Chapter 3: The Clash

Imagine standing behind a full orchestra. You have a big cymbal in your right hand, and an equally big one in your left hand. You hold these two cymbals apart at arm’s length. The music builds and builds, as does anticipation. Finally, the conductor nods to you. With all your strength, you slam the two cymbals together.


 Hear that lovely sound ringing in your ears. Feel the vibration coursing through your hands. Listen as the clash sends out sound waves, echoing off distant walls.

 This is the analogy I want you to retain as you read this book. The sound created by two large cymbals forcefully coming together represents two forces—our biology and our environment—coming together in a tremendous clash, causing the epidemic of obesity.

 In your right hand, you have your biology. This biology has been successful and largely unchanged for thousands of years. Our ancestors’ lives were totally occupied with getting and preparing food. Those who could best store energy and were the most efficient in their use of calories were the ones who survived. And those who survived passed on this successful biology to generation after generation.

 In your left hand, you have the environment we currently live in. This environment has changed drastically in

The clash between two realities

the past 40 years. For instance, generations are still alive who remember a time before cell phones and fast food restaurants.  At our current moment in human history, our biology and our environment have come together in a spectacular clash. We have a torrent of manufactured food flooding the market with calories, sugars, starches, meeting an unchanged biology that was not designed to deal with all this abundance. 

 Food is now available in ways our ancestors could only dream of. We literally live in a land of milk and honey.

 Furthermore, our physical activity is almost non-existent, at least compared to our ancestors. You probably didn’t chop wood this week, or carry a bucket of water to your dwelling. And I bet you don’t even have the capacity to grind grain. And very little of the food you ate this week came from your garden.

 Now days, a few rare people walk to work, and we fight for parking spaces to be as close to the entrance as possible. And “work” now consists of sitting at a desk for eight hours.

  We’ve also changed how we purchase and prepare our food. Most of us sit in our cars while other people prepare food for us. The concept of cooking for more than a couple minutes is an arcane hobby. Only those with means have the option of cooking their own meals from scratch, while the poor find it more economically sensible to buy fast food and packaged meals.

 In the midst of all this convenience, our biology has remained roughly the same as it was when our ancestors struggled to hunt and kill a deer, gather berries, move to warmer or cooler climates, and suffer through brutal winters.

 And so we have the Clash, a biology that isn’t prepared for the environment. Our bodies are using ancient survival processes to deal with the flood of abundance we now have. And the result is an epidemic of obesity.

 In the next section, we will examine our biology. Mother Nature created wonderful bodies that could survive all the hardships of life. Unfortunately, she didn’t anticipate an environment with so many conveniences and delicious foods. The good news is once we understand why we gain weight, we can begin working with our bodies to deal with our environment.