Navigation bar--use text links at bottom of page.

(Fire and Cooking in Human Evolution--continued, Part F)

Health improvements after
becoming ex-vegetarian

Ward, we still have some space here to wrap up Part 2. Given the research you've done, how has it changed your own diet and health lifestyle? What are you doing these days, and why?

I would say my diet right now* [late 1996] is somewhere in the neighborhood of about 85% plant and 15% animal, and overall about 60% raw and 40% cooked by volume. A breakdown from a different angle would be that by volume it is, very roughly, about 1/4 fruit, 1/4 starches (grains/potatoes, etc.), 1/4 veggies, and the remaining quarter divided between nuts/seeds and animal products, with more of the latter than the former. Of the animal foods, I would say at least half is flesh (mostly fish, but with occasional fowl or relatively lean red meat thrown in, eaten about 3-5 meals per week), the rest composed of varying amounts of eggs, goat cheese, and yogurt.

Although I have to admit I am unsure about the inclusion of dairy products on an evolutionary basis given their late introduction in our history, nevertheless, I do find that the more heavily I am exercising, the more I find myself tending to eat them. To play it safe, what dairy I do eat is low- or no-lactose cultured forms like goat cheese and yogurt.*

Where the grains are concerned, so far I do not experience the kind of sustained energy I like to have for distance running without them, even though I am running less mileage than I used to (20 miles/week now as opposed to 35-40 a few years ago). The other starches such as potatoes, squash, etc., alone just don't seem to provide the energy punch I need. Again, however, I try to be judicious by eating non-gluten-containing grains such as millet, quinoa, or rice, or else use sprouted forms of grains, or breads made from them, that eliminate the gluten otherwise present in wheat, barley, oats, and so forth.*

In general, while I do take the evolutionary picture heavily into account, I also believe it is important to listen to our own bodies and experiment, given the uncertainties that remain.

Also, I have to say that I find exercise, rest, and stress management as important as diet in staying energetic, healthy, and avoiding acute episodes of ill-health. Frankly, my experience is that once you reach a certain reasonable level of health improvement based on your dietary disciplines, and things start to level out--but maybe you still aren't where you want to be--most further gains are going to come from paying attention to these other factors, especially today when so many of us are overworked, over-busy, and stressed-out. I think too many people focus too exclusively on diet and then wonder why they aren't getting any further improvements.

Diet only gets you so far. I usually sleep about 8-10 hours a night, and I very much enjoy vigorous exercise, which I find is necessary to help control my blood-sugar levels, which are still a weak spot for me. The optimum amount is important, though. A few years ago I was running every day, totaling 35-40 miles/week and concentrating on hard training for age-group competition, and more prone to respiratory problems like colds, etc. (not an infrequent complaint of runners). In the last couple of years, I've cut back to every-other-day running totaling roughly 20 miles per week. I still exercise fairly hard, but a bit less intensely than before, I give myself a day of rest in between, and the frequency of colds and so forth is now much lower.

I am sure people will be curious here, Ward: What were some of the improvements you noticed after adding flesh foods to your diet?

Well, although I expected it might take several months to really notice much of anything, one of the first things was that within about 2 to 3 weeks I noticed better recovery after exercise--as a distance runner I was able to run my hard workouts more frequently with fewer rest days or easy workouts in between. I also began sleeping better fairly early on, was not hungry all the time anymore, and maintained weight more easily on lesser volumes of food. Over time, my stools became a bit more well-formed, my sex drive increased somewhat (usually accompanies better energy levels for me), my nervous system was more stable and not so prone to hyperreactive panic-attack-like instability like before, and in general I found I didn't feel so puny or wilt under stress so easily as before. Unexpectedly, I also began to notice that my moods had improved and I was more "buoyant." Individually, none of these changes was dramatic, but as a cumulative whole they have made the difference for me. Most of these changes had leveled off after about 4-6 months, I would say.

Something else I ought to mention here, too, was the effect of this dietary change on a visual disturbance I had been having for some years prior to the time I embarked on a disciplined Hygienic program, and which continued unchanged during the two or three years I was on the traditional vegetarian diet of either all-raw or 80% raw/20% cooked. During that time I had been having regular episodes of "spots" in my visual field every week or so, where "snow" (like on a t.v. set) would gradually build up to the point it would almost completely obscure my vision in one eye or the other for a period of about 5 minutes, then gradually fade away after another 5 minutes. As soon as I began including flesh in my diet several times per week, these started decreasing in frequency and over the 3 years since have almost completely disappeared.

What problems are you still working on?

I still have an ongoing tussle with sugar-sensitivity due to the huge amounts of soft drinks I used to consume, and have to eat fruits conservatively. I also notice that I still do not hold up under stress and the occasional long hours of work as well as I think I ought to, even though it's better than before. Reducing stress and trying not to do so much in today's world is an area I really pay attention to and try to stay on top of. My own personal experience has been that no matter what kind of variation of the Hygienic or evolutionary "Paleolithic" diet I have tried so far, excessive prolonged stress of one sort or another (whether physical or mental) is a more powerful factor than lapses in diet in bringing on symptoms of illness, assuming of course that one is consistently eating well most of the time.

And Chet, this brings up something I also want to emphasize: Just as you've freely mentioned about yourself here in H&B on numerous occasions, I'm not perfect in my food or health habits, and I don't intend to set myself up as some sort of example for anyone. Like anyone else, I'm a fallible human being. I still have the occasional extra-cheese pizza or frozen yogurt or creamy lasagna or whatever as treats, for example. Not that I consider having those on occasion to be huge sins or anything. I stick to my intended diet most of the time, but I don't beat myself up for the indiscretions. I would hope other people don't beat themselves up for it either, and that we can all be more forgiving of each other than that.


(UPDATES TO PART 2: Earliest Cooking? / Mismatch of Grains/Dairy with Human Physiology)

Return to beginning of interviews



GO TO PART 1 - Setting the Record Straight on Humanity's Prehistoric Diet and Ape Diets

GO TO PART 2 - Fire and Cooking in Human Evolution

GO TO PART 3 - The Psychology of Idealistic Diets / Successes & Failures of Vegetarian Diets

Back to Frank Talk by Long-Time Insiders

   Beyond Veg home   |   Feedback   |   Links