Chapter 3: The Sparrow
If you want to live a healthy life, you should be like a sparrow. This means eating like a sparrow, being active like a sparrow, and keeping your body in proportion to your heart, just like a sparrow. Have you ever seen a fat sparrow, or any fat bird, for that matter? Aside from the occasional robin that hogs your bird feeder, you answer is most likely no. Why is this?
For starters, all flying birds must have bodies that are in proportion to their hearts. Let us look at the sparrow. First and foremost, a sparrow’s weight is balanced to its body structure. A typical sparrow’s body is about as long as from the tip of your pinkie finger to your wrist. It only weighs about as much as a couple of grapes.
If a sparrow is healthy, its body is in proportion to its heart.
How does a sparrow maintain this proper proportion? For one, it only takes in enough food to supply it with the correct amount of energy it will expend during the day. Once it finds a food source, it eats only what it needs to survive. What is the food source? Typically, whole grains, berries, and an occasional worm, which it uses as a source of protein. It does not eat junk food like most humans do, so therefore, the sparrow can stay lean.
Why is a proper heart to body proportion important? Remember, the heart pumps blood throughout the body, supplying nutrients to everything within it. The heart is what keeps us alive. If your heart is accustomed to pumping blood throughout a proportional body, what happens when you gain weight? If a man goes from 150 pounds to 200 pounds, his heart must work harder to pump blood throughout this bigger body. It also has to push the blood past the blockages that form in his arteries. This will, consequently, increase his blood pressure. The end result is typically cardiovascular disease, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
Let’s look at this in another way. Let’s say you have a blender, which represents your body. Now, equate its motor to your heart. Then, you put water into the blender, and add some powdered milk. Turn it on for a few seconds and you get liquid milk. It did not have to work hard to mix the ingredients. This is a perfect example of a healthy heart pushing blood throughout an average person’s body.
What would happen if you would fill the blender halfway up with water, and fill the other half with several cups of flour? The flour would start to thicken and cake up. This would put a huge amount of stress on the motor and it would burn out. In a person, this would be akin to cardiac arrest.
The sparrow has a very strong heart. The muscle must be strong enough to circulate blood to the tips of its long wings. These wings allow it to fly very fast and for long distances, but only if its body is light and in proportion to its heart.
In contrast, look at the chicken. Its body is large and its wings are small. It cannot fly more than 100 meters, because the wings are weak and the body is heavy. Could this be due, in part, to a weaker heart? The chicken did not start out with a weak heart, but through domestication, its body evolved into what we see today. For our own convenience, chickens are kept in small cages, get no exercise and have a continuous feeding regime. Before this, its heart used to be in proportion to its body. In fact, thousands of years ago, chickens were much smaller than what they are now. Eventually, consumers pushed for chickens with larger breasts and farmers obliged. The birds’ bodies became larger and larger, while the wings stayed the same size: small. Today, they are fed a diet high in hormones and antibiotics, which causes them to put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Historically, while their bodies have grown large, their hearts have also stayed small. Now, the heart, which has never changed over the past thousands of years, has to push blood throughout an unnaturally large body. The result is that they have a weak heart that is prone to many health problems.1
Although we are not birds, the theory remains the same. We must be concerned with our heart-to-body ratio. If we have large bodies, our hearts must work harder to keep the blood pumping through us. The heart must supply more oxygen to the body and, at the same time, work harder to circulate blood past fat blockages.
On average, our hearts weigh about three quarters of a pound. 2 For ease of study, I will round it up to a pound. A healthy man weighs 150 pounds. So, this means that he should have a body weight to heart ratio of 150:1. What does it mean for a 300-pound man? A 300:1 ratio. His heart has to work twice as hard as that of a healthy man. This puts too much stress on the heart, which will surely cause an early death.
Besides eating healthily, how else does a sparrow keep its heart healthy? It never stops moving. After the sparrow eats, what does it do? It flies off at a high rate of speed, darting to and fro. Maybe it perches in a tree for a moment, or perhaps it flies around looking for a potential mate. It does not stay put for very long. It is very active, which means it burns off the calories it eats. If the sparrow ate more than it burned, it would become lethargic and make itself an easy meal for a predator. The cycle is simple: it eats only what it needs for energy, and then it exercises. After it burns off the calories from a meal, what does it do? It looks for food again.
Wild fish do the same thing. Fish eat only what they need, and then they dart around, swimming very fast to get where they are going. Even when they stay in one place, their bodies continue to move. They also swim to avoid predators. Later, they eat more food for energy to do the same thing, over and over again. They are healthy because their hearts are in proportion to their bodies, and this allows them to swim very quickly. When they swim, the heart efficiently pumps blood throughout their bodies. The oxygen and vital nutrients are pushed through the body by a strong heart. It is a recurring cycle.
Now, compare these examples to a human who weighs 300 pounds. He is 150 pounds overweight and moves around sluggishly. He avoids the stairs by taking the elevator. More than likely, he can’t use the stairs because it is too hard for him to climb them and breathe at the same time. When he walks, he slouches backwards to offset the forward weight of his stomach. While walking, he barely swings his arms, and even sweats, all from just traveling a short distance. What does his heart have to do? It must work overtime in order to get the blood flowing throughout his body to the additional capillaries (which I will discuss later) his body has made. If something does not change soon, his heart will give out and he will eventually die.
What can he, and every one of us, do to prevent this? We must start eating whole grains and natural foods, much like a sparrow. Instead of stuffing ourselves, we must stop eating before we are completely full. If someone is overweight, he or she should also cut out meat for the time being. We all must begin or continue exercising. As a result, the heart will get stronger, and we will become healthier.
Humans have existed for about 3 million years, and have been bipedal for 2.5 million years. We have only been using agriculture for the past 10,000 years. Between 2.5 million and 10 thousand years ago, we lived like the sparrow. We would only eat wildlife, and then would burn the energy from the food to stay alive. We should, therefore, exercise and eat a healthy diet, just like our ancestors. If we do not, our natural body function will be destroyed.
See Commercial Poultry. Artificial selection has led to a great decrease in the time it takes for chickens to reach slaughter-weight. The time required to reach decreased from 120 days to 30 days between 1925 and 2005. Selection for fast early growth-rate, and feeding and management procedures to support such growth, have led to various welfare problems in modern chicken strains. See also: Broiler
See Mass Of A Human Heart. “The heart is a relatively small (no bigger than a clenched fist), hollow, muscular organ which is in charge of pumping blood throughout the body and to other organs.” The average heart is 310 grams or 0.68 pounds.