The Frothers Guide to ‘Going Primal’

The following is actually an article I wrote for my new job as a writer for the not for profit organisation – Vibewire. The original article can be found here.

We live in an incredible, dynamic, exciting and progressive time and space on this beautiful little planet called Earth.

In the last 10,000 years we’ve seen innumerable changes to the way we, the mighty human beings, survive and thrive; from creating our first useable tools, to hand-held super-computers; the horse and cart, to space stations and rockets. From killing wild animals and foraging for fruits and vegetables, to agriculture, and now the menagerie of fast food chains, providing our sustenance for ‘survival’.

In a media release last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics it was reported that one in four Australians over the age of 18 are clinically obese, and a further 37% overweight. This equates to a massive (no pun intended) total of 61.4% of Australians being classed as either overweight or obese.*

This means that, unfortunately, 61.4% of Australians have an increased risk of suffering from musculo-skeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation and pain and financial hardship as a direct result of their health issues.

The kicker, and it’s a doozey, is that all of these are somewhat PREVENTABLE diseases. Through our lifestyle choices; what we eat, how we move (and how often), how much sleep we get, drinking, smoking, stress and therefore weight gain, we have made (obesity related illnesses) the number one cause of premature death.

It gets worse. In a study carried out by financial giants KPMG, commissioned by Medibank Australia, the total costs associated with this obesity epidemic in Australia were estimated at $37.7 billion at the time of the 2007-08 study.**

In a time of economic uncertainty, not only is obesity literally killing people (an estimated 7,200 people per year according to the ABS 2007-08 national health screen) it’s also having a huge impact on our economic ‘health’ and productivity as a nation.

BUT

Since these diseases are all lifestyle related, through some simple changes to the way we live on a day to day basis, we can do something to help stop and even reverse the effects of many of them.

Mark Sisson is an ex Iron Man, author of the hugely successful book ‘The Primal Blueprint’ and creator of the blog ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’, (www.marksdailyapple.com) a wealth of amazing information on everything and anything health related.

Mark’s philosophy on health and wellbeing comes from the idea that although the world has changed dramatically over the last 10,000 years, mankind’s DNA and genetic makeup hasn’t.

Our ancestors evolved over millions of years under certain environmental conditions. These conditions (the foods they ate, the amount of sun they got, the sort of movement that was required of them to survive, etc.) shaped their genome and thus formed how we’re now still genetically designed to live optimally.

Hence Mark’s ‘Primal Blueprint’ approach to health and wellbeing was born.

The Primal Blueprint is basically a holistic approach to our modern lifestyle, based on the way our ancestors lived millions of years ago. Through living the ‘Primal Lifestyle’, we can change our genetic makeup helping promote weight loss, strength and muscle gain, greater health and longevity and move away from disease and illness, fat storing and muscle wasting.

Mark defines ‘Primal Living’ in its most basic form in his Article ‘The Definitive Guide: Primal Blueprint’.

He outlines the following key steps for moving away from illness and disease towards better health and body composition.

1. Eat meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and plants (fruits and vegetable)

We’re made to believe (by food companies with their own financial benefits in mind) that whole grains are a necessary staple in every diet. That things like bread, pasta, rice and cereals are good for us.

But here’s the problem, grains have only been a part of the human diet for around 10,000 years (since the beginning of agriculture). Granted that’s a pretty long time, however it’s nothing compared to the millions of years we’ve been around as a species. So what does that mean?

Well, even though we’re able to tolerate grains in our diets (to a degree), our digestive systems aren’t designed (through evolution) to maximise the digestion of grains. Thus repeatedly putting this stress on our digestive system can cause some major issues over time; such as leaky gut, acid reflux and autoimmune disease to name a few.

Grains are also an incredibly rich source of carbohydrates, which as a result of excessive consumption triggers a cheeky little chain reaction of fat storing hormonal chaos.

Put simply: Carbohydrate (found in grains) drives insulin (hormone produced through digestion of carbs) which then drives fat (from the bloodstream into fat cells for storage) (Cahill 1965, and Taubes 2007). There are carbs in fruits and vegetables, however by sticking to mostly the fibrous leafy types (greens, cauliflower, berries etc.) and not going too wild on the tubers (potato, sweet potato etc.) it’s very difficult to eat more than 100 grams of carbs in a day, which is plenty for an average healthy adult to survive and thrive without insulin spikes causing excess fat storage.

2. Move around as much as possible

This is an easy one. Through our busy work schedules causing us to sit behind desks for 12+ hours a day, we’ve become more and more sedentary. Our bodies are suffering and storing all the energy we consume as body fat, rather than using it for fueling movement.

So get up and about as much as possible. Walk to work, walk on your lunch break, and make sure you’re getting up at least once an hour or get a standing desk. Just find ways to move more!

3. Lift heavy objects

Our ancient ancestors had to move rocks and trees to make shelters as they moved from place to place. We have our beautiful modern houses and apartments now, so the need for physical exertion in the form of heavy lifting is no longer essential. However our bodies are designed to be strong, to be powerful and to be able to move objects when needed, so get yourself to a gym, a park or basically anywhere you can find something to lift, carry, push, pull, throw etc. and do it!

4. Move quickly (sprint) once in a while

When our ancestors were being chased by any of their myriad of large scary beast predators, what do you think they did? They didn’t jump into their fancy sports cars and speed off, or call 000 from their mobile phones and hope help arrived ASAP. They ran. They ran very, very quickly. As with lifting heavy objects, you don’t need to head out and sprint around every day, just every once in a while. Head to the park or the beach or even jump in the pool and move, quickly. Simple!

5. Get plenty of sleep

Moving around all day made our ancient ancestors pretty darn tired, and as they didn’t have TVs, computers or artificial lights (besides fire) to keep them up after dark, they generally did what we were designed to do, rested and recovered from the day’s activities in preparation for the day to come.

6. Think, or use your mind

Our survival as a species wouldn’t have been possible without some incredible feats of innovativeness, creativity, intelligence and wonder. Make a daily habit of stimulating your mind with anything you find interesting. See, smell, taste, listen, read and absorb the world around you.

7. Play

All work and no play make caveman (or woman) a dull Neanderthal. Working 40+ hours a week, stressing about money, your job, relationships etc. makes for a pretty miserable and in turn unhealthy existence. Do something you love every once in a while, something that’s just for you and just for fun.

Lifestyle diseases are just that – a result of a diseased lifestyle. By moving towards a more primal way of living we can help fight the obesity epidemic we’re now facing as a nation and in turn lower the rates of these often fatal diseases.

It seems Ghandi got it right when he said, “it is our health that is our real wealth, not pieces of silver or gold”. With money being what it is today (a driving force in most of our lives unfortunately), we can see how important our health is for both our longevity and financial stability, individually and as a nation.

Being healthy has never been so important!

*These statistics come from the 2007-08 National Health Screen carried out by the ABS, in which height, weight and hip and waist measurements were recorded in all Australians over the age of 5, however recent studies (Colagiuri et al. 2010) suggest things may only be getting worse.

**NB: These costs do not include government subsidies and welfare payments. The direct cost of obesity (outlined above) is perhaps a conservative estimate due to the selected methodology of this research. A recent Australian study that carried out long-term observation of an overweight and obese population (Colagiuri et al. 2010) showed considerably higher health care costs for obese individuals.

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