Thursday, August 11, 2011


Paleopalooza.  The Woodstock of Evolutionary Medicine.  Paleo Summer Camp.  Yes, I'm talking about the awesomeness that was the Ancestral Health Symposium!  Last week, I flew out to LA (with a little help from the absolutely wonderful Virgin Atlantic) and I spent Friday & Saturday soaking up smartness at the UCLA campus.

Let's get the fan-girl stuff out of the way first.
I met Mark Sisson!  And Melissa & Dallas of Whole9!  And Robb Wolf!  I got to say hi to so many people whose blogs and books I read (Diane Sanfillipo, Julianne Taylor, Melissa McEwen, Sarah Fragoso, Tucker Max, Lindsay Starke, the Drs. Eades, etc.), and I wanted to talk to so many more, but eventually my shyness took over and I lost my will to introduce myself to any more people.  Everyone was so nice and happy to be there, and it was very cool that the speakers were out and about, spending a lot of time with those of us who were there as attendees.  Hell, Tucker Max spent a good twenty minutes chatting with me and my AHS buddy Danielle; he was surprisingly friendly!

The Grokfather himself

Tucker Max, Danielle, Robb Wolf and meee!!!

My favorite tidbits.
I had a tough time choosing between seeing Mark Sisson and Denise Minger, and I'm glad I saw Denise.  Besides being brilliant, she seems like a lovely person, and was a natural speaking in front of a large group.  Her talk was "How to Win an Argument With a Vegetarian," but I believe the information she shared applies to conventional wisdom in general, as meat is roundly villified by the "health-conscious" masses, and vegetarianism & veganism regarded as something to aspire to.  Everyone knows vegans are the healthiest people out there, right?  Well, Denise took us through the confounding variables that nobody seems to consider, such as the fact that vegetarians are more likely to exercise and avoid alcohol & tobacco compared with the typical omnivore (i.e. non-paleo meat eater).  Also interesting was that the popular and successful vegetarian diet programs all exclude items that we paleo folks also avoid, such as sugar, refined grains, and processed oils!  "It must be the veganism, right?"  Not necessarily...  As more and more people approach me who are curious yet skeptical about paleo, Denise's information will definitely come in handy, but as Robb Wolf added during the Q&A session, "if people don't want to buy in, f**k 'em;" if people want help, we're all here to give that, but I've never been successful in changing anyone's mind about anything, so I'm working on wasting less energy trying. 

Another favorite presentation was by Erwan LeCorre of MovNat.  Not only is he gorgeous to look at and listen to, but I really needed his message.  I love the gym, which is great and all, but I really do need to get back to nature.  I strive to focus on functional movements, but it doesn't get much more functional than getting into the outdoors and dealing with tree trunks and rocks.  GPP isn't really about actual skills- agility, speed, strength, and the like aren't skills; jumping, throwing, and lifting are.  That had never occurred to me, but made perfect sense.  Erwan also stressed that MovNat is about so much more than what you weigh, how fast you can run, or how much you can squat; it's about non-measurable progress in areas such as courage and self-esteem.  That really resonated with me.  As an added bonus, MovNat instructor Clifton Harski informed me via Twitter that there will be a MovNat workshop in DC this October, so I'm hoping to get in on that!

I wish I were smarter so I could have better understood the presentation by organic chemist Mat Lalonde (aka "The Kraken").  Here's what I got- we can't just get away with saying things like "grains (etc.) are bad for us because we haven't been eating them very long" or "legumes are bad because they have lectins."  Anti-nutrients are not all created equal, and they even elicit different responses in different species.  I also gathered that it is safe to say peanuts are bad, and gluten is very bad.  Now there's news I can use!

One random bit I learned was from Dr. Cordain- here in the U.S., we fortify our flour with folic acid with the goal of preventing spina bifida.  However, he then told us there is a link between folic acid supplementation and cancer, and cancer rates have increased since we began adding folic acid to flour.  Correlation does not equal causation of course, but interesting nonetheless.  Also interesting that Europe has ceased to add folic acid to their flour.  Anyhoo, another reason I'm glad I don't eat flour!  The more you know...

There were several enjoyable presenters I hadn't heard of, one being Matt Metzgar.  There's always talk of "is this sustainable?" and he addressed that by viewing paleo through the lens of an economist; very cool to get that perspective.  Is it sustainable?  I still don't know, and I thought for a moment a fight was going to break out, because there were some gents in the audience that seemed quite passionate about the topic!  My main takeaway was his nifty sustainability index- a scoring system by which to evaluate any particular food (it asks questions such as "is it organic?" "is it wild?" "is it in season?" etc.)- definitely appeals to my number-nerd side!

Paleo Superfriends!
I got to meet folks from Paleohacks, which was so cool.  Back in my internet dating days, it always seemed like nobody is nearly as smart or funny in real life as they were on the internet- not Paleohackers!  The gals were such sweethearts, the guys were a trip; I was so glad to meet them all, and I'm grateful I had Danielle (who flew in from Hawaii for the event) as an AHS buddy.  I also got to meet Patty, who owns Chowstalker, and the blog Following My Nose.

I definitely noticed there were a lot of healthy-looking folks there!  I wish I went around taking pics of all the feet- lots of bare ones, lots of Vibrams, and a few pretty ladies in heels.

It was very nice to be able to talk about the topics I care about without having to wonder every few minutes "am I getting annoying?  I better shut up now."  Quite a few of my girlfriends at home are getting interested in all this stuff too, but there is something to be said for being in a room with several hundred like-minded people; it's a good feeling.

The Eats
I was mainly excited about In-n-Out Burger, what a letdown!  The patty was lame-o, the fries were dry and seemed stale.  Thursday lunch was at Thai Dishes in Santa Monica- coconut soup was great, and we got mee-krob for appetizer; it was way too sweet for me.  Friday night was dinner at Animal, the famous nose-to-tail eatery that lots of AHS folk were dining at.  Their menu was pretty gluten-y, but my group was all ok with giving it a go.  I had oxtail poutine, quail, marrow bone, and the crispy pig ear.  The pig ear dish was a little too tangy for me, but it was a great experience; I loved the marrow and am looking forward to replicating it at home (it was topped with caramelized onions and chimichurri, I may try spreading it on some almond crackers).  As for lunchtime at the AHS, Sbarro was noticeably empty; I got a nice Mexican chopped salad on day 1, and Panda Express on day 2 (no, I didn't get kicked out for that one).  Saturday night dinner was at Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.  Nice place, but very pricey, and the oysters weren't really worth it (we're from Southern MD; we know oysters!).  For the jaunt down to San Diego, I had shrimp fajitas at Pokez; shrimp were kinda puny, but everything tasted great.  For lunch the next day, I went to South Beach Bar & Grill for some famous fish tacos.  I had one ceviche, one grilled shrimp, and one fried fish; they did not disappoint.

I spent a LOT of time in Santa Monica!  There's the pier to walk on, lots of restaurants and shopping nearby, even a grown-up playground!  I spent a good chunk of Thursday afternoon in a shop called Brandy Melville on the 3rd St. Promenade.  WOW.  Most of their tops are one size fits all- lots of loose flowy tanks and sweaters, and some stretchy camis & tube bras for layering- the possibilities are endless, and the prices weren't too shabby!  After I left, I just knew I could fit right in with the snooty hipsters.

If you're going to be a hobo, this is the place to do it.

Sunday morning before heading to San Diego, we went to the beach on the left side of the pier for a workout.  I felt pretty worn out just from watching all the monkey-people swinging and flipping around, but I got in a few jumping pullups, some half-assed dips (I'm gettin there!) and I climbed a rope!  I didn't make it all the way up, but I was still pretty thrilled because I could never climb the dreaded rope in PE class in school.  Now if I could just do a pullup...

I don't know those dudes, but I just had to get a pic!

While in San Diego, I got to check out Balboa Park, which was lovely.  The trolley driver's parents used to live in my town!  Kinda a coincidence because it is a somewhat rural area, but it is a Navy town.

Also, in Ocean Beach there were some dudes pulling a shark up the pier on a skateboard.  That is all.


  1. Great post. I really enjoyed reading it. What would you say the #1 learning point you took away from AHS11?

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Rob! I'd say the confounding variables associated with the veg diets- it was in front of my face the whole time, but never thought of it!