Of Food, Land and Dreams

Accepting Cycles

Big, fluffy snowflakes fell from the sky and quickly covered the sidewalks, gravel alleyways and brown grass along the route back to my apartment. Though not wearing appropriate clothing for winter weather, I was warm from jogging and euphoria.

snowing-apartment

My apartment in a snow storm

I still remember that euphoria a year later. I had walked to the gym, completed a high intensity work-out and during the jog back home, started to feel my metabolism easily shift into ketogenesis. It was a body-mind connection that felt so interconnected to my environment. There were no more plants to eat, only animals– and I was a well-equipped, warm-blooded winter-beast.

After weeks of jogging through the snow to work-out I felt I had established a brand new level of fitness and lifestyle. The money I received as a Christmas present was used to buy sashimi-grade fish that I would wolf-down raw with a brown banana post-workout. My recovery time was untouchable and I made more gains than I had before or since then. I was never sore, my arthritis symptoms completely disappeared and I glowed with health.

As always happens, the initial success that came from a lifestyle built on an intuitive cycle was treated with protocols and rules in an attempt to prolong the success, the recovery time and the euphoria. A little self-righteousness was cultivated. However, as always, I failed to lengthen the benefits; the stricter I became, the harder I crashed.

I believe in a mind-body connection that signals more than just when to eat but what to eat. Cravings for specific nutrients or substances become clearer when you are sick or deficient. Pica is a good example of this.

Diets can stand between what we feel like eating with ideas of what we “should” be eating according to guidelines of past selves or another person. It may succeed, but long-term it is doomed to fail.

When the Body Fails

With food-choices that involve the fruit of tropical countries, the oil and grain accumulated from crops and highly-palatable food and beverage additives, it will always get tricky. Our ancestors were hunter and gathers for around 2 million years and agriculturalists for about .005 of this time. In the environment of our ancestors, we needed to consume easy carbohydrates as they were available. In human groups that moved beyond Africa in the Ice Age, it would have been crucial for them to consume copious amounts of summer and fall fruit to gain fat (future energy) for the winter. Fruit, sugar and fat are all highly palatable to us, and this has been of incredible importance to humankind.

However, in a human-made environment of over-abundance we are doomed to overconsume. I believe overconsumption is the major cause of many of our modern illnesses, most of which stem from the inflammation this habit induces.

Some media references:

Video: Chris Masterjohn on Oxidative Stress & Carbohydrate Intolerance

Podcast: Dr. Perlmutter on Robb Wolf’s Podcast talking about Carbohydrates and Brain Degeneration (among other things)

The Land

The land used to shape us, now we shape the land.

plant-food

Two failed attempts at attaining plant food this summer. By the time I found the Saskatoon berries (left) most were already eaten and the rest were dry. And by the time I broke down and bought chicken wire to keep the squirrels from digging out my balcony garden, my plants had little time to grow before it got too cold.

Women’s bodies are the vessels of reproduction and will always be extremely sensitive to environmental cues. I’ve been reading Wenda Trevathan’s “Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives: How Evolution has Shaped Women’s Health” and have been intrigued by one of her explanations for reproductive problems. PMS, she notes, is probably much more common among affluent women than women in health-poor populations because of relatively high levels of ovarian hormones, stimulated by higher consumption of calories/nutrients. The drop of these hormones is then experienced as a much more dramatic “withdrawal”, triggering physical and psychological symptoms.

Strangely, I think many modern discomforts are a result of over-“health”. Many of us in the west are near obsessed about our health, even taking supplements on top of calorie- and nutrient-rich diets.

I have come to realize in my own health-endeavors that real health comes from two things: a mind-body connection and a body-land connection.

The land has held us captive, bred us and supported us. Ancestral health is more than a should and should-not food-list, it is an acknowledgement that we are a species shaped by past environments and seasons. We are highly adaptive to many different environments, and will adapt to the human-made environment. But there will be trade-offs.

My Dream

Image

My more recent ancestors were farmers, still connected to the land and season. This photograph is from the Keen family (my mother’s side), Saskatchewan, sometime before 1960.

The coyotes are more adapt to city-life than I. Though my recent ancestors were farmers, I have a leaky gut that causes reactions to grain and milk products flare arthritic pain and produce acne. On top of that, overconsumption in my youth led to insulin resistance and hormonal problems. In the city, I feel like one of those time-paradox duplicates from Futarama that is fated to be erased; my body doesn’t work in this time period.

Being a ketogenic snow-beast, a late summer berry and rose-hip forager and a balcony-gardener has shown I am best adapted for life, at worst, on the fringe, at best in the wilderness. As I have said before, I do not mind being nature’s bitch. Being held hostage by seasonality, nutrient-availability and stress have healed, rather than damaged.

My dream is of a girl who left. My favourite materialistic possessions have been backpacks from mountain equipment co-op— my small yellow trail-running bag and my olive green bag that has hauled textbooks and food around for the past ten years. I’m not sure if I’d ever leave civilization completely, but I long to learn subsistence hunting and become a better forager. The Rocky Mountains have always felt like home. I will defiantly claim the boreal and mountainous regions of Alberta as my land.

crypt2013-5

Crypt Lake, Alberta, 2013

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