Celebrating 4 years together at Sweet Tomatoes

Celebrating 4 years together at Sweet Tomatoes

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ancestral Health Symposium

Don gave a presentation this past Friday at the first ever Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) organized by Brent Pottenger and Aaron Blaisdell, with a huge team of volunteers.  It seemed to be a great first run.  Don and I enjoyed ourselves, although we had to cut our stay short as Don had his first day of teaching nutrition at the local Acupuncture school in Phoenix.  Big drive for one over night, esp. driving in and out of L.A. traffic!  But, we were able to spend time with our friends in attendance, and make new ones among the growing paleo community.

Don and I have made many adjustments to our own diet lately, beginning with cutting way back on the high fat and protein approach that many are defining as paleo.  Don wrote a very controversial 'farewell' post on his own blog, and has definitely been under much challenge as a result.  I think many at the symposium were curious to meet him in person, and find out where he was coming from.  What caused his dramatic shift which really stirred up so many of the paleo blogger readers? 

We experienced many of our own ups and downs since our first calling it quits to eating in ways that were causing weight gain for me, and a host of other symptoms between the two of us.  Our initial transition to include more starch, less red meat and fat brought immediate results.  I began to feel I may really need a break from red meat, animal fat, etc while my body rebalanced.  We slipped into the Macrobiotic realms which I had become aware of years ago while living in Grass Valley, CA as there was an awesome co-op/restaurant that was operated by the Macrobiotic principles.  I devoured several of the books I already mentioned in previous posts, and obtained a lot of valuable information from each of them.

We adopted more and more of a starch-based approach, with brown rice or potatoes taking central plate.  I love grains, but while we again felt better initially, there was about a 2 week period where something shifted once again.  First, Don needs to chew a lot of rice to meet his caloric needs.  Second, I was taking a steam bath each morning spending 2 hours trying to prepare all of what we needed to make it work for our 2 daily meals, as we take our 'lunch' with us to work.  And third, I started to lose energy and focus more and more quickly between those meals, one of my hugest initial benefits of being paleo. 

I have been plagued with hypoglycemic, and low blood pressure symptoms for much of my life.  The one main thing I never quite managed to resolve, even while avidly working on it with various strategies.  I thought the higher fat may have been the missing piece for me, as I had eaten higher protein before, but adding more fat allowed me longer between meals.  That felt liberating.

I also had the lower abdomen bloating back. My kangaroo pouch as I so endearingly label it.  I had lost weight overall, yet it seemed again stalled.  It could look as if I was fluctuating between looking 'normal' one moment, to looking 3 months pregnant the next...cyclical fluctuations perhaps.  But I was feeling frustrated, as was Don, who was now questioning his ability to help anyone if he couldn't help himself and loved ones.

Our mind loves an opportunity to let in the ole self-pity party, or the questioning of ones worth, or what one knows.  You know that wonderful friend our 'negative ego.'  Dr. Hart who put together the Holistic Counseling program I took called the negative ego one of the 'boys (or girls) in the back room.' Along with the bully, the martyr, the good-girl, bad-girl, etc.  It seems that we need to go through a break-down sometimes in order to experience a break-through.

There was a lot of anxiety and stress building up to this symposium as Don felt the huge back-lash to his post that pulled him off the accepted paleo lovers podium.  It seems many are pretty emotionally attached to their dietary choices.  Yet, as he was putting his power point together, he entered what can be described as an opening or crack in consciousness.  He began to just download idea after idea that helped him finally tie together many of the puzzle pieces that have been missing, putting forward a perspective that could potentially end up being a game changer.  Our e-book which had come close to being complete must have stalled for a reason.  We are now going to revise it to incorporate all of the new and brilliant insights Don has had that he shared at the AHS, and can hopefully help many people.

Our most recent dietary changes for the last 2-3 weeks includes even more produce, and a mix of plant and animal proteins and fats, and less of the starch.  Basically, our plates our filled with greens and veggies.  Some steamed, and a little raw like pickled radishes, or a wonderful sweet/spicy cucumber salad as a refreshing addition to the meal.  We have 1-2 starch servings per meal, more or less depending on what all else we have, which could be about 1 red potato, and 1/2 a sweet potato like we ate this morning.  We have been eating a lot less grain, but the grains include amaranth, quinoa, and some rice. 

The big difference is in eating much more beans and legumes, and plant fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados, and adding back animal protein.  If I need 7-8 servings of protein per day, and each serving of animal protein = 1 oz, than I might eat about 1/2, or 4 oz. of animal (fish, chx, GF beef), and the rest as plant protein.  This morning we had tofu (I know, the dreaded paleo anti-food) cooked w/ hizjiki, onion, edamane, a little corn, awesome sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, and salsa along with the potatoes, and a huge pile of Asian steamed greens.  For dessert, we had a little cantaloupe with a blueberry sauce I had in the fridge, a drizzle of tahini, and a few roasted almonds.  Awesome!  Lunch today will be fish with greens and steamed kabocha squash. More fruit and nuts for dessert.

BTW, Staffon Lindberg mentioned that he didn't think DDT (a neuro-toxin) had been proven harmful, while genestein to him could be potentially more dangerous.  I will let you know if I start acting funny after the tofu breakfast.  He also showed that the Kitavans consume 70% of their calories in the form of carbohydrates like tubers and fruit, without any ill health.

I am feeling so much more satisfied with this approach.  It feels liberating, and requires far less chewing than the Macrobiotics teaches...chew chew chew.  I like eating hot food hot, and not burning out my jaw in the process.  Best yet is that so far, I have definitely lost weight.  At my heaviest I hovered near114 or so pounds.  (A lot for my height)  I had a chance to weigh myself on Sunday.  I am now 104.5#!!!!! I weighed that years back.  I wish I took a photo of how big my jeans were on me.  I donated several pairs of jeans and clothes that are now all too big.  Great time to make room for new (used) ones!

Mostly, this new approach feels balanced.  And as Don had discovered, chimps and early humans were eating 'soft legumes' which would be similar to peas, edamane, etc.  And, we do have an enzyme, phytase, to break down the phytates of grains that are considered to be the anti-nutrients which make grains indigestible.  Don feels that by looking at our current physiology, we can see what we are designed to eat because of how we adapted, or retrodicting, rather than just look at what our ancient ancestors maybe ate, and therefore presume we are still now designed to eat.

It was certainly fun being in CA.  I could smell the ocean.  And, smell it was all we had time for this trip.  We missed most of the presenters unfortunately, but had fun being there, and meeting many of them at the reception the night before.  The organizers were gracious and energetic hosts, offering all of us some GF meat, and wild salmon, grilled through the night by an awesome chef.

 I was pretty hungry by the time we arrived, so when he put the steak on the cutting board for us to share, I waited the mandatory minute (retain the juices), grabbed his chef knife and cut it quickly for Don and I to replenish our low reserves after our 7ish hour drive from Phoenix.  I am sure I looked like a crazed woman when I snagged the last open bottle of wine and polished it off into a glass for Don and I as well.  I think my alter ego comes out after getting stuck in major traffic.

I had fun with Richard Nikoley and his wife Bea.  I think underneath all that gruff is a soft spot.  I found myself wanting to tease him, but mostly he just kept on talking.  Since he just met me, I have to say here that I don't tease people unless I find them endearing and like able.  I made the great rookie mistake of whispering to Bea, "Who is that guy over there?" as he was reminding me of someone I knew when I lived in Aspen, CO.  Of course it was Gary Taubes.  Great way to embarrass myself out the gate!  Bea brought him our way upon my asking her, and Rob snagged a photo of the two of them that he has posted.  I almost jumped in myself!  Must have been road weary and starving! 

Robb Wolf was very approachable, with a softer demeanor.  Don spoke opposite him, so we missed his presentation which he said went well.  We had fun seeing our Phoenix friends and supporters as well, Karen Marco and Cathy Pisano of Foodatude, Marty Wilson of Ecotone Wellness, and Kevin Kula of Ready State Fitness.
The women assisting with the interviews post-presentation were very helpful and friendly.  We enjoyed talking with them.

We left feeling great.  Don's presentation went really well.  We know that there is only one way to go from here...up.


  1. Tracy. It was a pleasure meeting you and Don! Sorry I didn't return Don's phone call but I hadn't noticed that I had received a voicemail until after you both had arrived. I'm glad there was still some good food and wine left for you hungry folk. Despite all of the to-do on Don's blog since his "farewell to paleo" post, I think you discovered that most of us are actually down to earth and diverse set of folk. Next time I'm in AZ I'll look you both up. If you and Don are ever in LA again, please do the same!


  2. You should purchase a rice cooker. It will cook rice perfectly and if you get one with a steamer you can steam your favorite vegetables and tubers too. I think mine was less than $30 and it has saved me so much time in cooking for myself and Chris.

    IMHO protein needs for humans are low enough that there is no reason to even bother with tofu, particularly as phytoestrogens are a concern. But to each his own. You guys looked great @ AHS! I have been skeptical of your approach, but your skin-tone and leaness are testament that it can work well.