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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.


  1. Thanks, Bethany, for keeping the conversation going! Great thoughts. You deftly touch on the most critical subject. Bridging the gap between the knowers and the sufferers.

  2. "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!"

    I'm happy you said that, because that's EXACTLY how I feel! I don't know how to make an impact on people, but I'm going to do everything I can to try. Just started a blog where I will post about my endeavours (I know, does the movement need another blog, really?.

    Great post, and I hope people take into consideration more often: the fact that we need to close the distance between the community that gets it, and those that don't.

  3. Excellent post Bethany and great ambition to "go big". I believe we are in the beginning stages and your vision will be realized.

  4. As a cousin.... Amen!!!! If I could listen to hundreds of hours I think I would but I can barely read a newspaper article in one sitting right now... But I'm into it, it make sense to me and I feel good on it. Getting my kids into it is another story, mac n cheese is so good and quick and easy. I'm workin on it though, we'll get there, and the baby boy is all over it, complete paleo baby!. Meanwhile, all you sexy beautiful brainiacs... Get on it! Make it easier for all of us dim-whitted food pyramiders!
    And as a nurse another Amen... Food in the hospital alone is surely detrimental to health. And as for Rx meds, it's rather out if control for sure.

    Beth I just love ya, a really lot. xoxo
    Your fav cousin ; ) Kate

  5. There will be lots of paths to achieve this. Changing the system is a great goal, difficult though. I don't think we can go wrong with a grassroots approach. If enough people try Paleo, see the benefits and then demand answers from their doctors, medical associations and government, they will have to change, or go out of business because people won't need them anymore.

    It's been that way for me personally, I hardly need to see a doctor anymore.

    And perhaps that's the problem. Doctors are not rewarded financially for how healthy their patients become. Changing the whole financial model of the disease care industry to health care industry will likely help.

  6. Hey Bethany!
    this is a lot of same things that I have been talking about for a while.
    I'm a crossfitting,paleo living family physician.
    I've had great success with some patients, and the number of my paleo patients increases daily. Check out my tumblr and join with me!

  7. I love your enthusiasm and share in it whole heartedly! Having shocked my family by leaving the vegan lifestyle and going paleo (with the slant), hubby and I have been sharing the Paleo with everyone. Hubby is losing weight, and I'm not freaking about gaining, able to maintain. Have always known that dairy was not my best friend, and am learning that wheat or gluten is not either. So for us, it's like an organic raw food/vegan with organic grass fed animal products and fat, with MCT oil, and healthy cfm whey isolate protein. What a difference!!! How can you NOT share the benefits?

    People that are excited about Paleo should get together in their communities and have meetings like the AHS. Not just once a year, but maybe once a month to help spread awareness. Time is short and many people are so programmed and brainwashed, that it will take a while to wake them up...

    my two cents...
    love and light.

  8. Thanks for the heads-up, Bethany. I finally got over to read it! :)

    Thank you for this. Yeah, it was great to learn that everyone had a great time and everyone was beautiful, but I'm really glad someone was paying attention to other aspects of the event, namely the event itself!

    I'm probably one of the bloggers the hard-core science people wish would shut up. But what bothers me is all the infighting. We're such a small group and we have such a big foe, we really need to keep our eye on the prize and not get caught up in arguments over population studies. As you mentioned, there's a whole world of people out there who need this. The stakes are just too high.

    I recently posted about trying to preach the gospel of real food to the masses. The main issues are: 1. Convenience, 2. Cost, and 3. Making the Subject Matter Less Abstract (this is where so many CW diets fail). I'd like to see this addressed next year.

    Speaking of next year...are you going again? Was it worth it? I was gung-ho until I saw it's going to be at Harvard. Ugh.

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