My Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyle
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Zhou Chang-zhen
The last time I took a sick day was ten years ago, but my family was moving to another home that day, so instead of resting I helped my parents. Why am I so healthy? The most important reason is good fortune, obviously, but my lifestyle also plays an important role.
My father’s example has made a big impression on me. My mother says that healthy living has always been important to him, and even as a college student it took some patience to dine with him because his nutritional standards were so high. His favorite kind of meat is fish; every Christmas, we give him a salmon. He adds olive oil to whatever we’re eating. When I talk to him each week, he tells me about his new lifestyle habit. (Last year, it was weightlifting, and this year, it’s breathing exercises.) But seriously, no one believes he’s already 58 years old, and he isn’t a pound overweight, so it’s easy to see his techniques are effective.
The author of Thought and Society advocates exercise and physical labor, and I’m in agreement with him. I believe that our present-day sedentary lifestyles don’t suit human nature. My parents have always encouraged me to exercise daily: I’ve swum and played on sports teams since I was three. In high school, I ran long distance. After running for nine years, my knees started to ache, so I made swimming my primary sport. I’ve been worried about time ever since I started studying at ICLP, so I haven’t made room for swimming, but I stretch and lift weights every day after I wake up, and every other day I ride the dormitory’s exercise bike, run on a free sidewalk, and climb stairwells.
Do you remember the food pyramid? Ever since learning about it, I’ve tried to eat various kinds of food every day. Taiwan Today says the Yamei tribe on Lanyu Island have lived on fish and sweet potatoes for generations. I’d like to try their diet. Because our ancestors had to hunt or gather their food, their diet was small in quantity but abundant in nutrition. We’ve made rich and wheat our staple foods because they’re the easiest to mass-produce, not because they’re the most nutritious. My favorite foods from foreign countries are their healthiest dishes, not their most famous ones, for example Spanish olives, Japanese miso soup and bitter melon, Taiwanese sweet potatoes, sesame, and fruit, and so forth.
Lately I’ve realized that the amount one eats is important, as well. Over the last five years, I’ve lost about 13 kg (29 lb), but I have more energy than before. That’s because I’m listening to my body more. “Listening to my body” means that when I don’t feel hungry anymore, I stop eating. How did I realize this made sense? When I was hiking on Yakushima and Mount Fuji in Japan, eating too much made it harder for me to climb. Because I was exercising at that very moment, I realized that when I was doing homework or the like, I should eat even less. I also realized that eating a little every three hours is more efficient than having three big meals. Should we eat to live or live to eat? I’m not one to restrict fried food, but I do think we should count calories. For example, I think Coca-Cola is a good dessert, but I can’t abide by its status as a substitute for water in America.
Even when I don’t feel well, I don’t take medicine. I heard that viruses can adapt to our drugs, so I don’t want to give them a chance to get stronger; nor do I want to become dependent. I also rarely drink and never smoke; that in itself doesn’t mean I have a healthy lifestyle, but it definitely helps.
My father and I have the same perspective on health, but we also have the same weakness: we don’t sleep enough. In the old days, when it got dark, the temperature dropped, and people didn’t have the energy to do anything else, so they simply went to bed. Today’s society is different; you can work or play 24 hours a day. I don’t like to stop working and go to sleep, myself. But I’m also an early riser; I naturally get up early even on holidays. My teachers and classmates often say I look tired, a clear sign I need to adjust my lifestyle and do my homework a little faster so I can go to bed earlier.
In conclusion, though we don’t need to live in poverty like our ancestors, we should still continue their good habits.