Healthy living.

Once you pass 30 years of age certain truths slowly settle in – year by year.

One is – your metabolism is slowly slowing down.

The implication is that same effort will not yield the same results anymore.

What this means is that you have the following options:

  1. Change nothing. This means you will get fat and die sooner.
  2. Do more sports – but keep eating the crap you have been eating. This could mean things will remain the way they are, but largely depends on what you do in terms of sports. Weight training alone for example will leave you remaining bulky, but without relevant calorie burn, you will just have more muscle underneath the fat. The key issue with this strategy is in any case that it requires time. Time that many of us may not have anymore (or are unwilling to carve out of our schedules) – due to careers requiring the hours, due to travel, or due to families that take the priority over working out. Which really leaves us with the only sustainable strategy to remain somewhat in decent shape:
  3. Eat better.

Eating better is the one lever you can always pull. Life years of high metabolism and student life have left us thinking we can get away with eating Dr. Oetker – Mozzarella pizza (by the way, still the best frozen pizza you can buy in Europe) three times a week and pasta with pesto for the rest of the nights. I have news for you my friend: this will not work anymore.

We did not always use to have this problem as I have recently learned by reading the extremely fantastic book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Our hunter-gatherer predecessors were active all day, looking for herbs, fruits, plants and animals. They ate a huge variety of healthy and natural foods. The only real sweet they had was ripe fruit. We did this for 2.5m years. All these foods and animals grew without us intervening.

The agricultural revolution has changed all that around 10,000 years ago.

You have it to thank for being a largely sedentary and increasingly fat and unhealthy species now. It enabled the cities many of us now live in. We were not always like that.

Starting then, we planted largely wheat and later domesticated rice, peas, lentils, goats, olive trees, grapevines. Later camels and cashew nuts. By 3500BC the main wave of domestication was over. And now, more than 90% of our calories come from the handful of plants and animals that our ancestors domesticated a few thousand years ago. This hasn’t significantly changed in two thousand years. Contrast this to hundreds of different food types that our ancestors ate.

„If our minds are those of hunter-gatherers, our cuisine is that of ancient farmers.“ – Harari

The reason for that small range of food is that it is tough to domesticate most plants and animals. (go ahead and domesticate a mammoth)

In effect, you have two consequential changes: Our lives are now stationary – we don’t move much. And second, the food that we get out of many of the domesticated plants isn’t as nutritious as the food our foraging ancestors had to eat. Plus, there is way too much of it and it is very sugary. And given that our biology really didn’t have much time to adapt (really only 10,000 years, which is nothing) we overeat and indulge in sweets, because we still think that there may be a shortness of calories any time soon on the horizon.

Add to that cultural stereotypes around such as – for example – manly eating: in Germany it still seems that most xy-chromosome homo sapiens think that going for the most unhealthy and meaty option on the menu is somehow boosting their masculinity. It is of course not. Our ancestors hardly had access to as much meat as we do now and if they did they hunted for it themselves, and then killed and gutted it.

So most of us need to fight on several fronts:

  • defeat your inner schweinehund (I am making this a new English like schadenfreude) and make the effort to buy better food in supermarkets, prepare it at home and choose healthier options when eating out
  • depending on your social circle: oppose peer pressure to eat unhealthy

Add to that a constant bombardment of nutritional information. Drinking coffee may be the healthiest thing ever one week and a death sentence the next. It just depends on which study you consult and who tried to interpret the data, which journalists often suck at.

Okay, as always, you are looking for solutions on this site, right? 😉

Here are a few truths/rules I try to adhere to, which help me stay relatively fit:

  • learn about nutrition and what is good for your body and what’s not
  • default is veggie, meat is the exception (not the other way around)
  • no unnecessary sugar (i.e. train yourself to drink coffee without sugar, reduce sugar intensity in all foods you consume, i.e. drink water rather than Schorle)
  • no bullshit snacks – try to say no to what your colleagues bring to the office
  • no cow milk (but I still eat cheese) – cow milk has great alternatives these days (if you’re local coffee shop doesn’t, ask them every time you go until they change)
  • understand the health benefits of many add-ons you can use (i.e. grow herbs in your home and use them: basil, rosmary / buy spices and use them: curcuma, cinnamon, vanilla, etc etc)
  • do the occasional intermittent fasting: i.e. eat at 6pm on day 1 and then do not eat until lunchtime on day 2
  • stop eating when you’re not hungry anymore (tough for me as I eat too fast) – for example leaving the crust of a pizza saves you a few hundred calories
  • drink white wine spritzer and vodka soda when it comes to alcohol, nothing else (tough one at Oktoberfest, let me tell you)
  • some sport is better than no sport, i.e. anybody can do 20 push-ups in the morning, or ideally get a 7-min workout app and get 10mins-20mins of workout in
  • at the gym, balance weights and cardio. go for flexibility
  • walk all stairs
  • stand whenever you can – why sit down in the tube, unless you need to open a laptop?

What are other good habits that you have established in your lives?

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