Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape

28Mar/114

Funny walks of the 20th century

Ministry of Silly Walks

Have shitty diets changed our gait and posture? And if they have, how do you prove such a thing? There’s no use reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and trying to read between the lines of “bouncing handsome womanliness" is there? I know, I’ve not posted for a while, but this video someone sent me more than makes up for it and proves that if nothing else, we used to walk a little bit like John Cleese 100 years ago…

So a bit of background to this train of thought. Robert McCarrison was one of the pioneers of nutritional research. Kind of the British Weston Price. He spent most of his time studying the Hunza– a native tribe whose health he was in awe of. You know the drill – perfect bodies, teeth, hair, fitness, gait, posture etc. The embodiment of health that you see virtually nowhere in the Western world except in glossy ads and Olympic teams. McCarrisson noted:

'These people are unsurpassed by any Indian race in perfection of physique; they are long lived, vigorous in youth and age, capable of great endurance and enjoy a remarkable freedom from disease in general.

At the heart of their diet was twinkie sandwiches whole unprocessed food. And incidentally, just to piss off any Paleo Nazis, these people ate bread. Yeah, that dirty stuff. But their bread had nothing in common with the mouldy gut-rot you buy in supermarkets today –traditional, non GM grains (millet mostly, sometimes, wheat). The grain would then be stone-ground on the same day as eating the bread, baked without yeast and eaten fresh. What’s the difference with today’s bread? Unsurprisingly – far more nutrients, far less gluten.  Breath a Paleo sigh of relief eh?

In Wheel of Health – a book which sounds disturbingly New Age, but is in fact written by a doctor from 1938 -  G.T. Wrench – available free here Wrench picks up McCarrison’s work and becomes equally fascinated by the health of the Hunza but also by comparison that of his colleagues. In a UK conference, Wrench starts observing the British doctors:

I had come from a country of balanced poise and movements, and after I had listened a little to the learned experts and professors upon the subject of health I became more and more inattentive to their speech and more and more interested in their lack of physical balance.

I found myself taking notes, not of the lectures, but of the lecturers. They showed a lack of spontaneously assumed poise when speaking. They would stand crooked, place a foot on a step, withdraw it again, twist their fingers, scratch their heads or eyebrows, twitch, or kink their mouths sideways.

Britain is full of awkward mumblies right, an assertion he puts down to the food they had as children. But it’s notoriously hard to separate out nature/nurture isn’t it? Well, take a look at this clip of San Fransisco from 1906, taken from a camera mounted on a tram – thought to be one of the first films ever made:

Once you’ve oohed and ahhed over the nostalgia, the crazy looking copper, look at closely again. Look how everyone walks. If you’re still not seeing it, take a look at this, and see the resemblance:

Long purposeful strides, leaning back. All of them. Everyone. A little less leg-kicking than Cleese granted.

Nature or nurture? No telling, but my money’s on the processed food, that’s not only changing the shape of our bodies, it’s changing the way we walk too.

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Why should our musculoskeletal system work properly when everything else is dysfunctional? From an evolutionary point of view, poor posture is just another way of saying, you don’t want to mate with me, I have issues.

    Poor posture and movement are the new normal, though. I don’t think even an old-fashioned grace-and-charm school could help most people. If one did walk around with grace and confidence, other people nowadays might think they were uppity.

  2. The new normal – think you hit it on the head there Angel. Though I promise I won’t get uppity if you walk around with grace and confidence!

  3. Hi Mike,

    Great post.

    BTW, the Hunza “Utopia” appears to be completely contradicted in a book written by John Clark titled “Hunza – Lost Kingdom of the Himalayas” in 1957. Clark was a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer who spent nearly two years living amoungst the people.

    Book pdfs:

    http://tinyurl.com/662qmv9 (text)
    http://tinyurl.com/6h4w98q (pictures)

    • Top find Peter, that blows a lot of the theories about their perfect health out the water and gave me food for thought. Bringing documents like this up are really important because some people are embracing Paleo-style eating and simultaneously rejecting the huge improvements Western medicine has made to civilisation, presumably on the grounds that big pharma is making a mint out of it so it must be wrong. As ever the reality is far more complex.


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