I have a friend who is getting on a bit and is in fact retired, but who, despite this, is rather annoyingly fit. He’s not amazingly slim, but just seems to look rather well for his age. What’s more, he’s quite active – going for a fair number of walks, swimming regularly, and doing a spot of yoga too.
He told me an interesting story recently about the way other people respond to his fitness and his lifestyle.
“They seem to be desperately trying to tell me that I am not fit, not all right, and indeed quite likely to be rushed off to hospital tomorrow,” he said. “If they ever ask me what I do to stay fit, I tell them, and then they give me a long lecture on how this is not the right thing to do.”
Now the interesting point in all this is that my chum doesn’t follow any particular diet plan or any regulation activity regime. He’s not a smoker, but he does partake of alcohol, he likes his puddings and is known occasionally to consume chocolate, custard, ice creams and so on.
Recently, in desperation, one of his friends tried to find a sure-fire reason why, despite looking ok and not having any known illnesses that are likely to knock him down in the next couple of hours, he really shouldn’t be too pleased with himself.
“I didn’t know I was pleased with myself,” he told me, “but apparently I seem to give that impression – which is something I am going to have to stop.”
“But what were you told to do in order to stay alive?” I asked.
“Well,” he replied, “I was basically told to eat like a caveman. All this modern-day food I was consuming was wrong for me, because the human digestive systems have not changed since the stone age, so I should have a more stone age diet.”
“You mean like more stones?” I asked frivolously. It earned me a scornful look.
“Our bodies were not built for sitting around all day, and having cooked apples and custard apparently.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I replied, but then seeing the look once more decided not to press the point.
“We were built for running away from big animals, hunting down little animals, and gathering up fruit and veg,” I was told. “Since we are still the same sort of homo sapiens as our stone age ancestors, we ought to eat the same as they did.”
“And go hunting cats and dogs?” I asked.
“Quite possibly,” he said, “but I think that bit is not obligatory. The main point is not to be sitting around at computers all day. We have changed too quickly for our genes, and they can’t catch up with us, so our genetic makeup and our food intake is all out of balance.”
“So what should you eat?” I asked.
“Not just me,” he said, “all of us. We should all be eating nuts, vegetables, game, fish and fruit. Get rid of the grains and the dairy. No more milk.”
“That’s all right,” I said, “I quite like black coffee,” but his scowl told me I was still not taking this as seriously as I should be.
But he changed direction. “You’re quite right to mock though, we have evolved,” he said. “We didn’t start drinking milk in gallons overnight, and gradually our systems have developed so that we can. That is part of natural evolution – as long as there is enough time available, life forms change their diet to suit whatever there is around.”
“So we shouldn’t try to eat what the cavemen ate?” I asked, proffering a biscuit and deciding that I could give myself some milk in the coffee. I’d lied about liking it black.
“Trouble is, we don’t really know what cavemen actually ate. The few bits of evidence we have seem to suggest that different cavemen in different parts of Europe ate different things.”
“So you mean they might have had Cornish pasties in Cornwall, but Yorkshire puddings up north.,” I ventured.
“I still don’t think you are taking this seriously,” he replied and we decided that yes, as there was nothing particularly pressing to do, a second biscuit would be most satisfactory.