Make America Healthy Again!

Make America Healthy Again!

June 09, 2017

This is the mantra EVERY American should live by. The Americas were once traversed by some of the fittest human specimens to ever live. Now we’re known around the world for being some of the fattest humans to ever live. What happened to us? How did we become so unhealthy? Can we reverse this health epidemic?

We can learn a lot just by looking back to the Native roots of this country. They weren’t doing anything different from the generations that preceded them 2 million years earlier. They moved constantly, hunting and scavenging REAL, natural foods. Most people these days aren’t able to live the same nomadic lifestyle but it is possible to emulate their way of life by making a few small changes to your diet and way of life.

The numbers don’t lie, neither do scales or waistbands; and they are all telling us one thing:

America’s lifestyle needs to change, fast!

Present Day American Health Epidemic

American health… Maybe we shouldn’t use those two words together until we become healthy. Listen up parents, pay attention kids! More than 1/3 of American children are now considered obese. We as Americans are setting new records, and not in a good way! There are now about 250 million Americans that are overweight and obese. This unhealthy trend now contributes to about 360,000 deaths yearly from diseases directly attributed to being obese or overweight.

If this doesn’t scare you then take a look at the maps below in order to see the state of American obesity.

The average American woman now weighs in around the same weight of the average American man from 1960’s.

Man vs Woman Weight Trend

Guys, that doesn’t mean you’re any better! During that time period men increased body weight on average (17.6%) while women increased by (18.5%).  Is it due to the one inch average height increase in both sexes? Well, not really; the increase in height will account for a little added weight but nowhere near the waist gains we’ve made.

American's Health Problems

Tips to Lose Fat

Only The Strong Survive

Now that you have a clear picture of American health today; has it always been this bad?

In order solve the health problems facing present day Americans maybe we need to look for answers from the forgotten past.

Native Americans were a strong, healthy looking people, according to some of the most famous explorers and military men first arriving in the newly found Americas.

One of the first Europeans in the 16th century to explore the Southwest (Texas), Cabeza De Vaca has said “The men could run after a deer for an entire day without resting and without apparent fatigue . . . one man near seven feet in stature . . . runs down a buffalo on foot and slays it with his knife or lance, as he runs by its side.”  

He also noted the toughness and resiliency found in these people, “Traversed by an arrow, he does not die but recovers from his wound… the men were happy, generous, with amazing physical prowess… they go naked in the most burning sun, in winter they go out in early dawn to take a bath, breaking the ice with their body.”

The explorer Cabeza de Vaca is quoted in WW Newcombe's, The Indians of Texas, 1961, University of Texas.

In October of 1492, the infamous Christopher Columbus wrote in his diary “They are very well formed, with handsome bodies and good faces.” On the following day he remarked “All alike have very straight legs and no belly but are very well formed.”

Christopher Columbus, (Transcribed and translated by Oliver C. Dunn and James E. Kelley, Jr.) Diaro of Christopher Columbus’s First Voyage to America, 1492-1493 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), pp. 65-73.

There are countless accounts from Europeans detailing the great strength and stature of Native people.

But what does the science say?

Weston A. Price, was a dentist renowned for his work and theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health and physical health. In 1939, Price published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a book that details a series of ethnographic nutritional studies he performed across diverse cultures, including the Lotschental in Switzerland, Native Americans, Polynesians, Pygmies, Aboriginies and many more.

Nutrition and Dental Caries – A Survey of the Literature of Dental Caries. Page 429.

Through his studies he noted an almost non-existence of tooth decay and dental deformities amongst Native Americans who lived as their ancestors did. The common theme found of nomadic tribes throughout the Americas was that they had strong physiques, straight teeth and broad faces. Price also studied the skeletal remains of Natives in Vancouver area, which held true to the notion that there was a virtual lack of tooth decay, arthritis and other types of bone deformity. As true with Eskimos and Native Americans who lived a truly primitive nomadic lifestyle, there is an almost complete absence of tooth decay or malignant disease.

Some science suggests…

Recent research shows that the general health of Native Americans was diminishing centuries before Columbus arrived.  This conclusion was derived from paleopathologists, anthropologists and economists, who examined the health of people in the Western Hemisphere over the last 7,000 years; looking at 65 sites and more than 12,500 skeletal remains in North and South America.

Some key takeaways…

  • Healthiest sites predating Columbus by more than 1,000 years
  • Poorer health was shown in more recent sites
  • 19th century nomadic Great Plains Indians had excellent health, close to the top of the index
  • Researchers surmise that the two main factors leading to declining health throughout the Americas were:
  • Transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture = People ate a less varied diet
  • Living in urban settings = Diseases spread quicker

John Noble Wilford, "Don't Blame Columbus for All the Indians' Ills," New York Times, October 29, 2002.

Present day American diet… or lack thereof.

With all the dissenting opinions you can find from experts regarding what to eat, how much and when; the easiest and most tried method is to balance consumed calories with burnt calories. No one likes to count calories especially Americans, it would take too long because we have the highest average calorie intake in the world at 3,770 calories per day.

Top Caloric Sources for American Adults:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Soda
  • Grain-based dessert
  • Sugary drinks

A study conducted in 2010 concluded that Americans are now consuming more than half (57.9%) of their daily calories by eating ultra processed food. Alarmingly, we can attribute more than 90% of U.S. added sugar( non-naturally occurring sugar) intake to these processed foods.

Related: 3 Body Types Explained: Workouts, Diets & Tips

So now you might be asking what exactly is considered “ultra-processed”?

The researchers, from Tufts University and the University of São Paulo, defined “ultra-processed” as:

Formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.

We could go on with more disheartening facts about the typical American diet, but we like to see the silver lining in things…

War on Sugar

Finally, we have a war we can agree on!

Last year, the U.S. government released a new version of its dietary recommendations; which specifically targeted added sugar intake. YOU should receive less than 10% of your daily calorie intake from added sugar.

This year, Philly became the first major city in America to tax soda. This isn’t a new phenomenon, sugary drink taxes, have been around for a while throughout the world. Prepare for more states and cities passing similar taxes on sugary drinks. Let’s just hope they use the tax money for educating people about nutrition or to provide relief for those not fortunate enough.

What was the Native American Diet?

Native Americans lived in harmony with the environment surrounding them; which provided a varied diet, high in protein and fats. Their diets were different depending on the geographical location of the tribes. However, hunter-gathers always have a similar diet-any animals or plants; whatever they could catch or scavenge.

Thanks to the “Issac Newton of Nutrition”, Dr. Weston A. Price we have a vast body of research about the health benefits of traditional diets. His studies of various traditional societies all lead to the same conclusion; almost every culture highly valued consuming entire animals including the organs, bones, blood and everything else in between.

Eat the whole animal, feel like a man-I-mal!

Just like the Native Americans of the past, we as modern Americans eat ruminant animals as our main source of protein. Today, beef accounts for the majority of our protein in-take. The Natives ate elk, deer, caribou, buffalo, moose, seals, whales and more.

The major difference:

They ate the whole animal vs We only eat muscle meats

High Protein/ High Fat

Native Americans removed ALL the fat from these animals then ate it, rendered it into lard for later use, hung it up to dry or used it to make Pemmican.

Unlike the fad diets of today, fat-free or “healthy” fat; Native Americans consumed high levels of fat-mostly the “evil” saturated fat.

Native Americans specifically hunted the older fatter animals because they had built up layers of fat along their backs. This saturated fat was highly prized as it could be rendered and stored, to be consumed with dried or smoked lean meat.Native Americans added wild berries, fruit and grains to the meat. They ground up the small bones and added it to the meat and fat. No trimming of excess fat and throwing it away.

 Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Fat of the Land, MacMillan Company, 1956

Offal not that Awful

Animals often eat the organ meats before consuming the muscle meats of their prey, coincidence? I think not!

Most of us in the West don’t even consider eating organ meats but maybe we should reconsider. Animal organs (liver, heart, kidneys, etc.) solely from organically raised, grass-fed animals are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. STAY AWAY from organ meat coming CAFO’s (Confined Animal Feeding Operations)! These organ meats can contain steroids and antibiotics and the animals live in unsanitary conditions leading to unhealthy organs.

There was a reason why traditional cultures take the time to prepare these organs for consumption. Organ meat is a nutritional juggernaut, packed with nutrients amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health.

Fat Soluble Nutrients

From the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest to the Plains to the swamps of the South all ate diets rich in water and fat-soluble nutrients. Dr. Price found that traditional culture’s diets compared to modern diets were consuming up to 10 times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and D. Only animal fats like fish oils, butter, lard, egg yolks and organ meats such as livers contains these essential fat-soluble vitamins. Dr. Price also concluded that these fat-soluble activators serve as a strong mechanism for mineral absorption; boy was he ahead of his time.

Plant Foods

Native American cultures ate a variety of plants depending on their geographical location, from wild rice to corn to beans and anything scavenged or grown in-between.

Shockingly, the Native American diet started producing negative results when tribes began consuming a large majority of their calories from corn. When the proportion of corn in the diet became too high, as happened in the American Southwest, the health of the people suffered. Skeletal remains of groups subsisting largely on corn reveal widespread tooth decay and bone problems.

William Campbell Douglass, MD, The Milk Book, Second Opinion Publishing 1994, page 215

Too much corn leads to bad health, sound familiar? Now we blame high fructose corn syrup as the “smoking gun” for our health epidemic. They say history repeats itself…

Fermented Foods

Throughout the Americas people were eating sour-tasting, fermented food which played a part in the health of traditional populations. One such food was Cherokee “bread” that consisted of nixtamal wrapped in corn leaves and allowed to ferment for two weeks.

Mary Ulmer and Samuel E. Beck, Cherokee Cooklore, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 1951

Once again these traditional cultures had the intuition to eat foods that were beneficial to their health. We now know that fermented food and micro-biota aids good physical and mental health.

Traditional Versus Modern Diets

Traditional Diets Maximized Nutrients

Modern Diets Minimize Nutrients

Foods from fertile soil

Foods from depleted soil

Organ meats preferred over muscle meats

Muscle meats preferred, few organ meats

Natural animal fats

Processed vegetable oils

Animals on pasture

Animals in confinement

Dairy products raw and/or fermented

Dairy products pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized

Grains and legumes soaked and/or fermented

Grains refined, and/or extruded

Soy foods given long fermentation, consumed in small amounts

Soy foods industrially processed, consumed in large amounts

Bone broths

MSG, artificial flavorings

Unrefined sweeteners

Refined sweeteners

Lacto-fermented vegetables

Processed, pasteurized pickles

Lacto-fermented beverages

Modern soft drinks

Unrefined salt

Refined salt

Natural vitamins occurring in foods

Synthetic vitamins taken alone or added to foods

Traditional cooking

Microwave, Irradiation

Traditional seeds, open pollination

Hybrid seeds, GMO seeds

Eating “native” isn’t that hard

Abandon processed foods by buying REAL food. The real breakfast of champions isn’t a bowl of Wheaties with skim milk but instead something more along the lines of “Lox and cheese”.

Dr. Price found only one group of modernized Native Americans whom didn’t suffer from the change in traditional diet to a more modern one.  This group was the students at the Mohawk Institute. The Institute maintained a fine dairy herd and provided fresh vegetables, whole wheat bread and limited the sugar and white flour.”

Weston A. Price, DDS, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, (619) 574-7763, pages 73-102

Weston Price, op cit, page 31

Follow these steps back into the past for a new you.

  • Eat plenty of meat and seafood
  • Eat plants prepared in a healthy manner
  • Eat fermented food more often
  • Drink whole, raw, unprocessed milk from cows that are grass-fed
  • Eat some good fats 
  • Eat healthy organs once a week (or take cod liver oil)

Sedentary Citizens

Get up, stand up; stand up for your health! Now more than ever we need to reverse the trend of slowly killing ourselves  by sitting too damn much. Sedentary lifestyles have become the norm in society with more than 78% of Americans at risk for health problems related to the lack of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can put you at risk for the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Migraines
  • Colon cancer
  • Depression Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid disorders
  • Mortality in adults
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Lower back pain

For an extra kick in the butt, read below.

“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”

Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic

Related: It's never to late to start exercising - heart disease study with infographic

The sedentary lifestyle is rearing its ugly head in almost all aspects of our lives. The average American is now spending about 9 hours a day in sedentary behaviors. Up to 86% of full time workers in America sit all day. Is the workplace partly to blame for our obesity epidemic? According to a recent study, in 1960 jobs requiring moderate physical activity represented about 50% of the market; today less than 20% of the labor market requires moderate physical activity.

The lack of activity in the workplace coupled with the fact that only about 20% of American adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity result in an unhealthy America. However, the sedentary lifestyle is just one aspect of the “Perfect Storm” for obesity; poor nutritional choices and bad eating habits exacerbate the problem.

The disturbing facts about sedentary lifestyles become even more depressing when looking at childhood obesity rates related to sedentary lifestyles. About a quarter of all US children spend 4 hours or more watching TV every day. Over 1/3 of American children are obese or overweight. This nightmare is only getting worse.

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 2014;311(8):806-814.

“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona

If that doesn’t horrify any parents reading this, then I’m not sure what will. PLEASE encourage your children to get out to play for at least 60 minutes daily. And remember YOU can directly control what your child is eating and how much of it, SET A GOOD EXAMPLE!

Lifestyles of Hunter-Gatherers

Over the past 2.4 million years since the dawn of mankind, our ancestors lived as hunter gatherers for approximately 84,000 generations thus we’ve become genetically adapted to this active lifestyle. Today’s sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are the antithesis of human evolution.

Fenner JN. Cross-cultural estimation of the human generation interval for use in genetics-based population divergence studies. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005;128:415-423.

Back then if you didn’t move, you died. Physical activity wasn’t a choice; it was the cornerstone of hunter-gatherers since man first roamed this planet. No drive thrus, supermarkets or delivery meant you had to move in order to survive. Frequent light to moderate exercise such as walking was required in these societies. The average distances covered varied but most estimates point to average daily walking distances anywhere from 3 to 10 miles.

The very essence of physical activity in these traditional societies was functional or natural training.

Moderate to high intensity activities along with rest and recovery were common place living in the wild. Naturally, they were employing similar HIIT training methods of today.

Cordain L, Friel J, eds. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. New York, NY: Rodale Books; 2005.

Just like our ancestors we should take part in physical exercise while in a social setting. Traditional cultures often hunted, foraged and performed chores in groups. We now know that group exercise has several benefits including empathy and motivation. 

Quick Tips

  • Exercise outdoors- Maintains vitamin D synthesis, Improves overall mood
  • Get a dog- More walks outside leads to better health
  • Dance more- Fun exercise that uses natural movements and engages your brain and creativity
  • More (safe) sex- Do you even need a special reason?


You might get 10 different opinions from the same 10 people on how to get our obesity problem under control. That’s because there are a number of other factors that contribute to this epidemic such as poor sleep, stress, genetics, age, lack of education, excessive weight gain in pregnant mothers, smoking and limited access to fresh healthy food. There have been systemic healthcare failures in many areas but we all have the power to take control of our bodies by moving more and making a better effort to eat real food.

Diet fads and trendy exercises will always come and go but we as humans are the same. Everyone benefits by adding more functional movement and physical activity into their lives. Everyone will benefit by cutting down eating processed foods and added sugars. At the end of the day we should all strive to become more “native”. We weren’t designed to be sedentary creatures that fill our faces with hotdog stuffed-crust pizza while drinking grape soda that contains no grapes.

Get out there move like you were meant to and challenge yourself to only eat foods that you can recognize as real food. If you can’t read half the words on the ingredient list, chances are it’s not good for you, PUT IT DOWN.

We would love to hear from you. Tell us how you became NATIVE again.

Want to learn more about the history of fitness? Read our Brief History of "Old-School" Fitness Equipment.

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