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Paleo Post, Part 6

The Healthy Fats post.

The posts up til now present information that you have heard before:  cut out grains and sugar, consider dairy carefully, eat lots of veggies and high-quality protein.  This has been at least on the periphery of mainstream for several years.

What you don’t read so much about is the idea of healthy fats.  Keep in mind that our approach is still about eating foods that make us healthier and create a good physical response, and not just because our ancestors may have eaten some version of it.  Also keep in mind that this is going to presented highly simplified, and from a nutritional layperson.  My interest in nutrition is personal (and professional related to my personal training practice), and I am influenced not a small amount by application and implementation to my own body.

First let’s identify what fats create a good response in our bodies.  You probably already know there are different kinds of fat that have to do with the chemistry of the molecules.  Monounsaturated fats (MUFAS) are good guys that improve blood pressure and lower cholesterol – olives and olive oil, avocados (and oil), macadamia nuts, hazelnut oil.

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Then there are the saturated fats (you read correctly).  Don’t freak out!  Those 2 words – saturated fat – have been unfairly blamed for effects that have usually come from the nasty bun/french fries/onion rings/bread/pasta/your-choice-here that accompany that fat.  Here’s a link to an abstract – read the conclusion.  Healthy saturated fats include clarified butter (an exception to the dairy rule since clarified butter is the fat only, with the milk proteins removed), pork and beef fat with this caveat:  Remember that when choosing meats, it’s pastured-meat all the way.  Toxins can accumulate in the fat of animals exposed to antibiotics and chemicals, and if you’re not eating grass-fed, cut off or don’t eat the fat.

Another saturated fat is coconut oil, coconut meat or flakes, and coconut milk.  It’s great for cooking, and the milk can be used as a substitute for cream in sauces and coffee.  The flakes make a killer coating for chicken tenderloin, and as a topping for salads, and for a straight-up snack.

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Then there’s the PUFA’s – the omega 3’s and 6’s you’re hearing so much about.  We want both of these fats in our diet, but we want the right ratio too.  Good sources of omega 3’s are cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamias.  However, it’s common and easy to overeat nuts – they’re snackity delicious, terribly handy, very portable.  Part of our whole foods effort is that food preparation and consumption SHOULD be an event, and take a little time and effort and thought.  The concept of “grabbing and going” has so much traction in our busy culture, and it works against our healthy eating.

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So here’s the piece I mentioned in an earlier post.  Bear with me, same disclaimer as always:  amateur’s understanding.  Your body always uses a combination of fat and carbohydrates for fuel.  When you feed your body an abundance of sugar, that’s the fuel your body will use, leaving your stores of body fat unburned and in place.  When you withhold sugar, and provide enough healthy fats, your body will burn fat for fuel, leading to fat reduction.  (We also use different fuel for different levels of activity – higher intensity burns more carbohydrates, lower intensity more fat).  You can take this to full-on ketosis , which is the point when the body turns almost exclusively to burning fat for fuel in the absence of carbohydrates.  I met Dr. Peter Attia over a full-cream latte in San Diego a couple of years ago and he’s an absolutely lovely man.  He is so much smarter than anyone I know, and while I loveloveLOVE his blog, I very seldom understand it all, even with this effort to make it accessible to non-scientists.  Here’s his post about ketosis and carbohydrates– it’s worth a read, but bring your brain.  But first, watch his Ted talk, and bring a tissue.

This is the last of the substantive posts.  That is it.  It’s how I eat most of the time.  It’s what I think the science guides us to eat.  It’s what I think the precepts of evolution drive us to eat.  I’m going to write a wrap-up post with some remaining details and how I manage eating in this manner.  This has been a fun series for me, and a fantastic distraction from the Brief I’m working on for Legal Writing.

Thanks for reading!

 

Paleo post, part 5

In continuing our title alliteration, this is the Protein Post.

There are 3 types of nutrients we eat:  carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  We’ve already covered most carbohydrates, we haven’t yet discussed fat, and now we look at protein.

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Protein by definition is any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, esp. as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.  What that means to us is that because protein is found everywhere in our bodies, we need nutritional protein to survive.  Protein is found in animal products (muscle meat, organs, dairy, eggs,), in beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, and some grains (quinoa).

The focus of this post is to discuss the best sources of animal protein, and is not the debate about eating animal protein at all.  That’s an important and interesting and relevant topic that I promise to blog about at another time.

It has been said that You Are What You Eat.  Michael Pollan, the author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, takes that one step further and says: You Are What You Eat Eats.  So there is a point to be made that all that corn and grain our commercial livestock are being fed are showing up on our table after all.  And if we’re trying to eliminate that, we’ve just had a huge setback.

But there’s so much more important a reason not to eat grainfed meat (I’m talking about ungulates now – cows, pigs, sheep).  These animals have not evolved to eat grain in the manner that our American meat industry feeds them grain.  It makes them sick, and necessitates their being on antibiotics most of the time they are being fed grain.  Grain causes rapid weight gain, which of course increases profits, but puts the animal in an extremely unhealthy condition.  And of course, all this unnatural food that makes them sick causes them to suffer.  As much of an advocate of health I am, this suffering should be a much greater motivator than our personal health.  If we are going to eat meat, finding animals humanely raised, humanely slaughtered, and naturally fed should be a goal all of us should strive for.  The fact that they make us healthier should be a secondary concern.  The book I mentioned above, Omnivore’s Dilemma, is one of the best resources for becoming educated about the status of this portion of our food supply.

Because so many folks have found better health through a more natural approach to eating, it is likely that you can find a supplier of grass-fed, humanely-raised, local, pastured animals.  Whole Foods tries to use local suppliers, and uses a number grade to reflect sustainability.  Hit up your local farmers’ market – even rural Murfreesboro has 2 grass-fed animal farmers, who provide both beef and pork.  You can also easily find pastured chickens’ eggs, since even back-yard chicken farms produce an abundance of fresh eggs.  Or you could investigate the wonderful world of raising hens yourself!  They cut down on the bug population, they aerate the grass, they provide eggs, and if you don’t get Foghorn Leghorn they’re not really noisy – just a little proud clucking when one lays an egg.

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Wild game is a good choice too, as are wild-caught fish and seafood.  Contrary to most folks’ perception of Paleo, it’s really not massive amounts of protein.  Today I had one 6-ounce piece of tuna, and a couple of eggs – the rest was fat and vegetables.  Some days I have a little more, most days about 60-80 grams of protein.

In the next post, when we discuss healthy fats, we’ll also address the importance of pastured animals.  When I first began to eat this way, I considered this a 2nd or 3rd tier issue – if I’m eating good protein, eliminating grains and sugar, eating my vegetables, do I really have to go to the effort of finding and buying grass-fed meat??  I’ve come to the conclusion I was wrong about that.  I think this is a high priority for our health, for reasons we’ll get to in the next post!

Thanks for reading!

Paleo Post, part 4

The Dairy post.

Full disclosure:  except for limiting alcohol, this is the food I miss the most, and is the one in which I am most likely to indulge.

Dairy is made up of some of the same amino acids that are found in the muscle meat of the cow, but there are milk proteins that may cause damage to our intestinal lining.  Milk products, whether human or cow (or goat or sheep) are critically important to the development of an infant of that species.  Milk comes packed with good immune and hormone messages that direct the rapid growth and nutrient capture in those infants.

However, children and other mammals soon lose the enzymes to digest milk not long after they are weaned.  Lactose intolerance is very common because our bodies simply don’t need it after about 2 years after our birth.  If we keep consuming milk and milk products, because we are not efficient at digesting it without lactose, it creates yucky intestinal problems like bloating and gas.  There is also a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome, where because of chronic inflammation (our old enemy), the lining of the small intestine has lost some of its integrity, and molecules that could not pass through the lining of a healthy intestine, permeate and go places where they can create problems.  Milk proteins could be potentially be implicated in contributing to this syndrome.

What about calcium?  See what years of marketing has done to us?  It’s the first question I’m asked if I say that I don’t eat dairy.  Calcium is important for bone growth, and muscle contraction, but just like everything else I’ve been writing about, it’s not as simple as Eat Calcium (From Milk) For Strong Bones.

A) Strong bones don’t depend just on calcium to be strong.  Guess what else makes strong bones?  Lifting heavy things.  In a study of obese adults, their markers for health were worse than a non-obese person in every matrix that could be measured except for one:  Bone Density.  Bones in obese adults are thick and strong, because the repeated pressure on those bones have demanded it.

B) Dairy is not the only source of calcium.  In fact, it’s not even the best source of calcium.  Guess what else has calcium, that is more accessible than the calcium in milk?  Green vegetables!  Leafies like kale and spinach and mustard greens have calcium, as does meat and seafood, and even nuts!  And they come without the baggage of the milk proteins that can cause the damage.

I’m planning an entire post about how I manage “nutritional offroading” but I’ll say here that if you have a healthy immune system, and a healthy gut, and all of your visible, perceivable, and testable markers for health are in the good zone, you can probably occasionally ingest some cheese or cream or butter from pastured animals and suffer no lasting ill effects.  Dairy does have some good saturated fat, and those amino acids I mentioned earlier, so there is at least some good going in with the bad (unlike grains which have nothing good to offer).

I also am planning to address how to approach all of these rules to integrate them into your life, whether to go all in or take up one rule at a time.  When we get to that, I’ll explain what I’d suggest (and what I did) with dairy, and all the other food groups, to determine if dairy is problematic for you.  I can tell you what the science says about it generally, and how we go about using self-experimentation.

I think I have written this post and the next post (pastured meats) out of sequence.  It’s important to understand how ruminants’ (cows and goats and sheep) digestive systems work, and why they should be pastured, to understand how their milk and meat are affected.  So come back and read this one after the next post on Eating Meat.

Thanks for reading!

Paleo post, part 3

Today is the vegetable post.

Eat them.

Thanks for reading!

 

OK, I’ve already covered the hardest part – the No Grains and No Sugar part.  This next one is an affirmative rule, and it’s one you can learn to love.

We should eat vegetables every day.  Lots of them.  Lots of different kinds of them.  You already know they are loaded with good stuff – nutrients, vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals.  There is research showing that vegetables with their phytochemicals can be helpful in fighting cancer.

Additionally, there are SO MANY different kinds of vegetables, which becomes important when you eliminate grains and sugar as a way to keep your food interesting and new.  There are only a few types of animals we eat, and because the Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD) is so full of grain-based foods, if you do make a transition to a more traditional diet, you are likely to experience a feeling of depravity, and all those veggie varieties can help with that.

imagesimages-1So whether you have a big salad of fresh vegetables, or a stew or stirfry full of cooked vegetables, shoot for having them at 2 meals out of 3, or maybe start with one big meal of non-starchy veggies every day.

And I have good news about your next question.  While we’re ditching the croutons and shredded cheddar cheese, we’re adding good fats so you can have some kickass dressing on that big ol’ salad.  Here’s a recipe for homemade mayo (stay away from the ooky grocery store stuff) that can serve as a base for scads of dressings.  I make you a personal promise that it will be the tastiest mayo you have ever tried.

You can also add olives, nuts, chopped boiled eggs, a protein, and even fruit.  You may, like me, find that your salad meal is your favorite meal of the day.

For your cooked vegetables, try roasting almost any vegetable for the best flavor (400 degrees, one layer deep and tossed with sea salt and olive oil, 12-25 minutes depending upon size of pieces).  This gives broccoli, asparagus, kale, squash, brussel sprouts, and zucchini a crunchy, roasty flavor.  Another personal promise that you’re gonna LOVE this.

Fruits can also be a part of a healthy paleo diet.  I’m going to address this further in the post about Fat (to come).  Some fruits are high in sugar (bananas, apples), and you remember from the Sugar post that this can create a problem if we eat too much.  But Gayle, you rightly ask, how does that fit with the whole Paleo mentality?  Aren’t we supposed to be eating similar to our ancestors, and wouldn’t they have eaten fruit?  Why yes, they would – when they could get it, which would be when?  Seasonally.  (Just like veggies, by the way).  And the fruit that would have been available would not even have resembled a big juicy Red Delicious.  Finally, remember that we are building a diet that is healthy, not just historic, and too much sugar, from any source, leads to an insulin response.  Get to know the sugar content of fruits (and vegetables), and eat them as toppings, or see them as they treat they are.

Probably everyone has heard the analysis of whether or not to spend the extra for the Organic label – that if you are going to peel it (bananas or pineapples), non-organic is suitable; for leafies or veggies that are hard to wash, or whose peel you plan to eat (spinach, lettuces, sweet potatoes), go ahead and spend the extra.  Here’s my thought on the Organic issue:  I consider this issue to be about Tier 3 or 4 as it relates to priority.  If you’ve taken grains out of your diet, eliminated dairy, if you’re eating grass-fed meats and quality fats, THEN worry about whether or not your strawberries are organic.

I think a better focus is to seek LOCAL sources for your fruits and vegetables for at least 3 reasons – it supports local farmers and not superstores, it reduces the energy cost and carbon impact of transporting food from sometimes thousands of miles away (banana, anyone?), and the produce does not have to be genetically engineered to survive the journey and handling it takes to get to you.

By the way, corn is a grain, not a vegetable.  Beans are legumes, not vegetables.  A potato, while botanically a vegetable, is nutritionally a starchy tuber.

One more time I’ll state my disclaimer – this information I’m sharing is what I accept about nutrition science, and it matches pretty squarely with my own experience with my own health and nutrition.  This might be a good time for me to post this link which addresses the book The China Study, whose claims contradict Paleolithic nutrition science.  Denise Minger is a rockstar in the movement – here is her 2012 presentation at the Ancestral Health Symposium.

Next up:  Dairy!  One of the hottest topics within the Ancestral Health movement.

Thanks for reading!

 

Paleo Post, Part 2

So we covered grains and their inflammatory effects.

Today’s topic is Sugar, in all of its non-grain forms.  Brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, AND artificial sweeteners, all of them, that I don’t need to name.

But before I get into that, let me issue another disclaimer about all this.

I blog because I like to, because it lets me organize my own thoughts, and because enough people ask me to focus on a certain topic.  If you are reading this, thank you.  But in this area, unlike my secular posts, these posts are not written to convince you.  I am not knowledgeable in this area, not enough to be a valid source of information.  This series of posts is written to explain what works for me.  I am easily convinced that, in the area of nutrition, there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat (gotta come up with a replacement for that horrible idiom).

So here’s the disclaimer:  if what you are doing, nutrition-wise, is working for you, continue to do that!  And by “work for you” I mean so many more things than just weight; there are markers for health that include answers to the questions How are you sleeping, and How are you feeling, and How are your bowels, and How is your sex drive, and How is your appetite?  If you’re not happy with the answers to those questions, then maybe you’ll have an good experience with the Paleo concept. In addition to those self-check questions, there are tests your physician can do including triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure that are probably more related to our overall health than our size and weight.

Back to sugar.  Here is a link I read just today, that is more on inflammation from the first post, but it applies to the inflammation caused by sugar as well as grains.  He gets into fats a little, which is a later post, but his description of the effects of the inflammatory process is powerful.

Even nutrition scientists who don’t embrace Paleo agree on the sequence that occurs when sugar, in all its forms, enter the body (here’s a pretty sciency explanation).  When my mother was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago, I wanted to make sure she understood the disease so she could be better equipped to make the best decisions for treatment.  I asked her what diabetes was, and her answer was that her pancreas was not functioning correctly.  To the contrary, I told her, your pancreas is functioning exactly as it should – it’s responding to the sugar in your bloodstream, and it’s working as hard as it can.  And that’s just the problem – we’re overworking that poor little organ, and our cells get insensitive to getting the message to DO SOMETHING WITH THE EXTRA SUGAR!  Insulin is a fat storage hormone, because the sugar has to go somewhere – it can’t stay in the bloodstream, so into the fat cells it goes to be used later.  Over and over and over, every time we put in sugar (whether it’s in the form of cakes, cookies, pasta, pretzels, pancakes, popsicles, or bagels).

A secondary effect is that when we get on the blood sugar roller coaster, when we hit those lows, we know, even subconsciously, that the way out of the low is the big hit of sugar.  There’s even evidence that artificial sweeteners, while they don’t have the same impact, because of their sweetness cause even a saliva response that  begins an insulin response.  Health experts even throw around the word addiction, although I don’t know enough about that phenomenon to know if our love of sugar qualifies.

And sugar is everywhere.  Check the labels of products in your pantry, and look for sugar words like corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, cane sugar, and molasses.  It’s relatively easy to refrain from adding extra table sugar to foods we eat, but it’s not so easy to avoid it in packaged products.  So the Paleo position is to stay away from any pre-packaged, processed food items.

Sugar in fruit:  yes, there is sugar in fruit, and there is also sugar in vegetables, some are even high in sugar.  I will touch on this again when I write the post on healthy fat, because it will factor in again there.  Until then, the general thought is to limit even fruit, especially those fruits high in sugar.  Melons and berries are good choices, and you will be surprised at how sweet all fruit is when sugar is removed from your diet.

Next post:  Vegetables!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Paleo Post, part 1

I’m still in Vegas with my girlio, helping her apartment and job hunt.  The mini-update is:  it looks as if we have found her an apartment.  It’s about 5 miles from the strip, is gated and secure, and we should get her moved in tomorrow or Tuesday.  She’s begun the job application process by getting her Alcohol Card and Health Card, and all of the online applications filled out.  She’s optimistic about getting work, and is really excited about getting settled into her little Vegas home!

However, I want to post today about nutrition.  I’ve gotten a lot of response from folks since I posted about our experience with the Ancestral Health Symposium.  A lot of the response has been from my friends in the skeptic community.  I’m going to try to explain my position on this a little better, but it makes me so proud to be part of this group of skeptics who don’t accept information without evidence.

First, let’s work on the word.  The issue over the word “Paleo” reminds me of the flame wars the secular community has over the word “atheist” versus “any-self-identification-word-other-than-atheist” (agnostic, freethinker, humanist).  So many arguments against “Paleo” nutrition focus on this one word.  These arguments make a valid point.  I have a Portuguese friend who says that rules are divided into Theory and Practice (with his lovely accent those words are Teeory and Prrrractice).

In Theory, Paleo nutrition is a way of eating (and movement, and other things but we’ll focus first on nutrition) that is based on what we know about  human evolution.  There’s even an effort within the community to switch to the term Evolutionary Nutrition.  The theory is that we base our eating on the way of eating that allowed our ancestors to have survived to reproduce and thrive.  Paleo refers to the era when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, before the Neolithic era of agriculture (Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is an awesome book (and Pulitzer Prize winner) that explains the history of human societies).

However, in Practice, almost nothing we eat modernly is the same food our ancestors ate.  Not the bananas, not the brazil nuts, not the beasts.  Unless you are harvesting wild mushrooms, or fishing pristine rivers, or hunting wildebeests, you are eating modern versions of all of those ancient foods.  So I will agree with the “Paleo-busters” who assert that there can be no true Paleo diet because there is not true Paleo food.

There is a large part of this movement (and I don’t speak for anyone but myself) which is attempting to shift the focus from selecting our diet based solely on our ancestral heritage and more on what the food actually does when it enters your body.  In studying the effects these different nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) have on our bodies, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of human physiology and anatomy, and how our systems function separately and in harmony.

You remember from high school biology that we have cells –> organs –> systems.  Remember that we have 10 systems:  respiratory, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, gastrointestinal, integumentary, urinary, immune, endocrine, and circulatory.  Each system is dependent upon the others, and the general health of the person is an accumulation of the health of each of the systems.  The things we do with and put into our body affect the systems, and therefore the whole body.

The process of figuring out what different foods do in the body is a challenging task, because of the interconnectedness of all the systems and the unique physiology of each person.  I have no scientific background, but even as a layperson I have found sufficient research to show that certain foods have a MORE healthy effect on the systems and certain foods have a LESS healthy effect.

So now here’s the rub.  What is healthy and what is unhealthy?  This is where the strength of skepticism comes in.  Conventional wisdom has always been a big red flag for me, and never more so than in what is considered a healthy diet.  Leaving aside for a moment that the government that provided us with the food guide pyramid is the same government that subsidizes corn, sugar, and soybeans to the tune of billions of dollars a year, let’s first look at the standard American diet with a critical eye:  assuming that the average grocery store reflects what the average American eats, 75% of the items in a grocery store contain corn or a corn product.  Even the beef, pork, and chicken from the grocery store are ultimately corn, as they are fed corn for all or most of their lives.  In his pivotal book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the history of the plant we know as corn, and how our industrial food supply is so dependent upon it, and how very unhealthy it is for humans, and the animals we eat, and humans again when we eat those animals.

Additionally, there is enough evidence to convince me that grains are inflammatory.  Inflammation, in turn, is very damaging to our body (also here) (and here).  There is a also syndrome known as leaky gut syndrome that results in increased intestinal permeability, and it is thought that grains contribute to this, which in turn leads to bad stuff getting into one’s bloodstream.  Finally, there’s some research that suggests that processed carbohydrates can light up pleasure centers in our brain so strongly that it mimics an addiction for some people.

This post is going far longer than I intended, so I’m going to have to break it into several posts.  I’m going to do it this way.  In summary of what I’ve said so far, there are several components of what the Ancestral Health movement endorses.  Over the next few posts, I’m going to personalize those factors according to what I think are the most important.  In the movement we call this N=1, and there is huge focus in the movement on self-experimenting.  This is because each of us has in our past a heritage based on climate and geography and the food that would have been available to our ancestors, and the digestive enzymes we would have evolved to accommodate that supply.

Here’s Gayle’s short version of How To Eat:

1.  Eliminate grains, whole or processed.

2.  Eliminate sugar.

3.  Eat lots and lots of a variety of vegetables, particularly the green leafy kind, and a limited amount of low-sugar fruit.

4.  Eliminate dairy.

5.  Eat meat from grass-fed cows, pastured pigs, free range chickens and eggs, and wild-caught fish.

6.  Eat healthy fat in the form of avocados, nuts, coconut, and olive oil.

 

While I’m working through all this, I may decide to change the sequence, or add to, the above list.  Also, this is only the NUTRITIONAL arena of the Paleo movement, which is only a portion of what contributes to our overall health.  So much more to come!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

AHS, Day 2

Another information-packed, nutrient-rich day at the Ancestral Health Symposium.

The first session of the day was titled: Parasites are Paleo:  The Hidden Cost of Modern Hygiene.  This one was a test of our skepticism and critical thinking I’m always talking about.  The universe of micro-organisms that populate our bodies inside and out are a delicate balance, and when we cropdust internally or externally we kill indiscriminately, and that’s not good.  Some of these guys aid our health through digestion or skin health.  Our children are growing up in the Purell environment and we don’t yet know what the results of that are going to be.  Statistics are showing that when our children are exposed to dirt and mud they have a lesser incident of allergies and asthma.  (Please know that this is way oversimplified, and I’m linking to the lecturer’s website/book because much of this is new enough to me I can’t speak authoritatively.)

Don't bust me on this - I have no idea what this bacteria is...isn't it a cool graphic?
Don’t bust me on this – I have no idea what this bacteria is…isn’t it a cool graphic?

I attended another session called Survival Panel, mostly out of interest for son Sam, and his interest in survival skills.  This was a panel looking at the hunting/gathering activities that our ancestors would have engaged in compared to the movement/stressors/nutrition we have modernly.  Guess what?  We are pretty far removed from those skills.  One of the questions after the session asked the inevitable question about eating insects, which of course is a big topic in this group.  As broadminded as I pride myself in being, I’ve got a huge ick-factor about this I’m struggling with.

Nature is red in tooth and claw
Nature is red in tooth and claw

Next was a really interesting lecture about the Rise of Monotheistic Religions as a Cultural Adaptation to Infectious Disease.  Many religious edicts relate to cleanliness with regard to burial, ritual for food preparation, sexual rules, etc that may have helped religions keep a stronghold through this hygiene code through religious authority.  The lecturer for this, John Durant has appeared on the Colbert Report talking about the health of hunter/gatherers.

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Lunch break at a Paleo conference was:  water buffalo meatloaf, potatoes, squash and zucchini in olive oil, salad, and kombucha to drink (yeah, the potatoes were a surprise to me too – more on that later).  The meatloaf was wonderful, and provided by one of the vendors.  I’m still amazed at how beautiful everyone here is, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching people interact during the meal.  I have no idea why I have no picture of this – too hungry, I guess.

Then we had that poster session I mentioned.  Folks were invited to present their research (on a poster, duh) informally in a mix-and-mingle area where they could chat and explain their research.  There were several N=1 posters – folks who have applied paleolithic nutritional science to themselves for a period of time (mostly about one year), and did extensive data gathering.  Weight loss, lowered blood pressure, more energy – all of the typical health markers improved for these experimenters.

After lunch we went into a panel discussion about the Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Competition.  The rock stars on this panel were Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.  Mark came in 4th in the Hawaii Ironman on a ketogenic diet (a fat-burning rather than glucose (sugar)-burning diet).  We hung on every word of this one.  It appears that one may lose the top, highest performance (top speed) but endurance increases dramatically.  This makes sense in light of the evidence that our muscles can only retain so much glucose (enough for about 30-45 minutes), but our fat stores, even on a lean person, are massive.  Son Sam and I are doing an Ironman together next year (looking at Chattanooga in September 2014), and it’s my intention to train on a cyclical ketogenic plan.

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Dr. Georgia Ede presented a session about Nutrition and Mental Health that blew me away.  Because carbohydrates create inflammation in the body, her research is centered on studying whether or not this inflammation, that eventually may lead to diabetes or some kind of autoimmune disorder, may also have an effect on mental health.  She was very cautious about even inferring connections, but her research is so promising in connecting diet to some of these diseases (ADHD in particular), and fits with the statistics of what our children are eating.

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Then we attended a very sobering session about Malnutrition and Starvation in the World, and about how we, the global human community, can help to feed the world.  The conventional wisdom is to produce more grains.  Dr Alyssa Rhoden spoke about how to reclaim some parts of the world from the desertification that comes from growing corn and return it to grazeland, and to grow more diverse organic vegetation.  This topic is political and ethical as well as economic, and I’m including this link and this link if you are interested in more information.

No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra
No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra

The last session of the day for us was an introduction to Pasture and Grassland Ecology.  I am particularly interested in this, since my little slice of paradise in Tennessee includes 8 acres and all the animals whose pictures I’m always posting on Facebook.  I already have my little garden, and the chickens provide beautiful eggs, but even if I never eat another animal off the land there, I would like to restore the topsoil and care for the groundwater as much as I can.  Our lecturer for this has a blog:  grassbasedhealth.  His topic included the question:  Is An Ancestral Diet Sustainable?

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So that has been day 2.  Just a side note:  we’re not just attenders of this conference, we are also working here as the Investigators for Code of Conduct Violations.  While all of that is super top secret, I can say that we have not been very busy.  Correlation does not imply causation, as we know, and it has been nice being able to attend the lectures.

Today is Eliott’s birthday, so our dinner tonight will not be Paleo.  Don’t be hatin.

Thanks for reading!

Ancestral Health Symposium

So here’s where I am this weekend:

The Ancestral Health Symposium

This is the third year of the symposium, but it’s my first time to go.

The premise is that when we can use an evolutionary prospective, we can develop solutions to our contemporary health challenges.  The title Paleo as it applies to nutrition is too vague and is really kind of an inaccurate word, but it’s still a word that gets thrown around and is accepted shorthand within the movement.

Couldn't play it straight.
Couldn’t play it straight.

So first: the demographic of attendees.  There are about 600 people here.  At any time in a store, or on a street, or at a conference, or on a campus, the folks you see reflect the statistics of America’s population:  35% obese, 69% overweight (including obesity).  Not in this room.  These are fit people.  Fit does not mean slender – these people look strong and healthy.  It is a younger group – Eliott and I are in the older 20%, easily – but even the older folks look this way.  It’s a refreshing view; I didn’t realize how “normal” it is to see those statistics every day in real life until I was in this conference room.

A stock image, but you get the drift.
A stock image, but you get the drift.

Most of the speakers are MD’s and PhDs.  Check out this detailed schedule.  I don’t have a science background, and a few of the presenters today were a smidge over my head.  The topics today were:

The Paleolithic Prescription

This was presented by the two MD’s who are considered the “grandfathers” of the modern Paleo movement, who have been researching the hunter-gatherer diet for their entire professional careers.  This one was a little sciency, but I hung on the best I could, and took notes on their suggestions for more papers and books to read.

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

I loved this one.  Dr. Gad Saad examined our modern consumer instinct that has gone awry, and what it reveals about our primal nature.  It gives context at least to how we’ve gotten where we are, even if it’s unsettling.

Your ovaries know what I'm talking about.
Your ovaries know what I’m talking about.

Sexual Fitness and Women’s Fertility Cycles

Another great session.  This examined sexual selection from an evolutionary standpoint, and how we’re massively altering this with our reliance on synthetic hormones, both for men and women.  I’m particularly interested in this because of my 4 young-adult children and their long-term health.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup Litigation Status

Fascinating session by the plaintiff’s attorney in the lawsuit filed in New York against the HFCS manufacturers on behalf of a teenage girl w/type 2 diabetes, claiming that HFCS is the cause of her developing the disease.  I had an instant flashback to my first year of law school and Torts and Strict Liability/Failure To Warn.

Satan's urine
Satan’s urine

Find Your Why

Highlight of the day.  This young man, Kyle Maynard, was born with a congenital amputation who has become a motivational speaker, and is a proponent of the Paleo lifestyle.  He recently became the first person to “bear crawl” up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It took 13 days and his presentation today was about that challenge.  Please click through to his page and read about this spectacular young person.

Awesome.  What's your Why?
Awesome. What’s your Why?

The hall of vendors has been wonderful – sources of grass-fed beef, home-gardening aids, and the newest buzz-product Kombucha (kind of a fermented tea that adds beneficial gut flora).  Tomorrow also includes a posters’ session, which are like mini-breakout sessions, I think.  In between speakers, we have these little 3-minute movement sessions by Adonis- and Venus-like trainers.

About 3 months ago, Eliott and I did this Whole30 experiment.  It’s 30 days of absolute clean eating:  local and organic grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, local and organic vegetables and some fruits, and healthy fats.  No sugar, no grains, no alcohol.  It also include other paleo-lifestlyle pieces regarding sleep, timing of meals, and movement.  It was both a lot of fun and a real challenge.  It was pricey, of course, to buy all that fresh, local food (and lots of time to prepare and cook it), and it was a new skill, but we LOVED it.  We felt fabulous, had huge energy, no physical symptoms of our ages (!).  It’s extremely difficult to do while traveling, but we’ve continued to do a modified version at home (like I’m not going to have cocktails at sunset).  The authors of the Whole 30 book are here for a presentation and panel tomorrow.

From my personal food porn file
From my personal food porn file

So anyway, that’s what I’m doing til Sunday.  My brain’s on overload but I’m lovin it.  To my Murfreesboro crowd – I’ll be home in time for Glenda’s moving-to-Vegas-and-selling-her-art party on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Kid swag.

I know, I know, I know.  I know I just posted a whole series of posts about hanging out with my kids.  But sometimes you have a day like today, and you just have to get it down on paper.  Or gigabytes.  Or whatever.

I talked to all 4 children today.  That’s not completely unusual, since I chat with  each of them several days a week, and sometimes it all falls on the same day.  What I want to post about is the content of those 4 little chats.

#1.

Ben is in Loveland, Colorado, where he lives with his girlfriend, Kirsten, and their 2 lovely dogs River and Suzie.

IMG_0468Ben is a senior at CU Boulder, a political science major.  He’s a 4.0 student (which eats away at his 3.5 gpa mother), and is beginning his search for law school.  He is an adventure junkie:  skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, bouldering, ice-climbing.

IMG_0528Here’s his Facebook status for today:

Switching to an entirely local and organic diet this month as a project for school. I’m so excited to be not eating corporately produced food. The current food system we have in this country is not safe or secure. It is contributing to anthropogenic climate change and the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals. We support this terrible system with every dollar that we spend for every single meal, three times a day. I challenge everyone to have at least ONE MEAL in which everything you eat is local, sustainable, and raised without pesticides, antibiotics, or petroleum based fertilizers. If you are serious about being thankful for your food, you should really think about the global implications of what it is you are eating. Cheers to a healthy diet and a healthier planet!

So our phone conversation today was all about this 30-day experiment.  It’s for his environmental law class, and the students have to lessen their carbon impact.  Ben and Kirsten have a little garden, they recycle, ride their bikes around town and school, and are very conscious of their activity.  The professor wanted them to develop a new action, not one they are currently engaged in, so this is what Ben came up with.  He first suggested a blog to publicize and explain what he does on a daily basis, but then came up with this idea, and I just love it.

 

#2.

Sam is in Salida, Colorado, where he is a River Ranger on the Arkansas River.

IMG_0463When we chatted today, it was about his schedule and the possibility of his getting the time off to go to Ragbrai, the family bike trip to Iowa.  When I asked how he was liking his job, he uses the answer he’s used every time I’ve asked him that this summer:  “Livin the dream, mom.  Livin the dream.”  He works on the river most every day, and on his day off…he goes to the river.

IMG_0532Sam told me about the river clean-up he worked on, the quirkiness of his little town, the upcoming river festival on the Arkansas, and how much fun we all had when the fam gathered in Salida last week.

 

#3.

Glenda is in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she is finishing the last studio hours to graduate with her BFA from the University of Tennessee.  She’s loved the work she’s done there, but she’s definitely ready to move on.

972126_10201188328056857_1441961092_nShe has plans to move to Vegas in August and hit the nightclub circuit with her hula-hooping performances.  Visit her Youtube channel for a video performance – she performs under the stage name Calliope.  We’re making our annual trip to TAM in Las Vegas in July to go apartment hunting.  She’s scared and excited and nervous and happy.  (Her words).

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#4.

Amy, tonight, is at Mt. Rainier National Park, on her trip cross-country to Orcas Island, Washington for her summer job as a sea kayak instructor.

IMG_0552Amy graduated from ETSU with a degree in Outdoor Recreation in December, and starts her new job this week.  I got to travel with her from Murfreesboro to Salt Lake City last week.  We had a great time, and did a lot of sightseeing, but she was content and excited to do the second half of her trip alone.  She enjoys her solitude and is comfortable in her own skin.  She’s not sure of what lies ahead, and that’s ok with her.

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Today’s chat was about everything she had seen in the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park.  She was remembering trips with the grandparents as a child, and enjoying every view and campground and buffalo and elk baby she had seen.  She is car-camping, and hosteling, and just wanted to tell me what a good time she was having.

 

That’s my family.  I am so proud of those children, I can’t find the words to express it.  And the fact that they are so happy and so healthy, and are living the lives they love in the manner they choose…a mother cannot ask for more.

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As for me, I live in my little cottage on my little farm, with my dogs, and my cows, and my chickens, and my donkeys.  I have wonderful friends, I love my law school, and I have a very special person in my life, who lights me up.  More about him in the posts to come.

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In a little bit of a morbid twist, I’ve been working on my will, and my letters to my loved ones in the event of my death.  This blog in general, and this post in particular, will be part of the package that I’ll leave for my kids, to remind them all of this day, this time, and what their happiness means to me.

Thanks for reading.

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