[Photo: JM Cameron]
November 24, 2009 marked the marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the book with the highest impact in my life to date: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Not to trivialize this moment, but I like to think the publication was planned in conjunction with the oncoming winter and holiday season—it makes perfect sense to me.
Take a moment today to let this sink in:
Your body took 3.5 billions years of perfect, your family tree goes back 3,500 million years, and the core of your being was founded on algae, bacteria, and fungi. How cool is that? We are sooo lucky! In fact, next year I’m personally celebrating my 3,540th birthday. Shaka that!
Every remnant of your body and how it functions was put there to adapt to an environmental stressor. Single-celled organisms leaked molecules into the surrounding milieu as a primitive communication method. As cells clumped together to join forces, where the whole became greater than the sum of its parts, these communication methods became more elegant. Smell was born, hormones were born, and a whole host of communication methods were refined through the ages.
I love evolution!
Fast forward to modern day and consider what a normal day looks like for you. Are you moving around?
What are your daily activities, or lack thereof, telling your body?
As we bounce back from maybe too much food from the holiday break, remember, if you aren’t moving around, your body thinks hard times are coming and it wants to conserve energy. (Read: fat is not burned = you’re gaining unwanted weight.) Even just a quick walk around a few blocks or a short swim can convince your body otherwise—to convince it to stop conserving and burn those calories!
As we evolved in hunter-gatherer societies, we went from times of sporadic feasts after a plentiful spring, summer, and fall to times of famine, where the body clings on to every morsel it can get it’s hands on. How does you body know when to let go of stored energy (fat, glycogen, etc.)? When it chases after a boar! If you’re not chasing (or being chased), you’re telling your body to prepare for winter. And by not chasing boars, you’re also triggering an evolutionarily developed low-grade depression (the winter blues).
Remember the three biggest signals…
…to trigger our to body to decay (I’m using the word decay to mean immune system decline, muscle atrophy, loss of joint lubrication, fat store boost, and a depressed mood):
- withdrawal from social contact
- eating when you’re not hungry
- a sedentary lifestyle
While the holidays and winter go into full swing, remember to avert the three signals! You’ll feel better, you’ll tell your body not to decay, and you’ll come out of winter ready to chase that boar! And, I’ll try to do the same. Forgive me if you get a random email from me, I’m probably just trying to give myself more signals to not decay.
(Note: Clinical depression and disease are not my focus here, which often require medical treatment. In this post, I’m talking about the winter blues, colds, sore joints, unwanted weight gain, and the like. Although, many classic disease states are often layered over less-than-ideal life style choices and could be improved by altering your diet, exercising, and striving to ensure social connection. You’ve now reached the end of the fine print.)
Create a great day!
Visit previous posts in the Your Body is a Fortress series.