Human beings evolved to hunt wild animals and to gather nuts, fruits, berries, greens, and other forageable plant foods. We first learned to understand our individual lives and to get along with one another in small, mobile groups.
Our bodies adapted to our needs as hunter-gatherers, enabling us to chase down game, to walk long distances, and to squat on our haunches when we needed a break.
Our brains adapted to keep us safe in a world in which we were among the weakest, slowest, most edible critters around. We became super-mindful of our surroundings. We honed a "fight or flight" response that kept us out of the clutches of predators. When we met new people, we learned to distinguish between authentic camaraderie and malevolent treachery.
Our spirits adapted to appreciate the wonder around us, all of it natural and nearby.
When it came time to work, most early humans were highly skilled generalists, equally adept at navigating terrain, crafting a stone spear point, setting a rabbit trap, discerning edible from poisonous plants, starting a fire, and knowing where to find potable water.
The "Paleo Office" Mismatch
Life is different now.
- Most of us work at desks all day, repetitively clacking away at keyboards and swiping at computer screens.
- We are employed by big organizations, doing complex, abstract work.
- We live in large cities, surrounded by strangers.
- Our comfortable homes feature well-stocked refrigerators, but we have little sense of the origin or our food.
- We rely more each year on labor-saving gadgets that minimize our need to do physical activity.
- We don't know how to make or maintain the gadgets in our lives.
- We need world-wide networks of powerful computers to manage the information that drives our lives.
- Our conception of happiness is driven as much by external expectations as by our intrinsic human wisdom.
- We interact with friends, family, and co-workers in virtual terrain as often as in real life.
We still occupy the same bodies that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years on the sub-Saharan savanna, but we live in radically different circumstances.
The term "paleo" is sometimes used when describing this mismatch between our evolutionary heritage and our situation in the modern world. Whatever you call it, much of our current illness, discomfort, and unhappiness can be traced back to these mismatches.