the quality of your relationships with other people and with the species of bacteria you happen to have in your digestive system. This is the most important lesson an evolutionary approach teaches us: Stop being reductionist. Everything is connected."
Their general guidelines include:
- Eliminate sugar and carbohydrates from grains, maybe even starchy tubers like potatoes. Don’t drink any form of sugar water, even fruit juices. Sugar dissolved in water is an especially potent factor in insulin resistance, and natural sugar in fruit juices is still sugar. These are the foundation of the insulin resistance and inflammation at the core of diseases of civilization.
- Eliminate trans fats — the processed vegetable oils that are the mainstay of processed and fast foods. Trans fats are artificial fats and our bodies aren’t quite sure how to handle them because they have no evolutionary precedent, so our bodies respond as they do to any alien invader: with inflammation.
- Don’t eat processed foods and fast foods.
- Seek out a wide variety of fruits, nuts and vegetables and high-quality protein from grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and eggs and wild-caught cold water fish.
- Eat fats: For years we have been told wrong. These fats are healthy and essential to our health. They are, in fact, valuable tools for re-gaining our health. We are not fat because we eat fat; we are fat because we eat sugar.