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Thursday, August 11, 2011

AHS: The Good the Bad and the Opposite of Ugly

A lot has been said about the first annual Ancestral Health Symposium this past weekend in every last corner of the paleo blogosphere. Much respect to people who covered aspects and action that I'm not able to. I live tweeted the event, as promised (thanks to those followers who put up with a month of silence while I had a broken computer, my wedding *yay* and a host of new personal stressors to deal with prior to the barefoot bacon-fest that was AHS). With all that has already been said, I find myself dwelling more on what hasn't been said.

I'm all for a bunch of paleo nerds getting together and geeking out about the Great Macronutrient War of 2011, paleo ideology, and why we all either need to get our science straight or shut up. Hell, I started a blog to win a ticket to get out there and broke the bank making it happen. I'm still recovering from the levels of intellectual overstimulation and sleep deprivation that I experienced last weekend in the name of health, wellness and the avoidance of chronic disease.  I am still pinching myself over getting to be a part of this first symposium, as I have great faith that this movement will continue to rapidly grow and help a heck of a lot of people over the coming years.  The one thing no ones really talking about is where we were lacking in this honorable, successful first attempt.  I'm a doer.  I've made my mark by identifying areas that are lacking and figuring out ways to execute improvements. I've never been the idea person, but being critical and thinking "big picture" is in my nature; and while it tends not to serve me in my personal life, it serves me well professionally.  Judging by the few people I interacted with at the conference, we are a hell of a talented bunch.

That being said, there seemed to be a lot of young physicians (clearly ahead of the curve) at the symposium who were kind of like: "All that sounds great man, but how do I put this into practice?" And I don't know that they were offered super good answers. I don't know whether or not the name "Ancestral Health Symposium" lends itself to a certain set of parameters or not, in regards to what we were supposed to be discussing.  It wasn't specifically a chemistry or  an anthropology or a poop quality conference, so we ultimately touched on a lot of stuff. And maybe there is just too much important stuff to cover in such a short amount of time.  But my thinking is this: There's been a lot of comments about how healthy and sexy and smart everyone who attended the conference was.  That doesn't necessarily tell me that paleo is the way the truth and the six-packy life.  What it tells me is that this is a bunch of super motivated people who have a strong interest in optimal health. And they have all landed on this scene as a pretty solid option that has some strong leaders with a lot of potential.  Its no wonder that as the type of people who place such importance on their personal health, that they have attentively sat through 200+ hours of geeky science podcasts and thousands of blog entries over the last couple of years happen to be physically thriving. "Shocker".  But I couldn't help wonder: "What about my cousin? Or my mom? Or my neighbor?"  These folks are not going to listen to Robb Wolf for 100 hours (their loss), but nonetheless, we love these people who are not currently a part of our tribe, and I'm concerned about what's going to happen because of it.  We want health and happiness for them too.  And I think that's what these young doctors (and rumor has it, closeted paleo doctors as well) were trying to get at, and maybe even what the last lecture, led by the symposium organizers were trying to get at.  How to we spread the word?  And while I don't think anyone is against spreading the word, and some are working really hard at it, I still know of way more fledgling paleo beef jerky brands than of people trying to figure out how to put this stuff into a super common practice for the masses. Even the efforts of the practical paleo folks and all these great recipe blogs require some education, convincing or "buy in" before someone would seek them out. And then there is the even bigger question of how to get around USDA guidelines & standards of care (FYI: its a liability to prescribe diet changes for someone with high cholestrol and NOT give them a statin. Statins are the standard of care and practitioners are arguably putting people "at risk" for suggesting they stop eating junk food and move around rather than prescribing the correct drug. Ridiculous, but true.) How are we going to fix the system?

I hope that we, as a movement, start knocking our heads together to figure out how to make this stuff standard.  Research helps, case studies help, success stories help.  But I'm in it to change the world. Let's use our vibrant bodies, sharp mental stamina and intoxicatingly passionate personalities to go big!  Got any ideas?  If so, I'd love to help.

These folks that put on this conference did so not to make a statement, but to start a conversation. In the spirit of gratitude, let's keep the conversation going.  How do we bridge the gap between the folks that have a mastery over saponins and lectin content and those without a clue living in sickness, in the dark?   Whether on your blogs, in your books, or in the comments, lets hear some ideas, people.