Expressing Your “Human-ness”
Posted May 27, 2020 by Matthew Romans
How can we best express our "Human-ness"? What does this mean? How can this improve our health and fitness and even our longevity?
Last week, I listened to Joe Rogan's podcast #1478 with Joel Salatin. If you have never heard of Joel Salatin, he is the owner of Polyface Farms in central Virginia and has become a world-famous advocate of local, small scale, sustainable, organic farming. Salatin has written many books on the subject, including Folks, This Ain't Normal and has contributed countless articles, blogs, and interviews on this farming over the last 30+ years. I highly recommend you not only read Salatin's material but follow his advice and support your local farmers or better yet, become a back-yard farmer yourself.
One of the things Salatin talks about a lot is allowing a chicken to express it's "chicken-ness" or a pig to express it's "pig-ness". What he means is this: chickens were meant to roam around and hunt and peck for worms and bugs and other critters and vegetation. They evolved to roam and feed by day on open pastures and gather up together in a cozy coop at night. When they live like this, chickens live in accordance with their nature, and as a result, the eggs they lay are incredibly nutrient rich, they stay healthy for years, and they benefit the environment they inhabit.
Conversely, industrially raised chickens live 15,000 to a house in confined cages, breathing fecal particulate matter, and fed industrially raised grains (note: when your store bought eggs say "100% vegetarian fed" on the box, that is not natural or healthy for the chicken or for you!) Industrial laying hens are constantly sick and must be given medication to survive. They exhibit extreme antisocial behavior during their shortened, sad lives. Industrially raised chickens also stress the environment a great deal.
Re-listening to Salatin discuss how sustainable farms allow a chicken to experience it's innate "chicken-ness" got me thinking about how we humans can best express our "human-ness". First, we must think about how we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and the ecosystem to which we adapted. Also, we must understand that most of our modern way of life has existed for less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the time humans have roamed the earth. Next, look at the current state of human health in our "modern" world with tens of millions of us sick and dying of western diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Additionally, maladies such as arthritis, poor gut health, joint destruction, and more are literally crippling many of us. Even subclinical issues such as poor sleep, beer guts, and incredibly poor physical conditioning are signs we are not living in a way conducive to thriving. We must conclude how we are living now is NOT helping us express our innate "human-ness". On the contrary, we bear much more resemblance to caged industrial chickens than sustainable grown happy chickens.
So, what can we do to get back our "human-ness" - to not only survive, but thrive, to enjoy our later years, to live a long healthy life rather than suffer for years or decades? I think the answers are right in front of us. My hypothesis is if we return our bodies and minds, as much as is feasible in this modern age, to the environment and ecosystem of our ancestors, our inherent "human-ness" will return and we will be much healthier and happier. Erwan Le Corre, an entrepreneur and founder of an exercise and lifestyle brand called MovNat based on natural movements in natural environments has this quote pinned at the top of his Twitter feed: "You're not sleeping enough, You're not moving enough, You're not bathing in the sunlight, You're not touching the soil, rocks, trees, and plants with your feet and hands, you don't look at the horizon, What are you doing to yourself!" This sums up our situation perfectly.
I don't suggest you go live in a cave and hunt food or become a luddite and shun modern technology and conveniences. However, I do think most of us need to make some rather drastic changes to our lifestyle if we want to get the most out of our bodies, our minds, and our lives:
- Eliminate junk food and eat local, natural, home cooked meals. As author Michael Pollan has said "If your grandmother would not recognize it as food, don't eat it". Focus on great protein sources first (eggs, beef, fish, etc.), then complement with vegetables, nuts, legumes and modest amounts of fruit. Minimize grains and when you do eat grains, eat homemade, locally made, or at the least organic products and eat them as a side, not a main course. (Note: I make my own bread, so of course I eat bread, but there is no need to eat bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner on a daily basis, unless you want to be sick and overweight.
- Get outside more. I don't mean take a walk a few times a week. I mean spend hours outside every day! If its hot, go out in the early morning or evening. If it is cold, bundle up. Humans evolved to be outside all the time and to breathe fresh air and get natural sunlight (Vitamin D). Early humans also interacted with the earth, touching dirt, grass, trees, etc. with their hands and feet. We need that interaction with the bacteria, the nutrients, and the minerals in the earth to be healthy.
- Go barefoot more. I admit I am a shoe wearing fool, even inside. But your feet and toes need exercise and touch to be healthy and strong. Strong feet improve your gait and help solve issues with your ankles, shins, knees, hips, back and even shoulders and neck.
- Stop sitting so damn much! Many of you are white collar professionals who are required to be on your phones or computers many hours a day. Others are retirees who spend a lot of your time reading books or online or watching TV. You know what to do! Move more! All day long! Stand up while in meetings. Take walks while on a conference call. When your workday is over, do NOT sit on the couch and watch Netflix. Instead, go out and garden. Play a round of golf. Take a bike ride. Get in a workout.
- Lift heavy things occasionally. Human skeletal muscle must be challenged in order not to fall into a state of atrophy. Almost every disease of western civilization starts with muscle atrophy, lack of muscular strength, and too much body fat. You must stay strong.
- Sleep more. Aim for 8+ hours per night of sleep. It may not happen at first, but if you turn off your screens and put priority on your sleep, there is no limit to what you can achieve. I have read that Champion Surfer Laird Hamilton sleeps 9 hours per night and he is still doing amazing things on a surf board in his fifties.
Regardless of your current age or condition, if you commit to these practices today, you will see positive changes in your body and in your mental outlook. You will be more physically aware and have more mental acuity. You will move toward your genetic and evolutionary ideal. You will express your Human-ness!