Why do human animals have such special eating habits?
In part I of this article we looked at two important differences in the dietary and exercise habits of humans and our friends in the animal kingdom. In this section we go a bit deeper.
3: Humans are the only animals with an over abundance of food (in developed countries)
In many developed nations around the world we are now seeing the all too familiar results of human animals that are overfed. We don’t need to make any effort whatsoever, apart from driving the supermarket and then extending our arms to open a bag of sweets, crisps or biscuits to load ourselves with an abundance of calories. In many societies where sugary, trans-fatty and over salty foods prevail we are drowning in nutrient poor sources of calories. It’s even harder with these processed foods because their sweet, salty, fatty nature makes them hyper-palatable – ie: they are so bloody tasty that our body experiences the same release of dopamine when we eat them as it does when we take drugs like cocaine. This makes these foods addictive and getting off them is a huge task.
Humans must be the only animals that have plenty of calories, but are still nutrient deficient. This is because although biscuits, crisps, chocolate and cereal all provide us with plenty of energy from food (calories) they don’t give us any nutritional value (vitamins and minerals).
We are overfed but undernourished.
The same solution applies to each of these issues. Eat real food that animals and our ancestors would recognize as food – not something that Kellogs, Nestle and Arnotts have got together and done great marketing to make us think that it is a healthy alternative to a steak and vegetables. The good news is that the less you eat these addictive and processed foods, the less you find you crave them. So don’t waste time, start cooking with real food today.
Humans are animals too. Let’s start eating and moving like them!
4. Humans are the only animals that are aware of and count calories
In fact, humans are the only animals that don’t actively seek the most calorific and nutrient dense meals. I can guarantee that no other animal is even aware of what a calorie is and that their meal might have a numeric value. To them it is all just good quality fuel! And they will go for the fuel that gives them maximum energy for minimal work. This means the fattiest part of an animal, honey from a tree and even licking areas of the ground that are highly concentrated mineral sources (salt licks). On the other hand, many humans that embark on diets go out of their way to choose the lowest calorie food – a plain dry cracker or celery stick anyone?
As a result of the low-fat dogma that dominated nutrition advice for decades, many people think calorie restriction is the best way to manage weight. But we are the only animals that try to reduce our entire bodily function to arithmetic.
I talk about why trying to count calories is a waste of time in this article. What we want to do when we are choosing what to eat is select food that is rich in minerals and vitamins. I cover this in detail in this article. Stop trying to turn your life into a complex numbers game and just go for some real food!
5. Humans and animals that humans control are the only animals with lifestyle diseases.
It might not come as a huge surprise to you that humans and animals that humans control – domestic pets (cats and dogs); animals we raise for food and pump with grains and hormones (cows and chickens); and animals we keep in zoos and severely restrict their movement and feed them ridiculous diets that we think are healthy – are the only ones exhibiting signs of ‘lifestyle’ diseases or disease of civilization. This term was coined by the British when they started to move into Africa and gave what were previously hunter-gatherer populations a British diet that was full of sweet, processed food. They immediately noticed that the local populations started exhibiting signs of illness when exposed to sweet, starchy and nutrient deplete diets.
Animals in the wild today still exist like they always have. They are physically active and eat as nature intended them to. It is rough life out there constantly fighting for survival, be it by looking for food or avoiding being caught. Humans in developed, wealthy countries on the other hand have readily available, calorie dense food and very little need to exercise other than for exercise’s sake. To avoid lifestyle diseases we need to get in touch with our ancestors and inner animal: eat real food; avoid the processed junk out of a packet – it’s not real food; and move a lot!
I think the greatest message we can takeaway from the points I have explored today is that we just need to try and relax a little bit, and follow our instinct. If you crave a certain food, provided it isn’t a huge snickers bar, then allow yourself to have it – it could be your body’s cry for a specific nutrient. We will delve into cravings at a later date.