"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Restaurant Review: The Counter

I'd like to share some exciting news: I'm now living in New York City!  I moved into the Little Italy/Chinatown neighborhood a little over a month ago, so I've been having a pretty fantastic time walking all over the place (I walk to work!), exploring downtown, and learning how to live independently for the first time.  So far, so good!  (I've also still been kicking around new names for this blog -- I hope to finally settle on one soon.)

I've found some pretty great restaurants both in my neighborhood and SoHo (where I work), but finding anywhere good (read: Paleo-friendly) to eat in Midtown has always been a struggle.  But today, I stumbled upon a lovely little place near Times Square (41st and Broadway) called The Counter, which offers custom-built burgers made with "Fresh 100% Natural Beef - Hormone and Antibiotic Free - Humanely Raised + Handled."  (If beef isn't your thing, your burger can be made with bison, chicken, or turkey as well.)  While a burger joint might not sound all that Paleo-friendly at first, this isn't the type of place where you have to ask for a burger without a bun and will receive just a patty on a piece of lettuce.  Instead, they're known for their "Burgers in a Bowl," which are essentially burger salads-- it really doesn't get much more Paleo-friendly than that!

I really liked that I could choose the kind of lettuce I wanted in my burger in a bowl-- they offer lettuce blend, organic mixed greens, and baby spinach.  I also loved their wide variety of toppings, such as grilled pineapple, hard-boiled eggs, brie cheese, and avocado.  This is not a typical burger place -- I've been to a bunch of other burger places both in the city and elsewhere, and those definitely don't compare to The Counter.  The food is delicious, the ambiance is great (very modern look with good music playing), the prices are reasonable, the staff is super friendly, and the menu certainly has something for everyone.  In addition, they have a gluten-free menu in case you want to be extra careful about picking your ingredients, and they disclose their nutritional and allergen information online as well.  

It turns out that The Counter is actually a California-based chain with over 20 locations there, as well as locations in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas, Virginia, Ireland, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia!!  I'm also really glad that they're opening more locations all over the world soon, because I think the concept is great and it's a place that both Paleo and non-Paleo people can enjoy.  If you're in Midtown (or in any of their other locations), I highly encourage you to stop by The Counter and enjoy a really nice casual dining experience.


Quote of the Day:
"There is absolutely no substitute for the best.  Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor.  It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing."  -James Beard

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Body Acceptance

As mentioned in my last few posts, one of the things I want most out of my life is to help people.  Almost a month ago, I started working at an amazing company where I get to do just that-- I get to help make attorneys' experiences better, and I absolutely love that my company values helping people so much.  I couldn't have asked for a better place to be post-Penn.  (And speaking of which, one of my incredible colleagues suggested that this blog be renamed Paleo Post-Penn.  That's definitely the best suggestion thus far!)

I've been meaning to write today's post for awhile, but what finally pushed me to sit down and write it is Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, a book recently recommended to me by my colleagues.  In it, the Facebook COO discusses women in the workforce, gender stereotypes, and what we can do to make our lives better in general.  So much of it really hit home for me, so I finally said to myself, "Okay, go write that post."

This post is actually about body acceptance and self-image.  Over the last few years, I've read countless stories from people who turned to the ancestral lifestyle and learned to love themselves after years of self-loathing.  With each story, I've thought that it'd be so awesome to love my body, because I really never have.  Due to struggling with my weight for my entire life (and I wish I could say that it's no longer a struggle, but it is and always will be), I'm just not at that "love my body" stage yet, and I honestly don't know if I ever will be.

However, I've finally reached the "accept my body" stage, which is a massive improvement for me.  I don't know what it was exactly that got me there, but it's something that happened within the last few months-- it could've been graduating and realizing how far I've come, or it could've been a few really deep conversations with people, or it could've been a number of things.  I don't know, but I'm glad that as I start my life as a real person, I've learned to accept that I'm probably never going to be a size 2.

When I first started this lifestyle (before I knew it was a lifestyle) 3.5 years ago, all I wanted was to be skinny.  And I lost a ton of weight because that was my goal, and I thought that being XYZ weight and X size would be the key to everything.  I was so, so wrong.  That initial massive weight loss was impressive, sure, but it wasn't sustainable because I was depriving myself of things that I love, like nuts, fruit, dark chocolate, and wine.  So what happened?  I woke up at some point soon after really joining the ancestral community (about a year after the start of my post-SAD life) and reassessed my goals.  While being thin was always something that I wanted too, I really just wanted to be healthy.  So I added in all of those things that I love (while staying true to the ancestral lifestyle), and I put on some weight again; while that was definitely upsetting, it wasn't the end of the world, because I actually got to enjoy some old foods that I stayed away from for a year.  I love food.

So much of society is focused on looks.  We have to be thin and beautiful to be accepted; if we're not, we get criticized.  Actually, we get criticized no matter what-- go into a grocery store and walk by the tabloids at the check-out counters, and all of the headlines are "So-and-so gained 25 pounds!" or "So-and-so: too skinny?".  It's ridiculous, and it shouldn't matter!  Who the hell cares?  Why are we so focused on people's looks instead of their accomplishments?

In the aforementioned Lean In, Sandberg writes, "Gymboree once sold onesies proclaiming 'Smart like Daddy' for boys and 'Pretty Like Mommy' for girls.  The same year, J.C. Penney marked at T-shirt to teenage girls that bragged, 'I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.'  These things did not happen in 1951.  They happened in 2011."  That was the quote that kicked me into finally writing this post, because it upset me and reminded me how all I wanted initially was to feel attractive-- and in this society, that's synonymous with skinny.  It sickens me that girls are being told from such a young age that they have to be pretty.  Why can't there be shirts that say "Smart Like Mommy" instead?  Or "Strong Like Mommy"?  Or insert any other adjective: funny, talented, musical, witty, athletic, etc. etc.

Or take the recent case of Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.  She won Wimbledon.  That is such an amazing accomplishment, but what did commentator John Inverdale say instead of praising this incredible woman?  "I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, 'Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker.'" Seriously?!  But the Wimbledon winner fired back later with, "It doesn't matter, honestly.  I am not blonde, yes.  That is a fact.  Have I dreamt about having a model contract?  No.  I'm sorry.  But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon?  Absolutely, yes."  Rock on!  In a world where top-tier athletes are criticized for not being pretty enough (um, since when were sports about looking pretty?), it's no wonder that nearly everyone has body image issues and that so many of us just constantly put ourselves down and hate ourselves because we're never going to be attractive enough for the superficial societal standards.

It also upsets me when thin women aren't considered "real" women.  If you're a woman, you're a real woman; simple as that.  I love that advertising campaigns are now featuring different body types, but by calling those women "real," they're totally degrading models.  And that's not okay either.  Body-shaming of any sort is not okay-- skinny-shaming, fat-shaming, other-size-shaming should not happen.  One size does not make you more "real" than some other size.  This is why we live in such a screwed up society, where everyone on the size spectrum has serious body image issues.

Within the last few months, I've come to accept the fact that unless I deprive myself of ancestral-approved foods that might be a little higher in carbs or sugar, this is my body's homeostasis.  Could I exercise more?  Absolutely.  But even two summers ago (right after I put on some weight after reintroducing sensible vices), when I was working out every day, I was still pretty much this size.  And so I spent the last two years comparing myself to everyone, always thinking that I was the heaviest person in the room and being disgusted with myself that A) maybe I was, and B) that I was even having those thoughts.  But then I started telling myself that yeah, okay, I'm a size or three bigger than a lot of my friends, but I'm always healthier than 90% of people I know.  I've gotten sick twice (both only for a few days) in the last 3.5 years-- my immune system is ridiculously strong, and I've been able to not get sick when everyone around me is suffering from colds/flu/etc.  Isn't that an accomplishment?  So why have I just been so focused on being thin instead?

In my last post, I put in a before/after college picture, and maybe that was the catalyst to my body acceptance.  I have come so, so far from where I was the summer after high school, and that's something to be proud of.  And not even just weight-wise-- I'm so much healthier and stronger, I'm so much more well-educated (and I don't mean just in the sense of now having a college degree), and I care so much more than I did then about both myself and others.  Instead of focusing on all of the things I dislike about myself, I need to start focusing on how far I've come and how much I've accomplished.  I graduated from one of the best schools in the world; I traveled the world; I'm at a job that I love; I've learned so much and grown so much as a person.  Can't those matter more than the fact that I'm not-- and may not ever be-- society's definition of attractive?

I look up to so many people in the ancestral health community, and I'm so inspired by those who love themselves regardless of size.  I'm still working on that, but moving from hating my body to accepting it is a huge step in the right direction.  I know that a lot of us come from messed up body image backgrounds due to years of being overweight, so I know that there's hope for me-- maybe one day, I'll move from accepting my body to loving my body.  Whether that's in a few months or a few years or a few decades, it's a possibility; I just need to stop comparing myself to other people and focus on all of the good things about myself instead of constantly beating myself up for not being a few sizes smaller.  Here's to accepting my body, and may I one day love it as well.

Quote of the Day:
"It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always."  -Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Future and Helping Others

I think I'm still in denial about graduating a few weeks ago, which is why I haven't yet addressed the issue of what I'm going to do with this blog now that I'm no longer at Penn.  Perhaps I'll change my name to a symbol and simply become The Blogger Formerly Known as Paleo at Penn.  Or perhaps this will become Paleo at Penn: The Post-Grad Years.  I'm open to suggestions!  But until I figure that out, the name stays.

Now that I'm no longer in school, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.  I know one thing, though: I want to help people.  Whether it's working at a non-profit, teaching or tutoring, doing something in the legal industry, or writing, I want to make a difference.  I want to communicate with people, or write for them, or inspire them, or help them in any way that I can.  I want to both learn from and teach others; I want to save the world; I want to impact someone's life.  I love blogging and sharing my experiences because every time someone reads a post and gets inspired, then my life feels so much more fulfilling.  I loved working with kids these past few years because there was so much to teach them, and their excitement about learning new things made me really happy.  I love performing because someone else feels good after listening to/watching my song/piece/role/etc.  I just feeling like I did something-- no matter how big or small-- to help someone else.

I've become really idealistic over the last few years thanks to the ancestral health movement.  We all want so badly to change the world, and we're all trying, one blog post or article at a time.  If you read any success story, it's usually something to the effect of, "I was unhealthy, and then I found [blog/book/website] and my entire life changed for the better."  How awesome is it knowing that someone may have changed their life because of something you said or wrote?  And that's why I love this movement-- we're all seeking to not only better ourselves, but also better the lives of our friends, families, colleagues, and peers as well.

In the movie Pay It Forward, the young main character (played by Haley Joel Osment) says that he's going to help save the world by helping three people, and those three people are each going to help three people, and so on and so on.  He created a massive network of people helping each other, and that's how I feel in this community-- I am so inspired by others to keep helping other people.  Most of my friends still think I'm crazy for voluntarily giving up gluten, but I'm also glad that they send their friends looking to be healthier my way, knowing that I might have good advice for them.  That's the beauty of networking, and that's the beauty of sharing information.

I really don't know what the future holds for me.  My life could go in so many directions right now, which is both terrifying and really exciting.  But one thing is certain: my passion for health won't go away.  This lifestyle changed my life for the better, and it's one of the things I'm most proud of during my college experience.  It's not even just the weight loss, though-- it's the whole mindset.  (Though the weight loss was a great accomplishment-- here's a comparison of my prom senior year of high school and my formal senior year of college.)

So what now?  Well, right now, I'm home in New York and applying to jobs and internships and hoping that someone will take a chance on me.  I'm also hoping that when I do find a job, I'll somehow make a difference there-- in addition to my job's duties, I hope to spread the word about ancestral health (but in a non-preachy way, of course) and inspire others to not only take their health into their own hands, but to also learn more about any number of subjects.  This movement taught me so much about evolution, biology, anthropology, and sociology-- I now think nothing of reading books or articles about those (and many other) subjects.  It also taught me about alternative living, different ways of thinking, and how strong a community can be.  I received a phenomenal educational at Penn, but I also received a phenomenal education (of a different kind) from the ancestral health community.

Always be a student, always ask questions, and always keep learning.

Quote of the Day:
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."  -Nelson Mandela

Friday, February 1, 2013

Three Things for Three Years

Today marks the three-year anniversay of "the first day of the rest of my life."  It was on this day in 2010 that I decided to take control of my health and really change my life-- at the time, I didn't know how long my newest diet would last, but this one felt different than all of my other attempts.  It quickly became a lifestyle, and here I am in 2013, blogging about it and being able to say that I haven't had bread or pizza or cereal in three years!  So this post will be dedicated to the three biggest things I've learned since February 1, 2010.

1.  It's not always easy, but it's worth it.
I first started my journey about a year before the Paleo/ancestral community really took off; I didn't even know what Paleo was at the time, and I just thought I was eating low-carb real food.  That first semester was hard-- I felt pretty isolated from everyone because food is such a huge deal here, and I had to constantly decline going for pizza or cupcakes or fro-yo.  I wrestled with control issues for such a long time, because I knew (and still know) that I'm a sugar addict, and that one slip-up would completely unravel me.  I know I was way too strict with myself, but I couldn't give in to the "Oh, it's okay, you can just take a bite" thing; giving in to that was what had tripped me up so many times in my life, and I wanted this to be different.  Was saying no difficult?  Absolutely.  Was declining desserts with my friends difficult?  Absolutely, especially since I didn't even want to be around the temptation at all (whereas now, I can go along and just order a coffee or something and be fine with it).  Was trying to find food that I could actually eat difficult?  Absolutely.  But I stuck with it, and it became much easier-- now, it's just second nature.
Despite the social and mental difficulties, it was completely worth it, and not just for the weight loss.  I became passionate about health and nutrition, and I educated myself by reading countless books and papers.  Instead of just knowing how many carbs are in every food on the planet, I learned about chemicals and nutrients and what gluten and sugar do to your body and mind.  Knowledge is power.  I also boosted my immune system, and now I rarely ever get sick, whereas most of my life up until 2010 was spent battling colds.  I became a member of the ancestral community, and I am still so blessed to have met so many people through both the internet and in real life-- everyone is so supportive and wonderful, and I've learned so much from all of them.  I expanded my palate and am now much more willing to try new foods; and unlike when I was a kid and teenager, I love vegetables.  Finally, as I mentioned in my last entry, finding this lifestyle changed my outlook on everything.
So while the initial journey was hard, this was the best thing to ever happen to me.  If you're new to this and finding it difficult, I promise that it gets easier, and you're going to feel amazing!

2.  "Re-examine all you have been told." -Walt Whitman
I knew from my first attempt at Atkins back in 2004 that low-fat and whole grains weren't the key to health, but I didn't really know (or care) about the science at the time.  Fast-forward six years, and my curious collegiate self yearned for real explanations, so I picked up books like Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and I learned about GMOs and factory farming and the evils of sugar.  By February 2011, I discovered the Paleo movement and devoured the existing books by Loren Cordain, Art DeVany, Gary Taubes, Mark Sisson, Frank Forencich, and Robb Wolf, and these books-- and the online community that exploded shortly after on Facebook-- educated me more on how wrong the government is about food, the issues with the FDA and USDA, CAFOs, the cholesterol/fat myths, and general evolutionary biology and anthropology.  I realized that so many things in conventional wisdom were completely wrong, and that I can't just listen to what the government and health textbooks tell me.  I watched food documentaries (Food, Inc. and Food Matters, for example) and read academic papers, and spent countless hours furthering my knowledge of health and nutrition.  I realized everything that's wrong with this country's current stance on food, and I decided I wanted to try and change things and educate people.
So please: read and question and read some more and question some more.  Don't believe everything that people tell you, and go out and find your own answers.  In the words of Jack LaLanne, "We don't know all the answers.  If we knew all the answers we'd be bored, wouldn't we?  We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge."

3.  You're not alone.
People who follow this lifestyle are usually seen as radical and crazy.  "What do you mean you don't eat whole grains?  Where do you get your fiber?"  "How do you get your calcium if you don't drink milk?"  "I don't know how you live without bread-- you're insane!"  "Wow, you eat a lot of fat.  You're going to have a heart attack."  I've heard it all, as I'm sure you have as well.  We get attacked for not following government recommendations, we're seen as crazy because we choose not to eat gluten and sugar and processed foods, we're radicals because we eat a lot of fat and animal protein, we're wrong because we dare question the bogus studies about fat and heart disease.  For many of us, we're the only person who eats like this in a swarm of SAD-followers, and that can be really isolating and difficult, especially when many people we know challenge our way of eating or try to peer-pressure us into eating unhealthy foods.  Temptation is everywhere, and it is really hard to get away from it.  But you're not alone-- even if you don't know anyone else in real life who follows this lifestyle, there are countless blogs, forums, Facebook groups, meet-ups, and conferences for people like us.  Paleo might not be mainstream yet, but don't ever think you're alone-- this community is so welcoming and always willing to help, so please don't give up on this lifestyle because you think no one else understands.  I hope that one day we'll be more accepted by society, but until then, find one of these groups, meet other people (even if it's just through e-mail or blog comments!), and realize that there will always be a support group and community for you.        

Quote of the Day:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  -Margaret Mead

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How Changing Food Changed Everything

I apologize for my massive blogging hiatus.  Last semester was incredibly busy-- between some really tough classes, a bunch of extracurriculars, and a writing job, I felt like I didn't even have time to breathe!  But I'm back, and I hope to blog more regularly now.  (I recently did a guest blog over at Your Health First-- check it out!)  This is going to be a bit of a personal post, but my journey was most definitely inspired by the ancestral health community.

Up until about six months ago, my plan for after graduation was to go to law school.  From the time I was about twelve until I was about twenty (i.e. right around the time I started this blog and really got into the health community), all I cared about for my future was making money-- I wanted to be a lawyer to the stars, I wanted a swanky NYC apartment, and I wanted to be rich.  Then at some point after I really became passionate about health, I changed my mind.  I didn't care about money anymore; instead, I decided I wanted to represent farmers and fight Monsanto, or work for the ACLU, or get into food politics, or do child advocacy.  I wanted to help people and make a difference!  I saw what this community was doing for people-- everyone was (and still is!) so supportive and helpful, and I got into this "I want to save the world" mentality... which I still have.

When I left for Scotland, I still had plans for law school.  But studying abroad was a life-changing experience for me-- everything got put into perspective, and I realized that I didn't want to deal with three more years of school.  I'm still extremely interested in law (one of my favorite classes this semester is History of American Law: 1877- Present), but right now, law school isn't for me.  Maybe it will be in the future, and maybe one day I will represent farmers or work for the ACLU, but at the moment, I'm looking at a lot of other options.
Once I decided against law school, I realized it was really the first time in my life that I didn't have a plan.  From the time I was a little kid, my plan was to work my butt off and go to an Ivy League school.  Then my plan from middle school until last year was to work my butt off and get into a top law school and then work for a major law firm.  It was kind of liberating, not having a plan anymore-- I have a million interests, and it was really exciting to not know where my future was going to go for the first time ever.  So this past summer was spent really reevaluating my life, and I realized that I love kids (I actually really loved working at a summer camp again, and I don't regret not going for some fancy internship instead), I love health (especially after attending AHS12 and finally meeting everyone!), I love writing and music and theatre.  Do I have any idea what I'm going to do with my life?  Not in the least bit... but I've been applying to education, writing, legal, and non-profit jobs.  I'm happy with anything as long as it makes a difference in someone's life.

If I hadn't gotten into this real food movement, I don't know if any of these changes would've happened.  I wouldn't know anything about food politics or health, and I wouldn't know how awesome it feels to watch a community support each other like this one does.  I truly think my changed eating habits changed everything-- I became less stressed out and less cynical, and more into helping people and trying to save the world.  I stopped hanging out with toxic people, my personality type changed from INTJ to ISTJ (and my Hogwarts house changed from Slytherin to Ravenclaw), and I just felt-- and still feel-- so much better and happier.  It was a massive change, and it was exactly what I needed.

My senior quote in my high school yearbook was from Fame:  "How bright our spirits go shooting out into space depends on how much we contributed to the earthly brilliance of this world.  And I mean to be a major contributor."  I believe in this quote so much more now than I did four years ago, and I truly want to contribute amazing things to this world, regardless of which industry I end up working in.

As I approach three years of this lifestyle in just a few days, I want to thank everyone who has gotten me to this point.  It's still scary that I don't know what I'm doing with my life yet, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Quote of the Day:
"But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.  So she was turned to a pillar of salt.  So it goes.  People aren't supposed to look back.  I'm certainly not going to do it anymore."  -Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paleo at (and around) Penn

I can't believe I'm back at Penn for my senior year.  I'm still not sure where these last three years have gone, but I'm going to make the most of my last year here-- I love this school so much, and I'm definitely going to miss it after I graduate.

This is my sixth semester (fifth at Penn, since I was abroad in the spring) eating clean/Paleo/ancestral-- when I first came here, I lived on sandwiches and pizza and pasta in the dining halls like many other students.  But when I made the huge lifestyle change, I found that the dining halls here are surprisingly Paleo-friendly-- in fact, Penn was just ranked #22 on the Best Colleges for Food in America list!  But Paleo is about more than just avoiding certain foods: it's about high-quality and fresh ingredients.  The Bon Appetit food company that supplies the dining halls really stresses farm-to-table eating-- almost everything is local, organic, and humanely raised, and I can always find fresh fruits and vegetables.  After huge renovations this summer, Penn got rid of Subway and other fast food places under one of our main dining halls and added in one of my new favorite spots, Fresh on the Walk, which has a wonderful salad bar and even sells coconut water!  They also added in a market called Gourmet Grocer which sells-- I kid you not-- GRASSFED BUTTER!!!!!!!  Way to go, Penn-- this is a huge step in the right direction!
University City also has some pretty awesome farmers' markets.  There's one right in front of the Penn Barnes & Noble every Wednesday, and the nearby Clark Park has a much bigger one on Thursdays and Saturdays that has everything from produce to honey to meats to chocolates!  Given Philadelphia's obesity problem, I think the availability of healthy, local, fresh foods is a great first step in fighting the issue-- though it'll certainly take a lot more than just a few markets, the fact that Philly isn't devoid of real food is amazing.  For more information on Philly's farmers' markets, check out Farm to City.  For more information on eating local in Philadelphia, check out Farm to Philly and Eat Local Philly.
In addition to these farmers' markets, University City has quite a few fruit trucks/stands-- I particularly like the ones on 36th and 37th and Spruce, and 40th and Locust.  There are some other ones around Penn's campus too-- check them out here.

People often ask me where I eat around here that's Paleo-friendly and not a chain restaurant (like Chipotle or Jimmy John's).  While I don't eat out much in general, there are a few wonderful places that stress the  farm-to-fork philosophy, such as:
-White Dog Cafe (34th and Sansom)-- uses almost all sustainable, organic, seasonal, and local ingredients.  It has a great menu, fantastic atmosphere, and reasonable prices, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
-Sweetgreen (39th and Walnut)-- a casual salad place with all local and organic ingredients.  For more information, read my review here.

The Harvest Seasonal Grill is opening this weekend at 40th and Walnut, and it also stresses seasonal, fresh ingredients.  I'll most definitely review it at some point this semester, but if you're in University City and happen to check out, let me know what you think!

I'm really proud of Penn and University City in general-- there have been such massive improvements in the local food situation since I started here three years ago, and I can only hope that it gets even better!

Quote of the Day:
"At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind."  -Michael Pollan

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AHS: The Big Picture

My last three posts were play-by-plays of the Ancestral Health Symposium;  they were mostly just the typed-up and grammatical versions of the notes I took over the three days.  And since I took a ton of notes-- and each of the posts was pretty long-- I'm going to now discuss some of the major themes of AHS12.

1.  There is no "one size fits all" Paleo/ancestral diet.
Nearly every speaker at the conference said that (and many of them said those exact words), and it's so true!  The hot topic was the inclusion (or exclusion) of starches (see my Day 2 recap for the 'Safe Starches' panel), but supplementation, ketogenic diets, carb cycling, intermittent fasting, and varying macronutrient ratios were all discussed as well.  The bottom line is to self-experiment and see what works for you!

2.  Eat fat.
So many talks (such as the ones by Emily Deans, Nora Gedgaudas, and Elizabeth Thiele) discussed the ketogenic diet and its many benefits, and many others (such as Robert Lustig's, Denise Minger's, Peter Attia's, Gary Taubes's, and Grayson Wheatley's) talked about how fat has been vilified and actually doesn't clog your arteries/cause heart disease/make us fat.  Miki Ben-Dor's entire talk discussed how we're adapted to eat fat!!  Eat your bacon (the most nutritious pork product!) and eggs and meat-- just avoid sugar and processed crap and grains/legumes instead.

3.  The future of the ancestral movement and food policy is up to us.
Whether it was Robb Wolf ("Somebody needs to start this, and it's gotta be us"), Terry Wahls ("You guys are the doctors of the future"), or the entire 'Fix Our Food Initiative' panel (Change will come about by "a whole social network of people doing this at a grassroots level"), everyone was in agreement that the future is up to us.  We should get involved in the government (whether federal, state, or local) to push for changes in food policies, open up dialogues with our doctors about ancestral health, join CSAs and buy/eat locally, and keep spreading our message.  I was watching The Lorax the day after AHS, and the following quote really made me think about the conference and the ancestral movement in general.

4.  Avoid sugar.
Sugar is a toxic drug (see Dr. Lustig's talk from Day 3) and spikes insulin and causes inflammation (as discussed by Gary Taubes, Lynda Frassetto, Emily Deans, and many others).  We should only get our sugar/carbs through natural sources, such as fruit (or, more controversially, "safe" starches).

5.  Paleo isn't just a diet-- it's a lifestyle.
Although the majority of the talks at this conference were about food (or food policy/politics, or food for performance), there were a few that really embraced the lifestyle aspects of the ancestral movement.  Peter Gray encouraged us (and our children) to play more;  Esther Gokhale discussed the role of proper posture; Joel Salatin reminded us that "we are part of nature" and "life is more mystical than a cyberspace video game";  Boyd Eaton talked about how "relationships are more important than material success"; Frank Forencich explained Ubuntu ("we are people through other people"), and that the Paleo elements are "mind, body, spirit, land, ancestors, tribe."  There are so many other aspects of health than just food and exercise!!      

6.  Knowledge is power.
Many of the talks discussed bad science (such as Denise Minger's and Peter Attia's) and bad government recommendations (all of the food policy panels, Grayson Wheatley, Robb Wolf, Robert Lustig, Lynda Frassetto, etc.) and how we should arm ourselves with proper science and always ask questions!  Dr. Kelles told the crowd, "Be a devil's advocate with yourself: the more we question our own thoughts, the more successful we'll be", and Paul Jaminet said, "If we don't ask these hard questions, no one's going to listen to us."  We should experiment and look at all sides of an argument, and we should never just blindly listen to anything.  Read, question, hypothesize, tweak, and always seek more information!

There were certainly a lot of other themes of the conference (the government and Big Pharma/Agribusiness are connected, we are totally disconnected from the modern world, the poor health of this country is going to keep getting worse...), but I'd say the above are the six biggest ones.  I also think this conference solidified that all of us involved in the ancestral movement make up one big tribe, and we have the common goal of wanting to help each other and the world through the ancestral lifestyle.  I had such an amazing time at AHS, and I really hope to attend next year's!

Quote of the Day (from Dr. Terry Wahl's presentation):