We are nature

In most things the wild animal is my role model. We would all do better if we relearned how to be good animals. – Arthur DeVany, PhD

The passion I have for my work has always been rooted in my interest in the interconnections between humans and nature. This interest was the primary lens I used throughout my education. It led me into the wilderness to teach, and across the globe to work on environmental health issues. 

“Interconnected.”

But humans and nature aren’t just interconnected. As in two separate things connected to one another.

They are actually one and the same.

Seems like an obvious thing, though it’s as if I was always looking just shy of that fact. I guess I was entrenched in the (common) idea that we are separate from nature. Above it. 

But, whether we like to admit it or not, we are mammals. We have a biological name, as do all other mammals. And plants. And every other living thing. All life is pretty much made of the same elements. It wasn’t until a personal experience related to my own health when I learned how critical it is that I, we, remember this fact.

For over a decade I struggled with several nagging health issues. The medical advice I sought over the years helped me deal with the symptoms, and for that I’m grateful. But nothing ever approached healing or a remedy. 

But then something did…

Earlier in my career I worked on global health issues in several countries. I worked in mostly rural areas of mainly subsistence farming families. These were beautiful places, but also demanding places. Little modernity had found its way to these communities, leaving residents with not much more than the land, surface and rain water, the sun, and each other. This way of life is hard. Not only does it require the kind of work few ‘industrialized’ people will ever know, it also comes with very little, if any, access to medical care, safe drinking water, and other essential resources. I am in no way glamorizing this way of life. There is too much unnecessary struggle, depravation, and early death in many of today’s resource challenged places.

By every measure we would label these communities as poor. Despite that, a majority of the resindents were free of many of the chronic diseases we see today in much of the ‘developed’ world, particularly in the US. A humble truth also witnessed in the few non-industrialized indigenous cultures remaining on the planet today. 

These subsistence farming communities did struggle, with basic things that should be available to all humans today. Yet, though living what we would label as a hard life, so many were healthy and fit, resilient.  (This is a generalization based on my own observations. And, this is not representative of all subsistence farming communities today.)

They didn’t have fancy “health foods.” Or take supplements. Or go to a gym. They didn’t get their self-care instructions from a book or the internet, nor did they have modern ‘conveniences’ such as synthetic agricultural inputs. Still, they managed—when basic needs were met—to be robustly healthy. Healthier in fact than the average (access rich) American.

This was so telling.  

This dichotomy I experienced opened me in ways only exposure to new places, cultures, and people can. It allowed me to see “health” with new eyes. I began doing research from this new perspective, which led me back to the beginning. 

And I began to see what was always right in front of me, in front of us: 

Today, we humans are at our core made up of DNA that evolved over 2.5 million years under circumstances, pressures and inputs, dictated by our environment, dictated by nature. And our DNA today is largely the same—it hasn’t changed much (although our modern nature-less and polluting ways are influencing the way our DNA is behaving). Therefore, our approaches to protecting our health and avoiding disease should reflect the fact that our DNA still requires what it evolved and thrived on for a long, long time. 

This just made sense. And is painfully simple, yet so far from the health model that dominates.

We spend so much time trying to figure out the secrets to protecting our health, while the way has been with us all along.

We evolved in nature, and are in fact nature. We need what nature has intended for us, and has always provided for us, to function optimally and express our fullest potential as human beings. 

When I adopted this view for myself and let it inform my decisions, it led to re-thinking everything. And when I updated my understanding of my body—its relationship to the outside world, and what it actually needs and must avoid—my symptoms corrected themselves almost immediately.  Over fifteen years of dealing with several health issues, gone. Not only that, I now felt amazing in ways I wasn’t expecting: I was stronger, I no longer caught colds, my mind was brighter and sharper, I felt a calm centeredness yet energized…a natural motivation overcame me that didn’t require willpower or self-negotiation. 

I felt more alive. 

Before this transformation I was starting to believe that it was normal to have a few health issues, because after all that is so common now. But, this isn’t “normal.” We’ve come to accept so many things about our health and energy and moods that we shouldn’t accept: our current health issues are largely a result of the mismatch between what our genes want and our choices—the way we live today. 

The tricky part is I thought I was making the right choices. I had always been conscientious when it came to taking care of myself. For years I followed the mainstream advice on how to live healthfully. But that didn’t help me, and turns out it was the root cause of my issues. 

When I let a different paradigm in, it changed me. For the better.

And it woke me up to the realization that no one entity has all the answers, has the cure, or holds the truth. It would make sense to put our faith in our esteemed institutions, but even they have agendas, blind spots, archaic policies, and human flaws.

When it comes to our health, I learned a valuable lesson: question everything, and, don’t forget that the simplest answers are often the answers.

When I started to see myself differently in this modern world, and let that inform my behaviors not only did it change my diet and other self-care practices, it changed the way I viewed our way of life today. 

Despite our modern ways, we’re not modern. 

This was the biggest lever for me—it was what turned my life inside out. I realized that I needed to start “feeding” my DNA with the variety of signals that it has always needed and still needs to stay vital and healthy, while avoiding the things that were messing with my biology.

We’ve moved so far away from what we actually need, and we’re sicker because of it. Despite being a ‘developed’ country, chronic diseases are on the rise: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, autism, autoimmunity, depression.

Could it be we’ve messed with nature a little too much—that which is our bodies and that which is our home?

Our health is in nature. Untainted, wild, beautiful nature. Unfortunately, our bodies and our environment have become so adulterated by factory foods, harmful additives, pharmaceuticals, plastics, agricultural chemicals, pollution from fossil fuel burning, and paved over by our insatiable desire for growth and “success” that it is harder than ever to get the very things we need to live the lives we are designed for.

But we have enormous power to shift things. Just as our own ecosystems (our bodies) can heal quickly when given the right ingredients, so too can our larger ecosystems (the planet). The recent shutdown showed us how quickly our air began to clear, and how eager vital species are to repopulate our lands. And it begins with the everyday choices we make. Supporting the things that support health means you’re not only making this place safer and healthier for you and your family, but for every living creature, and every future life to come.

There’s a misconception that what I’m advocating for is a back to the woods, living off the land, no more modern conveniences kind of existing. Our brains automatically start to label this all as fringe tree-hugging hippie stuff, which serves to help us feel safe and justified in our choices. I get it. The way we’ve been acculturated to believe we are separate from nature, that we need to control or manage nature, is so extreme that these ideas are considered radical. 

But it’s not. This is Life 101.

The simple shift in approach to a nature based view of health and vitality (and also of business and the economy, social systems and development) is not only necessary, it is imperative. 

And it’s available to us right now. 

Much of our health (aka fitness) recommendations have been handed down to us by way of government policies, influenced by corporate interests, i.e. their bottom line, and informed by supposedly unbiased scientific research that we later find is often not so unbiased. We’re told “do this, don’t do that.” With so much information available to us today it’s harder than ever to know what to do.

What if we forget everything we think we “know” and just start with this:

We are nature. 

We are not a consumer of products. We are not a sum of our parts.

We are a web of existence that has sustained life for billions of years. We would serve ourselves well to stop getting in the way.

Lasting health and fitness, vitality, is our birthright—it’s hardwired in our DNA, in the mechanics of our guts. With the right inputs, for our bodies and the Earth, we can heal so much of what is ailing us.

Today, I enjoy helping people become good (human) animals…accessing the vitality and fitness that is within themI’m in a way grateful for my health struggles. These struggles, and the need to address them, created a doorway to healing, growth, greater joy, and a quality of life that no dollar amount can buy. 

No matter the challenge or struggle, this doorway is available to everyone.

For help and guidance on your path to healing and vitality, please reach out at trish@fitanimal.com

What you eat matters, a lot

How we do anything is how we do everything.”  -probably Buddha  

Our bodies are not like operating systems on a computer where we can decide how they work and update whenever our learning advances. Our bodies work how they work. There is a delicate balance of nutrients they need to work optimally and to stave off disease. 

Take vitamin D for example. Its (contested) importance is having a resurgence lately because it has been found to be inversely related to severity of COVID-19 outcomes. Meaning, the data is showing that having an unnaturally low level of vitamin D means the more likely you are to experience severe symptoms. Vitamin D isn’t a silver bullet by any means. Researchers are finding that there are many factors influencing the severity of this virus—comorbidities, age, viral load, genes. But it is widely known in the research community that low vitamin D status is related to pneumonia, which is the common name for acute respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS, the symptom putting so many COVID-19 patients on oxygen and ventilators. 

We were designed to get vitamin D from the sun and a little from food, but mostly the sun. Yes, we can supplement vitamin D and because of our modern lives, many should (check with your doctor.) But here’s the sticking point: without the presence of vitamin K2, all that supplemented vitamin D can be detrimental, resulting in excess calcium being deposited in our arteries and elsewhere instead of staying in our bones where it belongs. If we supplement with D but don’t get the K2, we’re potentially doing more harm than if we got neither.

Nature’s solution to this is that we get sun now and then and we eat the foods that supply vitamin K2.  The best, most bioavailable sources of K2 are found in pastured animal foods— nose-to-tail animal foods.

K2’s role is so important in our health that before it even had a name it was coined “Activator X” by nutrition pioneer Weston A. Price. By “activator” he meant that without the presence of K2 in the diet, no matter how many vitamins A and D a person intakes, the benefits of these nutrients will fall short. K2 is that important. 

Along with vitamin D, vitamin K2 deficiency is rampant in our society today. Makes sense because long ago our food system abandoned nature. We no longer eat traditional, pasture based diets because our “food system” turned our food, our sustenance, into a commodity. Today, we largely eat foods grown and raised on farms that resemble factories. We are also deficient in K2 because we were (falsely) told to avoid animal fats and cholesterol rich foods for fear they would clog our arteries. In fact it was never theses foods causing our artery problems (to the tune of over 600,000 heart disease deaths a year in the US), but rather the double whammy of sugar and fake fat processed foods that replaced nature’s foods plus the lack of K2 rich foods in our diet.

My point here isn’t just to highlight the importance of vitamin D and K2, but to illustrate how the balance of these nutrients matters and is planned for by nature. We get a little sun, we eat the variety of foods we need and as if by magic, our bodies are flooded with heart healthy, immune boosting, inflammation squashing nutrients. 

Nature wants us to survive, to fight off disease, to be a part of the finely tuned cycles of life. And we developed the ability to survive over millions of years evolving alongside our co-species…the creatures that have always given us our ability to transform sunlight into a robust immune system, among so many other things.

It’s not magic. This is just nature doing its thing. 

We exist in these tightly orchestrated, highly sophisticated feats of engineering and it’s totally lost on us…well, most of us. And that’s ok. We aren’t supposed to be constantly aware of the myriad of events going on in our bodies—so intricate that it makes the processors on today’s supercomputers look elementary.

A problem does arise however, when we start to think we can out maneuver millions of years of existence. Somewhere along the way we adopted an elite type of thinking, believing the very things that make us the physically evolved homo sapiens that we are, are unnecessary.

We can’t outperform the cycles of life. We can’t update the software.

If only we could, though. We have some serious problems here on Earth: human accelerated global warming, a heavily polluted planet, declining human health, and vast inequities. 

We need solutions…solutions at the scale of the planet. But also at the scale of nature. 

To those of us that have decided to forgo meat and animal products for the sake of your health, or animals, or the planet, I applaud your heart. We need more of that compassion and sensitivity and sacrifice in the world today, especially among meat eaters. 

Our livestock factory farming system is bad for the earth, and it is cruel, and dirty, and inhumane. It is inhumane for the animals, for the women and men who work at these factories and for the communities, almost always poor communities, that are near them. Not to mention the food from these factory raised animals barley resembles the nutrient profiles of their wild and pasture raised relatives. And, these animals that nourish us aren’t “livestock,” they are creatures of nature. Their fermentative stomachs are why we are here.  But our current system of concentrated animal feeding operations are just one more example of a system that tried to do right by us by providing food, but got a little too greedy and decided that stuffing thousands of living, breathing, feeling animals into a confined space, swimming in their own excrement, being force fed corn and soy and god knows what else, was somehow ok. I want to know, how do these people sleep at night?  

A recent op-ed in the NY Times wants us to believe that the end of meat is here. I’d like to go one step further from the cheap and easy ‘click bait’ rhetoric and acknowledge that the end of corrupt meat is here.  Not only will just removing meat not fix anything, it will also result in a decline in human health. It’s a superficial and naive band aid. Because if we don’t change the system and the people making the food, meat’s replacement will be no better for our health, or the planet. It will be just as greedy, wasteful, and toxic.

Going vegetarian or vegan, while almost always inspired by the right things, is not inherently healthy. It is definitely not healthy for children. Part of the problem is that the term ‘healthy’ got into the wrong hands, and now we are biased to equate a kale smoothie with health and weight loss and a ribeye with sloth and gluttony and heart disease. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Avoiding animal products for the sake of health or the planet, though done out of prudence,  isn’t really helpful. The statistics thrown around to support these dietary and environmental measures are usually about methane, water consumption, animal rights, heart disease, cancer, among other things. You and I both know that we can spin anything we want to tell any story we want. 

Here’s a story, do with it what you will…

…methane isn’t the problem, it’s our broken carbon cycle that is largely the result of dead soil and deforestation. Everything we make consumes and wastes a lot of fresh water—calorie for calorie, the water involved in raising animals is better used than the vast amount of water used in, for example, growing almonds. More species die in the creation of mono-crop agriculture than not eating meat saves. Eating pasture raised animal foods protects us from heart disease. Evidence links cancer to many things, including exposure to synthetic toxins (e.g. glysophate aka RoundUp), and insulin and inflammation run amok, largely caused by diets high in refined carbohydrates and other processed foods.

We are heating up the planet at an alarming and unnatural rate. But methane isn’t our problem— if only it were that simple. If forced to choose, many of us would probably rather give up steaks than give up gas burning cars, flights to anywhere, over-powered homes and offices, and excess stuff.

No wonder there’s a war on meat right now— the idea of a less consumptive, non-fossil fuel based lifestyle is uncomfortable. 

But we’re scapegoating.

There are a lot of problems throughout our agricultural system, the crop growing and the animal raising. There’s no way around the fact that we need agriculture. But we need agriculture that answers to nature’s laws, not industry’s laws.

Going vegetarian or vegan isn’t the panacea it’s made out to be. But eating whatever animal products you can find on the grocery store shelves is not ok either.

Our problems – people’s and the planet’s – and their solutions are much more nuanced than just picking a dietary side in the ever growing list of sides. Today, it’s not enough to be plant based, or vegan, or meat based, or vegetarian, or omnivore, or Paleo, or Keto, or carnivore, or IIFYM, or whatever. 

Today, we have to be conscious eaters.

Conscious of the system that produced the food in your shopping cart, in your refrigerator, on your plate. 

There is a better option for both raising crops and raising animals: the smaller, local, traditional farm producing food closer to the way nature does, or at least did, before we destroyed habitats for factory “farms” growing and raising products not actually beneficial to us or the planet.

By transitioning our food system back towards nature’s systems we can nourish our bodies, protect our health, and live compassionately. We can take better care of all creatures and their habitats while significantly cutting back on our abuse to the planet—and it is abuse—and help it heal.

This better system isn’t complicated. A diet that supports this better system doesn’t need a name, it’s just eating the way nature intended, not industry. It’s a conscious diet:

A diet that nourishes us as we were designed to be nourished.

A diet that is aware and takes nothing for granted.

A diet that does right by the creatures and species and habitats that give us our life.

A diet that does not pollute the planet, but helps to heal it; that does not destroy habitats but recovers them.

A diet that supports local economies and workers rights.

A diet that involves so little waste, requires so little fossil fuel, it almost feels like nature itself.

By decentralizing our food system—bringing it back to the communities that have the climates for farming and helping our international communities restore their ability to grow their foods (systems broken a long time ago by unfair tariffs and trade policy)—we can feed everyone.  And we can feed ourselves better, more nutritious foods than we are today. We can begin to repair the soil and habitats that are crucial for helping reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. It won’t be easy, or quick, or perfect. But what we’re doing now is incredibly harmful, not to mention tenuous.

I can hear the naysayers now…”This is great and all but there’s no way to feed 7+ billion people this way.” But the research has been done, and the answer is we can. More importantly, we have to.

We are sicker. Our planet is sicker. Our distribution of wealth and health is so perverse no wonder we are teetering on collapse.

You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan, risking your own health and that of the next generation to fix the problem. Neither should you stay an unconscious omnivore. So what should we do? 

Know as a consumer that you have enormous power. It’s called your wallet.

Know who is growing the food you buy and eat and feed your family. It doesn’t all have to be perfect. But if you could start by getting 50% of your weekly food from smaller, more local, regenerative type farms, that would be a huge step in the right direction. Shop your famer’s markets, learn about CSA’s in your area, shop for pasture raised animal products from farms in your region. Stay away from food like products that come in packages, and through drive-thru windows. Ask your favorite restaurants to buy more locally grown ingredients. 

Know that your good intentions to help the planet through your diet are worthy. Stay educated on what our problems and their solutions really are. There’s a cacophony of misinformation out there, especially via the ever so popular tool for propaganda: the documentary. Question everything. Read those you agree with and those you don’t. 

A conscious, planet based diet

…no dogma, no sides to take, no preaching, no vitriol, no pointing fingers, no excess corporate interest. Just a common desire for lasting, robust health for all people, all species, and the planet. It means progress measured by reduction in heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, allergies, violence, depression, suicide. It means reduction in health inequities, and reduction in greenhouse gasses, polluted waterways, aquatic dead zones, and endangered and extinct species.

In its place, there’s a regeneration of our health, of important jobs, of the soil, of habitats, of necessary diversity, of local economies.

I for one am tired of the selfish and destructive behavior we’ve adopted as success. Our current food production and distribution systems are damaging—they serve to line the pockets of their stakeholders at the expense of health. Underneath our advancements and freedoms, lies an archaic system badly in need of updating.

Repairing our agricultural system feels daunting. But it is doable. Every day we are playing a part in what exists today. Whether we accept that or know it consciously, it is true. 

Know that your choices actually do matter. 

I for one set out each day to live as compassionately as I can. First and foremost towards myself. That means understanding my biology, my being, and how to nourish it…and that includes more than food. Next, towards my loved ones and community. That means being aware of and sensitive to the things I don’t know or understand—the ways our lived experiences are incredibly unique, and sometimes similar. And, always towards the planet, and all it needs to not just sustain us, but to be the very thing we interact with, learn from, and derive meaning from. 

None of us have it all figured out, or are as smart as we think we are. But we are all capable of becoming more aware, more sincere, more compassionate. And I don’t know a greater purpose in living than this.

Health : fitness :: fitness : health


There are a variety of things our biology expects in order to stay healthy and strong. Other than air, water and sleep…there are the micro and macro nutrients we need from our food. Vital messaging from sun exposure. And, a whole host of beneficial signals from being physically active.

Our bodies were honed and trained over millions of years to benefit from the act of physical work. Our biology did this, does this, because it knows that more often than not the act of surviving begets survival. With each act of “surviving” that we engage in, if we come out a little healthier and stronger and faster, then our chances of continued survival goes up. We knew this act as hunting, roaming, climbing, scavenging, chasing…or being chased. Today, we know it as exercise. And today, no matter how convenient or comfortable our lives are, it’s still not an option if you want to experience optimal health and age well…


It is said that exercise is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. It is vitally important for our health and longevity. Proper exercise dosing can up-regulate a variety of chemical messengers, antioxidants, beneficial bacteria, and enzymes that keep us feeling energetic, slow aging, and help us fight off disease. It is critical for the proper functioning of our immune system, organs, metabolism, endocrine system, and mental health. The problem is we’ve misconstrued and over engineered exercise, and reduced it to a tool for weight loss and looking good. While staying active and maintaining lean mass is critical for our metabolism, exercise’s function goes way beyond aesthetics.
 
The point of exercise is to mimic the type of active lives that our bodies need and expect. Our DNA evolved over millions of years under particular circumstances…circumstances that required us to use our bodies in a variety of ways. Our entire biological systems were created in such a way to allow us to benefit from applying the demands of physically active lives – of survival. We know today that not applying those “demands” down regulates critical messengers in our bodies and tells our cardiovascular system, our brain, our digestion, hormones, immune system, muscles and bones that they aren’t really needed to stay optimal, to stay healthy.
 
In the past we had to be very active, today not so much. It’s really easy to go long stretches of time without having to use our bodies for much other than breathing, digesting, some thinking, scrolling the internet, and watching TV.
 
Since our health is directly connected to the use of our bodies, but we no longer really have to use our bodies much anymore, we must solve that problem through exercise. 
 
The point of exercise is to send the signal your body that it needs to stay capable, prepared, ready— healthy, fit.
 
Exercise can be thought of kind of like a drug. The dosing needs to be right for you: too much and it can become detrimental, not enough and it’s not as effective.  Sometimes we think that if some is good, more must be better, but this isn’t always the case. Today, there seems to be a preponderance for extremes. There’s a growing sect of the population that is running themselves ragged by over-exercising, while there is an even larger sect of the population not doing anything at all. Neither are good, nor what nature intended.
 
Getting and staying fit doesn’t have to mean super low body fat and bulging muscles—because in some cases that isn’t healthy either. What it does mean is maintaining optimal functioning of our bodies as was intended: going for long walks without tiring, carrying weighted things (or children) for periods of time without collapsing, having the energy and stamina to be gently active most of the day, engaging in short bouts of intense activity, and recovering quickly. When we are fit, healthy, we naturally maintain a optimum blood pressure and heart rate, we are able to move in a variety of ways without pain, we are balanced and have proper posture.
 
You can’t have true health without fitness nor true fitness without health.  And achieving this was never supposed to be complicated. We are all designed with the same pathways to fitness: limbs made for movement, skin made for temperature control, hearts and lungs made for respiration. Through our evolution, being physically capable was critical for survival, and the more we had to physically work for our survival the healthier we were.
 
The lesson here is that in our modern, high tech, convenient, comfortable lives, to be truly healthy we must stay engaged in work, as defined by nature. 

In a future post I’ll talk more specifically about what that can look like. For now, if you’re someone less prone to exercise, it’s as simple as this to get started: go for a walk everyday. A couple of days a week make that walk a little longer, maybe a little faster. Now and then find a steep hill and power walk it as if your life depends on it…because it does.

Start today.

Heeding the call of our DNA

Underneath this current health threat is another one—the declining state of our species’ health and resiliency. A decline that has been going on for decades…

Modern life is turning us into distant reminders of our badass ancient ancestors. Our senses and capabilities are being dulled. They’re being lost. 

As a whole we’re less healthy, too. The research tells us that it’s the combination of misaligned lifestyle factors that are contributing to our ever increasing rates of chronic disease, obesity, autoimmunity, depression, and anxiety. There’s no shortage of statistics confirming that a large part of today’s population are dealing with at least one, if not several, of these issues. 

These are modern problems.  Their biggest impact is not that some of them can lead to early death, but rather it’s their detrimental impact on our quality of life. That’s the tragic part. Too many people today will never know how good it feels to feel good. And a population that largely doesn’t feel well is just not ok.

This wasn’t the kind of living we were designed for. If it was, we wouldn’t have been able to overcome the challenges we did in order to even be here. The ironic thing is that some of those very challenges are why we are here today.

Environmental pressures over millions of years forced us to become the incredibly capable creatures we eventually became. Over the last 300,000 years, our DNA, our biology, hasn’t really changed. What it expects, and needs, hasn’t changed either.

Key nutrients from food were important in the process that got us here, but so was facing and growing from challenge, danger, discomfort…and quiet.  These too are forces that resulted in our becoming capable, intelligent, and robust. Key food nutrients alone couldn’t have done it. It was this food (and sometimes lack of it) plus: long, long walks to develop strong feet, legs, and organs; short sprints and a quick climb up a tree to escape danger and hone our athleticism; ample play and leisure to learn new skills and challenge our brains; stretches of being in quiet to sharpen our senses. (In an environment of clean air, clean water, and yes, clean dirt.)

Without these “signals” we wouldn’t have been forced to become the smart, enduring creatures we became. So you could say, we were built for the occasional challenge, to withstand discomfort, to be exposed to and handle a little danger, to play, to be immersed in periods of quiet.

The question is, what happens if we remove these things from our lives? What if we spend most hours indoors, driving everywhere, ordering take out, glued to a screen, always comfortable, distracted, disconnected? (In an environment teeming with synthetic toxins.)

Here’s what happens: we don’t stay as sharp, or strong, or happy, or resilient, or aware. Slowly our vitality starts to wane, since it’s no longer needed.  Eventually, our DNA stops seeing the need to keep us healthy, because why should it? 

Today, the new norm is a low-grade chronic discontent and sub-par health that we don’t even know we have. We self-medicate and self-soothe with things that really are only keeping us exactly where we are. 

For me, I can tell you that when I started to “feed” my DNA with the variety of signals our bodies and minds expect I was transformed, experiencing better health thanks to a more robust immune system, greater resiliency to stress, improved fitness, sharpened senses. I realized that not providing my body and mind with the signals they need was like trying to drive a car with flat tires—it’s doable but far from ideal.

In the grand scheme of things, these are nice problems to have. I’m a privileged person living a comfortable and abundant life. I cringe a little to even write this post because I know there are too many humans today, near and far, dealing with very real and inhumane levels of challenge, danger and discomfort.  

But for those of us living in excess, know that avoiding the variety of signals our bodies and minds need is contributing to our poor health. It’s numbing us to our world, too.  

There is a tragic disconnect between what we were designed for and how we’re living. It is imperative for our health as modern beings to heed the call of our DNA, to live a little more deliberately….a little more wildly.

We haven’t finished evolving

The idealist in me wants to believe that the challenges from this pandemic, however unequal, may be a collective wake-up call bringing us closer together in solving not just our individual and public health problems, but more importantly our planet’s. Time will tell what we do with what we’re learning today…
 
As I write this, the ground beneath us is shifting. It is shifting for everyone, one way or another. I’m not going to be Pollyanna saying it’ll all be for the better. Because, really, we don’t know. But things will be different.
 
We will be different.
 
We’ll forever wonder what invisible threats are looming that are going to upend our lives. We’ll forever know that whatever safety nets we have, including our health and institutions, too, are tenuous. 
 
Maybe, we’ll also have a newfound appreciation for some of the simpler things. A walk. The way the sun feels on our skin. Sleep. A good conversation. A home cooked meal. Play. Extra time. 
 
Perhaps there’s another benefit to this forced foray into simpler living…
 
This week we celebrate Earth Day—we take a moment to say thank you, I see you, I respect you. A Hallmark holiday for the planet. Nothing wrong with that, except, it’s kind of empty. Do we really know what it means to respect our planet? Are we willing to do what this requires?
 
The only thing that will truly help our planet is if we accept responsibility for the harm that has befallen our home, and vow to do better. Because our leaders and their agreements and action summits may not solve anything. 
 
But we can. 
 
We are extraordinary creaturesWe possess an amazing ability to learn, to adapt, to grow—through struggle, through challenge, through discomfort.  We didn’t evolve because life was easy, rather because life was hard. 
 
We may no longer be evolving much in the biological sense, but I hope we are still evolving. Environmental pressures over millions of years forced us to advance as a species. Perhaps today, it’s a different kind of pressure that can move the needle. 
 
Between this pandemic, human accelerated global warming, vast inequities, and dangerous public discourse, we have a colossal amount of challenge to work with. What are we going to learn? How are we going to adapt? In what new directions are we going to grow?
 
We all get a say. 
 
Our individual choices matter—they matter to our resiliency to this and other health threats, they matter to our loved ones and neighbors, and they definitely matter to our planet. 
 
We’ve got to wake up to the reality that business as usual is causing our species’ health to decline. It is causing alarming damage to this home that sustains us, and it is perpetuating inhumane cycles of poverty and inequality. Even small changes can not only improve our health and the quality of our individual lives, but also the lives of others, including all of our ecosystems.  
 
It should go without saying that caring for ourselves means caring for the environment, nature. We breathe its air. Drink its water. Eat its food. We depend on its stability.
 
We can start caring for our planet better by reconnecting with ourselves. Reconnecting not just with our ‘human being’ needs, but our ‘creatures of nature’ needs….asking, what do I actually need to protect my health? To be resilient? To live a truly full life? To experience deep joy and satisfaction?  
 
And what don’t I need?
 
When we start exploring this, we may just love what we find.