Rejecting creature comforts, proponents of “rewilding” want to live like our prehistoric ancestors.
Born to be Wild
As the thinking goes, modern life is killing us. Depression, obesity, insomnia… you name it, the growing list of health issues we currently face stems from the proliferation of technology and absence of nature.
- Americans spend ~93% of their lives indoors.
- US adults are sedentary for 9.5 hrs/day, the majority of which is spent sitting.
- 13 hrs/day—or about three-fourths of their waking time—are spent consuming digital media, per eMarketer.
The solution, then, is to adopt habits more in line with our primitive predecessors. As biomechanist and author Katy Bowman puts it:
“Perhaps the only way out of our poor physical state, created by our culture of convenience, is a return to the behaviors of our ancestors.”
Back to nature. In the simplest terms, that could mean replacing screentime with gardening, hiking, cold-water swimming, or forest bathing.
Rooted in the biophilia hypothesis, experts say humans have a primal need to be in nature. Further, they add, insufficient time outdoors causes nature-deficit disorder, harming our overall well-being.
But, for more zealous disciples, rewilding is a quest to regain the knowledge, skills, and physical prowess of our paleolithic forebears.
Gut feeling. In addition to walking barefoot, hunting, foraging, and otherwise subsisting off the land, a more extreme approach includes rewilding the microbiome.
A controversial theory, some researchers are attempting to restore the ancestral state of the microbiome by transplanting feces from the Hadza people of Tanzania.
While this particular approach sounds bizarre and has garnered criticism, the broader effort to rewild the microbiome has become a big business, with Rutgers professor Dr. Martin Blaser noting:
“Restoration of the human microbiome must become a priority for biomedicine.”
Interestingly, decoding the gut follows a similar logic as the broader lifestyle endeavors, mainly — will undoing the harmful effects of industrialization help alleviate our chronic health ailments?
From the paleo diet to barefoot running to natural movement fitness, we’ve heard versions of the rewilding pitch before.
And, more recently, influencers hopped on the bandwagon. The most prominent example, Brian “Liver King” Johnson built a $100M-a-year ancestral living empire.
Incredibly jacked, Johnson credited his primal philosophy, including eating raw animal liver, sun exposure, and cold plunges, for his superhero physique. Following these tenets and consuming his company’s supplements, Johnson marketed himself as all-natural.
Unsurprisingly, as we now know, Johnson uses all the steroids. Turns out, he’s the antithesis of the principles he preaches — he’s a fraud, plain and simple.
The Liver King saga reveals a few hard truths.
First, whether its individual personalities or entire organizations, using anabolically enchanced models to promote health habits or push product isn’t just unethical; it’s downright dangerous.
And second, all the trappings of modern life are making us less resilient, compromising our immune system, and stressing us out.
But, instead of retreating from society or searching for shortcuts, we’d be better off heeding the advice of Comfort Crisis author Michael Easter, who advocates for doing hard things.
Or, as Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman puts it: “Beware any reward that comes without sacrifice.”