Cavemen and Weight Loss

I was a courageous fool last month. I took my daughters camping. One adult, two kids, one boat ride, too much gear, an island off the coast of Southern California – I was outnumbered.

Posted on | Ramani Durvasula, PhD | Comments ()

I was a courageous fool last month. I took my daughters camping. One adult, two kids, one boat ride, too much gear, an island off the coast of Southern California – I was outnumbered.


The trip was spectacular. But so much of camping is about food. Eating it, preparing it, carrying it, putting it away out of the reach of marauding raccoons, cleaning it up.  


When we think about anxiety and obsession in modern terms, it’s about thinking about something all the time, allowing it to preoccupy you.

Many people who are trying to lose weight are like that – they think about their next meal, portion sizes, hunger. Cavemen, though concerned with survival, had to have been the same – where would they get it their food? How would they share it? How would they prepare it?


The campsite I found myself at was interesting. In order to get to the town where supplies like water could be had, it required a one-mile round-trip hike, includng a half-mile uphill. Making a fire was no small task, the site was perched on a bluff above the sea, and the winds all but blew away many of my attempts to ignite the tinder. Between carrying water, building fires, hiding food, retrieving food, and cleaning up afterward – meals required an epic, 2-3 hour aerobic workout. I burned more damn calories fetching water than I did eating the beans.  


And perhaps that is the balance that our evolutionary predecessors were able to achieve. Maybe they achieved a perfect balance between calories in and calories out. When a 1000-calorie salad can be had in 15 minutes via a waiter and a credit card (sadly, we pat ourselves on the back for eating that salad while some burgers would have had less calories) – it’s too easy to eat badly.

Many of us may remember childhoods during which refrigerators were smaller, grocery shopping for fresh ingredients was done more frequently, and less prepared foods were available. Cooking was an effort.


Obviously, today, the right answer is somewhere between slaying and skinning our own dinner and grabbing dinner from the drive-thru. But, I must say my days on that lovely island brought me back to basics. Me and my girls are now spending more time cooking basic food in basic ways, expending effort in the kitchen, and burning calories while making calories. I am eating out less than ever and finding that maintaining a healthy weight has never been easier.  


So, treat your kitchen like a campsite, and see where it gets you. Instead of obsessing about portions and calories – make cooking an adventure.


Happy trails. 

Blog written by Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has over 15 years of teaching, clinical and research experience. After receiving her doctorate in clinical...