port of harlem magazine
nubia k essentials
Why Modernity Makes Us Sick and How Ancestral Living Can Heal
Nov 04 – Nov 17, 2021

The more we understand about human evolution, the more we are forced to conclude that we were never designed to live the modern lifestyle. We evolved to be bipedal gatherers and hunters on the African savannah; today many of us spend our days hunched over a desk.

We evolved in close-knit communities that hunted together, gathered together, played together, prayed together, told stories together, and made music together. Today most of us see more people every day on a screen of some kind than we meet in real life. We evolved to spend much of the day under the hot sun; today most of us spend nearly all of our time completely protected from the elements.

Modern culture encourages us to see ourselves primarily as consumers and not as fully rounded human beings with diverse interests and abilities. This certainly has its upsides. I wouldn’t know how to survive in the Arctic, but I have been able to purchase food and shelter in Russia despite sometimes having to navigate a language barrier. That convenience can sometimes go too far.
Just as a moth cannot resist the flame that will kill it, many of us cannot resist the seven carbohydrate-rich foods that we know are killing us (albeit more slowly than a moth attracted to a flame).
Modern capitalist cultures can tap into our basest instincts - which ultimately are about a drive to stimulate certain hormonal responses - in the constant push to get us to spend our money. Modern culture tends to pressure us to define ourselves through our job - what we do, how much we earn, and therefore what we can consume - rather than through deeper more meaningful identities.

When it comes to food, our biology is constantly being used against us. Historically humans would not have had access to sugary foods and when they did they would have to battle bees or bears or elephants for it. But those foods were packed with a lot of energy in a world where energy was scarce. That’s a huge advantage. So, if by chance we were able to access those foods, it would be of huge benefit to consume as much of them as possible. Is it any wonder that most of us have a sweet tooth?

Processed foods take this to a whole new level. Food laboratories design smells and tastes that border on irresistible. It’s important to understand that in this case irresistible is almost a literal truth. Just as a moth cannot resist the flame that will kill it, many of us cannot resist the seven carbohydrate-rich foods that we know are killing us (albeit more slowly than a moth attracted to a flame).

There are biochemical reasons for this - the hormones that we’ve evolved for good reasons are being used to manipulate us into consuming more processed hyper-palatable foods. Those processed hyper-palatable foods displace real foods - the nutrient dense meats, fish, eggs, and vegetables that are more consistent with foods humans would have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years. The result is that our diets have too much energy and too little nutrition.

Studies show that obese people – that is people who are storing excess amounts of energy in their internal fat stores – are more likely to have a number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including deficiencies in vitamins A, D, B1, B9, B12, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, and Chromium.3 We are overfed and undernourished.

And that’s not all. For most of human history, the sun was the primary source of light. The sun contains the full spectrum of light. Our eyes see blue light – this is present in the sun and in modern light bulbs – as a signal to wake up. Fires, which have been around longer than modern humans, produce light in the red spectrum, so blue light would have been something our ancestors were exposed to only by day.
Note:  Sameer Dossani is a health and nutrition coach based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was born in Washington, DC and has lived in several countries including Canada, Australia, the Philippines, and India. Sameer questions the foundations of modern societies and to study anthropology as a way to critique economic systems. In his view, these systems are archaic and outdated- they don’t serve us. That can be seen in many aspects of our lives, including our health. He is expected to complete his Doctorate in Anthropology in 2022 which will focus on these issues.

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