The Warrior Diet — Paleolithic Advice for Modern Hunter-Gatherers

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Ori Hofmekler, who once served in the Israeli Special Forces and now paints satirical art and writes about diet and fitness training, bases “The Warrior Diet” on ancient principles and lifestyles, not modern ones. The general theory behind the Warrior Diet is that in ancient times — the primitive hunting and gathering cultures in which mankind evolved physically — people lived differently than we do now. Our bodies physically adapted to that lifestyle and now that we’ve become civilized our bodies are still wanting to live as we did a hundred thousand years ago. Maybe in another million years we’ll physically adapt perfectly to waking up at 7, eating three large meals a day, and doing very little in between except sitting, shitting and sleeping. We’re not there yet, but we’re trying hard.

Your body doesn’t know it’s civilized. Instead, you have the physique of a powerful primeval being capable of traveling 40 miles a day and bringing down an overheated gazelle with your bare hands. You’re adapted to grazing on bits of edibles as you travel, grabbing a plant here and a bug there and drinking water wherever you find it. Every day or two somebody in your clan gets lucky and you score some meat. While you camp and dedicate yourself to eating the mammoth before it spoils, members of your band fan out to dig roots and gather berries and nuts. Everybody chows down and gets a good rest, and then you move on because you’re hungry again.

Problems arise when you try to fit that lifestyle into a modern world built around a commute, eight to 16 hours of work, and taking care of the house. Hey, you’re lucky if you have time to cook your own supper and watch tv. Most of us struggle to get that far, let alone hold to any serious diet or fitness plan. We’re about as wild and free as a cow in a feedlot. Any wildness we can put into our lives will surely benefit everybody, and Hofmekler does have some good suggestions about how to do that.

Several years ago when I worked at a regular job I tried The Warrior Diet and failed at it. Getting through a day with coffee and a glass of water with a slice of lemon for breakfast, fruit juice for lunch, and a handful of berries or vegetables as snacks along the way just didn’t work out for me. Cooking and eating a strictly organized and spartan meal at the end of the day and then going straight to bed didn’t seem like any fun at all, and when I tried it I found that it actually wasn’t. Anyone who works for a living wants to come home with energy to do more than eat a bowl of beans and pass out. After work is when we have our own lives, so the paleolithic lifestyle has to bend a bit to get me interested. I’m not living on the African savannah.

Hofmekler concedes that jumping into the Warrior Diet could be a little rough on a person, and suggests trying it for a couple of days a week at first rather than just leaping into the ancient system. I’d say tinker with the plan a bit before doing any serious leaping. As Hofmekler notes, if you burn lots of calories during your work day, you’ll need more food. If you work hard for a living and burn unusual amounts, you could be putting in more heavy labor than any of your paleolithic ancestors ever did. Put them to work in a mine on their diet plan and they died. I’ve had several jobs that would have killed people living the paleolithic lifestyle. Lots of people today work like slaves of yesteryear. Don’t starve yourself if you need the calories. The general pattern of light but frequent healthy snacks during the day instead of two large heavy meals, followed by a pleasant evening of recreation, exercise and a large delightfully delicious healthy meal does seem attractive and possible. Anyone who tries this idea seriously will have to balance calories with exercise. If you’re training your paleolithic body to sit behind a desk all day and then come home at night to sit behind the tv, you don’t need as much food as you would if you were training for a marathon in your spare time. Plastic reusable fiber food that you can eat once, wash, and eat again, might make more sense if you don’t actually do anything.

Now that I’m setting my own rules and living simply I find that I’ve naturally shifted towards Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet. I don’t use the supplements and I still have a bowl of noodles or oatmeal or brown rice sometime early in the day. I do browse and snack as needed on healthy foods during my work day, saving the cooking and the serious eating for the evening. But damn it, I’m not going to bed immediately after supper. I’ll sleep when I feel like sleeping, and every week I’ll have a bag of jelly beans and a bottle of wine. There has to be some benefit to modern life.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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