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Paleo lifestyle and the modern world

by (3428) Updated January 18, 2011 at 2:21 AM Created January 11, 2011 at 10:04 PM

No less than ninety percent of what we discuss here is about paleo diet, and perhaps the remaining ten percent is about fitness. I am sure those two factors explain a good share of someone´s health. I have my concerns, nevertheless, about other things that set the urban citizen of today apart from traditional hunter gatherers: In winter, some five hundred years ago, a Native American on the Great Plains would have lived bearing the load of snow and icy mornings without any heating, except the one provided by his own garments and nomadic tent. Today "Neo-Paleos" will typically not resign the modern world indoor-heating, that results in indoors temperatures as hot in winter as they are in the summer. My question is what are your thoughts on this, whether you think that ideally people should converge to a life-style that does not isolate us from Nature, or would that be a totally misleading idea? Also in which other sense do you feel that there could a "Paleo life-style" that goes beyond optimal diet?

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1675 · January 12, 2011 at 12:43 AM

See this question and the excellent responses. Finding an answer to this question was actually the life work of Paul Shepard, and I would recommend his excellent book Coming Home to the Pleistocene, or any of his other books (but I'd start with CHTTP). He was primarily concerned with establishing cultural practices that comport with our true nature, as dictated by our genetic heritage.

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1304 · January 12, 2011 at 2:22 AM

Well, human beings originated in climates much warmer than the American Great Plains, and moved there relatively late (in evolutionary terms). Humans can adapt to harsh climates because of technology, to make, for example, knives, needles etc. and thus sew clothes; or to make fire (yes, fire was also used to keep warm in the Great Plains, not just "garments and tents"...), and the list could go on and on. Humans also underwent some major physical adaptations to colder and less sunny climates.

I don't think the Great Plains or Siberia are ideal niches for humans, but rather harsh environments to which we have adapted. If you think indoor heating is "isolating us from Nature", where would you stop? Is the domestication of fire "unnatural"? And what about spears? Clothes? Tattoos? Espresso con panna?

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39204 · January 11, 2011 at 10:14 PM

I think many of us experience too little contrast in our lives. As a result, we have a greater difficulty appreciating things such as warmth, a full belly, and just comfort in general because we rarely experience cold, hunger and discomfort. There is something psychologically damaging about insulating yourself from what we might call the "real world."

That being said, I don't know where the threshold is that separates "sound steps toward aligning oneself with one's design" from "regressive attempts at historical reenactment."

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478 · January 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM

The myriad psychological impacts of our life within an ecology we're not adapted to is one of the primary concerns I'm working toward with my writing. Long-story short, I think we're maladapted to modern life and our instincts are hijacked by artifacts of evolution and the emergent institutions (nation-states, corporations, et cetera) are not optimally suited to individuals.

The study of evolutionary aesthetics deals with this specifically in its attempt to extract the environmental structures that are fundamentally important to us once the sociocultural pressures are stripped away.

All that said, I don't think a Luddite solution is any kind of solution either. A mental understanding that we're living in a maladaptive environment to begin with is the first step. From there, it's a matter of applying modern tools in a way that doesn't interfere with our innate preferences.

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911 · January 11, 2011 at 10:43 PM

I like the tendency of the community to be satisfied with less comfort. Examples are Nikoley's no soap-thingy and Erwan leCorre's ability to sleep on hard surfaces (without pillows and blankets). Especially the latter is something someone would not try to emulate quickly, but once achieved imagine how much that would make your life easier!

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422 · January 12, 2011 at 2:37 AM

I personally try to let it get kind of cold in the winter, and kind of hot in the summer. Do I have heaters and air conditioning? YES. But I don't turn them to max in any season. I use clothing and blankets to keep me warm, or stripping down as much as I can to keep cool.

I've never liked the idea of keeping a home at a constant 72 degrees or whatever room temperature may be.

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3428 · January 12, 2011 at 4:40 AM

Modern technology has in fact "separated" people from the cycles of Nature, to a large extent, and temperature is a clear example of this: definitely, Native Americans where much more subject to the cycles of summer-winter than we are today, and the same applies in many other parts of the world. I do not think that we should reject technology (that was one of the Luddites point) but I still think that being closer to what the natural cycle dictates is also a human need. For temperature I do as Sigil said, trying to "let it kind of cool in winter, and kind of hot in summer". In any case I view this as just one important issue, and the broader issue would be, to what extent are we prepared, or interested in moving towards older technologies, or lives less based in the "modern comfort" idea in order to live lives that would be more similar to the ones that hunter gatherers did have? I also appreciate Marks answer on Shepard´s work!

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