The Forager Returns

Mike's Mix Mike's Journal 4 Comments , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have returned from my trip to the Boundary Waters and I am still alive and healthy. For those of you who haven’t followed the previous posts, I entered the Minnesota/Canada Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area and relied exclusively on foraged and hunted (fished) foods for the entirety of a 7 day trip. I was diligent about keeping a journal, documenting much of my experience and the foods that I ate, which I will share with a series of posts sometime in the near future. Since this trip was a unique learning experience, I wanted my first post back to summarize some of the lessons I learned and share some questions that arose as a result of my experience. Although I can’t say the entire trip was pleasant, I have benefited by attaining a much greater understanding of my body and how it responded to a diet that was representative of a hunter/gatherer, which is now an extreme novelty in modern society. For those of you just visiting the site for the recovery drink, this may be the most interesting post in this series because it offers some insight on weight loss, hunger management, meal frequency, nutrition, etc. So, without further ado, I offer a haphazard list of observations, experiences and questions:


-I survived! It is possible for me to survive on a wild foods diet for at least a week.


-I feel extremely healthy, happy and fit upon my return.


-I was rarely hungry during my trip! This was the most shocking revelation because I often went long periods of time without eating and my calories fell far short of what I was expending. In contrast, when I am eating my normal diet, I often experience hunger and even irritability after only a few hours without food. This observation was the source of a number of questions:


  1. Was I getting more nutrients (micro and phytonutrients) from the wild foods that allowed me to be satiated?
  2. Is there something that I am eating at home that I wasn’t eating in the wild that cause hunger and mood changes?
  3. Are my hunger and mood shifts due to erratic levels of blood sugar as a result of my normal diet?
  4. Are psychological factors involved?


-I lost exactly 5 pounds of body weight and a full half inch off my waist. This is an indication that I did not get nearly enough macronutrients (calories) to balance my activity versus my caloric intake. The wild foods that I ate were characteristically very low in calories and I can’t imagine the vast amount of these foods I would have needed to eat to maintain my weight with a high activity level.


-My energy level was surprisingly sustained. However, I felt that my athleticism would have been compromised at a high intensity level. There were two days on the trip where we traveled 25 plus miles in a day and every day was characterized by significant travel by foot and paddle. At low to moderate intensity i.e. a slow jog, paddling, hiking and portaging, I could exercise almost continuously for several hours with little fatigue. However, I did not feel like I could have sprinted or had energy for high intensity physical activity. I assume that most of my activity was fueled by stored fat which physiologically can fuel low intensity activities, but I assume my glycogen supplies were compromised from my lack of calories which are needed for high intensity activity.


-I consumed 23 species of plant and five animal during my seven day trip.


-I found myself craving salt and fat. Most of my wild food I found bland, although not distasteful. Although I often crave sugar at home I did not crave it during my trip.


-Although I ate pounds of berries and numerous foods that were new to me I did not have any intestinal issues. I apologize ahead of time about the discussion of my constitution, but it warrants mention as I feel it was an important observation. With my brief wild food diet I only had a few bowel movements, although I wasn’t constipated. My stool was well formed and appeared similar to that of a wild animals with all the seeds, fiber and other indigestible material present. I had almost no gas, no bloating and no indigestion. I was surprised to find that my gut was quite healthy.


-A negative of the trip was that I was often anxious about food as my next meal was never certain.


-Finding food followed a feast or famine pattern. I would find a plethora of food and then find nothing for extended periods.


-In the past I have strongly objected to quick weight loss through calorie deprivation. I still have my misgivings about it simply because it is not sustainable and you learn little about the most important aspect of eating, which is adopting a permanent healthy diet. However, my experience has made me reconsider this option for weight loss as my experience has left me leaner, but seemingly healthy. I will make a more informed judgment in a week to see if I have maintained the weight loss.


-Obtaining wild food, specifically in the Boundary Waters, was more difficult than I had imagined. I would have eaten a lot more had I done a similar trip in my local vicinity (south central Wisconsin). This is partly due to a greater knowledge of the local plant species and partly due to the fact that the Boundary Waters has a much less diverse and productive plant community.


-I am not excited to replicate this trip in the future. Although there were many positives and it was an incredible learning experience I did not enjoy the anxiety I experienced worrying about my next meal and the blandness of my food. I would strongly consider a modified trip in which I brought considerable pre-foraged dried wild foods including; meats, nuts and seeds, fruits, greens, and flour. I would also appreciate seasonings and perhaps some sea salt to add flavor.


Loon on Nest

4 Responses to The Forager Returns

  1. michael baggett

    Thanks for the update I was wondering how the trip went. I always appreciate your insights into your trip as well as nutrition. Looks like you had lots of fun!

  2. Susan K

    Nice abs! You could be on to a new diet program……get dropped off in the middle of nowhere, survive and eat as much as you want on the food around you, and lose weight! Sounds a little similar to a reality show that’s out there but I’d probably give it a try for the right price 🙂

  3. egghead

    Very interesting Mike. I would like to speak with you about this, next time we climb.

    Cooling down some, so I hope that will be soon.


  4. egghead

    Oh, and you should have weighed that smallmouth bass. That is the biggest one I have ever seen, anyway. ce


Add a Comment