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Did All Hunter-Gatherers Really Have a Lean Body Size?

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
April 15, 2015
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Whether you’re looking at an illustration of a hunter-gatherer in the Paleolithic era with a spear or a photo of modern day advocate in such great shape, they appear to be the perfect specimen of a human, one thing often remains the same: the idea that all hunter-gatherers were lean, mean machines.

But is this theory really all that accurate?

Were there no cavewomen with curves? Or portly cavemen that had a bit of a pouch from overdoing it a little on the honey? (Not-that-funny-jokes aside, sugar consumption is one of the primary causes of extra weight. Top that with not eating fat either, forget about it!)

According to newly presented research,1 fragmentary fossils suggest our genus has come in different shapes and sizes since its origins over two million years ago.

We’re all familiar with how humans as a species have grown taller, wiser and become more adept at decision making as our brains grew, but the idea that our body shape may have its roots date further back in history than Great Aunt Martha and her voluptuous thighs and bum isn’t something that’s discussed that often.

How much does what we eat really factor into the shape of our bodies? Dr. Jay T. Stock,2 co-authored a study from the University of Cambridge's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology that compared measurements of fossils from sites in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Georgia. He found significant regional variation in the size of early humans during the Pleistocene, noting “we can now start thinking about what regional conditions drove the emergence of this diversity, rather than seeing body size as a fixed and fundamental characteristic of a species.”

So, does that mean we should shrug our shoulders, throw in the towel and sigh with disappointment that we’re destined to never achieve that taut tummy or toned thighs we’ve always coveted? Not by a long shot!

What you eat factors in tremendously to how you look. In my experience working with clients over the years, I’d wager to guess that nutrition can play as much as 80% of the role in whether or not an individual resembles the stereotypical hunter gatherer…or the stereotypical modern day American!

While genetics obviously factor into what you look like, we can still control the amount of foods we ingest and our movement. For example, there may be foods we can tolerate better than others based upon our ethnic roots, or our ability to build up endurance to run long distances.

By relying on a sound, true Paleo diet approach, you can reach your own personal best lean body size that combines what nature provided you with and what you choose to nurture yourself.

If you’re 5’6” and 45 years old, you’re not going to get any taller and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do on that end. But if you’re also tipping the scales at 200 pounds at that very same height, you’ve got an incredible opportunity to change your fate (and your body size and shape) by choosing the path to better health, simply by what you’re putting in your mouth.

So, carry on being a hunter-gatherer, even if it is 2015 and you’re not exactly doing the hunting and gathering yourself. Lean body coming soon!

REFERENCES

[1] University of Cambridge. (2015, March 26). Earliest humans had diverse range of body types, just as we do today. Science Daily. Retrieved April 13, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150326204642.htm

[2] Manuel Will, Jay T. Stock. Spatial and temporal variation of body size among early Homo. Journal of Human Evolution, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.02.009

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