|This way to Ancestral Health|
"Definition of AWESOME
1: expressive of awe
2: inspiring awe
Since wrapping up a little over a week ago, numerous reviews of the second annual Ancestral Health Symposium have already hit the Paleosphere. My own detailed write up will be featured in an upcoming issue of Paleo Magazine, so for this post I'll be glossing over the finer points, sticking instead with what I personally felt was most awesome about the experience.
Before we get started, however, I would like to note that there is no particular rhyme or reason to the list order (well, that's not true, it's the order in which my pictures uploaded) and there are definitely a lot of people and events that I am leaving off this list due to inherent laziness and mental laxity. Let me apologize in advance, I mean no offense to your awesomeness.
I also feel compelled to share a personal anecdote. The easiest way to describe it is that I "lost" my ankles. It wasn't that they up and left, or that I unwisely decided to dance with a train, it was just that I couldn't see them. Severe water retention and swelling had rendered my lower legs unrecognizable. In other words, I had "cankles". This was disconcerting to say the least but I bring this up because it was: 1) a serious health crisis and 2) a great opportunity.
Going into AHS I was feeling rather invincible in the way that young healthy people can. Specifically, I had the luxury of not considering my health at all. Instead, I was concerned with getting enough material for blog posts, talking to the right people, wondering what I was going to eat, etc. All superficial stuff in the grand scheme of things.
Doing a Google search on "edema in both legs" was definitely a bad idea because for a while there I thought might have congestive heart failure. It seemed particularly stupid and a bit ironic to be walking around AHS, a symposium on health, when I might be dying and should be at the hospital. Sure, I'm being a bit dramatic, but it was bad, I literally had no ankles.
Things turned around, however, when I realized that I was surrounded by health experts. Between conversations with AHS presenter David Pendergrass, the Perfect Health Diet's Paul Jaminet, and a physician (thanks Karen P.!) I was able narrow down the likely suspects. My new Michelin man look may have been the result of flying in a plane. Or, it may have been an allergic reaction of some sort. I had had dinner at a farm and perhaps I am highly allergic to goats. The third, and, in my mind, most likely culprit was that my thyroid was whackadoodle (a technical term for "f'd up").
About 15 years ago it was suspected that I had thyroid cancer so I had a complete thyroidectomy (it wasn't cancer, but that's another story) and now I need to take thyroid hormone pills on a daily basis. My expert AHS panel thought my dose might be a little high and I was going all hyperthyroid. Paul said I should eat some carbs (woo hoo!) and they all agreed that if it didn't get better by the next day I should go see a doctor. Thankfully, it did start getting better so I made it through the rest of AHS much relieved. (If any of my experts read this, I did get my thyroid checked and am awaiting lab results as we speak.)
The point of all this is that I now realize the value of conferences such as AHS, and the ancestral health movement in general. Many people come to this community of experts, authors, bloggers, etc. with health problems that they are trying to figure out. Before my own crisis, which was quite mild compared to what many go through, I never really understood why people were always mobbing Robb Wolf and others, but now I think I do. They are looking for answers that they aren't getting anywhere else and perhaps more importantly, they are getting the chance to talk with someone who is actually listening and thoughtfully considering their problems. In a world of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am doctor visits, a little thoughtful consideration can go a long way. I for one am grateful to have lost my ankles in the midst of such a fine group of people, and that my friends is awesome.
And now for the list!
1) The Sustainable Feast
Super cute farm animals (I espied goats, sheep, chickens, AND ducks!), super delicious food, and great "rustic chic" ambiance made the Sustainable Feast at Clark Farm a memorable night. The catering company Chive really put on a classy show and their 100% sustainable operation (from sourcing to disposal) ensured that it was a meal that could truly be enjoyed without having to stifle the usual pangs of guilt. Add great live music, a "photo hay bale", plenty of libations, and a guest list that read like a "who's who" of the Paleosphere and you've got yourself a great party. (Check out a little video I made of the event here)
|Squatchy, Charissa, and the Bacon Sex Love Show (aka Mike & Kelly)|
2) Making new friends and hanging out with old ones
I was lucky enough to hook up with a group of people on Facebook who rented a house for Paleo FX and while it wasn't exactly like "The Real World" it was pretty darn close. Needless to say we all wanted to do it again for AHS and lightning struck twice thanks to the wonderful Michelle Norris who graciously organized the logistics. Shopping, sharing meals, crazy bus trips (and even crazier cab rides), and long conversations after one too many glasses of wine has a way of bringing people together.
|Strong minds and strong arches|
3) The Crowd
To say the crowd at AHS was "eclectic" would be a severe understatement. In addition to the obligatory bare feet and minimalist shoes, there were people of all shapes and sizes, but they all shared one thing in common, a willingness to give a genuine round of applause for presentations like Chris Masterjohn's "Oxidative Stress & Carbohydrate Intolerance: An Ancestral Perspective". Normal? No. Awesome? Yes!
|Bacon chocolate truffles? I may need a second sample! (Or I could just buy some at EatingEvolved.com)|
4) The Vendors
Man, the vendor area was where the action was! The presidents of US Wellness Meats and Tanka Bar were on hand and I felt like a young padawan talking to them. Both were genuinely awesome dudes without a hint of "corporate" and I can now hawk their products without hesitation. (Purchase US Wellness Meat HERE and Tanka Bars HERE) Additionally, there was a young couple selling US Wellness bacon chocolate truffles (among several flavors) who clearly did their market research, a stone-ground chocolate purveyor (yes, it is literally "the bomb") and free coconut water courtesy of Vita Coco. Oh yeah, and at any time you could come out and talk to someone whose book you read, whose blog you follow, etc. and ask them any stupid question you could think of, a fact that I took full advantage of.
|The Civilized Caveman discussing the finer points of giveaways with the Free-Range Human and Paleo for Women. Meanwhile Abel James and Jimmy Moore podcast in person.|
5) 3D Internet
It's alive, alive! The funny thing about being in a room where almost everyone has a blog is that people start to refer to the human being by their blog name rather than their human name. For instance, "Did you see Nom Nom Paleo and Fit Bomb? Oh year, they're with the Food Lovers and Civilized Caveman. Wait, is that Whole 9? So dreamy!" Also, it is funny how people are often very different than you assume based on their internet persona. It is a good experience because it is easy to make someone into a caricature when they are in fact a complete human being with all that that entails.
|Robb Wolf, a random fan, and the Paleo paparazzo (that would be me).|
6) The "Stars" are here on Earth
More accurately, the "stars" are down to Earth. I think that Robb Wolf was literally swarmed anytime AHS reps weren't beating people off of him or shoving him on stage. The great thing is that he took the time to talk, listen, and pose for pictures with each and every person, and this was a quality shared by all of the "big wigs". If you have a favorite band, you're probably not going to get the chance to jam with them. If you have a favorite Paleo/Primal/Whatever person, you can actually dish with them about phosphatidlyserine, telomeres, safe starch or whatever else floats your boat.
|Chris Kresser sponging up some knowledge.|
7) Even the experts were here to learn
It was refreshing to see so many of the presenters out in the audience paying attention to talks, participating in the Q&A's, and in general, interested in learning as well. I like to see this because it shows that there is dynamism to their thought. I spoke briefly with Dallas from the Whole 9 and he mentioned that one of his favorite parts of events such as AHS is that it gives him an opportunity to put his ideas out there and get immediate feedback, criticism, or applause. I like that.
|The Barefoot Banquet rendition of the Eiffel Tower.|
8) Paleo people really do love bread
They love playing with it. They love throwing it into the trash. They love giving oblivious waiters and waitresses a quick and dirty synopsis of Paleo and how even "gluten free" bread doesn't cut it. Basically, they love everything about it except eating it. That part they hate. Or is it that they secretly love it so much that that they hate it? Whoa...
|I love you too.|
9) Free coffee!
How do I say this... at AHS '12 I realized that the coffee I make at home is crap. The level of coffee been mastery from the two, not one, two vendors who were slinging free coffee was of an order of magnitude greater than anything I could ever hope to coax out of my French press. They were measuring, filtering, cold brewing, all high level stuff that I can't even begin to understand. What I do understand is that my taste buds and CNS were thankful.
|Bone marrow, pork trio, and sea food oh my!|
10) Russel House Tavern
Walking distance from AHS? Check. Bone marrow, house made charcuterie, kick ass oysters, and "pork trio"? Check. Really, that was all it took for the Russel House Tavern to become the official unofficial after-party. I wasn't on my best behavior on my first visit and word got out that I ate a piece of toast with my bone marrow, but I don't think I was the only one that succumbed to the gluten whisperer at AHS.
|I just want some guacamole....(says ridiculously photogenic Paleo guy).|
11) Witnessing Guacamocalypse
Let it be known to any catering company servicing a Paleo/Primal/Ancestral conference that if you're going to put out guacamole, you have to assume it is going to be consumed in obscene quantities. The first few people in line scooped out copious quantities, piling it on like mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, leaving the rest of the crowd in a dazed, monounsaturated fat depleted stupor. Zombies looking for brains got nothing on this.
|The AHS Superheroes|
Before I finish, I want to give one final shout out. AHS was run by volunteers, that's right, volunteers. All the people who put in long hours, hard work, and sleepless nights did it on their own time. They put on a polished event that made me feel proud to be a part of this movement and they deserve a ton of credit for pulling it off. Thank you!!!