If you feel that leading a healthy lifestyle in today’s day and age isn’t easy, you’re not alone. And it’s true. I mean, if it were easy we wouldn’t have an obesity and preventable disease epidemic, would we?

But what if you could identify the ONE thing that’s standing in your way? What if you could simplify the problem to ONE single obstacle.

And what if you could shift your perspective to help you navigate that one obstacle with less stress? Without a feeling of futility?

Doing that gives you an advantage over everyone who feels like they’re drowning: drowning in information, drowning in circumstance, drowning in their genetics — all of it.

Here’s the number one obstacle to success that you face every single day you wake up: Evolutionary Mismatch.

You’ve kinda known about evolutionary mismatch for some time now, you just didn’t have a name for it. And you probably haven’t parsed out all the details yet. 

But, understanding evolutionary mismatch is one of the keys to shifting perspective.

I kinda fibbed though. Evolutionary mismatch is really three obstacles in one. But it’s still one, clear, overarching problem.

Mismatch #1: Abundance

Sometimes we forget how long humans — homo sapiens — have been around. Let’s call it 250,000 years. That’s a lot of years.

Agriculture and the beginning of food-supply-dominance is only about 10,000 to 15,000 years old. Modern agriculture and abundance-without-effort is only very recent.

So what happened before abundance? Well, things were very feast/famine. You hunted and you gathered. You’d eat a lot and then go days on very little. We did this for over 200,000 years. It’s the lifestyle our bodies became programmed to deal with.

The way the body deals with that type of lifestyle is to store fat for later access. If that doesn’t happen, you die quicker. Make sense? 

The mismatch is that we still carry that programming with us today and it’s completely unnecessary. But there’s no way to tell our body to stop acting that way.

The story gets worse…

Rather than just abundance, we’re the first generation facing an abundance of food that’s not even real. 80% of the food available in grocery stores didn’t exist 100 years ago. 

Our body doesn’t know how to metabolize this food. Most of it sends our hormones into a tailspin. On top of that, it destroys our gut and lights up the reward centers of our brain. It spells failure at every turn.

So we’re programmed to store fat to survive famine, yet we live in society where famine is nonexistent, the food isn’t real, and the combination of all that creates a death spiral of over-eating and preventable disease.

Mismatch #2: Pathological Sedentism

If a mass abundance of hormone-deranging food wasn’t bad enough, we’re also facing the evolutionary mismatch of pathological sedentism.

Historically, homo sapiens have needed to move to survive. You can’t hunt and gather without moving. You can’t travel and explore without moving. You can’t really do anything necessary for survival (except sleep), without moving.

The body programmed itself for movement. This is apparent in the fact that degradation of the muscular-skeletal system happens rapidly when the body is sedentary. Blood flow is poor when you’re not moving. Healing is delayed. The list goes on.

The mismatch we’re facing is that we’ve built a society where humans no longer have to move. You go from your bed to the chair in your kitchen. You go from the chair in your kitchen to the chair in your car. You use like 3 muscles to push down a pedal for an hour on your way to work. You go from your car chair to your office chair. You go from the office chair to the chair at the restaurant…you get the picture.

This isn’t just “being sedentary.” It’s sedentism to the point of pathology. It’s killing you (faster than if you were a smoker, by the way).

“But I exercise!” you say. Not good enough. The studies have shown that exercise doesn’t erase the effects of sedentism. It doesn’t help much at all. The only thing that helps is to stop being sedentary.

And you know what that means: inconvenience. But, like I’ve talked about before on my podcast, convenience is killing you.

Mismatch #3: Systematic Domestication

Once upon a time (common theme here, isn’t it?) humans lived in the wild.

“The wild! The wild! How barbaric!”

Yes, humans lived in the wild. And today, if you do anything that remotely resembles living outside of the convenient little box society wants to put you in, you’re ridiculed and chastised.

Convenience has made it unnecessary to do many of the wild things we used to do: hunt, fish, gather, build, travel on foot, wear minimal clothing, etc. If that wasn’t bad enough, social pressure has driven us to avoid doing that stuff. We want to keep our skills sharp, but society can’t handle it.

This is not just something that’s happened to us, it’s a complete societal mindset shift. It’s not the absence of wildness, it’s the purposeful rejection of it. Do you know what the purposeful rejection of wildness is called? It’s called domestication.

Domestication takes autonomous, strong, self-sufficient, survival-prone animals and turns them into a helpless, dependent, weak subspecies.

Compare modern day dogs to wolves, for example. We used to be like the wolf (I’m trying to avoid saying “back in the day” or “once upon a time” again) in terms of survivability and independence. Slowly, we’re becoming little frail, helpless, ankle biting variations of that.

The more removed from nature we become, the more domesticated we get. And no, joining a CrossFit box won’t change that. Strength alone doesn’t make you wild, there’s way more to the story than that.

No wonder it’s hard!

So, there you go. If you thought society was conspiring against your healthy lifestyle, you were right.

Knowing why it’s a struggle helps shift your perspective. Now you can reject certain things on principle. First, you can reject things like driving when walking is a possibility. That’s a socially safe and acceptable decision.

You can shun other modern conveniences and reduce sedentism. You can return to hunting and fishing now and then (and actually keep and cook what you kill/catch). You can spend more time outdoors with less clothes on. You can go barefoot.

You can be more accepting of people who do things that are socially taboo. 

You can recognize the danger of the modern food supply and make better decisions (rather than following the domesticated advice of reducing calories and signing up for spinning classes).

Yes, the deck is stacked against you. Yes, it’s inconvenient. But you’re not defeated yet. Not even close. Shift your perspective. See the underlying simplicity of the problem. And then expel it from your life step by step.

Perspective is powerful. Hopefully yours shifted a little bit just now. I’d love your comments below.


  • Great article … your 3 mismatches are spot on and well laid out. But I think there’s a 4th mismatch that’s also relevant (though I’m not sure how to describe it as nicely as you did the first 3) and that’s related to the difference between the tribe and the individual.

    Back in the day (LOL), if you were on your own you were likely dead. So we’re pretty wired to connect with others and work together. But these days, it’s all about how successful we are as individuals and if you aren’t, it’s a personal responsibility issue rather than the possibility that we’re no longer supported the way we once were. AKA, “it takes a village” has now become “we’re bowling alone” (see Putnam).

    I suspect that, for many/most of us, to “get over the thing standing in our way” involves community. And I think that’s why things like CrossFit boxes or Weight Watcher or AA groups work when they do. It’s providing that missing connection to a tribe.

    • Kevin Geary says:

      There’s some valuable insight in there Beth. I think it needs to be parsed and massaged more. But you’re definitely on to something!

  • Valerie says:

    Enjoyed this post, Kevin. I especially liked your point that those few who DO choose to live “outside the box” (quite literally at times) are ridiculed. As a society, we judge people who are nomads or homeless or otherwise non-traditional… but maybe they have some parts of this life thing figured out better than the rest of us.
    I also love your message of ACTIVITY rather than exercise. I have noticed really having to be patient with myself on this. For example, I’ve been getting more active at multiple points in the day – active stretching in the morning, mid-afternoon walk, dread-free barre workouts in the evening. And at first I was tempted to say, “I should have just totaled all that time into 1 more intense workout for more impact and efficiency” but I am starting to feel that just breaking up the periods of sedentary-ness throughout the day is even MORE valuable for me than getting an “intense” workout.

  • rosie says:

    Any thoughts on humans relationship with night and day…. I have a strong sense of when its time to sleep and time to rise. I thought for many years it was due to my father getting up at sunrise and my breakfast would be on the table. I feel good and sleep soundly when I listen to my clock. So many people with sleep disorders , insomnia, depression …. just my opinion but I think our ancestors slept at night and waked at dawn and that sunshine does the body good.

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