Stand-Up, Kick Off Your Barefoot Shoes

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Recently by Mark Sisson: How Agriculture Ruined Your Health (and What To Do About It)

     

By now, you're all probably thinking the same thing.

u201CWhat else is there?u201D

We've covered diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and sunlight — is there anything else we need to worry about?

Honestly? No. You don't need to worry about the stuff I'm about to tell you. Millions of people don't, and they apparently get along okay.

But then again, the tens of thousands of people I've personally reached usually have the opposite experience. Rather than feel bogged down by this information, they find their lives are incredibly enriched and improved. In short, they never knew that the shoes you wear or the bacteria you're exposed to or the way you sit and stand could have such remarkably positive (or negative) effects on your health and happiness — until they tried this stuff out for themselves.

So, yes, you could focus on the previous six lessons, ignore this one, and get by okay.

But you don't want u201Cokay.u201D You want u201Cfantastic.u201D You want u201Coptimal.u201D

Let's get to it then.

The following represent a litany of other things to consider in your journey toward ancestral, Primal health. These are little tweaks you can make, hacks you can play around with, tools for tinkering and self-experimentation.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

IF involves skipping a meal (or two, or three) on a semi-regular basis. While conventional dietary experts claim if you skip a meal, you'll cannibalize your own muscle, go into starvation mode, and suffer dangerously low blood sugar, the evidence is not on their side. Humans spent millions of years in an environment where they had to hunt and gather if they wanted to eat. If we were built to lose muscle and faint just because we hadn't eaten in four hours, we wouldn't be here today.

In fact, it seems like we are well-suited to missing meals on occasion. There is numerous evidence that fasting not only isn't detrimental, but that it's actually good for us. Potential benefits of IF include, but are not limited to: increased utilization of stored body fat; improved cholesterol numbers and insulin sensitivity; promotion of cellular autophagy, which is how are cells repair themselves and may provide resistance to cancer; increased lifespan (in animal studies); better athletic performance; better appetite control.

One popular method is the 8-on, 16-off schedule, which has you skipping one meal, typically breakfast, and maintaining an eight hour u201Ceating window.u201D So, you skip breakfast, eat lunch around noon, eat dinner around 8 PM, and fast through the night until noon the next day. 8 hours on, 16 hours off, every day.

Another is the full-on 24 hour fast, done once or twice a week. This is exactly like it sounds — just don't eat for a full 24 hours. Eat dinner, go to sleep, and hold off until dinner that day.

My personal favorite eating schedule? Not IF, but WHEN — When Hunger Ensues Naturally.

Just eat when you're hungry. Once you're eating Primal, you'll find that your appetite is more subdued and manageable, and that you can go longer without getting hungry.

I recommend IF to folks who have their appetites under control. If you're just getting started with Primal eating, don't worry about skipping meals. IF can be a nice addition to your toolbox, but not if it's a stressful thing. It should come naturally.

Barefooting

I dunno about you, but I was born barefoot. I’d wager a guess that we all were born barefoot. So why do we think we need to stick our feet in leather/rubber casts all day long? Isn’t that kind of absurd, when you think about it?

Bear with me. Anthropological evidence confirms that our ancestors were walking around upright, just like we do today, over two millions years ago. If you look at the footprints from that era, they are almost identical to the footprints you might leave on the beach today.

This equipment — the bare foot — has been getting humans and their ancestors around for over two millions years, without any need for Nikes or Reeboks. I’d say that’s a pretty good track record.

If you want to try barefooting, start small. Kick off your shoes at the house. Go get the morning paper without slippers. Do some yard work in bare feet. Eventually, work your way up to a ten-minute walk. All the while you’ll be strengthening the hundreds of bones, ligaments, and muscles in your feet. Eventually, you’ll have trouble going back to shoes at all.

I realize that going barefoot isn’t always socially acceptable, so I compromise. If I can’t go barefoot, I’ll wear a pair of soft moccasins, some Vibram Fivefingers, or any shoe that mimics the barefoot experience by employing a flat, even sole without a big pronounced heel that changes how you walk.

Posture and Mobility

Another huge, relatively recent change to the way we experience the world is the way we spend our time. That is, we almost invariably spend more than half our waking hours sitting in a chair, a car, a bus seat, or on a sofa. At work, we sit. To get to work, we sit. When we get home from work, we sit. It’s all sitting, all the time. Unsurprisingly, lower back pain is one of the most common ailments nowadays. Well over 50% of the population of the United States has or has had lower back pain.

Is that normal?

What about our ancestors? Chairs either didn’t exist, in the case of hunter-gatherers, or they were a luxury, in the case of every culture up until the Industrial Revolution. Work was physical, and involved a lot of moving around. In cultures where physical labor remains the norm, you see far fewer incidences of lower back pain, and the people have excellent posture. The “Primal chair” was a full squat, or what I call a Grok squat. You still see this phenomenon in less-industrialized nations — elderly folks sitting in a full squat for hours at a time without discomfort. Can you do the same?

Probably not. Your hip flexors are tight from years of sitting and your joint mobility is shot from years of never having to move if you didn’t want to.

What can we do about it?

Sit less, walk more.

Try a stand-up workstation and check out these tips for desk jockeys.

Check out my series on joint mobility and practice the drills. Learn how our posture has changed over the years (for the worse), and what to do about it.

Work on your Grok squat!

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