As everyone recovers from Paleo summer camp, it’s time to share our personal take aways from this years adventure! First we hopped off the bus and headed to our cabins, met our camp counselor Katherine Morrison, then headed to the lake for kayaking with Chris Kresser. After lunch, Robb Wolf led a martial arts session, we hiked and swam with Mark Sisson, Joel Salatin taught our cooking class, and we sang Kumbaya around the campfire with Emily Deans. Later that night Denise Minger told scary stories about sheep heads!
Or something like that. This year’s Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard exceeded my expectations. I flew in Thursday morning and arrived just minutes before opening remarks. It was a full afternoon of talks and making the rounds to meet so many of the awesome people I’ve only known online. The evening wrapped up with keynote speaker, Joel Salatin, the self-described lunatic farmer. His talk was more like a preacher at a pulpit in a southern baptist church. He’s been inspiring me to farm more and buy local since he starred in Food, Inc. years ago so I was super pumped to hear him. At one point he made a comment that young people should stop worrying about how many tattoos they can get and care more about growing tomatoes. Ahem, this tattoo’d girl cares a whole lot about growing tomatoes. I didn’t take offense though. I love the man and appreciate everything he’s doing to heal our land and food system.
While the majority of this year’s AHS talks were about food and movement, the other pieces of the ancestral lifestyle were somewhat represented. On Friday I enjoyed sessions on food policy, food advertising, urban agriculture, food and nutrition reform, and eating for mental health.
The highlight of day 2 was the Sustainable Farm Dinner hosted by Diana Rodgers of Radiance Nutrition on her farm outside of Boston. The weather situation wasn’t looking great by the afternoon. There were dark clouds, tornado watches, and flash flood warnings. Fortunately the dinner was inside the beautifully transformed barn. We couldn’t stop saying how amazing everything looked and tasted. The folks at Chive Sustainable Event Design and Catering are clearly passionate about what they do. I especially enjoyed talking to Diana, a graduate of NTA, the same program I’m starting in September. Four courses and a few pickle martinis later we headed back to Cambridge.
After two days of not sleeping much I got a late start on Day 3. Sadly I missed the Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson Q & A. Who scheduled that for so early in the morning!?! I made it in time for Dr. Hamilton Stapell’s presentation of ancestral health in historical context. Two of my favorite things: history and health. Dr. Stapell shared fantastic photos from a hundred years ago when a similar movement to our current one swept through the U.S. I can’t do it justice so make sure you watch it once the videos are released.
My two favorite talks of the entire symposium happened back to back Saturday afternoon. The first was Dr. Peter Gray on the role of play in the development of social and emotional competence. When I tell you this talk changed my life, I’m not being dramatic. Dr. Gray spoke about the decline of play and rise of psychopathology over the last 50-60 years. Read his blog at Psychology Today to find out more about this powerful concept. The next session was Frank Forencich speaking on a Paleolithic perspective on human community and health. It was right in line with Dr. Gray’s talk on play. Frank brought the mind-body connection to the forefront. It’s detrimental to our success to not discuss this further in our community. We were so inspired after these two talks that a group of us ended up having a mini breakout session in the courtyard to continue the discussion. Made up of people from all over the world and entirely diverse religious and spiritual beliefs, the group kept growing. What we took away from it was the need for a tribe and to find a connection to something greater than ourselves even if it’s just the grass if we’re to create sustainability.
It was the end of the day and time to end the AHS party with the always adorable and subject of all our girl crushes, Denise Minger. Meat Your Meat: An Objective Look at a Controversial Food did not disappoint. From the girl who debunked the China Study and Forks Over Knives, what would you expect? Her main message was eat nose to tail if you can get over the whole face eating thing.
So here are the cliff notes of the talks I attended to hold you over until the AHS videos are online:
Dan Lieberman-Exercise reduces your risk of breast cancer by 50%
Mathieu Lalonde-Wrap everything in bacon
Robb Wolf-What are we doing wrong? We’re not practicing Darwinian medicine
Joel Salatin-The legacy we’re leaving is the hope of food choice for our grandchildren…best way to do that is to get into the kitchen
Matt Metzger-Food advertising negatively affects obese and overweight children
Danielle Purifoy-Farmers are aging out. It’s critical that we get training and education for new farmers
Food Reform Panel-Food policy sucks (paraphrasing)
Peter Attia-Cholesterol is vital for life. Dietary cholesterol has very little to do with what’s in our body.
Chris Masterjohn-Traditional diet should be able to help us consume carbs.
Safe Starches Panel-Still can’t agree. Look for safe starches panel at AHS18
Emily Deans-Link between Hypoglycemia, irritability, and violence. Lesson: Don’t drink red bull and vodka on empty stomach.
Hamilton Stapell-Healthy human excreta are no more offensive than moist clay and have no more odor than hot biscuits
Terry Wahls-Mitochondria and inflammation issues cause depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, and OCD to name a few.
Peter Gray-Play fosters self control and emotional regulation. Kids are spending more time out of school being directed by adults instead of play. Far less free now than ever before.
Frank Forencich-We need to have a world view that includes ancestors, tribe, mind, body, spirit, and land
Denise Minger-Sardines are the two-bite brownies of the animal kingdom.
What I took away from AHS is that we need to eat more organ meat. It came up numerous times from different presenters. We’re avoiding the best part of a Paleo diet! Speaking of that, there’s not one Paleo diet. This is definitely not a one size fits all approach and we need to be more open to learning how to tweak the template for individuals to find optimal health. Urban agriculture is blowing up. Get chickens. Plant gardens. Fill up the space you have and heal the land. We need to focus more on minority culture. There was one talk on this. That’s just not enough. Hope to see a whole lot more of that in future talks. Mind body connection. This lifestyle is not just about grass-fed beef and Crossfit. Connect to yourself and those in your life, form your tribe. Finally, the thing that is near and dear to my heart. Primal parenting. Not one talk on the subject. Some presenters mentioned birth, breastfeeding, attachment, but nothing beyond. Maybe with all the Paleo babies being born we’ll begin to see it manifest itself as an important subject in our community. Until then I’ll keep hammering on about it. Overall, Paleo Summer Camp kicked ass. I’ll bring the friendship bracelets next year.