Imagine yourself dropped into a lush but remote landscape with nothing to eat or drink. At first, you’re too freaked out to even think about food, but soon it’s the only thing on your mind. What do you do?
Slowly, you sharpen your gaze and begin to forage. On your hands and knees, you crunch into bits of plants, seeds, nuts, and fruit-like looking things and pray they’re not poisonous. Soon you stumble into some blackberry brambles and gorge yourself. You recognize a walnut tree and get to cracking. A rabbit darts past and you wonder if you’d be able to catch, kill, and cook a bunny. No…you decide the fruits and nuts are much easier.
At first you feel like hell as your body struggles to filter out the toxic goo that’s leftover from your usual diet. After a few days, you drink deeply from a cold, clear running stream and realize that the chronic low-grade headache is gone, your foggy brain has cleared, and you actually feel pretty good.
The daily search for food involves walking for miles and miles, but soon you notice that the muscles in your legs have become lean and defined. The initial concern about your bowel movements has eased and you have a sense of inner cleanliness and the efficiency of your digestive system.
Within a few weeks you have sourced a good variety of plant foods including avocado, citrus, nuts, seeds, greens, sprouts, and roots. After a few months you feel and look great with clear skin, hair, and eyes. You are once again a pure example of Homo sapiens, the most advanced two-legged creature on earth.
Then, just as quickly as you were lost, you are rescued. Safely back at home.
You return to a modern world filled with processed foods. Upon sampling them again, you find the flavors aggressive and foul. Your taste buds have evolved during your survival adventure and you no longer take pleasure in cookies, candy, chips, or any of the other types of fake food in your cabinets.
Television and the internet offend you, the sounds and images of the news and other daily human dramas seem pointless and petty. You crave movement: walking, bending, stretching, and you find being indoors for any length of time intolerable. Everything about you has changed. You have become a natural being and anything unnatural is now stressful and abrasive.
Eventually you adapt to everyday life and meals with family and friends, cocktails, movie nights, and holiday parties. You return to work and the time-consuming maintenance of all your material possessions. Soon the dedication to your plant-based diet begins to wane. Processed carbs, sugar, dairy, and low-quality proteins creep back in. Cheap, convenient foods replace fruits and veggies and it’s a chore to even drink water.
Busy with work and family, you no longer have time for walking and your energy level begins to drop. You start gaining weight and find you can’t sleep. The foggy brain is back. In a few weeks you are back to being Homo unhealthiens, the slowest and sickest two-legged creature on earth.
This scenario may seem extreme, but consider the measures we take to achieve the results of the castaway diet: We spend countless dollars on deprivation diets and fad programs. We buy gym memberships and attend expensive weight loss camps. We choose to have bariatric surgery and other elective procedures. We purchase vitamins, supplements, and anti-aging cosmetics. We have ready-to-eat health food delivered right to our door. Yet we’re still unhealthy.
So I humbly suggest that we try living like our imaginary castaway. To quote Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I think I would add: Stop sitting. Move around. Every day. And perhaps also: Put down the phone. Look around. Talk to someone. Living healthy is really pretty simple when you think about it. Start by eating clean, whole, organic foods and going for a brisk walk every day. That’s a recipe for simple, smart, and achievable wellness.