Tuesday, August 9, 2011

AHS - The People Post

I was excited to see the talks at the Ancestral Health Symposium, but let's face it, I've been to enough talks in my career to make me want to dismantle powerpoint template by template and declare victory.  The real reason I wanted to go to AHS was to meet the people.  The funky, fit, fabulous, barefooted paleo people.  It can be lonely being the only grain-eschewing fat-eating mom at the preschool open house, and even lonelier being an evolutionary medicine inspired doctor.  So to hang out with a bunch of like-minded souls in person - well, that was fun.

I was very gratified and surprised to find two evolutionary medicine psychiatrists who had come to the conference and went out of their way to speak to me.  We talked some shop and how to safely integrate evolutionary medicine principles - and how to document it, which in a medicolegal sense is absolutely key.  They had some terrific ideas, and it was encouraging.

But the psychiatrists and the other people, the ones you know from the internets, they were amazing.  Stephan Guyenet and Clifton Harski both noted in their most recent blog posts that overall it was a fit, attractive, and healthy-looking group.  Obviously radical ancestral health enthusiasts will be self-selecting for health conscious people - but it was a stunning advertisement for the lifestyle.  There was also, in general, a high level of positivism and intelligence.

Now some pictures - from my iphone 3GS, so don't expect too much.
Paul Jaminet and Danny Roddy

John Durant, Lindsay and Dave Csonka in background.  Shou-Ching Jaminet in foreground.

Tall one is Dr. Eenfeldt, Chris Masterjohn, Stephan Guynet, Dave Csonka

Robb Wolf

Stephan Guyenet

MovNat's Clifton Harski

Denise Minger (sorry I caught you with your eyes closed!)

Andrew (Evolvify), Lindsay, Jamie Scott

Me trying pemmican

Most shocking thing eaten at the ancestral health symposium


Jamie Scott and Dave Csonka

Best Hair of the conference (was a close one with J. Stanton's long flowing mohawk)
I have to run now, but will come back tonight and edit with more reflections on (more) people and experiences….

… I'm back.  All right!  Now the dirt!  Just kidding.  I just wanted to mention my impressions of the many I met - and if I skip you, I'm terribly sorry.

Jamie Scott - Awesome, humble fellow who came all the way out from New Zealand to help liven up my presentation and to meet and connect with the other AHS folks.  I knew up front with the presentation we were going to have to hang out a bit, which can be a risk with someone you have never met. However, we were buddies from the get-go, and it was terrific to present with him and to show him around Los Angeles a little, as it was his first visit to the States.  Jamie is a skeptic, as I am, and an excellent person to discuss ideas with.  He also (fortunately) never seems to tire of talking paleo!

Folks from the presenter/volunteer party:  Dr. BG - amazing, vibrant and gorgeous as we knew already.  Down to earth and practical, which I actually wouldn't expect from her blogging, which is aways a cross between rock and roll, hotness, and amazing anthropology and pharmacology.  Her sister was also very nice and gave me her extra chcocolate bar after my presentation.  They both came to MovNat, and that was an amazing experience. Denise Minger - I had a chance to chat with her later on Saturday night, but I just have to echo everyone else's sentiments about her being bubbly and delightful.  Richard and Bea Nikoley - who looked great, tanned, and were among the first (of many) to remark about how young I am.  Let the record now show that I am 37.  So younger than some, and older than many!

The Drs. Eades - formidable presence, lovely to talk to.  I do admire their ability to practice the medicine they felt was right in the low-fat heyday of the 80s and 90s.  Were I an obesity doctor back then, I would have lost my mind and wandered off into the wilderness.  Bryan Barksdale - this young man is starting life as an MD/PhD student.  Funnily enough, we both went to the same high school.  Aaron Blaisdell and Brent Pottenger - I can only imagine the amount of work that went into organizing the symposium.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Andrew "Evolvify" - I still haven't got you figured out; I respect the genius and mostly just sit back and absorb the blog.  He reminded me of some of my friends from back home in Austin, who tend to be brilliant and a bit off the beaten path.  Stephan Guyenet - I hate to use the term "adorable" for him, but it describes him completely, from his relaxing zen personality to his amazing brain.  I owe Stephan a lot as his blog helped me get a holistic head or tails of the evolutionary medicine piece - and his blog drives a lot of traffic to mine ;-)

Melissa McEwen and Chris Masterjohn I had met before, and I greatly admire their persistence in chasing down truth, and excellence in analysis of papers.  John Durant and I had a discussion about writing books - his sounds well on its way.  He's very down-to-earth and approachable.  Clifton Harski and Erwan Le Corre - I will talk more about them in my MovNat post.  Dr. Pendergrass had called me before to discuss the neuroregulation of obesity, he is not a blogger, but teaches biochemistry to med students, and is intense and enthusiastic about the evolutionary medicine movement.  Jimmy and Christine Moore - we stayed at the same hotel, so I got a chance to speak with them several times.  Very sweet and enthusiastic - loved Jimmy's twitter coverage of the event.  I felt for their recent losses.  Paul and Shou Ching Jaminet - of course I've met them before, but I love talking to them so much I have to pull myself away to meet some of the non-Bostonians.  Their combination of genius, humility, and gentle disposition is a terrific antidote to the typical slash and burn academic types.

At the conference proper I met a bunch more people:  Julianne Taylor and her husband Mark, the other part of the New Zealand contingent.  I loved talking to Julianne and Mark - and I love her clothes (actually, Mark was a very sharp dresser too).    Danny Roddy, Chris Kresser's sidekick in the Healthy Skeptic Podcast - very nice young man who seemed to know everyone already, and introduced me to a lot of people.  Dave Csonka was terrific and easy-going.  J. Stanton was unsurprisingly intense and very tall!  Lindsay Starke was as cute and smart as her @gone2croatan twitter feed would lead you to believe.  It was great to hang out with her and with Andrew.  Lex Rooker, famous for his raw paleo living, is actually the one who gave me a cookie.  He told me it was a "paleo cookie" - but as I told Danny Roddy, I've been around the cookie block a few times, and I know a neolithic cookie when I see one. I'm sorry to say it tasted much better than the pemmican. Basil G from Atlanta brings knowledge together from Greece, the Atlanta Roller Derby scene, Emory University biologic sciences, and photography.  I hope he and Jolly took only good photographs of me ;-)

On the second day of the conference, I spoke briefly to Tom Naughton, who surprised me by knowing who I was.  I also met The Lazy Caveman… and my memory is failing me at this point.  I'm sure I am leaving out someone very important.

The culinary high point (besides the steaks on the first night) had to be going to Animal with Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Julianne Taylor and her husband Mark McNeill, and Jamie Scott on Friday night.  I was able to sample some foods for the first time - including brains (which was sort of like a crispy succulent custard), pig's tail, and fried pig ear.  Everything was excellent, but not gluten free.  Dallas and Melissa defy definition - they are superlative with respect to health, vibrancy, beauty, drive, organization and intelligence.  I was very delighted to spend time with them.  I loved the dinner Saturday night, sitting at a table with 20 of the presenters and good friends.  I was very happy to meet Rhys Southan of Let Them Eat Meat - his blog is consistent and excellent.  Most from this dinner group (which included, among others, Durant, Guyenet, McEwan, Minger, Southan, and Masterjohn) were younger than I am - I felt like the paleo big sister (though they might be young enough that I could be their paleo mom).  Our party was crashed by some enthusiastic protestors of the Rawsome raid that happened Thursday morning.

You've probably had enough of the name game, and I'm running out of positive adjectives - next post will be about Day 3 of the symposium - the MovNat one day seminar at Venice Beach.


  1. Haha! That is a hilarious pemmican face.

    I used to have great fun giving people pemmican and describing it as a "meat cookie", because that set their mouths salivating in anticipation of a sugary floury treat and then they would make interesting faces while trying to decide whether to be polite to me or to spit out the mouthful of pemmican.

    However, I stopped this when I realized I was wasting a lot of delicious, precious pemmican.

    Did you know there was a war fought over pemmican once? It was called "The Pemmican War".

    Anyway, I really got used to it and came to love pemmican. There is a great deal of variation in the flavor and texture of the pemmican my wife has made in different batches, so you might try again some day and find it rather different than that one was.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures!

  2. That is an attractive and healthy bunch. Paul and Jaime are looking sharp. You look like you could be Denise's older sister. Stanton definitely wins for awesome hair, Durant obviously wins the Mock-Grok contest.

    Digital photos + twitter are trippy. Here I am looking at a picture you took of Lindsay tweeting something that I probably read when she was tweeting it. Crazy. Now I have to go listen to my Pink Floyd vinyls or something.

  3. Czonska = Csonka :D

    No worries it happens.

    And you can't tell from the photos, but I am actually 8 feet tall in real life.

    Was wonderful to meet you in person Emily. Until next time, take care!

  4. Sorry Dave! It's fixed now. Stay cool :-)

  5. I've just arrived home, and can't tear myself away from all the great blog posts which have me reliving the event.
    We both enjoyed our time so much, Mark is buzzing about AHS and the presentations as much as I am.
    Mark McNeill (Taylor is my maiden name) He is so the opposite to the blogger peeps - here's his website http://www.razorfilms.co.nz/

    That was indeed a great dinner and great company at Animal.

    So lovely to meet you in person finally :)

  6. I tried U.S. Wellness Meats pemmican a few months ago. Unfortunately, it tasted (and felt) the way I always imagined wet dog food would taste. I won't be trying that again anytime soon.

    Thanks for all the people news and pics. It's nice seeing these ordinary pictures of the paleo leading lights, rather than the nice professional looking ones on most of the blogs. Just makes the people seem a little more real. :)

  7. The link to Dr. BG is missing its leading 'h'.

  8. For some reason, I took to the pemmican like a fish to fish food. Loved the stuff! I always imagined pemmican to be kind of like beef jerkey with dried fruit (kind of like the Tanka Bison bites), but it was soft and creamy and delicious. Kind of like a cross between pate and liverwurst (I know, that description will make most people barf). Can't wait to order more from the US Wellness website. :)

  9. It is quite possible that the fitness and relative slenderness of your conference attendees was more a function of relative wealth than diet.

  10. How wonderful it is to hear about the psychiatrists wanting to incorporate evolutionary principles into their practices. Sounds like you all had a great time with all of it: the setting, the people, the learning, the teaching.

    MovNat should be quite an adventure. Can't wait to hear about it. Thanks for all you do, Emily. You (and Jamie, Chris K, Chris M, Paul J, Stephan and others) are changing lives for the better.

  11. My group was seated next to you guys at Animal! The gushy fangirl in me wanted to say hi but I restrained myself, haha. I really enjoyed you & Jamie's presentation; one of my faves for sure! :)

  12. Thanks for the report, Emily. Wish I could have been there. Taubes's gentle rebuke of Guyenet is already on YouTube.


  13. @pangolin agreed.

    To my knowledge, none of these individuals ever had metabolic syndrome or overweight, etc. They were healthy at baseline. It isn't kind or appropriate to judge people based on looks. I know plenty of thin attractive looking people who eat like utter crap. You can't control your appearance, and often you can't control the range of your weight, few people can go from fat to slim.

  14. I agree the observations have unknown confounding variables and we should keep that in mind.

    @woo - I am astonished that you as a health care professional do not think that our health is reflected at least in part in our appearance, also that you happen to know the medical histories of all the attendees of the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium.

  15. @woo, maybe my ability to put my Mendelian autosomal-dominant metabolic disorder called Erythropoeitic protoporphyria (EPP) into remission through a paleo diet doesn't count for much. eh?

  16. @Itsthewooo2 - What makes you think that the health of the people attending AHS had anything to do with their weight or degree of slimness?

    There were people of all shapes and sizes there, but their collective health was conveyed through things like clarity of skin, sparkling eyes, hair quality... the way they held themselves and moved. I have seen plenty of people who eat crap, are skinny, and therefore think they are healthy. But some things you just can't fake.

    Interesting that many of us who attended the conference tracked into ancestral health due to our own health problems. Myself and many that I have worked with were all skinny-fat. I can assure you and others that no amount of money makes that change without giving a crap about what you eat and how you live.

  17. Emily, bummed i couldn't make it to this, but alas duty in the ICU has kept me planted in portland. looks and reads like it was a great weekend.


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