A Stone Age Subculture Takes Shape in the US

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A modern-day
Stone Age subculture is developing in the United States, where wannabe
cavemen mimic their distant ancestors. They eat lots of meat, bathe
in icy water and run around barefoot. Some researchers say people
led healthier lives in pre-historic times.

John Durant
greets the hunter-gatherers of New York once a month in his apartment
on the Upper East Side. They eat homemade beef jerky, huddle around
the hearth and swap recipes for carpaccio with vegetables or roasted
wild boar.

Often enough,
the host will deliberately skip a few meals the next day. After
all, didn’t his earliest ancestors starve a little between hunts?
Instead of eating, Durant prefers to run barefoot across Brooklyn
Bridge. In the winter, he takes part in the Coney Island Polar Bear
swim in the icy Atlantic.

The 26-year-old
and the other members of the New York group promoting what they
term "Evolutionary Fitness" (EF) are part of a growing
subculture that seeks health and happiness by emulating their Paleolithic
forefathers. This diehard clan of modern-day cavemen call themselves
"hunter-gatherers" or "paleos." Their philosophy
is based on the idea that the human body is best suited to the lifestyle
of the people who roamed the Earth tens of thousands of years ago.

Not surprisingly,
the diet of these 21st-century hunter-gatherers is packed with meat.
But they also practice climbing, sprinting and leaping as it they
still lived in fear of marauding mammoths. Some even donate blood
as part of their Stone Age existence. After all, hadn’t their forebears
spilt a lot of blood fighting saber-toothed tigers and their ilk?

Attuned
to the Rhythm of the Seasons

"What
did people eat back then? How did they move about? And what does
it mean for us today?" Durant asks. The answers, he suggests,
are obvious. Human genes are perfect for a nomadic existence; for
the life of a hunter-gatherer attuned to the rhythm of the seasons.

"Prehistoric
life was a very long camping trip with no camp stove or energy bars
to get us through," says Arthur De Vany. The retired economics
professor is something like the movement’s guiding force. "We’re
not trying to idealize Stone Age Man," he says. However, he
does think that evolution allows us to make some inferences about
how we could lead healthier, happier lives.

De Vany and
his wife Carmela live in a small settlement called Washington in
the Utah desert. Their lounge window looks out over a lush green
golf course. "I often sprint a bit out there in the morning,"
72-year-old De Vany says. For the past 25 years he’s been following
a plan of his own devising. His body is like that of an athletic
45-year-old. He’s 185 centimeters (6’1") tall, and weighs 95kg
(210 pounds) – "with just 8 percent body fat." De
Vany can hit a golf ball 250 meters (275 yards), and likes to test
his muscles by pulling his Land Rover with a rope.

This born-again
caveman exercises no more than twice a week, and for barely an hour
each time. He thinks continuous exertion like jogging is harmful.
"Have you ever tried to butcher a mammoth with a stone?"
the fitness guru asks. The key to happiness à la De Vany
lies in short but intense physical activity.

He also sets
himself strict nutritional rules. Paleo food may consist only of
the kind of things that our ancient ancestors would have eaten.
Muesli? An abomination in the eyes of this modern-day Fred Flintstone.
Spaghetti? "A plate full of sugar," De Vany counters.
He considers carbohydrates of all kinds to be hellish. Followers
of EF shun potatoes, chocolate, pizza and bread as well as milk,
cheese and refined oils. Instead there’s lots of game and fish,
fresh vegetables, seeds and fruit.

Freezing
Nights without Clothing

"We try
to only eat what was around before the invention of agriculture,"
De Vany explains. And variety is the spice of life. One morning
Carmela serves roast turkey with bacon for breakfast, another day
there’s half an avocado.

Read
the rest of the article

March
4, 2010

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