Something strange has happened. After eons of hunting, gathering and wildly adaptive and unpredictable omnivorism, modern science and pop culture has somehow decided that humans are better off by eating in a different way. Small meals spread throughout the day, preferably plant based and full of fiber. Never going too long between eating much less missing a meal, especially breakfast. Grazing on little bits of food to make sure we don’t eat too much when we actually have a meal. A perpetual state of feeding. Does this seem right?
Should omnivores act like herbivores?
Grazing on small meals throughout day and ultimately eating basically all plants? Are we cows?
If I were to ask the opposite, “should people act like carnivores?” with a feast of meat every few days, most people would say, of course not, that’s ridiculous.
So why is it that we think that the idea of grazing on 5-6 small meals every 2-3 hours of a mostly plant based diet is appropriate for the omnivorous human race?
Rethinking Human “Vorism”
– Herbivores eat plants and eat frequently, sometimes eating for a majority of the day.
– Carnivores eat animals and have sporadic eating times, often going days without eating.
– Omnivores eat plants and animals and have a varying meal frequency, depending on food availability and recent intake.
Humans are omnivores and have been for a long time. Were some of our very distant relatives mostly plant eaters? Yes. Were some of our distant relatives mostly carnivorous? Yes. Were virtually all the rest of humans and human ancestors throughout history omnivores? Yes.
Somehow, however, we (and I’m not quite sure who although the general medical, nutrition and health community is likely the culprit) seem to have decided that these long formed, evolved and wide ranging human adaptations are no longer advantageous and we are better suited as something more simple, primitive and docile. In the last few decades we have basically decided to turn humans into herbivores.
Just because we can eat all day doesn’t mean we have to or that it’s good for us to do so.
Humans are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they eat what they can when they can. We have the biology to digest and process both plants and animals relatively equally. In essence, we have a jack of all trades digestion. We aren’t animal or plant specific. We can and should eat both. There are no biological rules stating we can’t eat meat- that’s something we made up not too long ago. Vegetarianism and veganism is a very new concept. Just because we can eat only plants doesn’t mean we have to or that it’s good for us to do so.
What About Those Apes?
Some people say “look at chimpanzees or gorillas, they eat mostly plants all day and they are our closest living relatives…” To which I say, “That’s nice, but I’m not a gorilla.” The way I look at it, either you believe in creation and there would be no reason for a human to eat like an ape of any kind or you believe in evolution in which our ancient ancestors split from other apes 5+ million years ago and have followed completely different evolutionary adaptations, leaving them with much different biologies and survival behaviors. End result either way: we are not gorillas or chimpanzees and it doesn’t make sense to use their eating behaviors as a guide for humans.
The smartest solution is to find a middle ground and be flexible. Eat both plants and animals and eat when you’re hungry. Go periods eating more plants, likely eating more frequently, and go periods eating more animals, likely eating less frequently. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If you have a big meal, particularly if it’s heavy on dense animal matter, go longer before your next meal. In essence, act like an omnivore. Eat a nice mix of all kinds of foods and don’t fixate on either herbivorian or carnivorian eating and life styles.
Personally, I don’t want my life to revolve around food, as most herbivores and psuedo herbivores live. I’ve been there and it stinks. Eating small, frequent meals and constantly wondering when the next meal is coming, perpetually living in a state of hunger because I never quite filled myself up or I didn’t eat enough dense, nutrient rich (particularly animal) food. In my busy world (and the world of many I know), eating like an herbivore is inconvenient and unfulfilling, particularly when done for too long or too extremely. Trying to plan meals for a 12 hour day when you need to eat every 2-3 hours is more trouble then it’s worth and doesn’t really make any sense when you think of human biology and adaptation. If we have a mixed metabolism that allows us to digest denser animal foods that nourish and sustain us for longer periods of time (allowing us to not have to constantly obtain food), why wouldn’t we follow nature’s lead and eat a bit less frequently?
I like eating less frequently. I like skipping meals and feasting now and then. I like not having a structured meal plan. I like going on plant kicks and animal kicks. I like eating frequently sometimes. I like periods of abundance and periods of scarcity. Most importantly, I like being able to have flexibility with how I eat. Much of human history has forced us into opportunistic, adaptive and flexible omnivorism. Now, we have a choice and I choose to respect human history by being eating like an omnivore.
Obviously, we can all eat however we want but the point to all this is you don’t have to (no matter how many magazines say it) eat like an herbivore to be healthy or lose weight.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!