The Anniversary of Discovering My "True" Animal Nature

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Came across this article yesterday in the NY Times by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers.  Here’s an excerpt.

I’d long assumed that wild animals stayed effortlessly lean and healthy. I’d always thought that wild animals ate until they were full and then prudently stopped. But in fact, given the chance, many wild fish, reptiles, birds and mammals overindulge. Sometimes spectacularly so. Abundance plus access — the twin downfalls of many a human dieter — can challenge wild animals, too.

Although we may think of food in the wild as hard to come by, at certain times of the year and under certain conditions, the supply may be unlimited. Many gorge, stopping only when their digestive tracts literally cannot take any more. Tamarin monkeys have been seen to eat so many berries in one sitting that their intestines are overwhelmed and they soon excrete the same whole fruits they recently gobbled down.

Mark Edwards, an animal nutrition expert, told me, “We’re all hard-wired to consume resources in excess of daily requirements. I can’t think of a species that doesn’t.” Wild animals can get fat with unfettered access to food.

Of course, animals also fatten normally — and healthily — in response to seasonal and life cycles. Remarkably, it is the landscape around an animal that determines whether its weight stays steady or rises.

And nature imposes its own “weight-maintenance plan” on wild animals. Cyclical periods of food scarcity are typical. Threats from predators limit access to food. Weight goes up, but it also comes down. If you want to lose weight the wild animal way, decrease the abundance of food around yourself and interrupt your access to it. And expend lots of energy in the daily hunt for food. In other words: change your environment.