I’ve got some BIG NEWS to share below that I can’t wait to tell you about. But more on that in a moment. It’s been just over three weeks since the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium (aka hashtag #AHS11 on Twitter) took place on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, California on August 5-6, 2011. And I’m sure I speak for many of the 600 people who were in attendance at this glorious event when I say I’m still on Cloud 9 from it! In case you missed any of the lectures (39 of them have been posted as of writing this blog post) that were presented at #AHS11, they are now online for your viewing pleasure. And I HIGHLY recommend you watch them to learn more about what was shared there. There were some prominent low-carb speakers, including Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, Dr. Richard Feinman, Dr. Mike Eades and Dr. Andreas Eenfelt (Who I gave up my speaking slot for so he could have a chance to talk about the LCHF movement in Sweden. Video of his lecture has not yet been posted online but he’ll be on my podcast on Thursday.) as well as many friends of low-carb living such as Nora Gedgaudas, Dr. Emily Deans and Jamie Scott, Robb Wolf, Doug McGuff, John Durant and Mark Sisson. Having interviewed a great majority of the speakers at #AHS11 on my “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast over the years, it was surreal seeing them all in one place and in the flesh.
My favorite encounter with someone I’ve interviewed twice was with none other than Dr. Robert Lustig (from “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” fame) who was, in all honesty, one of my toughest challenges to get “loose” on my podcast. He’s a very formal guy when it comes to public speaking and it was on full display at #AHS11. Most people I talked to there instantly recognized me and had no trouble coming up to me to say hello. But Dr. Lustig was different. I had seen his AHS lecture and watched him speaking with various people between speaking sessions as people huddled around him. He glanced at me once like he thought he knew me, but then looked away. During lunchtime, I saw Dr. Lustig and walked up to him with the greeting, “Hey Robert!” He offered a very short “hello” and then I shared who I was. “This is Jimmy Moore.” The look on his face was priceless. He immediately changed his demeanor and tone with me stating “Hi, Mr. Moore.” He noted that he thought he recognized me earlier. We had a fabulous conversation where he said he wasn’t against a low-carb diet but that there needs to be more research done on it for him to embrace the concept. Dr. Feinman also got into some one-on-one discussions with him about carbohydrate restriction. Oh to be a fly on the wall during those chats!
Christine and I were grateful to John and Rossana Forzanti from Viva Low-Carb for providing us transportation to and from the airport as well as a fabulous dinner while were were in LA. John is a big fan of the science of low-carb living and attended #AHS11 with us. On the way from the airport to our hotel, we got into a conversation about Paleo diets and how not everyone at this conference believes low-carb and Paleo go together. “But aren’t they synonymous?” John asked. I went on to explain that there are people in the Paleo community who eat more carbohydrates than what we would consider “low-carb” and there are others who consume a WHOLE LOT MORE carbs on their Paleo diet. This falls right in line with Chris Kresser’s “Paleo template” concept which we discussed on Episode 20 of “Low-Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore & Friends.” It was a mish-mash of all sorts of people across the Paleo spectrum at #AHS11 which made for an interesting conversation piece throughout the conference.
I did sense there was some tension between the low-carb attendees and those Paleo peeps who call for more carbohydrates in their ancestral diet. Most of the attention has been given to the squabble between Gary Taubes and Stephan Guyenet which prompted the latter to write a blog post entitled “The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity: a Critical Examination” where he attempts to dismantle the “carbohydrates raise insulin which leads to obesity” theory promoted by Taubes. You can see video of Taubes’ question to Guyenet during the Q&A session following Guyenet’s lecture here. Many in the audience felt Taubes was rude for the “you should pay attention…” comment he made at the end of his question to Guyenet. And quite honestly, it was. Taubes later apologized to Guyenet privately (probably should have been public), but the gauntlet had been lowered. Guyenet has since posted another column called “A Roadmap To Obesity” where he outlines the case for his “food reward” theory which he thinks is the underlying culprit in people getting fat. Taubes is working on a blog post of his own at GaryTaubes.com which he tells me is forthcoming soon (could be a few days…might be a few weeks) after which both he and Guyenet have agreed to come on my podcast to talk about their respective theories regarding what leads to obesity. I see this kind of open discussion as a very good thing because it allows for us to hash out all the pros and cons of what we believe and why we believe. The moment we stop trying to learn is when we become mindless robots making what we believe is true into a nutritional religious belief (Robb Wolf addressed this in his talk). And if we get the science wrong, we also become a laughingstock which doesn’t help our cause (Mat “The Kracken” Lalonde made this point during his lecture).
Honestly, though, most of the people who attended #AHS11 were under the age of 30, looked very healthy and fit, and are super-enthusiastic about this way of eating that has helped them get there. But as someone over the age of 30 (I’m turning 40 in December), once weighing in at 410 pounds but now with stellar health markers despite some extra weight, and equally gung-ho about the low-carb lifestyle and what it has done for me, I found all this inter-dietary-squabbling about the slight differences we have between us just a bit odd. Aren’t we all on the same page trying to help people who are mindlessly eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) find a pathway to improved health by making better choices in their diets? That has been a major reason why I have been active at my blog, podcasts, YouTube videos and all the other work online for over the past six years to help educate, encourage and inspire others to make this change for themselves. Must we get so caught up in the minutia of how much carbohydrate someone must eat in our diet that we forget the average Joe and Jane are downing Coca-Cola, Twinkies, McDonald’s French Fries and Doritos like they’re going out of style? None of us thinks this is healthy and yet this is the typical fare for more Americans than we probably know.
While I can appreciate (and even actively promote) an exuberant passion for sharing what you have learned in your own personal nutritional journey, it’s important to remember that we are not all the same. For some of us who aren’t as young and fit as the average #AHS11 attendee, perhaps people who are “metabolically deranged” require a more restrictive diet that is lower in carbohydrates to help them attain optimal health. This is an ongoing discussion that I am pleased to see continue as long as we keep our eyes on the big picture of what all of this means regarding the impact ancestral/Paleo/low-carb living has on public health. All of this leads me to the main point of why I’m writing this blog post. For all the so-called “controversy” of #AHS11, in the end it was a fabulous meeting that I highly recommend for anyone interested in their health. #AHS12 is already planned for August 9-11, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts at Harvard University in association with the Harvard Food Law Society. If you missed out on #AHS11 and are kicking yourself for it, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled closely to AncestryFoundation.org for all the details about this event moving to the East Coast in 2012! Listen to my podcast interview with the creators of The Ancestral Health Symposium–Brent Pottenger and Aaron Blaisdell–coming up on Thursday, September 9, 2011.
Okay, so here’s the big news I alluded to at the beginning of this post: Christine and I have decided to try a high-fat, low-carb version of the Paleo diet. We started last Sunday, August 21, 2011 and have been enjoying it immensely so far. I’m so proud of Christine for making the choice to do this after years of dibble-dabbling with low-carb just kinda sorta. She’s never had a weight problem so it wasn’t as evident to her about why she needed to eat this way. But thanks to the heaps of inspiration coming out of #AHS11, it has caused her to shift her personal diet to a low-carb Paleo approach. And she’s even letting me train her with weights now to add some muscle to her body too. If you know my wife Christine, both of these moves are HUGE for her. It’s been a long time coming for me too since I had allowed some bad habits to creep into my low-carb lifestyle. From diet sodas to artificial sweeteners and even the “low-carb” products, I had grown lackadaisical and sloppy in my livin’ la vida low-carb journey. Although I had included some elements of Paleo into my routine (grass-fed meats, coconut oil, etc.), I’d never jumped in all the way–until now.
When I announced this on Twitter and Facebook, some people thought I had “left” low-carb (whatever that means). Uhhh, no, I haven’t departed from the diet that helped me shed triple digit weight and attain some of the most incredible health numbers of my entire life. High-fat, low-carb principles still apply with what I’m doing now. The major differences are I have decided to cut out dairy (we’ll see if it makes a difference in me), grains and vegetable oils (haven’t been consuming these anyway), no artificial sweeteners at all, choosing only grass-fed, pastured, and organic foods whenever possible, and even dabbling in some various “other” parts of the animal to try (just got me some beef tongue from my local farmer). Guess what? So far, so good. This has rekindled my love for cooking again and here’s just a sampling of the kind of dishes I’ve been serving up in the Moore household over the past week:
Using fresh garlic, spices, fresh locally-grown and raised foods, and the best quality ingredients I can find, this has been an amazing ride so far (and we can’t wait to try so many new foods in the coming months)! We cleaned out our refrigerator and cupboards so that all that’s left is Paleo-friendly (I’ll likely do a video of the food I have in my house now). Plus, I’ve needed to adjust my n=1 experiments to reflect these changes and I’ll be testing the so-called “safe” carbs as espoused by people like Paul Jaminet (his #AHS11 lecture has not yet been posted) later this year. I’m also skipping to every other month with these experiments to limit the impact on my weight and health. Since I’d already started the Atkins products with the shakes in July, I’ll do the Atkins bars in September to complete that circle. However, I don’t see that I’d eat those bars as part of my low-carb Paleo lifestyle.
So many of my readers have already been making these kind of changes in their low-carb lifestyle as I discovered in my blog survey earlier this year. A real, whole foods approach is the goal of livin’ la vida low-carb anyway. I think too many people get hung up on trying to find a “low-carb” version of cakes, cookies, pizza, bread, pasta, and other such foods that they forget to just eat real food (JERF as my buddy Sean Croxton calls it). So that’s where I am with the full support and participation of my wife right now and I look forward to seeing what if any impact this will make. I’ll let you know in the coming months what is happening. I’d love to know what you think about these changes. Feel free to leave your comments below.