Last night I was up at midnight with my better half indulging in what is known as “the midnight snack.” Why am I telling you this? Because we spontaneously decided to commence with what will henceforth be known as our first thirty-hour-fast. Right after the midnight snack, that is. As I write this to you now, I’m fasting. We will not be eating anything at all, today. Or tonight. Not till tomorrow morning will anything but liquid pass these lips of ours. So far so good. Watch this space for a follow-on as to how this went.
Lately I have been reading about how to “stimulate the caveman” in you. Before the start of the agricultural period about 10,000 years ago man was a hunter-gatherer. Before this period, for the almost unimaginably long time of three million years, our diet contained an enormous variety of plant foods and was high in protein. There was nearly a complete absence of grains and simple carbohydrates in the hunter-gatherer diet. The closest thing to a carbohydrate was honey, rare and fiercely guarded by wild bees. Modern man has inexorably moved away from the ancient lifestyle and physiology that he once enjoyed.The premise is that in this time our minds and bodies were shaped and adapted to this ancient environment. There were no obese hunter-gatherers.
The modern diet of three square meals a day, with or without in-between-snacks, is a completely different one from the diet that ancient human beings enjoyed. It was only 10,000 years ago that agriculture changed the human experience from hunting and gathering to that of an agricultural civilisation. Then came the industrial age, starting just 200 years ago, with its benefits of mechanisation, and bringing with it a huge and dramatic decline in human energy expenditure. Most recently the information and television age, now just 20 years old, with it’s couch-potato lifestyle has brought us to where we are today. Modern humans need an even lower energy expenditure as a result of our sedentary and inactive lifestyles. We are over-eating, just like cattle in a feeding pen. However, in this time span evolution has made few, if any, changes to the physical characteristics that we inherited from that 3 million year period when we were hunter-gatherers.
The beauty of the 40,000 BC diet model is an absence of canned, frozen, packaged and processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables, eaten raw whenever possible, and lean meat combined with a much lower carbohydrate intake is ideal. The intolerance that many people have for grains, eggs, milk and seafood is related to how recently these food groups entered the modern human diet. Hunter-gatherers did not eat three meals a day. Occasionally they did not eat for a day or even longer. When we mimic this fasting some wonderful, beneficial effects kick in.
The first benefit is the initiation of the detoxification process which is the normal body process of neutralizing toxins in the body. Secondly, when food is no longer entering the body, the body turns to fat reserves for energy. The third benefit is a healing process that begins in the body during a fast. Energy is diverted away from the digestive system and towards metabolism and the immune system is stimulated. These are some of the reasons why animals stop eating when they are wounded. But perhaps the two most important of the scientifically proven advantages of fasting is firstly the feeling of rejuvenation and secondly the extended life expectancy. In part this is the result of a slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production and an improved immune system. An increase in the production of hormones including an anti-aging hormone is also scientifically verified.
Fasting sharpens and focuses the mind before the hunt, much as it must have done for the caveman all those millennia ago. Happy hunting!