Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 -- The People Post

POP ETC Keep It For Your Own.  Right click to open in new window.

So I had a great (but very tiring) time at AHS12.  In fact I was useless for about 36 hours post-event, with the extra day making it a bit grueling compared to last year, but part of that was entirely my own fault for staying up so late on multiple days.  It was nice to catch up with the personalities and folks and meet all sorts of new ones.  I'm definitely going to miss some folks and for that I apologize in advance.

I was delighted to spend some quality time with:

Mark Sisson:  I was fortunate enough to spend nearly an hour learning a bit more about Mark and his history of athletic endeavors, and how he transformed his experiences and success with primal eating into his Primal Blueprint, and a bit of what his motivations are.  As I mentioned in the last post, most people have an angle.  My disclosure is my paid blog over at Psychology Today, for example.  For the most part, this blog has been a very expensive but fulfilling hobby.  That will change soon when I will make an exciting announcement.  And sure, Mark wants a successful business, but it is also extremely important to him to help folks eat better and live better.  He has always done a good job advocating for balance and common sense.  I've heard him say multiple times… the goal is not to get the body of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  It's to be happy and healthy, and *not* to be obsessed with food.  It's to eat well in such a way that you don't have to spend so much time thinking about it, counting, or carrying around little snacks to eat every three hours.  It's to be able to tolerate a fast every once in a while if you are traveling and there's nothing that good to eat.  It's to eat well most of the time so that you can enjoy champagne and cake at your great aunt's 100 birthday party (barring alcohol problems or wheat allergy) without worry or recrimination.  In any event, Mark is good people and it was a great pleasure to get to know him better.

Stephan Guyenet: I really enjoy talking with Stephan each time I have the opportunity.  He's thoughtful, careful in his writing, and an exceptionally kind person.

Chris Masterjohn and Denise Minger: We were able to talk a bit about Chris' successful defense of his dissertation (on a topic I have a great deal of interest in, certain specific aspects of glutathione metabolism) and Denise's writing project.  They seemed a bit more relaxed than others at the conference, maybe because Chris got that PhD...

Chris Kresser:  Somehow each time I talk with Chris I tend to be fired up about something, so I'm not sure the impression he has of me!  He understands the dilemma of a clinician, that things aren't always so simple, that lab tests aren't always accurate, and that the answer isn't always more supplements or less sugar or whatever the paleo flavor of the week is.  I'm always eager to see his new writings and ideas.  It's also nice to talk shop about babies and parenting.

Rick Henriksen MD, Catfish MD, Primal Mountain (Jacob Egbert, DO), Vlprince, and Dr. Lucy:  I can't say enough about this crew of doctors.  We were pretty much inseperable during the event, and various folks did everything from help me with my sinus infection, share chocolate, phone chargers, buying dinner, introducing me to all sorts of great practitioners, and even bringing me farm fresh rendered lard and putting me up for a couple nights in town so I wouldn't have a 45-90 minute commute each way.  The three day event would have been nearly impossible without their support and company.  I love them all a great deal and can't wait until we all meet again.

My sister in law, an emergency room nurse who volunteered for the event and by the end seemed to become friends with everyone.  (And a special thanks to my husband for wrangling the kids alone as he is always happy to do when I'm away for these shindigs.)

I had a few moments (and would have loved to spend more time) with:

Ned Kock, Beth MazurPaul JaminetKeith and Michelle NorrisBasil GAaron BlaisdellJamie Scott and Anastasia Boulais, Grayson Wheatley, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Kamal, Don Wilson, Lindsay, Colin Champ, and Squatchy and countless others.

Someone I would love to chat with more, but I figured it would take some time to do it justice and he was always mobbed:  Robb Wolf.  One day, maybe!

Finally, I wanted to address some concerns that have come up on the Internet about our physician's forum.  Some great practitioners (chiropractors, RDs, nurses, etc.) felt left out because our little endeavor is for MDs/DOs, medical students, and the international equivalents.  We think other practitioners are terrific, incredibly valuable, and certainly have skill sets we do not possess, and an eventual plan would be to have several nested forums with all clinicians and researchers or whoever able to share ideas, grant funding, experience, resources, etc.  Our forum is quite small at the moment and is focused on addressing specific concerns and needs of physicians, having to do with medicolegal questions, evidence-based practices, case studies, etc.  For various legal and traditional reasons, this model can only work with a confirmed set of physicians.  We're not trying to be exclusive or leave anyone out because we are jerks.  This model meets our current needs and we hope to collaborate with all kinds of practitioners in the future.

There has also been a lot of discussion about AHS12 and the quality of speakers, the lack of diversity, and the judgmental atmosphere.  I felt the speaker list was more diverse than last year, and interest from many ethnic groups is growing.  These events filled with nutrition fanatics and folks who work out for a living is always a bit of a beauty spectacle.  Many folks get into evolutionary styles of eating and living for reasons of vanity (hey, I did…).  I'm not perfect by any means, being a middle-aged mother of two, but I personally felt comfortable and that people weren't judgmental to my face, though I'm not going to be walking around the AHS in spandex any time soon.  Its unfortunate that others felt judged or uncomfortable or excluded.  I thought the talk by Dr. Eaton about ageing gracefully living a paleo lifestyle was a nice antidote to the youth obsession… but I'm one of those folks who generally assumes others are thinking kind thoughts and giving people the benefit of the doubt, so maybe I'm not the best one to judge these sorts of things…

Jacob Egbert and Rick Henriksen

Don Wilson


Victoria Prince and Lindsay Starke

Me, relaxing in New Hampshire a few days after the conference
Well, opinions and criticisms are useful, particularly if they lead to reflection and self-improvement.  Real time evolution, if you will.


  1. " Its unfortunate that others felt judged or uncomfortable or excluded..."

    That's a compassionate and mature response to Portia Chalifoux's blog entry. Her feelings are what they are, even if from my perspective they seem unjustified. I do wish it were possible to bridge the chasm in perception that seems to separate Chalifoux's subjective experience from that of someone like myself, who is dirt poor neither ripped nor beautiful, could only attend AHS'11 by volunteering, and had a blast...

    ;) Daniel Kirsner

  2. "middle-aged mother of two.."

    Middle aged?

    Jesus, that makes me a fossil hominid I suppose...

  3. Emily, I too wish we had more time to chat ... some other time hopefully. BTW, Vicky was awesome! Wish I lived in the area so I could hang out with her ;). Glad you had a great time.

    1. Yes, she is fabulous. Thanks so much for organizing the volunteers. It was a huge chunk of work and you pulled it off.

  4. Hi Emily,

    I just want to say, first, thank you for representing in such a big, professional, and kickass way. You have always been a powerful contributor to the paleosphere, and I could not be more grateful for that.

    I also want to throw in a brief note re: inclusivity. I am probably one of those voices counted in the disastisfied, etc, with the conference, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Sure AHS demonstrated to me some places in which the movement can make improvements and has potential to grow, but of course the crowd is welcoming and inclusive and almost even yearning for more diverse voices. It is just, in my opinion, a matter of reaching out and making it happen. All that being said, I never felt excluded at all, and I hope that the paleosphere continues to be championed by people (like you) who are open and warm, always.

    Also <3 BETH. SHE KICKS ASS.


    1. Dear Stefani,

      It was great to see you at AHS. And your contributions on all sites have been valuable, though sometimes painful to see the comments.

      I've found for most of my public blogging life that it can be a minefield of expectations and gambles. You want to say what you think and champion the truth, manage expectations, and share exciting new information. Sometimes all these objectives are not possible at the same time. Do we tear down the temple and build a new one? Sometimes that is warranted. Sometimes the bullies wear familiar faces and cry equality and justice for all, and sometimes they bully in the name of equality and feeling victimized.

      If you engage too much, there is no way to come out unscathed and unsullied. If you engage not at all, you are a coward and unprincipled.

      When I figure out a truly graceful way through, I will let you know.

  5. Well, saying that you're middle aged definitely speaks for the anti-aging affects of this life style. I thought you were just a bit older than me (I'm 29).
    Speaking of aging, I'm immensely interested in the aging gracefully idea through whole foods lifestyles. I'm a paramedic and I see the poor health of the geriatric population daily. People just do not age well in our society. Plus they loose their mind and body to the mercy of the medical world. And the vast majority of their problems seem to be traced to neolithic foods and lifestyle. Very sad.

  6. Those are some amazing folks. I continue to be impressed at how impressive, amazing, and down-to-earth are so many of the individuals in our movement, you included.

    And Vicky was a gem! I got to speak with her at length quite a few times. She always had a smile on her face. And tell her thanks for the jam she gave me, it was delicious (though the airline security agent *almost* confiscated it, but then carefully hid it back in my bag facing away from the security cameras--see, there are real humans working for the TSA, though not many).

  7. I think this community does suffer from a cultural bias being that it comes from an individualistic, patriarchal, capitalistic, youth & science worshiping one. How many of the same book do we really need before this gets anymore boring? Myself, I believe helping everyone, especially the less fortunate, move away from Monsanto would be refreshing. Why not share some of the limelight with efforts such as this:

  8. Nice meeting and talking with you Emily. One topic that we discussed briefly, and that I'll research more, is the possibility that the depression stage in manic-depressive cycles may be a compensatory adaptation.

    Maybe mental conditions being exacerbated in urban societies is a stronger causative factor of degenerative diseases than most people think. That's something that is rarely discussed, except for your blog - and perhaps ItsTheWooo's, but from a different angle.

  9. Emily,

    Great meeting you at AHS and I look forward to more conversations in the future (i.e. me picking your brain about food addiction). Keep up the insightful work on this great site.


  10. A graceful, nuanced, optimistic post. Thank you.

  11. I nominated you, Dr. Emily, for a Beautiful Blogger award. I have gotten a ton of education from your blog. Thanks for all your writing and research!


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