I, just as my ancestors thousands of years ago, was created to spend most of my time and energy seeking food.
My ancestors might have luck finding some food and they couldn’t be picky. The available food might not be particularly palatable, but even though it didn’t taste very good it was important that they ate it. There was no guarantee any food would be available when they were hungry for the next meal.
My ancestors had a built-in survival instinct to keep eating when they were lucky enough to bring down or gather more food than needed to supply fuel for their immediate energy needs. If food were higher in fat and calories, the instinct to keep eating became even stronger because it allowed them to save and store that extra energy as body fat. It would be available to help them survive in times when food was scarce.
Here I am today, with the same animal instincts that enabled my early human ancestors to survive and create new generations, but I live on a much different planet. Highly palatable food is everywhere including right in my very dwelling.
The most energy I use to gather or hunt for food is a leisurely stroll through the supermarket. I know that there is no present danger of not finding food to sustain me, but my instincts still drive me to eat more than I need.
My feeding instincts aren’t the only reason my health is in danger.
Another survival instinct is to preserve energy. My ancestors needed energy to hunt and gather. It would be unwise to be in motion for any other reason than to escape a predator or find food. What we call “lazy” today was “self-preservation” for ancient man.
Today there is no real work involved in getting food and predators are typically not a threat, but I still have the instinct to rest to conserve fuel. My ancestors, like all mammals engaged in play. Play was important to maintain and hone skills needed for survival and it was fun. It was perhaps the only source of entertainment.
Today entertainment options are many and many of them of passive or sedentary. This means I live in a world with too much to eat and no need to burn fuel to gather food. I don’t need to be a good hunter or warrior. I can be entertained without being active, indeed, I prefer to be entertained that way!
That lack of balance of available calories and calories necessary to live is what puts my health at risk. Eating too much, sitting too much weakens my body. It makes me vulnerable to metabolic syndrome. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer can be the consequence of my ancient survival instincts.
I am aware of how the present environment affects my health. I have to make conscious choices to override those instincts. I have to stop eating when I feel fullness even though there is more food on my plate and I’d like to eat every last bite. I have to consciously choose physically active ways to be entertained even though recreational eating is one of my favorite sedentary ways to have fun.
These instincts are so strong that I need help to override them.
I need support from other people like me who could easily live like a caveman in a modern world – people like me who would eat too much and move too little. It’s more than a matter of just being aware and monitoring my food and activity. It’s a matter of getting and giving encouragement to folks like me.
My ancient survival instincts could kill me, but there is one ancient survival instinct that serves me well. Humans are gregarious animals. They need each other and they help each other. They create mutually beneficial relationships. Weight Watchers meetings helps me override the instincts that could potentially shorten my life.
I know just how strong those instincts are and that’s why, after all these years, I remain an active Weight Watchers member.