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Lessons from our hunter-gather ancestors

Our digestive system didn't evolve to work 24/7, which is what our present 'three square meals’ + snacks regime forces it to.

Our digestive system didn’t evolve to work 24/7, which is what our present ‘three square meals + snacks’ regime forces it to.

Oh, dear, I must apply myself once more to curbing my spiralling weight. I haven’t got what it takes to knock out the delicacies of life nor reduce what is left to minuscule amounts so that my calorific intake matches the reduced output of calories which comes with getting older. Moreover, I won’t be forced into eating things I don’t like. So the alternative is my fasting regime (for a period) which readers may be familiar with.

It might seem a drastic solution to go without food for 36 hours – a friend once described it as the nuclear option – but for me it works. Funnily enough, once I’ve psyched myself up to get started it isn’t nearly as grim as you might think. The joy of getting on those scales the morning after my nil by mouth effort makes it all worthwhile. And what heaven it is to be back to normal eating the following day! Anyway, each to his own. I must suffer for my excesses and the hairshirt may be good for the soul. The system delivers for me, with results coming in at an astonishing rate. And that’s how I like it. I haven’t the patience for the long haul. On those days of fasting, though, I do make sure I keep up the fluids.

One or two of my friends have cautioned me on my fasting caper, but I won’t be put off. You see, I have a theory to counter their concerns and it goes like this…

Anthropologists will tell you that we are essentially the same animal we were 100,000 years ago. Our whole digestive system – indeed our whole being – was geared to an irregular supply of food. It was a feast or famine existence, literally. Our world in that long ago time was a hunter-gather world. The boys hunted and the girls gathered. Kills on the African savanna were few and far between and nuts, fruits and berries seasonal. So evolution had to come up with an answer which allowed a big brained creature, whose diet required regular protein (principally meat), to get through those extended periods between kills. It couldn’t afford our ancestors to become lethargic and less focused during those hungry days leading up to the next successful hunt; if that had happened they would never have been sharp enough to nail those elusive, fleet-footed gazelles. (This, perhaps, explains why on my fast days in the shop I fancy I perform better than usual and even problem solve more imaginatively. I do a lot more thinking outside the box too.)

I think it entirely possible, indeed, likely, that our systems, benefit from a complete clear-out. In those far off times our digestion wasn’t at work 24/7, which is what our present ‘three square meals + snacks’ regime forces it to be. Nor were our bowels carrying waste matter round the clock.

It may be interesting to note that fasting is important to several religions. Perhaps the ancients knew a thing or two that we have forgotten in our headlong rush into modernity. Abstinence – call it a rest-up – in a great many fields can work wonders. Who knows, sex may even be among the beneficiaries!

My chief point is that evolution works at a much slower pace than the breakneck changes which have taken place since the Industrial Revolution. A great deal of catching up is in the pipeline.

While we are subject to a host of the ailments of our early ancestors, we have added a huge range of new ones due to our modern life, which includes much less exercise than they were formerly obliged to engage in. I doubt, for instance, that our forebears had many diabetic sufferers in their ranks. And there was no room for fatties in their world – try running down a springbok with a fifty-inch waist!

Anyway, yours truly, has put his hairshirt on for the next little while and hopes for the best. I know I will get the most enormous buzz when I arrive at my destination and that, too, must be good.

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The fast way to lose weight

Today I want to write about something I wrote on nearly a year ago. It concerns getting our bodies in the shape and condition that we would be happy with.

A lot of people – probably the majority – have got it into their heads that there is nothing they can do about middle age spread – that it is an inevitable consequence of getting older.

This is not so. It is totally within our gift as to what weight and shape we are.

My method – and it has worked for me – is to fast one day and eat the next, with two days eating at the weekend. In just four weeks I got my weight down from 14st 1lb to 12 stone 7lbs (21lbs). There are many incredibly good aspects to this method… if only I had thought about it during my twenty five years of running health clubs!

The first is the breathtaking speed at which the weight fell away; there was no agonising for months and months as you nibble away at the pounds. The second is that you can carry on eating the things you like and in the same quantities you are used to. There is no having to fork out for expensive dietary lines, many of which I don’t like and forsaking the wonderful things that you do. Third, you’re getting a regular detox. Normally our digestive and bowel systems are working 24/7, with never a let-up. Now they have a rest and a thorough flush out. Fourth, while you’re pursuing your goal, you’re massively reducing your supermarket bill as a result of the 40 per cent calories you are no longer consuming.

This inspirational thought which came to me out of the blue allowed me to go into this summer and the last unencumbered with all that useless and damaging baggage. To ensure that it never came back after I reached my goal I could have cut my calorific intake for the future, but I prefer to eat what I want to in the quantities I want.

Every so often – usually every week or ten days – I nuke it with a day of fasting in which I can easily knock off two whole pounds or more. Wonderful, I think to myself. I’m back to ground zero!

Now, I know your reaction to all this is: ‘Great! But those days of fasting must be sheer purgatory.’ This is not so. Like you, I thought they would be, but they were amazingly easy to get through. Yes, I had odd moments when I could have stuffed myself, but they soon passed. I thought of the joy I would feel the following morning when I got on the scales.

Amazingly, I felt so alive and focused on those days of fasting. Why was that? I believe it goes back to our hunter gatherer days, which after all is only ten thousand years ago. Then it was a life of feast and famine. When you and your family had gorged itself on your latest kill you had to think about the next meal. Days might pass before you could bag that fleet of foot antelope for your next feast.

Nature equipped you to get through those days of hunger without feeling below par. You had, if anything, to be even sharper and more focused than normal to run your next kill to ground, certainly not lethargic and off key.

Evolution does not fundamentally change our digestive or any other system in a short time span like 10,000 years. To evolution, it is a mere blink of the eye.

My plan, I will freely admit, is not rocket science, but it is radical and it does work. And the speed at which it works is phenomenal and that is what makes it so exciting.

So why haven’t we heard of this in all the years we’ve been regaled about dieting? There is so much ballyhoo about losing weight one could be forgiven for thinking that it is complicated when it isn’t. I believe it’s all down to calories; the number going in versus the number going out.

But could it be that money is the reason we haven’t heard of it?

The dietary industry is worth billions and the supermarkets even more. Imagine if millions of people start consuming 40 per cent less food each week and abandon dietary products altogether. I’m not, by nature, a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe it would tantamount to suicide for those two mammoth industries ever to allow such thinking to take hold.

Of course, exercise can and should play its part, though its greatest contribution is its benefit to the cardio vascular system and general all round health. It also aids your immune levels to stay high and so ward of attacks of this or that. But to burn up the excess number of calories that Western man is piling on each day by exercise alone would take an effort beyond anything that all but the most heroic could endure.

As in so many things, we tend to follow in Uncle Sam’s footsteps and are usually the first in Europe to do so. Most of them are beneficial, but over indulgence is certainly not one of them. We are now officially the fattest nation in Europe. No single thing could aid our aging and increasingly overweight population than to take obesity seriously – and it should start with our children. As the best form of preventative medicine, it would massively reduce the spiralling burden and costs of our health service.

Friends that we holiday with from Sweden from time to time were telling my wife last week, via Skype, that a new craze is sweeping the country… fasting your weight off, one day on and one day off, with two days of eating at the weekend. Ausra, my wife’s friend, said that the word is that the scheme came from England.

I wonder if Yours Truly began it all with that article nearly a year ago in this paper? The blog version of it went out on the World Wide Web. Something of a thought isn’t it? I’d love to think that is what happened.

All power, I say, to Sir Tim Berners Lee‘s invention of web. Now, there’s a man who really did merit a Nobel prize – though he didn’t get one. Think just of one benefit alone: the alleviation – through Skype and other instant messaging services – of the loneliness of people whose loved ones have gone abroad. The call, no matter what its duration, is cost free and the whole thing is totally brilliant.

My sure-fire weight loss plan

There is a silver bullet in the fight against flab that the diet industry does not want you to know about. In fact, they are doing their utmost to hide from us the fact that there is a quick, simple and – dare I say it – easy way to ensure that nobody is heavier than they would like to be.

My interest is these matters has been an enduring one; I suppose it is the legacy of running health clubs for 25 years. A big part of my job was helping my customers lose weight; I used to hold annual weight loss awards in my Plymouth health club, Physique & Figurama, to celebrate my star slimmers’ achievements (pictured).

But unlike the fitness industry, the enormous $100 billion diet industry has a vested interest in keeping its customers overweight for as long as possible, seducing us with a bewildering array of dubious products and services. After all, what kind of business wants to lose customers as quickly as possible?

Before the day arrives when that other behemoth, the pharmaceutical industry, develops a magic pill which renders the diet industry’s so-called experts’ products and services redundant, I propose there is a natural solution.

My wife and I used to have to watch the calories very closely while maintaining a healthy diet. But despite our best efforts, the pounds crept on. We were never obese, but we knew we could so easily have become so.

At my own peak (I am 5’11”) I reached 14st 1lb and my waist had expanded from 32″ to 38″. Yet after 20 years of wishing each spring that I could enter the summer looking trim, I have finally succeeded. I have lost 21lbs in four weeks.

How has this been achieved? The answer is that I have fasted my flab off. Some days, 2 ¼ lbs would vanish.

The regime I followed goes like this: Monday, fast; Tuesday, eat (but only the amount I would eat normally); Wednesday, fast; Thursday, eat; Friday, fast; and, glory be, I would eat both days of the weekend. But during those days of fasting, I still enjoyed my cappuccinos after work and drank plenty of milkless green tea as well as Oxo cube drinks. Keeping up the fluids is crucial.

So there you have it: a regime which will deliver weight loss beyond your wildest dreams. And unlike these paid-for diets, my regime didn’t cost me a penny. In fact, I saved 40 per cent of my typical supermarket food bill on those intensive weeks.

The fasting regime worked for me, and in spectacular fashion. Nothing else had. I have to stress that I am not a man of incredible willpower; I still have not been able to break with my ten fags a day as so many of you have. If you can do that too then congratulations.

Exercise is always important, regardless of how many calories you’re consuming, so I also continued my long-established practice of having two 1½-mile walks each day. I don’t amble along, but try to walk at a brisk enough pace so as to compel me after a short time to draw breath through my mouth. So successful have my knee replacements been that I could even jog if I wanted to. Well done NHS! You’ve probably saved me from a wheelchair.

Now, I think I know your next question. Did I feel wretched on those days of fasting? Not at all. I suffered absolutely no adverse effects: no hunger pangs, no nothing. What I did notice, however, was that on those days of fasting I was considerably sharper and much more alert.

The beauty of this system – which would have made my health club boom as never before had I thought of it in those days – is that stick is followed by carrot in double-quick time.

The diet industry wants you to believe that results take time – while they make money – and considerable effort on your part – which, of course, they can help alleviate. But by fasting, I have reached my target weight rapidly with minimal effort. Every second day I would get back to eating before I plunged in again. And the weekends were simply heaven: two whole days of normal (not excessive) eating.

Another great boon you will enjoy is that, on those days of fasting, your body – which is normally clogged and at work 24/7 – is flushed out with stomach and bowels rested up; it is given a detox, if you like. And unlike those few successful dieters who mostly see it all come back on again, my method is truly sure-fire.

When I get on the scales in the morning following the previous day’s fast, it is a moment of drama. But it isn’t a question of whether I have lost weight, but rather one of how much.

Now that I have reached my goal of 12st 4lbs, which equates to a reduction of six belt notches, I am only fasting one day a week. I know that, should my weight start creeping up again, I have the means to nuke the flab.

Fasting one day a week represents a weekly drop in calories of around 15 per cent, and hopefully that should be sufficient for me. If your body naturally stores little excess fat, you may only need to fast once a fortnight to keep the weight down; but if you’re obese, you may instead be better off fasting two days a week. It’s really a case of trial and error.

Another beauty of my regime is that I shall not be condemned to eating things which are prescribed to me, many of which I don’t particularly like, at the expense of foods I do enjoy.

It is interesting to ponder why, if there are negative health side-effects of fasting, so many of the world’s religions insist on it. And remember that early man was never guaranteed three square meals a day; he regularly fasted between kills and his system evolved accordingly. Evolution works slowly and we all still have that ability. Did you ever see an overweight bushman?

Good luck to anyone who may be inspired to try this sure-fire method of losing weight. Keep me posted and let me know how you’re doing.

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