"We're really focused on avoiding the diseases of civilization," he says. "We use the term 'diseases of civilization' to refer to at least three prominent conditions: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Our Paleolithic predecessors never had those issues." (No one inside the group challenges such claims by pointing out how much we have yet to learn about said predecessors.)

The degree to which you adapt the principles of the caveman lifestyle to your daily routine becomes important. Some go all the way. For two months now, Born has slept on a flat bed he built from lumber and bamboo purchased at Lowe's. And though it's hard to look past his whistle, he's currently wearing Vibram FiveFingers, glorified foot gloves that are about as close to the barefoot caveman aesthetic as you can get without actually being barefoot.

"I sleep on a flat surface because the people who live in Third World countries do that and have been doing it for a long time," Born says. "They don't have back problems, and reasons like this are probably why. It's only recently that life became so complicated, and we needed all of these extra things."

Alex Born leads members of Primal Living STL through an intense workout every Tuesday evening at Tower Grove Park.
Jason Stoff
Alex Born leads members of Primal Living STL through an intense workout every Tuesday evening at Tower Grove Park.
Jason Stoff

The last remaining link in the chain of St. Louis enthusiasts reenvisioning the diet as a large-scale lifestyle is simply the need for more links. And that's the hardest part. It's tough to convince people to shirk modern conventions and adopt a diet that can be roughly 50 percent fat — much less to do so while name-dropping cavemen like a Geico pitchman.

"I've found that the more advice I give people, the quicker they just refuse it," Libbie says. "It's not helpful to say, 'Try this instead of what you've been doing your whole life.' I know it sounds crazy, but I also know it worked for me, which makes it harder that I have no idea how to make it work for you."

In the meantime, those who have already been converted are cracking post-workout jokes even as they struggle to breathe without panting. There's a joke about how one dieter shouldn't have eaten so much fat before the workout. There's a one-liner about spears, which early humans used to throw around, much like the weights now spread across the grass. There's some cackling, followed by the collection of those weights and the search to identify and claim the bikes they rode in on.

"Holy crap, who had this weight?" asks a member, who has picked up what is easily the most awkward piece. "This is almost Neanderthal." 

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