5

votes

Does a real hunter-gatherer gain significant weight in very abundant time?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 11, 2010 at 11:30 AM

I know this (probably) is a hypothetical question, so I expect some hypothetical answers. Which is good, as long as they are sound.

Would a real hunter gatherer gain significant weight if there is a long period (let's say 10 years) of real food abundance (more food than he can eat and relatively easy to find/catch)?

Of course he eats only the foods that he can hunt and/or gather.

Would his instinct and satiety-hormones protect him? Or would he become a lazy overeater and get obese?

Thanks

(things that probably are related are: set-points and neolithic agents)

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on February 24, 2011
at 01:05 PM

There's a theory that the Venus of Willensdorf was actually Paleo porn, i.e. Grok's answer to photoshopped models with exaggeratedly huge implants.

101b3a5c96d313d22262f65bdff20acf

(539)

on February 23, 2011
at 06:13 PM

There's also a ceremony in some groups of native Australians where they shore up a new bride in a rock niche -- she doesn't move much for about a month and people bring her as much food as possible -- all for the purpose of "fattening her up" sufficiently to conceive. Apparently it can be a real challenge. Source: a chatty Aboriginal tour facilitator at Kata Tjuta National Park.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on February 23, 2011
at 03:56 PM

not really sure what you mean oak0y?

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 28, 2010
at 06:48 PM

Scott, I found the a little quote that makes the same point as you do: http://paleohacks.com/questions/2440/paleo-or-paleo-friendly-quotes-or-stories-from-non-paleo-sources/13130#13130

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 12, 2010
at 10:52 AM

Eva, Ryan, of course this is genetic. Eva, what you describe about the side effect could be exactly what they mean with sexuel selection: it takes energy to build it, it is not necessarily survival enhancing, but it, for some reason attracts mates.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 12, 2010
at 06:15 AM

Eva, see this quote from wikipedia: "Paleolithic Venus figurines, sometimes referred to as "steatopygian Venus" figures [...]presenting a remarkable development of the thighs, and even the prolongation of the labia minora, has been used to support this theory.[1] Whether these were intended to be lifelike or exaggeratory, even idealistic, is unclear. However, these figures do not strictly qualify as steatopygian, since they exhibit an angle of approximately 120 degrees between the back and the buttocks, while steatopygia is diagnosed at an angle of about 90 degrees only."

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on October 12, 2010
at 05:52 AM

Good point, Eva. More leisure instead of more eating.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:57 AM

Interesting. But looks like this is the natural shape of people with this genetics, in times of plenty or in times of not so plenty. I does, however, make for a valid explanation of the venus figures. It also makes me curious what kind of side effects such genetics does or does not have on the person carrying this extra fat. Is the rest of the body adapted to carrying this fat? Or does the person suffere negative side effects. If many side effects, there must have been some kind of natural selection pressure that counteracted them and make it still a preferred genetic state to pass on.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:33 AM

I have not seen any huntergatherer women approach this size. The fattest I have seen was in one tribe where fat women were prized so young women would go into a special hut where everything possible was done to make them fat. They were not allowed to exercise and they were expected to force down as much full fat milk as possible every day. SOme of them were able to get fat this way, but still not as fat as that Venus. And the other point is, they were forcing themselves to eat and drink even when they really really didn't want it. They were pushing against biology. PLus they used milk!

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:29 AM

That's what wild animals do, have more children. Humans might do a bit of that, but they would probably also be doing more art, weaving, inventing, playing, religion, dancing, visiting friends, building new shelters, etc

C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on October 12, 2010
at 02:13 AM

From my understand steatopygi is genetic, does not relate to diet at all. Also I believe the first theroy fat/water accumulation is a more fitting reason for it as it generally only happens to people with a African decent. Have humans ever developed anything simple for the attraction of the opposite sex? Survival seems like a more logic course.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:45 PM

The more children is interesting and I've heard this before. If I recall, this is what animals 'do' in times of plenty: more offspring, no obesity. Do you happen to know a paper or refernce to more about this? Thanks Scott!

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:22 PM

It's all good speculation :)

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:15 PM

Although this is speculation, but like Yoahhah i agree that this could be a bit of wishful thinking. But still nice answer Matthew

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:18 PM

the problem is that we don't know how realistic the Venus is. Some speculate that it was an image of goddess or general portrayal of the force of life - so the life giving parts of woman's body were overemphasized. BUT I do think that it was normal, especially for women, to be on the chubby side sometimes, especially with age and pregnancies.

4ff24fb9a7d48305681487dfb8040a5e

(383)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:12 PM

I wonder if only females would have gotten this big as men were supposed to provide and to hunt whereas the females stayed in camp and found no need to gather if food was abundant? This might also be an explanation why it is more difficult for women to reach the leanness than for men. What do you think?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:03 PM

Pregnancy is certainly a possibility, however I don't know of any modern hunter-gatherer women who look like that when pregnant. It suggests a good food supply.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:55 PM

very good post. She definitely does seem to have gained some weight from a presumed slim beginning. Sure its related to pregnancy, but you do always seem to see these images of plenty represented with woman, no? No similar images of men come to mind. Anyone know of some?

D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

(1170)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:42 PM

They also had pregnancy back then.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:33 PM

Nice. Evidence always trumps speculation. =)

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 11, 2010
at 02:52 PM

I also agree with Jae. THere is something about natural foods that you eat when you are hungry but then you get full and stop eating at the appropriate time. Because you feel stuffed! I think for those with healthy metabolisms, you will not get super fat eating natural foods.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 11, 2010
at 02:13 PM

I agree with Jae. Ive been eating only animal products for about 5 months now, and before that have been paleo for a good long two or so years, and am pretty confident that my hormones and metabolism are pretty good. I never weigh anything and there are times when ill take down maybe 2 lbs of meat and fat in the evening. Other times way less. This never seems to manifest as weight gain. My point is that indeed with a well-functioning metabolism/hormonal setup you can prolly take in a lot more sometimes and lot less sometimes and maintain something close to homeostasis in weight/bodycomp.

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9 Answers

3
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on October 11, 2010
at 05:22 PM

I think there is a difference between the sexes. For women it was normal that they had to be fatter to be fertile and have enough fat to support the pregnancy and breast feeding. And even though breast feeding is said to "suck out" fat from women, I wouldn't be surprised if the women in that period were getting a special care and extra fat pieces of meat, to support them.

We know that the elderly was taken care for as well, which means that it might be that with age they were becoming more passive, spent more time in the camp with the young ones (education!), less moving around. There are picture of elderly HG women and men with rounded figures.

3
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on October 11, 2010
at 01:49 PM

Sgt. John Ordway - May 9, 1805: "The game is getting so plenty and tame in this country that some of the party clubbed them out of their way." From nps.gov

I'd imagine that in such an environment, you could eat a lot without expending a lot of energy. But unless something were to break your metabolic software, I'm not sure you could gain significant weight, because your hormones would tell you "I'm full, stop eating!"

I've eaten 3 lbs. of brisket in one sitting, and it is not easy. It is work, and not particularly pleasant after the first two pounds. There is no way I would even try, if I weren't consciously trying to gain weight.

Is it possible to break your metabolism on a HG diet? I suppose if an individual were genetically predisposed to fructose intolerance, and had abundant access to fruit for most of the year, AND game were abundant, then sure?

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 11, 2010
at 02:52 PM

I also agree with Jae. THere is something about natural foods that you eat when you are hungry but then you get full and stop eating at the appropriate time. Because you feel stuffed! I think for those with healthy metabolisms, you will not get super fat eating natural foods.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 11, 2010
at 02:13 PM

I agree with Jae. Ive been eating only animal products for about 5 months now, and before that have been paleo for a good long two or so years, and am pretty confident that my hormones and metabolism are pretty good. I never weigh anything and there are times when ill take down maybe 2 lbs of meat and fat in the evening. Other times way less. This never seems to manifest as weight gain. My point is that indeed with a well-functioning metabolism/hormonal setup you can prolly take in a lot more sometimes and lot less sometimes and maintain something close to homeostasis in weight/bodycomp.

2
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:27 PM

This statue is known as the Venus of Willendorf. She is a small stone statuette found in Austria and carved at the height of the last ice age some 26,000-24,000. Someone back then gained enough weight to inspire the artist. To many mammoth steaks perhaps :)

does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time?

does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:22 PM

It's all good speculation :)

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:03 PM

Pregnancy is certainly a possibility, however I don't know of any modern hunter-gatherer women who look like that when pregnant. It suggests a good food supply.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:18 PM

the problem is that we don't know how realistic the Venus is. Some speculate that it was an image of goddess or general portrayal of the force of life - so the life giving parts of woman's body were overemphasized. BUT I do think that it was normal, especially for women, to be on the chubby side sometimes, especially with age and pregnancies.

4ff24fb9a7d48305681487dfb8040a5e

(383)

on October 11, 2010
at 05:12 PM

I wonder if only females would have gotten this big as men were supposed to provide and to hunt whereas the females stayed in camp and found no need to gather if food was abundant? This might also be an explanation why it is more difficult for women to reach the leanness than for men. What do you think?

D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

(1170)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:42 PM

They also had pregnancy back then.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:33 PM

Nice. Evidence always trumps speculation. =)

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:15 PM

Although this is speculation, but like Yoahhah i agree that this could be a bit of wishful thinking. But still nice answer Matthew

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:33 AM

I have not seen any huntergatherer women approach this size. The fattest I have seen was in one tribe where fat women were prized so young women would go into a special hut where everything possible was done to make them fat. They were not allowed to exercise and they were expected to force down as much full fat milk as possible every day. SOme of them were able to get fat this way, but still not as fat as that Venus. And the other point is, they were forcing themselves to eat and drink even when they really really didn't want it. They were pushing against biology. PLus they used milk!

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 11, 2010
at 04:55 PM

very good post. She definitely does seem to have gained some weight from a presumed slim beginning. Sure its related to pregnancy, but you do always seem to see these images of plenty represented with woman, no? No similar images of men come to mind. Anyone know of some?

101b3a5c96d313d22262f65bdff20acf

(539)

on February 23, 2011
at 06:13 PM

There's also a ceremony in some groups of native Australians where they shore up a new bride in a rock niche -- she doesn't move much for about a month and people bring her as much food as possible -- all for the purpose of "fattening her up" sufficiently to conceive. Apparently it can be a real challenge. Source: a chatty Aboriginal tour facilitator at Kata Tjuta National Park.

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on February 24, 2011
at 01:05 PM

There's a theory that the Venus of Willensdorf was actually Paleo porn, i.e. Grok's answer to photoshopped models with exaggeratedly huge implants.

2
0e4e5882872d6a7c472ea51aec457e66

(1994)

on October 11, 2010
at 11:41 AM

Can a lazy, overeating hunter hunt successfully? Or who else should feed him?

I guess, he will gain weight to the point that still allows him to hunt - but not more. If he gains more weight, his hunting success will decrease - as will his weight, because he will have less to eat.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 23, 2011
at 03:29 PM

we trie to fix a health role model. based in the greek olympic athletes and go on to the perfect warriar and worker.

Often things change and differs for local changes. so dont mind on every thing. just more report what you experience. try to create a new thing

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on February 23, 2011
at 03:56 PM

not really sure what you mean oak0y?

1
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:42 PM

Matthews answer made me think of these:

does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time? does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time?does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time?does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time? does-a-real-hunter-gatherer-gain-significant-weight-in-very-abundant-time?

These are Southern African bushmen (although other people also have similar physical properties). It is called 'steatopygia'. It is mostly in women, but also men have it. These women also have very enlarged labia minores (genitals) (you will have to google these pics)

Theories:

1) it is a useful fat accumulation for times of need (like the camels hump)

2) it is the result of sexual selection (like the peacocks tail), not useful for survival (maybe on the contrary), but useful for attracting opposite sex.

Quick search does not seem to say more about diet and seasonal abuncancy of food.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 12, 2010
at 10:52 AM

Eva, Ryan, of course this is genetic. Eva, what you describe about the side effect could be exactly what they mean with sexuel selection: it takes energy to build it, it is not necessarily survival enhancing, but it, for some reason attracts mates.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 12, 2010
at 06:15 AM

Eva, see this quote from wikipedia: "Paleolithic Venus figurines, sometimes referred to as "steatopygian Venus" figures [...]presenting a remarkable development of the thighs, and even the prolongation of the labia minora, has been used to support this theory.[1] Whether these were intended to be lifelike or exaggeratory, even idealistic, is unclear. However, these figures do not strictly qualify as steatopygian, since they exhibit an angle of approximately 120 degrees between the back and the buttocks, while steatopygia is diagnosed at an angle of about 90 degrees only."

C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on October 12, 2010
at 02:13 AM

From my understand steatopygi is genetic, does not relate to diet at all. Also I believe the first theroy fat/water accumulation is a more fitting reason for it as it generally only happens to people with a African decent. Have humans ever developed anything simple for the attraction of the opposite sex? Survival seems like a more logic course.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:57 AM

Interesting. But looks like this is the natural shape of people with this genetics, in times of plenty or in times of not so plenty. I does, however, make for a valid explanation of the venus figures. It also makes me curious what kind of side effects such genetics does or does not have on the person carrying this extra fat. Is the rest of the body adapted to carrying this fat? Or does the person suffere negative side effects. If many side effects, there must have been some kind of natural selection pressure that counteracted them and make it still a preferred genetic state to pass on.

1
C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on October 11, 2010
at 03:36 PM

I would have say it is not easy. I was eating 3 large meals a day, and I had to force myself to eat one of those meals.

Aproxx around 6000 cals/day for 2-3 months. Around 1500 cals from carbs, the rest from Protein and fat.

In a 3 month time frame I maintained my normal weight of 180-185, other things kicked in however for example.

Over excessive sweating and lots of it.... I MEAN A LOT. So, if there were eating a lot more from Fruit then yes it is possible.

Those 2-3 months were horrid on my metabalism and I can't see too many people willing putting themselfs though, not in a hunter gather type life style.

If I eat non paleo foods I can jump my weight up in no time.

1
5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on October 11, 2010
at 02:55 PM

I would guess that in seasonally abundant times they would put on weight to help them through an impending non-abundant season. With abundance in time frames longer than a year I would guess they'd have more children.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on October 12, 2010
at 05:52 AM

Good point, Eva. More leisure instead of more eating.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 12, 2010
at 03:29 AM

That's what wild animals do, have more children. Humans might do a bit of that, but they would probably also be doing more art, weaving, inventing, playing, religion, dancing, visiting friends, building new shelters, etc

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 11, 2010
at 07:45 PM

The more children is interesting and I've heard this before. If I recall, this is what animals 'do' in times of plenty: more offspring, no obesity. Do you happen to know a paper or refernce to more about this? Thanks Scott!

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on October 28, 2010
at 06:48 PM

Scott, I found the a little quote that makes the same point as you do: http://paleohacks.com/questions/2440/paleo-or-paleo-friendly-quotes-or-stories-from-non-paleo-sources/13130#13130

0
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on February 24, 2011
at 11:28 AM

I think it's very likely ancestral people eating this way would put on weight, including fat, especially in women, during times of abundance.

I had my dogs and cat on a 'paleo' biologically appropriate diet many years before I did it for myself, and while keeping them lean and muscular is quite easy with a little thought on my part, they will steadily gain weight eating zero-carb organ, meat, fat, and bone if I feed them too much food total. Activity helps but doesn't solve the problem.

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