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Sexual selection (part 1)

Sexual selection: It does all seem to get over analyzed, with the general confusing over how much the social/external influence directs our evolutionary makeup. Less than we realize I reckon. This post** outlines how some of this confusion has got us through to today´s uncertain times regarding mate selection. In anthropology, 20th century theory was dominated by forms of functionalist thinking which saw social behavior reflecting or sustaining social order or collectivity, with less weight (understanding) placed upon legitimate biological practicalities of evolution.

Two competing, yet comparative instincts humans have evolved through their increased complexity are the sexual instincts that drive copulation (finding a partner to mate with) and the way we create, expose and decorate our bodies to apparently achieve such results. Both factors (one, we could crudely call biological, the other social) are part of sexual selection and, whilst not mutually inclusive, are fundamental to understanding the modern commercial preoccupation for “the ideal body” (whatever that is…I just heard about this reading high-end lit. in the dentists waiting room last week).

For the male, I think it is unquestionable that evolution has favored toughness those with hard to hide expressions of physical condition. Size, energy, loudness etc have been selected ahead of feebleness. But for the female, physical signs have not been allowed such scope of outward diversity due to the demanding task of pregnancy and motherhood. It would make sense to think that a female with a large arse and thighs (vs. skinny one) would indicate too much processed food breeding potential and proficiency as carrying potential genes forward. But then again, not all females are like that, so there are other factors. One that has become popular with evolutionary psychologists is the idea of “developmental stability”. Not just the arse then. This relates to the ability to change outward expression of fertility and health by aiming for symmetry in appearance, even if the genes and environment select against this. This is related to these odd studies you read about whereby people look at faces of all sorts of individuals and pick the ones they are most/least attracted to based upon nose/cheek/eye/chin lines etc.

Bodily symmetry has of course been a major factor in aesthetical expression of the human form throughout our history. But whatever the size and shape, these factors are biologically important to mate selection. So the question may be asked for today´s male or female out to find a partner or a one night liaison:

  • “What are these developmental symmetries that can help me out here?!”
  • “Never mind your evolutionary ranting, I just want to know how to get laid, and whether or not it is the bodily characteristics me or her I should be concerned about!”

Well, if I knew the answer, I would be like Tucker Max pretends to be. There is no answer of course, other than the fact that sexual selection a mutual choice (mostly). And that mutual choice is based upon a hugely broad variation of indicators of what fitness entails. It can be be boiled down to the level of tradeoff one places upon a certain category versus the other, which again is vastly diverse. If sexual fitness was biologically determined to favour certain factors like breast size, hip width or height, then we would all be the same. We are not, which is an indicator that humans get what they can use strategic selection based upon whatever they can get  a combination of socially and biologically influenced understandings of fertility and health. Big, or perhaps solid and meaty arses have long been a feature of the developmental success of our species, and the trend today towards stripping away the flesh to reveal bony, flat rumps is in fact more of a reversal of the evolutionary path back to our tree-dwelling days (minus all the hair). As far as breasts go, size has usually been linked to nutritional wellbeing in terms of fat reserves being stored there, but also as an indicator of fertility. In this sense, we would expect large breasts in affluent societies but the huge variation in size is perhaps an indicator of too much pointless aerobic exercise of other more influential factors in male selection, like brains.

The human body has successfully evolved to survive. We don´t have to worry too much about selecting a mate who may not have the capacity to survive, with few exceptions. Sexual selection has become more complex as our brains have developed, and as our societies have expanded. No longer do we have to make do with the odd new mate appearing on the horizon, unless we live in the Arctic. No longer do we have to use violence. No longer do we have to grunt better than the other hairy dude living in the next cave. We have language, we have the cognitive skills and intuition to make wrong choices and get divorced make the selective process a lottery more nuanced, more interesting and broader than that of our ancestors. But we still focus on tits ´n arses, girls still check out the shoulders, arms and hips. What´s up then?. The more we are told that aesthetic composition is the key to successful mating, the less we seem to adhere to the factors that have played a pivotal role over the course of our life histories.

Humans get sexually aroused rather quickly, and this is our downfall usually precedes the time it takes for emotional connection, which, in most cases is the determinant factor in (long-term) mate selection. How many times do you hear, see or think “he´s in it for the body” or “that has to be to suit the image”?. Like it or not, we are rather plastic beneath our cloak of egalitarianism and humility. We wish society well, and believe personality is the key to harmonious relations and coherence in life, yet still we are genetically programmed to display our (perceived) sexual prowess and select mates who fill these desires. Be truthful now!. Science does not usually lie, it is as objective as we allow ourselves to believe it ahead of the subjectivity that allows our ideological meandering to think we are an advanced monogamous species.

So, what the hell has this to do with modern consumer society trying desperately how to change our genetic tendencies?. We are perhaps guided by moralities and try our best to adhere to principles of good faith, family bonds and unity. But we find our modern complexities in constant flux regarding social, psychological, biological and physical frailties and the need to place more or less weight on the factors (they say, we say, we feel etc) that initiate our selection choice for partners.

It is only the media and commercial interests that profit from telling us how we need to manipulate our bodies and buy shit we don´t need through diet and exercise in order to make ourselves more attractive. Save yourself time and think of “being healthy” not as some aspect of social conformity, but as a possibility we have to fulfill our evolutionary potential. Mates will come and go, hearts will be broken, that is just my human nature. The less we stress about it the better. If we think of selection like we think of an episode of Seinfeld, then we understand the blurred nature of reality and entertainment. Just how we “know” what we are attracted to and why is part of our epistemological evolution that is in constant flux, and in constant battle with the pressures we allow ourselves to be influenced by in modern society.

Intelligence, warmth, compassion, humility, humor and lifting kettlebells so on are all parts of physical attractiveness. These qualities are displayed in various ways and will forever be debated through trial and error. Body image through the media and social commentary is part of the objectification of self that is so pervasive in today´s society. But we are reflexive in our mind´s appearance and habituate a body every day in many ways, thus have a capacity to act in non-cognitive ways. Our bodies are in constant motion and move freely beyond the boundaries prescribed by the the subject-object dichotomy that causes so much self-doubt about body image. It is the space we occupy and interact with that determines our consciousness wellbeing, not a static time zone. Sexual selection has many forces at play, but still, take it as a compliment if someone tells you you´ve got a nice arse. I´m sure it´s well meant.

**based upon years of trial and error and the realization that George was smarter than Jerry and Elaine

 

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Paleo Parenting: Now what´s that all about?

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”


- C. Everett Koop

My father was amazing. He used to make me fried livers, onions and kidneys for breakfast and cycle up to school at lunch times with meat pies and red peppers filled with cottage cheese. He ordered Match magazine from England for me and I had an original Le Coq Sportif Chelsea strip with number 9 on the back in 1985. That was Kerry Dixon, my childhood hero. I had a Mongoose factory team BMX to race. My dad never missed a cricket or soccer practice, and was always on the sideline during games. He used to carry my golf clubs on his back and caddy for me all day.

He taught me how to think about history and be politically weary. We moved about a lot, but I always felt like I was the center of his world. He was the social scientist, and the things he didn´t know, like calculus or chemistry, he made sure I got a chance to know, by finding people to come over and tutor me. He let me find my way, led me where he knew, taught me patience, empathy, gratefulness and most of all, how to never let down the most precious thing in life, your child. When he passed away, my grief drew me closer to my will to honor his name by being the best father I could possibly be to my children. It is any parent´s primal instinct.

Parental Responsiveness

Back in the 1960s, clinical and developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind determined 3 basic types of parenting from a study of pre-school children and their parents:

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.

1. Authoritarian (rigid, harsh, demanding/unresponsive)

2. Permissive (soft, overly responsive/undemanding, “spoilt child”)

3. Authoritative (moderate, responsive/demanding in certain circumstances, fair)

Later in 1983 Maccoby and Martin added “Neglectful” or “Uninvolved” (undemanding/unresponsive).

Authoritative parenting was considered by Dr. Baumrind to be the ideal style. Give the children rules to respect, communicate well, and allow for independence. Punish misdemeanors in a fair way. Show respect for your child and be a role model for them to follow. Ok, fair enough, we have a winner. But wait….

What level of responsiveness should we give our children and how demanding should we be?. It seems that these categories are loosely formed on general observations and have been applied to varying degrees of success to studies looking at raising children based upon variants of responsiveness and demand. It is easy to generalize and point to levels of self-esteem and career success and failure to parental roles in childhood. We get the idea that social norms and expectations placed upon us as parents makes us adhere closely to the authoritative model. But how are we conditioned as parents to decide how to raise our kids?. Is it natural to make decisions for our kids based upon what we perceive as being right or wrong?. Can we not foster free-will through compassion, love and sympathy, yet not try to mould our kids into our mirror image?. We all say openly that we want what´s best for our kids, and that they can freely choose their path in life. But hang on:

  • I decide what they eat (by buying and cooking the meals)
  • I tell them that being outside is a better option than being inside
  • I tell them that doing well at school is the most essential thing for a child
  • I reflect upon what my father did and apply a lot of those things to my own parenting

Where do we draw the line at deciding when and why they can and cannot make their own choices?. Is stems back to traditions, ideologies and cultural schemas we are conditioned to reproduce as social beings. Now the evolutionary anthropology bit:

Every society has a steadily evolving set of cultural models for rearing children. This is seldom an individualistic task, and the vision and practicalities of this shared wisdom varies from community to community, culture to culture. What is universal however, is the desire to teach children at a young age the dispositions required to fulfill the complex expectations of adulthood. This is commonly referred to as sociocompetitive competency. It is a part of social evolution, that culture, as sets of shared practices, plays a determinate role in shaping the child´s experience and the parent´s role in nurturing them through to adulthood. Whilst the variables to child raising are immense cross-culturally, the overall design is similar. Children are taught through reactions of approval and disapproval to become culturally primed for their role as adults, but also in more abstract ways that can best enable then to tackle the myriad of conflicting interests and social ecology of other human beings.

The H. sapien Parent – evolving through the abstractions

Paternal investment is rare among mammalian species. In fact, in only 3-5 %. The evolved characteristics of H. sapiens to adapt to functioning best in competitive environments is marked by cultural variability, yet the role as parents has always been focussed on ways to adaptably provide the ecological surrounds for the child to acquire socially competitive skills. In this sense, the biological meets the social. There is an intrinsic link. But how as parents in a world full of conflicting interests, do we guide our children through to these competencies?. What are the evolutionary mechanisms Darwin taught us through his theory of natural selection that provides us with a set of guiding principles that should mould our neolithic parenting existence?. R-E-L-A-X!!!

The long evolution of social dynamics, skipping to the beat of natural selection when we are least aware, has given us an instinctive bond of parental protection with our children that not only ensures their survival and reproductive successes later in life, but stands them in good stead to deal with selection pressures, such as modern diseases of civilization. Remembering that Darwin´s observation of variability being heritable is key to differential survival (natural selection), then our role as parents is crucial, yet complicated, because selection pressures are acting upon physical, behavioral, physiological and cognitive variation. In other words, we should not start stressing about whether or not our parenting skills may effect the number of legs our grandchildren have, because we have been strongly selected to have two, but we should be AWARE of the need to access the optimal biological, physical and social resources that will allow our offspring to thrive in the way we wish

Isn´t this just our primal parental instinct?.

Heck, it should be!. We want our children to be competitive socially (finding a decent partner later in life), biologically healthy (eating natural, not man made food) and physically safe (having a home). We want the factors that can influence this in a positive way to be at the forefront of their lives, and the compounding pressures to be easily cast aside. We see with our mammalian ancestors acting in social ways to ensure protection of the young, of territory and of reproductive success. Chimpanzees fight when needed, make deals with each other, rest a lot and move and eat well. It is in the natural disposition of our ancestors to not only protect our young, but to form bonds of reciprocal altruism that can allow us to survive and to enjoy the journey.

Paleo and parenting

Is it not common sense that we should adopt the ways we are best selected for, and transfer them to all aspects of our lives?. We parent our kids in ways that suit our lifestyles, often to the detriment of the evolutionary model that has been laid out in our modern wake. We need to be aware of the way families operate cross-culturally to distill not only the variables, but to see the commonalities which may provide us with some guiding principles that may of may not need reinforcing to some. Human evolution can be boiled down to competition. Beyond our abilities to survive, come the abstractions that our enlarged neocortex has allowed us to become the sole human species left, but also the distractions that bring natural selection back to the forefront of our social thought. If being a parent is the ultimate path of evolution, then we should try to spend more time doing it, in whatever way we find works, but always with an awareness that our contribution is a legacy that we get just one shot at.

So, what to make of the developmental psychology?. Well, we have a lot to learn from the parental role of our primate ancestors. No, we shouldn´t always behave in a similar manner because we have bills to pay and laws to abide by (but it´s good to be nude as much as possible) but by observing primates with their young, we may be able to sharpen our instincts which are too often hindered by the distractions of modern day life and that abstract brain of ours. Clinical psychologist turned primatologist Harriet J. Smith has spent a lifetime raising and studying apes and monkeys and has contributed enormously to the study of human parental strategies. Observations of note include:

  • For all primates, successful parenting is hard work, and certainly not ‘natural´. It requires constant learning, awareness, experience, and of course help. Infant primates need continuous attention.
  • As far as single-parenting goes, primates need continuous help as well. The feeling of being isolated and overwhelmed is not an evolved stage we are accustomed to, despite the statistics.
  • All primates have been working parents. Despite the fact that modern society demands the juggling act of work and parenting, it is the time spent with your children that is key, and who they spend time with in your absence.
  • Good parents are made, not born. Tamarins learn to parent by observing their own parents care for young siblings and by babysitting new members the family. Without this crucial early experience, parenting ability is seriously impaired, and often leads to rejection of offspring.

There are no easy answers to the questions we have as parents, and the doubts and frustrations we have within ourselves or with those around us. It has never been an easy road, and never will be. It isn´t about being perfect, or following the lead of a guidebook, therapist or crazy tv show. My father was a bit of an odd character in many ways, but he gave me time. He eliminated distractions and focussed on being the best dad that he could be. He expressed to me every night that he loved me. He showed balance and awareness and maybe he knew instinctively that he was teaching me how to be a father too. I often reflect upon his legacy when faced with daily paternal tasks myself; “What would my old man have done/said”?. Be patient and “take it easy” usually come first. After that?. Well, figure out what works best. But be there and be loving.

And in the end, it really does all comes down to some good old loving…

Thanks to John Durant for the above link, and Andrew at Evolvify for good ideas. Also Everydaypaleo and Paleodietlifestyle for some great recipes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it.” 
- Clarence Budinton Kelland


 

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“Go to bed now!” (actually, I mean that!)

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
William Shakespeare

Human biological clock

One of the many curiosities about my time in Solomon Islands over the past years has been the way locals relate to sleep. I have been raised to think of sleep as a necessity obviously, and something done at night when not much else is happening. I have thought of weekends as a chance to alter routines by staying up later, sleeping longer (or “catching up” whatever that means), then by the time monday rolls around, look to more of a routine-esque sleep pattern if I want to keep the work/study/training/social/domestic gig alive. I knew that a lack of sleep made me perform poorly at school, work, the gym etc, but I never really pondered upon how sleep patterns work, and whether or not they are socially, biologically, environmentally or hormonally conditioned.

Solomon Islanders don´t seem to have set routines when it comes to sleep. For that matter, when they eat and are physically active either. It took me some time before I realized that the linear routine of the common Western way of living does not apply to this Melanesian archipelago. Food and sleep and exertion occurs when it occurs. It seemed to me that if I was to survive in rural areas, my body would have to assimilate its natural rhythms to local time as best it could. This meant being hungry, over satiated, so well rested to become stiff, exhausted from random bouts of paddling, trekking, football, bored and over stimulated. In other words, my comfort zones were put to the test every day, by not being able to precisely judge what was about to happen. It was never drastic however. Mostly, locals rested, stayed out of the heat, chatted, chewed betel nut, and left the running about for the kids. I was an anomaly for many reasons, not the least, because I found it hard to rest so much, always on the move for more ethnographic knowledge.

I wondered how Western society has become so agitated, so excuse-orientated, so dissatisfied with its lot?. I know this is a multi-facited dilemma, but the way we look at sleep, and the way Solomon Islanders do, made me search for a deeper understanding of this massive part of our lives.

1. How does lack of sleep affect our physiological/mental/metabolic performance?

2. Is sleep a universal requirement for mankind, or are we quick to adapt to different ´lifestyles´?

3. How does light affect sleep? What about the huge changes in daylight from Northern/Southern hemisphere to equatorial regions?

4. Why am I tired in the winter months, but awake in the summer months? Are we like bears or bats?

Robb Wolf is a guy whose advice seems to resonate on many levels with sensibility and logic. Often talking about the importance of sleep, Wolf advocates getting as much as possible short of getting divorced or fired, and in terms of training, weight control, hormonal balance, cortisol levels and insulin intolerance to name but a few factors, sleep is an obvious component of a healthy lifestyle. But still, I needed to know more about circadian rhythms and environmental factors that have selected us to become tired and awake in different ways at different times of the year. After all, modern man only recently ventured away from equatorial regions out to the extremities, and surely our genetic makeup has allowed for adaptability, but not adaption?. I suspected that sleep was another factor that was being manipulated by modern life, trying to con the physiology of our natural life cycles to fight the need to rest.

I read “Lights Out: Sleep, sugar and survival” by Wiley and Formby (2001) on Robb Wolf’s recommendation. Good read indeed, despite the mediocre reviews. I found their argument about seasonal changes effecting not only our dietary requirements, but our need for more or less sleep relating to light and energy zones very much standard evolutionary theory, but sleep specific, in that we cannot speak of optimal health by preferencing one factor (diet, lifestyle, rest, movement) over the other. In this sense, it strikes accord with a paleo-like way of thinking, if not in a more extreme context. To suggest that summertime (obviously this is a Northern hemisphere bias book) is party-time, stay up late, eat, drink and be merry type gig, viz-a-viz wintertime, where we should hybernate like a bear, and live in darkness is more to highlight our misguided lifestyles, than a doctrine to be strictly abided by. Despite the somewhat sloppy writing style (having just finished Gary Taubes’ excellent Why we get fat: And what to do about it) the message appears clear:

  • Sleep more, in order to recover
  • Avoid sugar, grains and excessive carbohydrates
  • Listen to your body as it is trying to be in tune with the seasons
  • Excessive artificial light in winter and sleep deprivation screws your hormonal balance, and exacerbates carb addiction

Lack of sleep blunts human growth hormone response, raises cortisol levels and causes insulin resistance. Not good, unless you want to soften out.

Anthropology, as the great bastion of holistic social sciences, has strangely remained quiet on the issue of sleep. Professor Carol M. Worthman, a leading researcher on the social ecology of sleep and hormone related developmental issues at Emory University, Atlanta, has crucially shown that the majority of clinical research and trials on sleep related disorders and habits are based on Western societies where sleep patterns are drastically different from societies where artificial light sources are infrequently available, and seasonal changes are minimal. The comparative field of evolutionary medicine is one branch of anthropological research that can be useful cross-comparatively in determining the extent of sleep variation in cultures with a focus on certain variables that point to deterioration of physical and mental health. As yet, no long-term cross-cultural epidemiological studies have been carried out that allow us to ascertain the effects of sleep deprivation, and lead us to a better understanding of the ideal way our biological sleep temporality effects our wellbeing, regardless of locality.

A better understanding of the history of sleep practices is needed so the social and physiological constraints that allow sleep to become inextricable linked to circadian patterns of consciousness, which are both phylogenetically and ontogenetically determined, become slightly more demystified. After all, to confuse this matter further, or at least my curiosity as to why Solomon Islanders slept so randomly, is the fact that circadian rhythms, and the hormonal action that takes place regulating our biological makeup, occur whilst awake AND asleep. It has the makings of something sci-fi this sleep thing. We are sleeping less and less, have more and more clutter and stress and fake-food surrounding us, and even try to alter our physical and genetic makeup by synthetic interventions – that perhaps humanity is trying to out-wit biology and attempt not just to stay up late, but stay up forever?.

I recently stumbled upon the work of A. Roger Ekirch, historian, and author of the fascinating “At Day´s close: Night in Times Past” (2005). Taking us back to the medieval days of the 16th-18th centuries, before the advent of electric lighting, Ekirch reveals the common segmented sleep patterns broken up into “first sleep” (dead sleep) and “second sleep” (morning sleep) and all the interesting nocturnal events that went on in between. Lights, he reveals, eliminated this pattern of semi-consciousness, where people would often have sex, pray and reflect. For me this is a startling find, and made me think of the way Solomon Islanders seemed half-awake, but never fully able to function in full consciousness. Often I would hear conversations, when all appeared quiet. Biphasic sleepers?.

Sleep cycle comparisons

Maybe, by looking back at our polyphasic sleep patterns from an historical perspective, comparing that with our monophasic tendencies nowadays, we are denying our evolutionary part in the animal spectrum once again?. An interesting article on biphasic sleep written by psychiatrist Thomas A. Wehr on a study about photoperiodicity (circadian rhythms) seems to confirm our tendencies to sleep in 2 periods (biphasic) of roughly 8 hours, but that artificial lighting and social norms have made us monophasic sleepers, which is not in accordance to our natural biology. To really start to geek-out on this, try this PubMed article on the evidence for a biological dawn. I also found paleohacks a goldmine of information on this issue, and as a bonus, stumbled upon this great thread for sleep hacking. Must give Tim Ferris a big High5 for getting me inspired.

I feel the need to do some more research though, and self-experimentation. Maybe my biological clock will tell me when it is time for that. I trust that clock, for it has made us a perfect species for adaptability to so much modern life presents to us, but we need sleep, and a good deal more than we are getting. That we cannot deny.

 

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Paleo – Primal – Evolutionary MINDSET

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”

Oscar Wilde

Think about this. What you eat, how you sleep, how you move your body, how you think about your surrounds and the people in your life, society, work, holidays… We are surrounded by a linear world. Everything we are told to do, is a form of progression towards normality. It is to be less of a burden on society. It is to work harder. It is to save money. Accumulate shit. It is to conform to an existence that we are not capable of thriving in, because we are not adapted, physically or mentally from an anthropological perspective, to shun our primal roots, or our natural state, as we are doing. Our natural consciousness in other words, has become preconditioned through ´reason´ and our habits towards ´sensibility´ of how best to exist in our modern habitat. Unfortunately, modern society is in a cyclical epoch of unsustainable essentialism regarding our ideas pertaining to co-existence with nature. But fear not, the power within us to change things is evident, accessible, and actually quite simple. It just requires awareness. Awareness brings change, and change is enduring.

What is primal living?

Our life of denial need not be so complex as we make it out to be. Sure, we have split the atom, stepped on the moon, made sheep in a dish and invented the internet. All good and useful, but why have we been told that the way mankind has lived for thousands of generations is worth so little in this modern era?. In fact, why are we told it is dangerous?. Where does one draw the line between accepting the belief that existence is fragile, and deciding for oneself how existence according to the norms of fragility thrust upon us by society, is in fact harming us?. How is it that we become adapted to existing, instead of adaptable to the crap surrounding us?. How modern Western society thinks, eats and moves today may be harming us, or just sustaining our existence. Primal living (our evolved way) does neither. It just makes us healthy and alive. I’ll explain.

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?…”

George Owell, 1984

Take a step inside your local supermarket Winston. Overlooking you, is Big Brother, and he is looking out for Thoughtcrime. Grab your packets of artificial corn-variant crap (80% of what is on shop shelves) and do not think. Exist, that is all. Read the signs on the glass window outside, and buy what it tells you to. Good Winston, DO NOT think that what I am serving you is making you weaker, more subservient and me richer and more invisible. Go home now, damage your body, and blame your partner, or society for your stress and ill health. “The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” Sound scary? It is the way society is heading because we are acquiescing to the evil figures who are SO desperate to hold onto their power by literally feeding our ignorance. What Hitler did in Germany was legal, but was it right?.

Eat meat, you are an animal, not a bird or a mouse. Don’t pretend you are not an animal, it just looks silly, serves no purpose, and will eventually make you keel over and die. Grass reared meat is the most nutrient dense source or proteins, fats and essential minerals and vitamins known to man. If you can, eat the whole animal. Our ancestors did. Eat fish too, oily ones and deep sea varieties are less likely to be polluted, farmed fish in limited doses. Stop at just this, you will live well. But we like variety, so eat these:

Animal fat, do not trim you meat cuts. If you do you are throwing away THE primary dense calorie source needed for optimal performance. Remember, animal fat is not equivalent to human fat. Sugar, in its varying forms and side effects, makes us fat, inflamed and prone to disease. Fat from butter, coconut oil and some extra virgin olive oil are healthy too. Most of our energy should come from good fat, NOT birdseed. Avoid common ´vegetable´ oils like soy, canola, sesame, sunflower and corn. These oils are components of most junk/snack food, breads, grain products and contain linoleic acid (Omega6) which is nasty to your system. But they are cheap to produce, heavily subsidized, totally unnatural and better suited to run car engines. Avoid.

Vegetables and fruits, are nice sides to meat dishes. They provide a good source of carbohydrate and fiber. Try to eat more root vegetables with low fructose and glycemic load like sweet potatos and yam. Fruit is very high in fructose, which hits the liver hard, and contains nothing you cant get from vegetables, so go easy. Berries in season are great, melons as well. The occasional apple and banana in conjunction with vigorous exercise can be helpful. If you are conscious of your weight, or want to lose weight, be very cautious of fruit, especially dried fruit. Think nutrient density when selecting foods.

Eggs, go well with everything, taste good, are portable, and are very nutritious. Eggs are a great source of protein, and the yoke is especially rich in minerals and vitamins, fat and cholesterol. All good things in other words. Oh, and it seems that even the ‘bad’ cholesterol, may indeed be good. See this latest study.

DO NOT EAT GLUTEN, grains, corn and all their toxic side products

This is the biggie for most people, along with eliminating sugar. Gluten is a protein found in many grains which is added to most processed or man-handled/created/packaged foods. It is toxic to man and has many common side effects including weight gain, depression, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, hormone imbalance, skin irritation, joint pain and inflammation, sweet (carb) cravings, digestive problems, bloating. Just a few then. The removal of gluten has been medically proven to improve and /or eliminate most of the above. Grains contain a toxic mix of gluten, lectins and phytates that are selected to fend of predators that try to eat and digest them. In fact we cannot break down toxic lectins in our digestion, and this causes gut irritation (common for most people) which can trigger auto-immune response from our own system (celiac, being a familiar condition). Having a damaged (or leaky) gut lining hinders the absorption of nutrients we ingest. The spinoff effects from this are numerous, paving the way for many of the diseases and illnesses listed above. As Robb Wolf says: “Why does this happen? Because grains are pissed off that you want to eat them and they are willing, and able, to fight back”.

The human body is not adapted to thrive on grains, they are a potent anti-nutrient that we do not need in a healthy diet. Leave them to the birds and rodents.

DO NOT EAT SUGAR, Party longer. Sugar drives excess insulin production, which drives high blood glucose which causes inflammation, fat gain, adrenaline rush, false satiation, depression and a whole herd of other consequences. Sugar (carbohydrate) is in almost everything processed, and has the same addictive properties as heroin. Eat carbohydrates with high glycemic load, coupled with little or no protein, and the sugar is quickly metabolized making you eat more. When the sugar levels in our blood are so high that they cannot be dealt with, then insulin steps in and stores it as fat. Insulin is the bouncer at the nutrient party. It decides what to do with all the dressed up glucose, fat and amino acids lining up to slide down your pie hole. Inside the party, DJ hormone Dr. glucagon gets to work when bouncer insulin is maintaining order, and releases stored nutrients (and body fat) for energy. Barman Mr. leptin keeps the gig alive by knowing when enough is enough (i.e. when we are full up) Chaos at the door, all hell breaks loose inside, DJ loses the plot, barman keeps letting the mouth open, fights break out, party gets closed down, some make it out alive, others don´t.

So basically, a low-fat, high-carb diet(or standard carb as we are told by the authorities) is a make-us-fat -and-sick diet. I am no expert, I have just read with interest what the experts have to say, changed my ways, and am living the benefits. You limit the amount of sugar (carbohydrate) pumped into your body, the magical metabolic properties of the system turns to fat supplies to run off, and bingo, you lean out, look, feel, and perform better. It seems complex, but it is not. The authorities (Big Brother) that subsidize the amount of corn produced depend on holding our ignorance levels high, by funding ‘science’ to produce garbage studies that keep the majority thinking a high sugar/carb/low fat diet is healthy. It is killing millions every year, but then again, it sustains jobs in the health industry, and makes rich food-chain owners (political backers) richer. Get aware.

Play and Rest well

My favourite part. Life must be lived as play, Plato once told us. Forget how to play, or think of play as something for kids, then we may as well climb in the box and save some of the water supply. Remember how we climbed down from the trees, stood upright, enhanced our vision, chased prey, lit fires, slept in caves, woke up to sunrise, smelt the flowers?. We had life on our plate, and even though it was tough, I´m sure it was fun. Look upon play as part of life, part of the way you interact with nature, feel connected with your body and the power and energy it can provide when well nourished and well rested. Lift up stones, stretch, lie in the grass, climb trees, learn to balance, run fast. If you think that “exercise” is something to be compartmentalized and added as a supplementary component to your life, then you are off track.

Primal living is your lifestyle that evolution has so gloriously created for us. Luckily we have some great additions that modernity has given us, like coffee, kettlebells, full-suspension mountainbikes and iPhones. Unfortunately, we also have a growing apathy that is allowing us to jump tracks and head in the wrong direction. Seek pleasure in the consciousness of free spontaneous action, according to Aristotelean ethics. Play can be experienced within the subconscious, as our bodies resonate an embodied sense of cohesion with nature, where there is no preconceived idea or outcome. Primal pleasures differ in the function of their very expression. But in the end, Socrates was right, wisdom begins with wonder. Never forget that.

 

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Awareness as new paradigm for modern health

The way we move, think and eat is not detached, in a Cartesian sense, from who we are and how we experience our place in this world. We cannot be disconnected from our natural environment for it is that which literally keeps us alive. This interaction is a primordially intrinsic necessity that shapes our thoughts, movements and proprioceptive context in nature. To lose this interactive sense or become disconnected with our body is immediately endangering this crucial mind-body-nature equilibrium. The most important disruptive factor in society today I believe is our sense (or lack of) awareness.

This post is intended to dwell upon the need for a paradigm shift in modern thought practicalities through ideas about reinstalling a sense of awareness of our connection with nature through diet and physical movement, and the way our evolutionary path has almost perfectly laid before us a schema for health, happiness and longevity. This needn’t be a lofty concept beyond the realms of the common citizen, for it is based on integral components of our past that have sadly been usurped by corrupting interests and the subsequent watering down of common awareness.

Accepting the status quo

We need to (re) learn and (re) live our connection with our natural environment and we need to do this through a deeper awareness of the factors that both enable and contradict this linkage. Let me begin with some of the most encompassing contradictions in modern Western societies today. For many people, a cursory reflection upon their ideas of independent or collective choice in life will reveal tendencies to ´accept the status quo´ with regards to many seemingly self-directed scenarios. I´m thinking here of our choice of career, choice or meals, choice or activities, partners, dwellings and so on.

We are natural social animals and this is revealed through our desires to seek the company of fellow citizens, dwell, interact and procreate together with members of similar ethnic groups and secure identities that are framed within certain social and cultural norms and values. This, in order to feel secure about ourselves as individuals and as members of a certain society. From an evolutionary perspective, this is nothing new, but dangers are inherent in this pattern as well.

Practices of ´flock mentality´ have always made me cringe slightly, even if I have readily partaken in many, as it has always revealed a sense of vulnerability in the way people accept what others do or say as being either correct, or most sensible. Certain norms, practices and ´knowledges´ are usually appropriated by members of society for political, economic or other subversive gain. A quick glance at any number of corrupt or dictatorial regimes around the world reveals clearly how individual and collective choice and freedom is subjugated in coercive ways.  What about the way we are told in so-called democratic Western societies to eat?. This is indeed a great example.

20th Century dietary catastrophe

The nutritional guidelines presented in the latter half of the 20th Century by state health authorities are perhaps the most crass and damaging examples of how people are made to bare the cost of the influx of modern western diseases through being told it is down to the false choices we make when eating, moving or thinking.  Successive ´democratic´ regimes, or guardians of the health and welfare of millions of people, are now in an impossible position of having to cover up for generations of false claims about disease and illness and its relation to activity and nutrition. Let me explain some more.

We are told that we are obese because we are inactive.  Or that we eat too much. Or that we have bad genes.  We are told to practice moderate activity every now and then, preferably in the ´fat burning aerobic zone´. Intense activity is bad for us we are told. Even dangerous. We are told to fuel our bodies with 4-6 servings of sugar (carbohydrate) each day. We must avoid animal fat, and instead go for processed low-fat variants. We should eat wheat they say, and copious amounts of fruit. This list goes on.

The human body is an incredible organism of adaptive capability, but is not metabolically adapted to the foodstuffs that it eats today based upon high carbohydrate/sugar intake, gluten and processed plant oils. We don´t get fat because we sit and don´t exercise, we get fat and develop diabetes and heart disease because the food we are told to eat, and don´t question, has deranged our metabolic pathways by confusing the appetite mechanisms that allow our bodies to regulate energy expenditure. This is not to mention the chaos caused by derailed insulin production and inflammation and stomach frailty exacerbated by excess linoleic acid.

Alternative ways of thinking

Ok, the point I am trying to illuminate here is that despite our options not to abide by social norms and the ´standard way of living´, the very guardians of our own welfare (politicians, teachers, doctors, scientists etc) have got so much wrong, and are indeed so far beyond the point where they can back track and admit that their advice has been responsibility for so much illness and death, that society needs to find its own health paradigm through new awareness of the factors behind what has gone wrong.

Back in the age of antiquities, it was the philosophers who held the hand of wisdom and to whom citizens turned to for advice and ´truths´ on general matters, including aggressors with insubordinate aims towards power, conquest and domination. Where does this leave us today, if the hand of wisdom coming from minority movements is labelled ´alternative´ simply because it questions the wisdom of those in control?.

We become trapped paradigmatically in a thought process that has alienated alternative ways of thinking that question the status quo and our place as members of a collective sociality.  Maintaining this, and quickly moving towards quelling any sign of incoherence to socio-political thought has been, and still is, a principle tactic of oppressive regimes in maintaining order and control over its citizens. Scary thought.

Movement and awareness

So back to movement and awareness, and how this paradigm shift needs to be enacted. Society needs to be reminded of processes of evolution and our place today as a condition of context and adaption, both towards and away from our natural tendencies. We eat, we procreate, we sleep and we fight in different ways to achieve these things. The way we eat has included hunting, collecting, fighting, starving, sharing and learning what is and isn’t toxic for our survival. This is basic evolutionary theory, although we are now being offered a get out of jail free card. We can manage to be locked up in life like battery chickens, and still live a linear path to longevity we are told.

Science and artificial production has enabled us to survive on non-natural and harmful foodstuffs like wheat, sugars and plant oils and take drugs that prolong survival rates of diseases such eating causes (heart disease, diabetes, cancers etc). Modern society has led us away from nature, from hunting and subsisting as our basis of survival, to an abundance of artificial ´foodstuffs´, and we are told to accumulate capital wealth and surround ourselves with material ´stuff´ that has little or no causal effect on our survival or happiness. The great outdoors, or natural experiences, have become seen as éscapes´ from daily life, a place where we can gain energy to fulfil our needs in ´reality´. Who is in charge of this reality?. When exactly did we decide that physical activity and a connection with nature should become a pastime?.

This is not to say that we should, as a true stoic would advocate, ditch modernity and crawl out from under a rock to eat sea birds and berries. We are part of the great evolutionary path which we should embrace, its just that we have lost touch with the realization that we are not yet adapted genetically or proprioceptively to being out of our natural surrounds, which is nature untouched by processed forms of modernity. Yes, I contend that we are ill adapted to modern ways, despite our best intentions. We need to adhere more closely to our primal tendencies in the way we think, eat and move and stop trying to rush the evolutionary process.

Embrace modernity….slowly

By being reacquainted with natural movement (literally smelling the flowers and getting down on the ground and dirty, all in gracefully efficient ways) we re-establish an AWARENESS of the past that allows us to take full advantage of our place in modern history and the benefits it provides. Think about cause and effect in an independent manner, and if something makes no sense, then don’t accept it, challenge that process. We can be happy, healthy, relaxed and feel a sense of ´being alive´, all whilst working away at our various professions, learning new skills, appreciating food, company, relationships and imported Brazilian espresso beans.

Illness, idleness, stress, depression, conflict, political ignorance and so on, all can be avoided to a large extent through awareness and being able to take action to break cycles of decay and stagnation. There is a super fine line between complexity and simplicity in the way we live, eat, move and think. Too often, people that make things appear complex have hidden agendas. Learn to be aware of what contributing factors lie behind your choices, don’t hide behind the mask of ignorance and let society become swamped by normality. Sleep well, get outside into the sun, rain and fresh air, think differently, move smoothly, learn to balance, love one another, eat natural food and start to enjoy your place in the great evolutionary trail.

 

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