Mon, Jan-29-18, 08:36
Rewilding: are modern comforts making us ill?
Not low carb per se, but it is an interesting read with a shout out to Dr Rangan Chatterjee:
From The Sunday Times
28 January, 2018
Rewilding: are modern comforts making us ill?
Tony Riddle doesn’t use chairs, or eat processed food, or stay up after dark, or even use a western toilet. Meet the man with an alternative to how we live
Does this seem normal to you? Tony Riddle, a “rewilding” coach, does his computer work squatting on his haunches. He has hacked off the legs of his dining table so that his family can quit chairs. He has a six-pack to rival that of the boxer David Haye (a client), but you won’t catch him in the gym — Riddle’s fix is barefoot running, climbing trees or imitating animal movement (lizard, kangaroo, snake, chimp — take your pick). If he has to commute, you’ll find him hanging off the bars, and I don’t mean straphanging, but with his feet off the ground. If he has to be in artificial light after 6pm, he wears amber glasses to protect his eyes from the blue tones that can affect the quality of our sleep. And he never comfort eats. Weird, huh?
As far as Riddle, 42, is concerned, this is, biologically at least, completely normal. You’ll have heard of rewilding the countryside. Well, Riddle, whose clients also include the wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley and her boyfriend, Nick Hopper, is spearheading the human rewilding movement, “returning ‘zoo humans’ back to wild humans”. Natural lifestyling, he explains as we squat (ouch) like frogs during our interview, is about honouring our hunter-gatherer heritage, the lifestyle for which our bodies and minds are still primed. “It’s about finding biologically normal ways of existing in biologically extreme environments,” says Riddle, who also runs rewilding retreats, workshops and corporate coaching. Sitting on your bottom for eight hours is biologically extreme, he says, because chairs don’t exist in nature, as are processed food, late nights, western-style loos, high heels, city life. But if we prioritise biologically normal behaviour, we can, he says, “relearn our deep connections to nature and find profound states of wellbeing”.
Currently courting publishers for his first book, he admits: “Some are saying, ‘Woah, this is so socially extreme.’ They can’t really get it at this stage.” But view Riddle’s teachings in the context of recent wellness trends and it starts to make more sense. Take standing desks and posture awareness (versus sedentary, muscle-wasting slumps), take functional movement (versus machine-based movement), take squatty potties (yes, they’re trending) or forest bathing (our ancestors would have done little else), take fasting and organic food (as it would have been pre-agriculture), take air purification (as opposed to air pollution). In isolation, these things don’t seem such a stretch, but all are mere rungs on Riddle’s ladder towards rewilded perfection.
Not long into our interview, I am subjected to a foot inspection. “We need to discuss these,” Riddle says, eyeing my pointy 4in heels disapprovingly. “Rewilding starts with the feet, and a natural foot is wide,” he says. My “shoe-shaped feet” with their crunched-up toes are biologically extreme, and with “compromised feet” comes compromised posture. “If your big toe has moved inwards, you can’t pivot off it, then the ankle is affected, then the knee and the hip, and then every single muscle and tendon action is out.” Riddle is an ambassador for Vivobarefoot shoes (founded by his friend Galahad Clark, of the Clarks shoes dynasty), which have a wide toe box and super-thin 3mm soles that allow crucial sensory feedback. “The more feet can feel, the more the foot-brain connection stays active,” he says, which can apparently protect us from anxiety and depression. So, since 4in-heel pain doesn’t count as feedback, my brain is also compromised.
The bridge between the burgeoning rewilding movement and the rest of us is the eminently sensible Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author and media GP from BBC1’s Doctor in the House, who has been wearing Vivos for seven years. He claims that through rewilding his feet and footwear, he has finally rid himself of back pain.
But I can’t lie, my new Vivos are a tough look to pull off in the Style office: “Flipper feet,” said one colleague.
Chatterjee also supports rewilding; earlier this month he publicly recommended that schoolchildren should have the option to squat or use a standing desk in class. His bestselling book, The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life, shares much ground with Riddle’s principles, albeit in moderation (for example, you don’t have to chuck out your chairs, just try to get up every hour). “Our modern lifestyles make it hard for our bodies to move in the way they are designed to,” Chatterjee says when I speak to him. Noting that society is getting sicker (with chronic disease, chronic pain and obesity, for example), he says: “Anything we can do to combat that is going to be beneficial.” At home, his children (aged five and seven) do their work squatting, with Chatterjee, 40, trying to squat alongside them. “Do I find it a bit hard? Yeah, but that’s because I spent years slumped in chairs untraining my body’s innate abilities. I am trying to relearn what I’ve lost.”
An uncomfortable squat, or indeed mild discomfort in any of the 100 or so “ground-resting” positions (kneeling, single-leg kneeling, crossed legs), is no bad thing because it makes you move around. “By switching regularly, you will avoid stiffness, stagnation and weakness picked up through prolonged sitting,” Riddle says. If you have a stiff neck and mid-back, tight hamstrings and hip flexors, and sleepy glutes and core (yes, yes and yes), it’s because you have adapted to a sedentary lifestyle and it’s time to rewild your parking position. What’s more, a standing desk is no good if your posture is already compromised. But whose office is ready for “ground-living”? Instead, Riddle recommends this when watching TV or socialising; sofas, by the way, are pure lifestyle junk, as they “dumb down” our need to move.
A former soldier, and a one-time muscle-obsessed personal trainer, Riddle is now a man-bunned “conscious man” keen to honour his “social, emotional and spiritual animal”. The military discipline must be useful, no? “Responsibility is a better word — you have to take on responsibility to be the change. Am I the best example of a human being for the younger generations?” The paragons, according to Riddle, are the Penan people of Borneo, some of whom live pretty much as they did, we all did, 100,000 years ago: “They’re nomadic, they’re barefoot, they’re part of the forest. They eat biologically normally because that’s what’s on the landscape. There’s no domestication, no pollution.” For Riddle, “living it” involves training six hours a day, ice-cold wild swimming, 24-hour fasts, a 6am-6pm active day (to “honour the equatorial ape” within), co-sleeping with three kids (8, 6 and 20 months) and “unschooling” them (letting the children steer the subjects they study), as well as quitting all guilty pleasures (salt and vinegar crisps were the last to go), though documentaries and his phone are still permitted.
Riddle may be fanatical, but, he concedes, “I’m not saying you have to go and live in a cave — you can dip into the principles.” You could, he says, just rewild your gut bacteria or your lighting. “You could do the 5:2 rule for sleep and just have two days where you’re killing it.” There isn’t a quick fix, he says: “It has to be over time, and you will build and build.” It’s uncomfortable stuff, but perhaps it beats the alternative.
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