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Lose weight and feel better by eating like our ancient ancestors

Updated: Jul 17



What does a person from the hunter-gatherer time period have in common with the modern day adult?


Aside from having very similar biology - we share the same needs and wants as we did 12,000 years ago.


We need food to sustain ourselves, we need daily movement to stay physically ready for life, and we need to reproduce to sustain our population.


One of the biggest differences however is the availability of food, as well as the increased volume of heavily processed foods that light up our brains.


What I’m going to talk about today is how eating like our ancestors can drastically improve your health and how it’s more simple than you might think.


What was our ancestors' normal diet?


So I want to start this by stating this isn’t a post that will be talking about eating paleo. This is a popular diet trend that really got it’s fame with the CrossFit community.



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It was gritty, it was “natural”, it was something that people felt connected to their ancestors in that they would only be allowed to eat foods that were present in the paleolithic age.


Foods like meats, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits were all available. These foods were the staple of those paleolithic eaters and so the diet and fitness community adapted this style of eating and bowed down to the all mighty paleo diet.


However, regardless if my belief about a specific, one-diet approach is beneficial or not - it’s still important to discuss the types of foods that were ample during these times to connect some dots.


So then - what was a normal day of eating for someone who lived 12,000 plus years ago?


Well according to research they forage for berries, hunt down smaller animals until they get tired (humans are great endurance creatures!) and eat according to the season / location.


If they happened to be in a colder climate where fruits were more readily available, their diet would consist of more fruits than meat.


Another example might be those people who were located in desert-like environments. There aren’t many animals living in the desert so their meat supply was far less than if you saw a person who lived near a lake with lush forests!


To wrap it all together, our ancestors’ ate foods that were not processed as they didn’t have the technology to do so.


What was the reality of the health of our ancestors?


Without modern medicine the life span of many people during these times were very low. Many children died before the age of 15 and rarely did people make it all the way to age 40.


So why then - do we look at this time of life and say that we should eat the way that they did?



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Well - throw the advances in medicine to the side and just consider that it’s very rare for us to find instances of obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions for people in these times. Now it’s certainly not impossible to find someone with atherosclerosis (the hardening of artery walls which usually results from deposits of plaque, normally caused by diet choices).


So I would say this is a good thing! There are far less incidents of heart disease than there are now. There must be something that is specifically different about how and what people ate back then, compared to what we eat now.


The world has changed, and we have evolved


During these paleolithic times we did not milk cows or raise animals on a farm. The human body was not evolved to handle lactate (the main ingredient in animal milk).


This is a big reason why those who do partake in the paleo craze don’t use any dairy products. There wasn’t a process to cultivate milk based foods as well as the ability for humans to even digest it safely.


Over time however, our bodies have developed a tolerance for dairy which is why we can stomach cheese, milk, and the like.


So even though our ancestors didn’t eat dairy products - it might have been more because of the lack of production and exposure than it is due to health purposes.


I say this because it’s important to recognize that our ancestors didn’t have this magic formula for health.


The world has also evolved in a “not so healthy” way by creating foods that are highly stimulating for our brains. An example is an Oreo cookie. An Oreo has a sweet cookie that is crunchy on the outside, filled with a soft cream on the inside.



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This type of food is not found in nature, it’s found in the lab. Because of this - our brains are not evolved to handle this food without our brains going haywire with neurons firing with pleasure!


This in turn makes these foods very easy to overeat as they are so stimulating to our brains that we crave more. Add to this the fact that these foods have very little fiber in them which would help to fill you up.


This is why it’s very easy to keep eating ice cream, Oreos, cupcakes and such. They don’t provide that same “filling” factor as broccoli might.


What our ancestors did right


So you came here to find out exactly how we can learn from our ancestors!


It’s time to dive into this concept and something that I’ve talked about here before. However, the point is even more important.


Our ancestors ate intuitively.


Picture this:


Your ancient ancestor wakes up in their sleeping quarters. The sun is strong and the brisk fresh air trails itself through their camp as everyone begins to wake.


A hunger strikes in the belly and your ancestor reaches for some berries and nuts that were collected the day before. Just enough to satisfy the craving, just enough to fill a morning jolt of energy to start the day.


It’s time to go hunt and forage for food which may take hours before a successful hunt occurs. Maybe they get a surplus of berries today and they bring the haul back to the camp to share. Maybe they are lucky in their hunt and are able to track down and capture an elk.



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Whatever the hunt brings home is what they have to eat that night.


They eat until they feel full and share the rest with everyone else in the camp - they don’t eat more than they should and they don’t have food readily available in a refrigerator.


So you might be asking now:


Okay what’s this have to do with eating intuitively and how does it apply to my life now?


Well if you think about it - there really are 2 big reasons for why our ancestors had to eat like this.


  • There was no way to preserve meats for a long period of time before spoiling

  • There was no use for eating more than what could sustain one’s body for the day because others needed it


Couple these 2 with the fact that our ancestors moved much more than we do today - and you have yourself a recipe for keeping people’s weight in a healthy balance without needing to diet, restrict, or count calories.


How to adapt intuitive eating in the modern day world


So how can you do this intuitive eating thing with food always available?


It’s difficult no doubt when we all have packed pantry’s and fridges with various flavors and textures of food.


If it’s one thing our brains and bodies have not adapted for through the years - it’s the ease of getting food in your body each day.


So “unfortunately” for us this makes it harder to have hard cut off points for how much food we can put into our body each day.


I say unfortunately but honestly, it is a blessing to live in a 1st world country where food is available, gets dropped off at your door after pushing 4 buttons on your phone. This is nothing short of magical as well as extremely privileged.


So with this great power...comes great responsibility


*cue the Spiderman theme song*



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Therefore it is your responsibility to control and hone in on this power of food ease. It makes sense then that even in our more health conscious day and age, we still see obesity in 1 in 3 adults (33% of the population).


I’d argue this is because we’ve lost the roots of our ancestors, we’ve become too accustomed to the amount of food available at any given time of our day.


What you can do to become a more intuitive eater


Try out these tips to become more aware of your food choices, more aware of your hunger and fullness levels and ultimately, become more in control of your body!


TIP #1. Eat when you are hungry (7 out of 10 on hunger scale).