What is natural for us, as Homo Sapiens? And is everything natural automatically beneficial for our health?
These two questions are key to adjusting our lifestyle to improve our health.
What’s natural for us?
To answer the first one, we need to go back to the time Homo Sapiens diverged from the other species in the Homo genus.
What’s “natural” for us is the lifestyle our early ancestors had and all the implications it had on our biology. In the same way we’d answer the question “What’s natural for a lion?” by observing the behavior of lions in the wild, we need to look at early modern humans as animals in their habitat. So, it’s natural for us to move a lot during the day, eat a diet from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, etc…
So far so good. That lifestyle had an impact on our biology though, as our bodies adapted to be very efficient and stay healthy in the context of that lifestyle. The modern Homo Sapiens body (ours) is the product of millions of years of evolution in the context of a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle. As a consequence, we developed strong natural instincts to increase our chances of survival and reproduction. Most notably, our dislike of efforts of all sorts, simply because they’re expensive in terms of energy.
So while it’s natural for us humans to live a very active lifestyle, which is beneficial for our health, it’s equally natural for us to actively avoid all physical efforts to the greatest extent possible, which is detrimental for our health.
Which leads us to the second question.
Does natural mean always beneficial for our health?
In the context of a nomadic hunter-gatherer, it’s a yes. If you live a natural lifestyle, then all “natural” aspects of it and of our biology work in synergy to keep us strong, capable and healthy.
But if you live a modern standard lifestyle, which is very sedentary, then our natural instincts to avoid efforts and eat as much calories as we can, when we have the chance, are very detrimental to our health. They’re still perfectly natural.
Our instincts and our biology (our nature) keep us strong and healthy in a natural world of movement abundance and energy scarcity. In our current world of movement scarcity and energy abundance, our natural instincts make us weak and sick.
Natural is more complex than it looks. And simply following a natural lifestyle, in our world, sadly isn’t the best way to optimize for health and physical & mental capabilities.