Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Feb

Environmental Damage

DriveThruGrok had a lean physique, pearly whites, sturdy bones, and generally fantastic health (aside from trauma and warfare-induced injury) because he was surrounded by the food his body was designed to eat. A new study by Johns Hopkins University has concluded that environment still plays an enormous role in people’s health and wellness.

Poorer people, they found, tend to live in areas with less access to healthy food, while wealthier people have far more access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole, real foods (note that although the researchers’ idea of “healthy” included “skim milk and whole wheat bread,” the foods used to determine whether a neighborhood had access to health food were generally superior to the processed carb-laden fast food fare available in poorer areas). Unsurprisingly, access to healthy food corresponds to quality of diet, so the lower-income kid who walks past ten fast food joints on his way home is more likely to eat fast food (and get fat, along with the laundry list of ailments that accompany poor diet: diabetes, heart disease, etc). “You are what you eat” still holds true, but to that we can add, “You eat what you can access.”

It makes perfect sense to our readers, we’re sure. We, as Primal Blueprinters, base our diet on the same principles guiding the study’s findings: that Grok had access to tons of good stuff, and so he was healthy; and that modern ailments, like obesity, heart disease, and just basic poor health can be largely explained by our access to and the prevalence of unsuitable foods.

Still, we can take something from the researchers’ results (and I don’t mean smugness). It’s important to realize that our environment alone plays a huge role in deciding our food choices. Even the most Primal eater can be tempted by the snack table at work, or the rumble of your empty stomach echoing against the vending machine window. Humans may have instinctual drives to eat the right foods, but they can easily be waylaid by other urges, like convenience or ease-of-access. After all, isn’t that what got humanity into this whole agrarian, agricultural ordeal – the fact that it was simply easier to just grow a bunch of crops, hunker down in a village, get fat and watch your children prosper?

But we are also creatures of rationality. We can conquer our base instincts and intellectualize and justify the helpful ones. If you find yourself surrounded by chain restaurants and corner stores, and it’s getting late and you’d rather just grab a pizza, know that you have the power to stop yourself. Drive, or bike, or walk to that far-off farmers’ market (Grok would often trek for days just to make a big kill). Take the extra ten minutes to prepare an actual meal (and make extra for lunch tomorrow), rather than settle for something you know will only make you feel like crap.

These our difficult times for many people. The world economy is awful, jobs are fragile, fickle things, and buying healthy, organic food requires us to go to great lengths – but we’re better for the struggle because it represents a redoubled effort, a renewed commitment. If you live in one of those areas with less access to healthy foods, use it as motivation to make the right decisions and seek out better food.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to unhealthy food choices – whatever the obstacle.

Further Reading:

It’s My Neighbors Fault I’m Fat

Dining-Out Danger?

Poor People Used to Be Skinny

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. My number one rule – if the food is in your house, you will eat it.

    Therefore, don’t put crap food in your house and you won’t eat crap food. Everything outside of your house takes just a little bit of willpower and the knowledge that eating healthy is better in the long run.

    Zen Frittata wrote on February 28th, 2009
  2. Mark,

    Gonna have to disagree with you on the pearly whites. I am sure Grok’s BREATH could have killed his prey, never mind being a poster child for what crest white strips could do for you!

    Ryan Denner wrote on February 28th, 2009
  3. Ryan…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3243593.stm

    Even ancient man had an idea on how to keep his teeth clean.

    Zen Frittata wrote on February 28th, 2009
  4. I don’t know Ryan. I bet Grok’s breath and his teeth were pretty decent considering he didn’t have modern foods that would cause decay (which results in bad breath and poor tooth enamel). Refer to the teeth of the traditional cultures that Weston Price studied. Their teeth were beautiful!

    Ellen wrote on March 1st, 2009
  5. “Grok had access to tons of good stuff…”

    That depends on where Grok lived. If he was from the Pacific coast of North America, say the Queen Charlotte Islands, Grok was well fed on abundant shellfish, moose, berries, herbs, etc. But if Grok lived in Northern Ontario (like me) then seasonal hunger was common and death by starvation not unheard of.

    Sometimes we portray Grok’s life as ideal, but we must remember that he is a metaphor used to portray what we might aspire to today. In reality, how well Grok fared had to do, primarily, with where he lived.

    Robert Olajos wrote on March 1st, 2009
  6. Robert – If Grok didn’t like what was around him, Grok moved, not like today where you have a mortgage and are stuck with a house in one area, with food being shipped to you. If food was bad in an area for the season he’d go where it was plentiful.

    Starvation occurred when events outside of Grok’s control led him to not be able to travel to get food.

    Grok was a lot more interconnected with the changes of season and how the animals and wildlife were effected by those changes in season.

    Grok’s life also wasn’t ideal…if he broke his leg, he was dead meat. If he got a simple infection it could easily be life threatening. What Mark is trying to portray is if you put together the good things of Grok, plus the good things in our modern life, you have an even better chance than Grok to lead a happy and productive life using the Primal Blueprint.

    This almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about.

    Zen Frittata wrote on March 1st, 2009
  7. Not only does our physical environment affect our food choices, but so does the prevailing mentality within the tribe in which we live.

    new_me wrote on March 1st, 2009
  8. Zen – I stand corrected!

    “if he broke his leg, he was dead meat” – no pun intended, right? :)

    Ryan Denner wrote on March 1st, 2009
  9. Having pearly whites is important to overall good health and particularly to avoiding or controlling diseases like diabetes. Check out my blog at http://www.denstistryfordiabetics.com to learn more about how taking care of your oral health can improve your overall health, especially if you have diabetes.

    Charles Martin, DDS
    Founder, Dentistry For Diabetics

    Charles Martin wrote on March 2nd, 2009
  10. “After all, isn’t that what got humanity into this whole agrarian, agricultural ordeal – the fact that it was simply easier to just grow a bunch of crops, hunker down in a village, get fat and watch your children prosper?”

    Perhaps, but more importantly those that did settle down seem to have been able to whoop up their population density (but not quality of life) significantly. Which meant that they could start to gradually marginalize the hunter-gatherers.

    Fasching wrote on March 3rd, 2009
  11. One weird thing from my past, when I lived in an area of poor hill (sheep) farmers hardly anyone grew their own food and it was almost as if there was a competiton to buy and eat the most crappy processed foods. Here there’s much more emphasis on quality both of output and input. This is noticeable in the health and active longevity of the local population

    Trinkwasser wrote on March 4th, 2009

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