I Became a Bedouin For a Healthier Body & Mind

by Janet Wilkinson
western woman in bedouin clothing
The Simplicity of Bedouin life allowed my mind and body to reset to a natural state
It was during a winter trek to the Sahara that I first encountered a durizen tribe, still holding on to a way of life most would consider simplistic and what we in the US would call the inhabitants, for want of a better word, hicks. These were the equivalent to those who chose to shun modern life.

Whereas, our own often chose this way of life to evade taxes and what they consider government interference, these bedouins have chosen this life and have managed to keep this way of life alive since time immemorial.

After approaching this tribe I was introduced toMohsen, the tribe leader, who didn’t waste time offering me shade and a wonderful meal comprised of nothing but meat, milk and a piece of bread.

As the sun set, I was offered dinner which also consisted of meat, milk and more bread. The portions were more than generous. In just two meals it seemed the tribe had consumed several lambs.

Back in the US I had always struggled with weight issues and any medical advice I received was the same from practice to practice: consume less fat.

Yet these people consumed more meat in one week than the average American household consumed in months and looked like they didn’t have an ounce of fat on them!

What was it that made these bedouins so fit and healthy? According to nutritional experts they should have been obese and in bad shape. I decided to live among them for a month to see if I would also experience the health benefits of bedouin life and to see if I could shed some unwanted pounds.

The first week of living this way I noticed one thing. Their way of life is far removed from the sedentary lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to in the west. Working out in gyms does not come close to the amount of physical activity carried out by the tribe.

Every morning I would join tribe members for a three hour walk to fetch water, hunt for food, prepare meals and manage the upkeep living spaces. It was grueling. What took me by surprise was the energy these people had at the end of the day.

During the evenings they gathered for lengthy meetings that involved chanting, dancing and much talk about the old days. I would literally collapse in the midst of their meetings and wake up the next day to repeat it all over again.

The human body is a remarkable machine that can adapt to all circumstances. Where I expected depleted energy levels I found I felt more invigorated after a few weeks of strenuous physical activity.

In the space of a month I had lost 3 and a half stones. My friends in Seattle hardly recognized me and still cannot fathom why I can eat all sorts of fatty foods yet remain slim and full of energy. The simplicity of bedouin life taught me two things:

1. an unfettered mind aids digestion

2. our ancestors spent the greater part of the day walking

Walking not only frees the mind, it alleviates depression but is the most natural form of physical exercise which we all need to fall in love with again. Walking is easier to perform on a regular basis as part of your daily acitivites than forcing yourself to go to the gym.

When someone asks for advice about weight loss. The first thing I say is "walk". Forget calorie counting. Walk first, the rest will follow.

Janet Wilkinson writes for Calm Earth magazine in Toronto and has written several travel books

TL;DR - Main Points

  • Bedouins don't concern themselves beyond the basic needs of survival
  • Eating fats does not lead to weight gain
  • Walking is the greatest and easiest form of exercise
  • Working out at the gym is not maintainable