Since the human body requires many of the stimuli it naturally got through the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our early Homo Sapiens ancestors to simply stay healthy, and since our typical modern lifestyle doesn’t provide it with enough of them, what should be our approach?
We’re not advocating to go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but simply continuing what everybody else is doing isn’t a viable path forward either. We can adopt a very efficient (and pleasant) middle ground however and we call it a foresighted lifestyle. Why foresighted? Because it’s not just blindly trying to emulate our “paleo” ancestors but on the other hand, we also acknowledge and cater for the stimuli our bodies need to stay healthy and strong.
What is it? It’s quite simple. Compared to our typical modern lifestyle, we’re aiming at:
- minimizing the negative modern stimuli that are common nowadays. Ex.: too much sitting, too much processed foods, etc.
- maximizing the natural stimuli that are beneficial for our bodies and minds. Ex.: getting enough physical activity with enough variety, ideally matching the variety our hunter-gatherer ancestors had.
- mitigating the effects of the negative modern stimuli we can’t eliminate with appropriate new ones. Ex.: mobility and stretching practice aimed at counteracting the effects of too much sitting.
- keeping the benefits we currently enjoy: modern medicine, technology, etc.
In other words: we give our bodies the foods and movements they evolved to expect while avoiding the things in our modern lifestyle that are detrimental to our health. We add to this a few different things to counteract the modern stimuli we can’t eliminate and keep the modern ones that are, on balance, beneficial.
What’s more, all of this is beneficial to the environment, so we’re being foresighted not only for us and our families, but also for the planet.
Maximizing the natural stimuli we need
Our health and capabilities are determined in large part by how we move and eat, so it’s only logical we have an emphasis on those areas.
Maximizing physical activity volume
Our busy and modern lifestyle doesn’t provide us with enough physical activity compared to what we need. So we’re making it a priority to move more throughout the day, every day. We develop a range of strategies to counteract our natural instinct to minimize our physical efforts.
Maximizing the variety of our movements
Volume is important, variety is as well. We’re making sure to practice all areas of movements that are part of our natural lifestyle: walking, running, crawling, climbing, lifting and carrying. More details here on the movements we need and here on why the Movnat® fitness method is ticking all those boxes.
Maximizing variability when training
We’re meant to move in nature. Again, this isn’t a romantic statement but a cold hard fact. Our bodies adapted to be stimulated by the textures, sounds, smells, etc. of natural environments. This lead to a wide variability in the sensory stimuli we’re used to get. Today’s environments seek to eliminate this variability. We need more of it, not less. Typical gyms, for example, are the epitome of standardization, and very poor training environments.
Prioritizing natural food sources
Emphasizing organic foods, grass-fed or pasture-raised animal foods and more generally just less processed foods that are as similar as possible to the foods our ancestors ate. Sugar, in particular, wasn’t really part of their diet and, considering its addictive nature (i.e. it’s very hard for us to only just eat a little of it), is best avoided as much as possible.
Relishing the small discomforts of life:
Our bodies have evolved to cope with the small discomforts of life and they need these variations to stay balanced. Being a bit too cold, too hot, wet, etc. on occasion are all good stimuli for our physical and mental health. We need more moments of discomforts.
Embracing more randomness in life
We seek routines and predictability but we evolved to cope with a highly variable life, driven by a lot of randomness. In particular, we went through peaks and troughs when it comes to movement and food. From feasts to famine back to feasts. More randomness is good, cherish it.
Minimizing the detrimental modern stimuli
On the other hand, many traits of our modern lifestyle are detrimental to our health, so a foresight lifestyle strives to minimize them. We can’t avoid everything but keeping them to a minimum is already very helpful.
Minimizing the outsourcing of movement to machines
Our natural instincts lead us to minimize efforts and we have a lot of machines that do our movements for us today: from cars to electric scooters, from food processors to even backpacks—not machines per se but assistance to reduce efforts. It’s not necessary to go back to a sort of stone age, but it is necessary to be more mindful of the many times we outsource movements that aren’t absolutely necessary. In those occasions, we need to make a conscious effort to reject this tempting outsourcing and embrace the physical efforts.
Minimizing sedentary time
Sitting has been vilified in mainstream media but sitting isn’t really the culprit: long sedentary time locked in one position is. Standing all day at a desk without moving isn’t much better. Instead, we need to frequently move throughout the day. Easier said than done. But it can be done, to an extent. Sitting on the floor for example is challenging for most of us, so we naturally shift between multiple positions. Working on a laptop on the floor might not be feasible, but reading, watching TV or playing with kids definitely is.
Minimizing artificial food sources
Unless you go to great lengths, your food sources today are full of artificial additives that your body haven’t evolved to process, simply because they didn’t encounter these until very recently. Luckily for us, the human body is incredibly resilient and efficient at dealing with unwanted elements in its food supply. It does it well, up to a point. Beyond this issue, modern processed foods are engineered to cater to our natural instincts making us prefer foods high in calories. Simply because they sell more than other foods. Sugar is an addictive substance for our brains and should be treated as such, especially since too much sugar does lead to recognized negative effects on one’s health.
Keeping the benefits of modern life
A key characteristic of being foresighted is not too discard the benefits of modern life simply because they are “modern”.
Modern medicine is incredibly powerful at keeping infectious diseases at bay, treating our various accidents in life and fighting life-threatening diseases like cancers. Our hunter-gatherers ancestors would frequently die of infected scratches because they didn’t have antibiotics. Does that mean we should shun antibiotics too? Of course not. But we do need to adopt a risk/reward approach with modern medicine, as the newly researched effects of antibiotics on our microbiome demonstrate. Incidentally, that’s common practice for GPs now to minimize antibiotics use. But rejecting the benefits of modern medicine as a whole like so many are now doing on the basis of a more natural lifestyle isn’t a wise approach either. Minimizing our probability of needing medical treatments with a lifestyle geared towards preventing ill health is wise, but so is using medical treatment when health issues do develop.
Technology, especially to connect to our tribe
A foresighted lifestyle is also a sustainable lifestyle
One of the many benefits of a foresighted lifestyle is that it’s also, by nature, a lifestyle that is beneficial too our planet.
Lower energy consumption
If you minimize the use of machines, then you automatically lower your energy use. Being mindful of using our own bodies for the movements we need to do, everyday, also lead us to use public transports for example, and walk/run in addition to them.
Practicing cold exposure through cold showers, and being exposed to wider swings in temperature is likewise leading us to minimize our use of air conditioning and decreasing further our environmental footprint.
Farming practices more respectful of the planet (and animals)
Animal welfare and the detrimental impact of industrial farming practices are getting much publicity these days. The choice being presented to us is often reduced to either support this system or stop eating meat, for example. The third option is to consume only meat from animals raised as they evolved to be raised: on grass and pasture, with minimum supplemental feed. Same with organically grown food. If we make these food sources a major part of our food supply, then we support sustainable farmers and lower our environmental footprint.