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My Inner Cavewoman

Working With Our Genes From The Ice Age

Dr Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

My Inner Cavewoman

(girls' weekend, exhausted after we hiked for 6 hours)

Medicine started to make a lot more sense to me when I realized that I am 10,000 years old.  This body that I live in hasn’t changed all that much since the end of the last great Ice Age.  Really all of us are walking around in bodies that haven’t changed much since then.  And despite what certain diet programs want us to believe about how much meat we can and should eat; hunting was hard in the Spring and Summer when all we had were spears.  Imagine hunting in the winter especially after a nice Nor’easter with spears. 

(Our last Nor'easter, not an animal or nut in sight)

 Moreover, nowadays, we have driven out most of the predators from our backyards.  Imagine hunting when the number of predators competing for food was higher.  We have also overlooked the fact that all the prey was struggling to find food during the Ice Age making them very, very lean meat, meaning very little saturated fat.  Without any coconuts, avocados, or palm trees, there weren't any plants with saturated fat during the Ice Age.  Nuts would have provided some monounsaturated fat but picking them was time consuming.  All in all, cavewomen would have spent a great deal of time walking and foraging.  The hunters would have likewise exerted a great deal of energy tracking prey and hunting with spears.  Their diets would have been very low in fat and cholesterol.  Their metabolisms would have been designed to hold on to any fat they did eat, to minimize calories burned, and promote making as much saturated fat as possible.  This would help keep them warm and provide insurance for times of prolonged food deprivation. 

(skiing with my husband)

This cavewoman metabolism, one that minimized energy expenditure and maximized fat storage was successful enough to get our ancestors through the harsh conditions of the ice age.  We wouldn’t be here today without their metabolisms.  The problem is that such a winning strategy is not going to go away.  Even after the agriculture revolution, our ancestors had to deal with droughts, war, and famine.  Crop yields were low so nothing was wasted.  Our ancestors ate whole grains and unprocessed foods.  Sugar, oil, and high fat foods were a luxury.  Metabolisms that burned as few calories as possible and made as much fat to store as possible were needed.  

This brings us to today.  We have these metabolisms that are suited for extremely low fat diets and lots of physical activity.  But we are surrounded by high calorie, high fat foods.  We struggle to exercise even for 30 minutes on a daily basis because of time constraints.  The only way to win this battle with our 10,000 year old bodies is to stick to an unprocessed, low fat, plant-based diet.  In addition, small increases in our physical activity may pay off such as a treadmill in front of the TV, a standing desk at work, taking the stairs when possible, and buying a jump rope!  Yes a jump rope.  A 4 dollar jump rope will provide you with a really aerobic workout that you can even do in your kitchen as the coffee is brewing in the morning.  Ten minutes of jumping rope twice a day goes a long way.

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