Prince Edward Island, where I live, has a very high obesity rate. So do many rural parts of America and of cource the rest of Atlantic Canada.
We have looked at why there is an physical environmental difference between cities and the rural and we have looked at the social environment where our friends influence how we look.
But why is the rate of obesity and related illness SO MUCH worse in certain types of rural settings? Now we are going to look at who we are as people.
The issue here is in our ancestral heritage. Those of us who live in rural Canada and the rural US tend to come from a heritage that is only recently exposed to agriculture.
PEI and Atlantic Canada are settled mainly by Scots Irish. So is the large Appalachian region of the US. It is mainly here in Canada and there in thje US that obesity and related poor health is the worst. Why?
The answer is that we are Gaels.
Gaels, are the Hunter Gatherers of Europe who got pushed to the edge of the continent by the new farmers.
Look at the thin sliver on the far left of Scotland and Ireland. That is the edge. We were pushed here like so many other Hunter Gatherers have been pushed to the edge where the land is marginal and not suitable for farming.
That is the edge - where the land is the poorest - where life is really tough and so are the people. It is where we come from and here is why this is important when we ask abut why so many of us are so fat today.
For the answer is this. We are the people in Europe with the least exposure to agricultural food. We are the least adapted. We are the most at risk of all Europeans to an adverse reaction to the agricultural diet.
For this diet is new when we look at evolutionary time lines. We have ALL come from a Hunter Gatherer past that extends back for millions of years.
We mainly ate meat, fish and plants. We never ate grains, dairy or beans. Imagine milking a wild auroch!
The maximum time that any human group has had to adapt to agriculture - what I call the "Modern Diet" would likely be 6,000 years ago. Here is new evidence on when agriculture began in England. In Evolutionary terms this is yesterday. Some Europeans have made a partial adaptation - but even this is lost by middle age.
The key point to bear in mind is that we are designed to be healthy and fit - PROVIDED - we live the plan that evolution has worked out with us.
As with all hunter gatherers, we did very well on our ancestral diet.
This engraving is of a Mi'Maq made in the 1800th century. This is what most adults would have looked like before they adopted our diet and way of life.
Here is a 60 year old Kitavan Chief who has never been exposed to our diet - see the similarity in body? Kitavans have no diseases of modern civilization.
Here is the late great singer Israel Kamakawi'ole just before his death. He is an example of the kind of reaction a recent hunter gatherer can have to the modern diet. He shares the same kind of Pacific hunter gatherer heritage to the Kitavan.
The closer you are to a hunter gatherer past - the more vulnerable you are to reacting badly to the modern diet. This recent exposure to the modern diet is a powerful force in why so many in the First Nations community have such a risk of Type 2 Diabetes and related illness and why the Gaels run them a close second.
So what to do?
So if you are of First Nations or Inuit heritage with maybe 150 years maximum exposure - the western diet of mainly grains, dairy and so sugar is toxic. It is also why alcohol is such a problem as is sugar - for they affect the brain in the same way. They are the same.
If you are a Gael - you are next on the list of at risk. Note the importance of sugar and alcohol in our way of life too. We are very attracted to it.
When I say Modern Diet - I mean bread/grains, dairy and legumes. The Industrial Diet is a separate category and is even more a disaster for us.
If we were to go back to eating a diet that was comprised of the traditional foods - mainly real meat and real fish and seasonal plants and fruit, we would be the ancestral groups most likely to "heal". Even better, we stand a chance of doing what the Kitavan Chief has done. Plateau our aging in mid life.
The irony is that while we are the most at risk - we have the best chance of reacting well to a shift back to the traditional diet.
It has taken me 6 months only to undergo a radical change for the better. For when I say "We" I am Gael too from Ayr. I started to feel better after 3 months. I think in 5 years I will have got myself back to a metabolism of my heritage.
This then is a huge health opportunity. The First Nations and the Gaels are really suffering. Medicine has not arrested our decline. But by going home to who we are can heal us.
But there is a huge BUT. A BUT that I will deal with in my next post.
The BUT is this. We Gaels and First Nations' Peoples have lost confidence in our culture and our tribes. We don't fit into the Industrial World. WE think and others think that this makes us failures. We don't want 9 - 5. We don't want to make work the centre of who we are. We hate regimen. We hate offices - we want to be outside.
We were were never farmers and so never were serfs or slaves. We lived according to the time of nature not the clock. But of course farmers were ideally suited to becoming indistrial serfs - no change at all in how they lived.
We will explore this tommorrow. We will ask - "who is the greater fool?" - We will look at how the web and a new economy might enable us to bring back a hunter gatherer way of life in a modern context.
We will look at our tribal values and traditions - respect for our elders and for women - our love of music and the dance - our love of art - our love for our children - our deep respect for nature and sense of connection to it - our eternal view of time and see these as the values that all men and women need if our species is to survive what our industrial culture has done to us and the planet.
By Going Home we might give our kids a chance.