Sunday, March 31, 2013

Some thoughts on Paleo FX 2013

My wife Jamie and I rolled into Austin last Wednesday and, for the next few days, ate colossal quantities of amazing food -- mostly Mexican and BBQ, but with detours for burgers and French(!) cooking as well -- and went to a wonderful, well-organized conference called Paleo FX.

It was my first time in Austin, somehow, and so I came armed with food recommendations from friends -- so many that if we hit them all, it would have taken us months. The only other thing on my agenda besides deliciousness (and a nice vacation with Jamie) was learning something. See, I don't do anything *professionally* in the field of ancestral health and fitness. Don't get me wrong... I love the subject, and it has changed my life, but I don't make my living that way. So, I didn't go to the conference with the overriding goal of "networking." I met some great folks while here, but I didn't make the whole socializing/networking thing my main priority. Instead, I was mostly just here to learn. So, rather than approach this wrapup any other way, I am just going to highlight some of the very smart things that I heard very smart people say. Let's go....(By the way, I took absolutely zero notes so this is all from memory. When I use quotation marks, it is because I recall that phrase as a direct quote. Otherwise, I am paraphrasing).

Nora Gedgaudas: "Be a primal warrior." No one, particularly modern medicine, is going to save you in most instances. Take care of every single thing that you have control over. And, no surprise, that mostly means managing stress, getting good sleep, managing blood sugar and diet, and getting in quality exercise.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Carbs should not be the primary fuel for athletes. Good fats should do that job, and will do it so much more efficiently. And more and more athletes are coming around to that point of view.

Sarah Fragoso: "Put on your own oxygen mask first." Don't try to change your family's eating habits before (or even simultaneously with) your own. Get your own life, diet and exercise in order and then work on your family's needs. And then continue to make time to tend to your own needs in that regard or else you will burn out before you can ever help them.

Chris Kresser: LDL particle number, not size, is the most important blood marker with relation to LDL cholesterol. And it can be tough getting your doc to focus on that, or even order the test for it. Others on the bloodwork panel -- Dr. Amy Myers and Dr. Lane Sebring also made it clear that there are a battery of tests that could be helpful, and almost none are ordered regularly. It made me seriously consider seeking out a primal/paleo doc for bloodwork. Until now I had always figured that if I got a questionable number, I would then follow up with a paleo doc, but now I am wondering if the tests my regular doc runs are even the right ones.

Sarah Fragoso (again): "When people ask me how I eat, I tell them that I eat whatever I want to." And then she made it clear that she usually eats the right paleo food, but, when she doesn't, it is a conscious, mindful choice and she enjoys it for what it is.

Dr. Emily Deans: "Everyone falls off the wagon sometimes." It's no big deal. Enjoy it. Get right back on. She and Dr. Jacob Egbert did a great panel together focusing first on how difficult dietary issues often involve psychiatric/psychological considerations similar to those that occur with addiction (Deans), as well as on the power of a holistic approach to diet and health that, ideally, treats the client on all levels -- medical, dietary, exercise-related, mobility-related, everything.... (Egbert)

Robb Wolf: If we could only change the farm-subsidy culture in this country, we could put farmers on the same competitive level, and suddenly grain-fed meat would have to compete with grassfed on more equal terms.

Dr. Lauren Noel: If you suffer from herpes infections, cut out coconut in all forms and take lysine. Coconut is high in arginine, which is linked to recurring herpes outbreaks.

Dr. Lane Sebring: "Most patients who come to me don't need my services for very long." That's how powerful an ancestral approach to medicine is. More reason to consult that paleo/primal doc in your area? I think so.

Robb Wolf (over and over to great effect): All of this stuff is linked, and by "stuff," he means politics and food policy and medical policy. As long as the economic incentive is there to pour meds down the gullets of the citizenry instead of focusing on diet and exercise, the problems will never be fixed. Likewise, if the medical thinking can change -- and he is trying to change it -- there is hope.

Robb Wolf (again): Programs that focus on groups, like the first responders that he is working with in Reno, have huge potential to influence the medical community on the power of ancestral diet and exercise.

Robb Wolf (yet again): "This may not be a popular point of view" ("Oh boy," I thought), but.... The Weston A. Price Foundation does good work, but they have had a really long time to influence the direction of the conversation, and, by and large, the paleo movement is doing a better job much faster. Moreover, while sprouting grains may make them less harmful for some, the majority of folks would be healthier simply by avoiding grains altogether.

James Fitzgerald, aka "OPT," in what was probably my favorite presentation of the conference: Know what your goals are. First of all, almost any exercise program is going to help the former non-exerciser make huge gains at first. But when that person hits the intermediate level, problems can arise if the person's goals -- which more often than not are related to health and longevity, not, say, making the CrossFit Games -- are not properly addressed by the person's training. Too many athletes, particularly CrossFitters, are doing extreme anaerobic metcon work too often, and it is destroying them. "Understand what you are buying into if you come to me and say that you want to be an elite-level athlete. There is a cost, often a big cost, in terms of health and longevity." Genius. Pure effing genius. Listen up, folks. If you are in this game to live long and healthy, lift big and do some aerobic work. Sure, every now and then -- maybe three times a year -- cycle in just a few anaerobic meltdown sessions, just to go near that zone, often more for "spiritual" than physical reasons. But don't train like a competitive CrossFitter unless you are one.

James Fitzgerald (again) and others: Heartrate variability is an important factor to consider in assessing both overall health *and* the appropriate training to undertake that day, or week. If you start the day stressed and whacked-out, it quite possibly is not the day to go all-out in your training. Likewise, the mental/spiritual/mindfulness approach to reducing stress is critical to health and longevity, as well as to athletic performance.

Dr. Paul Jaminet, Dr. Lauren Noel, Dr. Cate Shanahan and Dr. Terry Wahls: Eat your vegetables!!!! Too many paleo folks think this is a "meatitarian" diet. A high volume of quality, preferably organic, plant matter should be in every single meal. Yes, that includes breakfast.

And finally, Hamilton Stapell: I hate to break it to you, but paleo is not going to become the dominant lifestyle in this country. But that is okay. We can still make giant strides forward and help a lot of people.

It was all very inspiring. Sometimes it was educational. Sometimes it was just nice to hear a really smart person reaffirm a point that I have held near and dear for a while. I left the Paleo FX conference with my commitment to this lifestyle firmly in place, my hunger even greater for more and more information on, well, everything paleo/primal, and, yeah, my belly full of some amazing Austin food. Austin, I'll be back again. Paleo, I am in this for the long haul. Let's do this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Nice summmary Steve! Great hanging out with you and Jamie at PaleoFX :) Let us know if you pop over to NYC.

  2. It's almost like I was there! ...Well, not quite, and I'm still envious of people who attended. But thanks for this wonderful write up all the same.