PFX14: A Paleo FX Recap

I suppose today’s blog post should come with a warning: this is, necessarily, going to be a long one. 

A warning, and a promise: you will leave here both with some deep insights and some juicy details about one of the most important Paleo events of the year (and of my blogging “career.”)

This is a long blog post, because this was a LONG weekend. A wonderful weekend. A life-changing, mind-blowing weekend. But a long weekend too.

And so it begins:

PROLOGUE: HUGS ARE PALEO

First and foremost, I apologize to everyone who follows me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and who received a barrage of photos of me, a bunch of Paleo rockstars, and a silly orange sign that read: #hugsarepaleo.

On the eve of my Paleo FX experience, I realized that it had been a year since I’d been hugged—really hugged—and I decided to do something about it.

Because, you see, the act of hugging causes a release of the “feel good hormone” known as Oxytocin. (You may be familiar with this as the hormone that is released after birth, which causes females to develop bonds with their offspring.

I equate my lack of hugs (and oxytocin) to a lack of a different hormone: Vitamin D. The body produces Vitamin D (which is not really a vitamin, but rather a hormone) in response to sunlight and some nutritional intake, but most of us (especially we office dwellers) are severely lacking in Vitamin D, and we suffer poor health for that lack.

The good news about Vitamin D, however, is that you don’t need to go out in the sun every single day or supplement every morning with 1-5 IUs of the supplemental form—there is suggestion that we can get away with a big dose at the beginning of the week, perhaps 50,000 IU or so, and we’ll last for the rest of the week without deficit.

So I decided that Paleo FX was going to be my bolus dose of Vitamin H (for hugs) and the hormone Oxytocin: I would get my 50,000 IU (equal to about 100 hugs or so), and that would last me at least until the Ancestral Health Symposium in August, if not another 375 days until Paleo FX next year.

So I hashtagged a piece of cardboard with my trusty Sharpie and put it in my carryon bag…and set out for a weekend filled with hugs.

THURSDAY

Arrival

I left on Thursday, bright and early. I met Susan McCauley, of Evolve Nutrition (and my Paleo-cooking-class-partner-in-crime), at the San Jose airport and passed the time on strangely long security line discussing everything from Paleo meal planning to uses for phosphotidylserine.

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I am so glad that Susan lives nearby–I’m grateful that I get to see her on a fairly regular basis!

On the flight, we met Nathalie, creator of the Yawp! bar. We chatted with her and a non-Paleo gentleman who was on his way to a motorcycle race about the benefits of following a Paleo lifestyle for health—and I ended up giving an impromptu science lesson on the basics of MTHFR (because what better way to pass a long flight than to ponder the complexity of our epigenomes?).

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Nathalie and Rebecca are fabulous–and I was happy to rock my Yawp bag all weekend :)

Once in Austin, Susan and I met up with Briana Villafuerte of Mammoth Appetite and Mickey Trescott of autoimmune-paleo.com and her husband Noah. Susan, Micky, and Noah drove off to their digs, while Briana and I waited for the other women of “Paleo Awesome House” to arrive.

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Briana and I met at a MovNat workshop last year, and I adore her SO much!

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With Mickey and NoahTrescott!

(I’ll just interject here to explain: instead of staying in a hotel, a group of us who had become friends last year decided that we would rent a house near the Palmer Center where Paleo FX is held. Marilyn, the ringleader of our merry band, dubbed our house the Paleo Awesome House—and as we would quickly learn, it was, indeed, awesome.)

Awesomeness 

While standing around talking loudly about Primal Pit Paste and the highly embarrassing subject of failed experiments with homemade deodorants, Briana and I noticed member of Paleo royalty Robb Wolf walk by.

Now, here’s the thing: when you’re a fan girl, you have two options once you’ve noticed a celebrity walk past: you can a) pounce on him or her immediately and start spewing platitudes about how much you respect their work and they’ve changed your life, etc. etc., or b) you can awkwardly pretend not to notice him or her while stealing highly noticeable glances and talking with your friends in obviously hushed tones.

Of course, Briana and I opted for “b,” knowing that poor Robb would be fan-girled out by the end of the weekend, but as soon as Marilyn Olmsted and Andrea Feucht (of Andrea Works) arrived to pick us up, that attempt at propriety quickly ended.

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Can you tell how hard I’m fan-girling right now?

“Hey, Robb! We’re awkwardly trying not to stare at you, but we’re Paleo people and we love you!” was the gist of the message that Marilyn shouted across the airport pickup area. We ended up spending several minutes talking with him—and I can tell you that Robb is absolutely as cool, if not cooler, in real life as he seems on the internet and through his podcast. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to connect with him!

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Paleo hooligan? I’ll take it!

After meeting up at Paleo Awesome House (hereafter abbreviated as PAH) and catching up on a year’s worth of goings on, we headed to the opening night “Pecha Kucha” event at the Ben Hur Shrine.

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Our fearless PAH organizer, Marilyn Olmsted

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The lovely and wonderful Andrea Feucht (who works and writes and runs…)

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FINALLY meeting Jennifer Stivanson Wyatt

A belated PAH hug with Andrea Walheim!

A belated PAH hug with Andrea Walheim!

 

Outside of Paleo Awesome House

Outside of Paleo Awesome House.

Presentation

Pecha Kucha is a style of presentation, whereby a speaker goes through 20 slides in 20 seconds each. The event opened with a cocktail party and lots of mingling, and then led into the presentations.

I was hesitant to get started with my #hugsarepaleo project, so I didn’t approach many people except those whom I already knew from last year; however, as the night went on, I ended up hugging more and more Paleo rockstars and newbies alike. (I missed out on a lot of hugs though…so to those who didn’t get one: I’ll be squeezing you next year!)

The cocktail party was catered by Caveman Cafeteria, and I have to say that while all of the food was fantastic, the artichoke bruschetta was absolutely brilliant. The Pecha Kucha presentations were interesting—Amy Kubal talked very openly about her eating disorder, Darryl Edwards shared an incredible story about surviving the bombings at Edgeware Road, and Dean Dwyer gave a really fun presentation that generously promoted and shared the books, websites, podcasts, and projects of his friends in the Paleosphere, among others. (Dean also wins for the best quote of the night:  “Let me tell you something about Abel James’ voice: listening to the Fat Burning Man podcast is like Paleo phone sex.”)

Catching up with Ragan and Clay Masterson, Justin Manning of the Cavemanning podcast, and so many familiar and new friends was truly wonderful—and a great way to kick off this weekend of community (and hugging, of course).

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With Megan Weeks and Justin Manning

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Clay and Ragan Masterson–two of my favorite people in the entire world!

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Michelle Norris of Paleo FX fame!

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Alex Baia did a kickass job with the PFX social media, blog, community management, and affiliate program!

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This man made shift happen in my life–BIG TIME. So, so grateful to have had time to talk to Dean Dwyer!

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Wouldn’t be a Paleo party if Darryl Edwards weren’t picking up women….!

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I adore “Relentless Roger!” SUCH a cool guy!

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A big hug for Tony Federico!

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Primal Play with Darryl!

 

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You can dress ‘em up, but you can’t take these kids anywhere ;)

After Pecha Kucha, we took the party back to PAH, where we offered up our couch to the brilliant, young aspiring businessman, Connor Young. After a very late night of laughter and planning and singing on the balcony, we headed off to bed to get ready for the day ahead.

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Keep an eye on this guy–he’s got some big ideas!

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Connor and Briana do a balcony serenade fit for a Disney movie!

 

FRIDAY

Networking

We awoke bright and early on Friday morning to the smell of eggs and brussels sprouts on the stove. (And many thanks to Marilyn—and her sous chef Briana—for the breakfast!) For the first time in a long time, I spent the morning unwinding instead of playing “schedule tetris” to make sure that I would be able to make all of the talks and panels I wanted to see.

I believe it was the brilliant men of Fizzle,* an online forum and “honest business training” for entrepreneurs, who first introduced me to the best way to leverage a conference:

In your first year, you print out your schedule and plan your sessions in advance. You bring your notepad and attempt to transcribe every word you hear, hitting as many talks and workshops as you can, and dividing and conquering with friends when you need to get the notes from one of two sessions that conflict.

In your second year, you forget the schedule and attend only the talks and sessions that really pertain to you—and you spend as much time as you can in the hallways and on the expo floor, networking and engaging in conversations with members of the “first tier” who can mentor you and members of the “third tier” with whom you can build and grow.

Thank goodness I chose to take the Fizzle route—because, although I felt almost guilty for missing many of the panels and talks, I had the opportunity to hug so many of the people I absolutely adore and don’t get to hug often (or ever!), such as Dan PardiStefani Ruper, Madelyn Moon, Todd Dosenberry, Alex Boake, and Jimmy Moore, as well as people who I absolutely adore but haven’t met in person yet, like Kevin GearyJennifer Fugo, and Liz Wolfe. I also met (and hugged) Luke Robinson of WolfPack Fitness, who may very well be one of the most absolutely amazing men in the fitness industry. Seriously—if you are a woman, after spending 5 minutes with this man, you’ll be ready to move to Maine to absorb some of his incredible perspective on women’s health and fitness.

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Dan Pardi from Dan’s Plan! (Super-brilliant AND super-nice!)

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One of THE most amazing women I’ve ever met. I am SO grateful to have spent time with her in person this weekend!

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I am so proud of Madelyn Moon…she’s grown so much in the year that I’ve known her–and I can’t wait to see what comes next on her journey!

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I didn’t get to dance with Todd this year….TRAGEDY. Must be remedied ASAP.

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A hug for the fabulous Jennifer Fugo!

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I am so grateful to Jimmy Moore for all of his support over the last year. This man deserves about a million hugs!

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My last-year roommate Alex Boake–who happens to be a brilliant artist/graphic designer! Wish I could have seen more of her this year!

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Kevin Geary is one of my favorite new people in the podcast/blog world. No-nonsense is where it’s at!

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LOVE this woman so much!

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Luke Robinson is an amazing trainer/coach–and a great hugger, to boot!

I also couldn’t feel guilty about missing panels and talks because I’ve been doing the “Paleo” thing for almost exactly two years now. I not only listen to about 50 hours of podcasts per week (not an exaggeration), but I’ve also read a lot of the books…and I read studies on PubMed in my spare time, because I’m a dork like that. While I know I definitely don’t know everything, I love studying nutrition, especially anything related to understanding ancestral health, so I figured that many of the talks would be interesting—but not necessarily revelatory of anything new.

On the other hand, I’ve been out of the exercise and fitness scene for many years now. Although I’m an NASM certified personal trainer, the majority of what I had been doing in fitness prior to my ankle injury was predicated on bodybuilding and traditional “functional fitness” principles—in other words, structured, rigid modes of obtaining some kind of specific body composition or athleticism—the same kind of structure and rigidity that fueled my exercise addiction and led to my injury.

But at Paleo FX, while there is certainly the opportunity to engage in Olympic lifting and other functional and structured athletic modalities, there is also the opportunity to re-learn how to play.

So I made the executive decision to put on my best pair of yoga pants and go and roll around outside in the grass for the majority of my day.

Play

I started the morning by working in (as Paul Chek would call it) and taking a class on the animals forms of Qi Gong. Not only did I have the opportunity to breathe like a dragon, roar like a lion, and act like a monkey, but I got to do so with Ben and Jessa Greenfield (who are incredibly badass, brilliant, and fit).

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Early morning Qi Gong!

I immediately followed that up with a little Primal Play with Darryl Edwards, whose book, Paleo Fitness, I reviewed last year. Primal Play was one of my favorite workshops at last year’s conference, and I spent the last couple of post-surgical months bothering my physical therapist since my surgery for permission to take it again this year. I had to be careful, but I really enjoyed playing and laughing while getting an unstructured workout in.

I honestly believe that Darryl’s version of fitness is the best kind of fitness for an exercise addict like myself. In some senses, it relies on principles of MovNat, which prepare the body for actual functional movement (not deadlifts and pull ups with a straight bar); however, where I see the most value is in the way it uses play to deemphasize body comp and unhealthy competition, and instead encourage exploration, bonding, and laughter (the latter of which is, I think, another vital and underproduced hormone in our post-ancestral, isolated and iPhone-addicted society, much like vitamin H).

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After Primal Playing with my friends (old and new), I hugged more people and then went back outside for Evolve, Move, Play with Rafe Kelly.

Evolve, Move, Play was also built on MovNat-ish principles, but with an emphasis on parkour and martial arts—more about falling, jumping, and using your body to leverage the landscape or another person’s body for movement. My ankle, by this point, was pretty much done, so I had to tread carefully (literally and figuratively). I really enjoyed this workshop—I’ve been interested in learning parkour for a long time and was actually supposed to go to a Parkour workshop the weekend I was hit by a car in San Francisco last year, so getting a chance to try it out at Paleo FX was a bonus.

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Covered in sweat and dirt and sticks after playing outside…the perfect Paleo hug with John Durant

After playing, I went back inside covered in dirt, sticks, and leaves and attended Karly Randolph Pitman’s talk entitled “When Sugar is Your Mother.” I’ve looked up to Karly for a long time now, and getting the chance to hear her speak and meet her in person was a highlight of my Friday afternoon.

I ended the day early, heading back to PAH to get ready for the speaker dinner.

Dinner

The act of going to the speaker dinner I think brought to the fore the strange sense of dislocation I was feeling this year. On the one hand, I was incredibly honored to be one of the “special” people who was invited to the exclusive event, but on the other, I still felt like an impostor, just regular-old-me, and not one of the Paleo rockstars I’d been looking up to for years. On the one hand, I was a part of this group, but on the other, I was still the new kid in school, trying to feel her way around the established relationships of the Paleo cool kids. On the one hand, I was now an “expert” with special privileges, but on the other, I was still a member of the PAH group, and I was missing out on dinner with my friends.

So I went to the farm in my prettiest dress, feeling those mixed feelings and hoping that I wasn’t going to spend the evening sitting by myself, wishing I were getting tapas with my girlfriends.

My prettiest dress

My prettiest dress

Of course, my fears were unfounded. First of all, I’m not an impostor—I’m a human being, just like all of the speakers, and while I’m not exactly ultra-internet-famous, I still bring value to the table. Second, I’m so very fortunate to have already developed relationships with some of the speakers—and to have had the chance to develop new ones during the dinner.

I had the chance to hug Amy Kubal, get my picture taken by Mickey Trescott, and spend some time talking to Dr. Michael Ruscio. I met Jolly and found out that not only does the internet sell necklaces that look like the molecule serotonin, but we are also twins. I had the chance to spend time with some incredible souls—incredible souls who also happen to be internet famous or who have a blog or sell a product or run a podcast, but incredible souls first and foremost, and that’s all that matters.

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A big hug for Amy!

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This man has a SEROTONIN MOLECULE on his necklace. He wins the weekend.

I ended up eating dinner with Karly Randolph Pitman and her wonderful husband, as well as Stefani Ruper. If you had told me even a month ago that I would ever be able to type that sentence and have it be true, I would have laughed in your face. Suffice it to say, I am so deeply grateful to have had the chance to spend hours talking about everything from sex and love to depression and MTHFR—to share secrets and solutions—with these incredible, incredible, incredible people.

Although the speaker dinner took place at the same farm as last year’s benefit dinner, I didn’t get stranded and then kidnapped by a crazy Austinite as I did at PFX13. Instead, Marilyn and Heather Hoog arrived to pick me up while the night was still young. We ended up at a bar with Justin, Luke, and a bunch of new friends—and while I don’t drink, I am pretty sure that the “hangover” I felt the following morning came from the fact that I was up until the wee hours, talking, laughing, and watching wrestling videos on YouTube. (Long story.)

SATURDAY

Pleasure 

Saturday began with a bang, but thankfully, we were bulletproof: we hit up Picnik, Austin’s first Paleo food truck, first thing in the morning for some Bulletproof Coffee. Unfortunately, since butter and I do not agree on anything but taste, I abstained and opted to put some creamed coconut in my black coffee.

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The first Paleo food truck in Austin…plus Bulletproof Coffee!

After a communal breakfast of leftover brussels sprouts (and my very first fried eggs, if you can believe that!), we headed off to the convention center for a second day of talks.

Despite the casual breakfast and good conversation, I was already in high stress mode. I had only slept for a few hours the night before, and I was highly anticipating (both in the context of excitement and anxiety) my two back-to-back panels in the afternoon.

I don’t remember much of the morning to be honest (although it was only two days ago)—it was mostly a blur of networking, hugs, and Paleo experts.

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And also kombucha. Can we talk about how good Kosmic Kombucha is? Because I’m pretty sure it’s the best I’ve ever tried. I’m considering moving to Austin until they can ship nationally.

Best photo bomb of #PFX14!

Best photo bomb of #PFX14!

 

By lunchtime, I was ready—nervous, but excited to speak. I sat in on Amy Kubal’s talk on her eating disorder (which, by the end of it, became a panel, with Robb Wolf, Amy’s doctor Ed Tyson, and Amy’s functional medicine doctor Amy Myers, and Michelle and Keith Norris). It was a very intense session—and I hope that it opened the door for some closure and healing for Amy. I have a lot of respect for her for going through this so publicly, and I only hope that her recovery is helped, and not hindered, by sharing her story in this kind of a forum.

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Once on the stage, I was back at home—as an actress, a teacher, a trainer, a speaker, I feel nervous until my feet hit the stage, and the suddenly the lights and the microphone transform me into another being entirely. The energy I received from the audience—from seeing those who I loved and who were instrumental in my recovery receiving my message in return—was so intense it was palpable. And speaking about eating disorders and addiction from the point of hope—from the point of recovery, and hope, and gratitude, and change, was…simple.

One of my biggest goals with those panels—and with my blog and my podcast and everything I do—is to provide you all with the message that ED is not the end. That life is not a black and white happy/unhappy, succeed/fail proposition, but rather a beautiful ebb and flow that pro ides you with the opportunity to learn how to find peace even in pain.

And it was on that stage that it truly, finally hit me: I am not my story. My story is a part of me, but I don’t need to cling to it to hold onto the identity of sickness.

I am not in recovery. I am recovered.  

And my story can and will have a different ending than the one that ED had planned for me.

And YOUR story can and will have a different ending if you let go of wanting to identify with your pain. You can still have pain, but you mustn’t be that pain.

With Karly Randolph Pitman and Kendall Kendrick after the panel--for some hugs and some catharsis!

With Karly Randolph Pitman and Kendall Kendrick after the panel–for some hugs and some catharsis!

Pain

When I stepped off that stage, I was high on life. Little sleep, adrenaline, and excitement sent electric shocks of happiness through me, propelling me through the next few hours on a cloud.

I felt invincible.

However.

As I sat through a talk on Paleosexuality, I started to feel a different kind of electric shock—the kind that signals the pain response in my ankle. Immediately, I kicked off my shoes and noticed that my ankle was more swollen than I had ever seen it, at least not since my surgery 4 months ago.

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As my friends and I began to walk home, as the adrenaline and the excitement and the caffeine began to wear off and the tiredness set in, my ankle was wracked with a pain so intense that I felt like my leg would fall out from under me.

My veins began to pop out and the lateral side of my lower leg turned red. I wanted to throw up, but I cried instead. After such an explosively positive afternoon, I was literally shocked by the “equal and opposite-ness” of  my pain reaction.

Back at the Paleo Awesome House, my incredible roommates sprung into action. Marilyn made an epsom salt compress and massaged my leg while I cried. It was pain—emotional pain—like I hadn’t felt in so long…

Here I was, recovered, healed, refusing to identify with my pain, and yet…here it was—an actual physical reminder that my pain will always be present, will always change the way that I associate with the world, will always and forever alter my functioning, for better or worse.

And after I had spent myself of tears—after I had cursed the universe and my body for making me hurt even when I had just proven to myself that I was more than my pain—I realized something incredibly profound in the cathartic aftermath:

Even if pain or suffering may be forever, it is not only. Pain brings me closer to awareness about treating my body well with sleep and rest. Pain reminds me how absolutely incredible it feels when there is no pain. Pain gives me the opportunity to experience touch and healing and community with people like my PAH sisters or my physical therapist or my mother.

Pain is a blessing in disguise—and whether it’s physical pain from a chronic injury or emotional pain from an addiction or eating disorder, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you will use it to seek the healing, community, and awareness that follows in its wake.

Balance

On Saturday night, we went to the charity dinner and gorged on brussels sprouts (again) and hugged as many people as possible, and made sure to get in a little primal play.

The dinner itself was quite nice—but the absolute best part of all was a surprise from a friend: homemade #hugsarepaleo T-Shirts! I was so incredibly amazed and touched—the people I have met through this event are truly some of THE most giving and loving people, and I am grateful to have them in my life. So: yet another big THANK YOU to Shawnna!

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THIS IS THE BEST SHIRT EVER.

(Speaking of giving and loving, I also have to give a HUGE shout out and a ton of love to Andrea, who surprised me by registering hugsarepaleo.com!)

Name these Paleo huggers!

Name these Paleo huggers!

Darryl Edwards knows that #hugsareapaleo

Darryl Edwards knows that #hugsareapaleo

And self-love is Paleo too!

And self-love is Paleo too!

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Mark Sisson says, “That’s not a real hug…”

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“…THIS is a real hug!”

A hug for the amazing (literally) Terry Wahls!

A hug for the amazing (literally) Terry Wahls!

 

Paleo Awesome House plus one!

Paleo Awesome House plus one!

Darryl and the ladies of Paleo Awesome House

Darryl and the ladies of Paleo Awesome House

It's not a party unless someone gets picked up...literally.

It’s not a party unless someone gets picked up…literally.

We said some goodbyes and our party disbanded somewhat, before we went to hear our friend Billy Abel (a former Finding Our Hunger guest) play a show about 20 minutes from town.

Billy Abel & Mandy Rowden

Billy Abel & Mandy Rowden

We closed down the bar with dancing and laughter…and realized that, in order to get home without another $40 cab ride and a long wait, we would have to pile into the “Paleo Clown Car,” which led to a lot more laughter (peppered with a more than a couple of personal space violations).

We closed out the night (or, rather, the morning) with karaoke and more dancing. While I had to stay seated and baby my leg a bit, I am so grateful to have done the uncomfortable thing and stayed out all night, talking, laughing, and hashtagging inside jokes with some of my best friends in the world.

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Hugs are…what?!
(Even non-Paleo strangers need hugs!)

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If you bring me to karaoke, I will sing. Also, Justin Manning, you are the best Aladdin ever.

If you bring me to karaoke, I will sing. Also, Justin Manning, you are the best Aladdin ever.

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SUNDAY

Awake

I slept for about 2 hours. Sunday morning came painfully quickly, but once I was awake, I was ready to be out of bed. Andrea made us a lovely breakfast of eggs, roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips…and brussels sprouts(!), and after over caffeinating once again, we headed back to the convention center for one last day of learning, networking, and hugging.

This text message could not have been more spot on. Thanks, Clay!

This text message could not have been more spot on. Thanks, Clay!

I drifted through the day, and I confess that I can barely remember anything. Being so painfully sleep-deprived has completely messed with my memory and cognition; however, the highlights of my morning were not the panels so much as having a brief conversation with “Relentless” Roger Dickerman in the speaker room and finally meeting my Twitter friend and body image blogger and nutritionist Summer Innanen in person.

Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden!

Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden!

I also attended one of the best sessions of the event on exercise for hormonal health. Dr. Justin of Just In Health in Cupertino, CA, gave a really informative session on how exercise can change our hormonal regulation, and I left feeling like I had really learned a lot about how to talk to a chronic over-exerciser about the mechanisms of steady state cardio versus sprinting—not for weight loss, but for hormonal health.

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Here’s another one to keep an eye on…excited to see what the future holds for Baris Harvey!

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Not so fast (food)–I need a hug!

At 1:30, we attended the much-anticipated panel on Shamanism. I don’t know anything about entheogens and psychotropic drugs, so it was almost refreshing to learn about something so completely different. (While it’s nice to go to panels and talks about things that already interest you, the fact of the matter is that it’s not often you are surprised or intrigued by new information.)

Daniel Vitalis is so wild that my sign ended up upside down ;)

Daniel Vitalis is so wild that my sign ended up upside down ;)

After that…well, needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), after 3 days of minimal sleep, overstimulation, and tremendous pain, I was a little cooked. Fried, even. Which is probably not Paleo.

Speaking of cooked--Caveman Cafeteria is awesome :D!

Speaking of cooked–Caveman Cafeteria is awesome :D!

So I left the talks to sit outside and write. Of course, because I didn’t actually leave the premises, “sitting by myself” turned into sitting with other people. Which, despite my desperate need for a reset, was still wonderful. In a way, even though the introvert in me really needed to recharge, I knew that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see many of these incredible folks again for a long time, and I wanted to capitalize on every extra second I could squeeze in.

So I spent the afternoon talking with some incredible folks about moving around the world, building businesses, loving our bodies, and making mistakes (and sometimes learning from them)—and, of course, I managed to squeeze in my 100th hug at the 11th hour.

(Fast forward to 3:40 to see #hugsarepaleo in action!)

Aware

Of everything I experienced and learned at Paleo FX, perhaps THE most important was why I live a “Paleo” lifestyle.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve really been working on putting into words why and how I follow a Paleo template without slipping into restrictive eating behaviors. So many people have bad things to say about Paleo—that caring about the kinds of foods we put into our bodies to sustain ourselves is orthorexic, restrictive, and crazy, or that focusing on meats and a variety of vegetables with limited added sugars is somehow a radical act of purposeful nutrient deficiency.

But here’s the thing: when you don’t fuel your body well (in terms of food, sleep, or exercise), your body knows it.

This trip, despite being at a Paleo conference, I ate a fairly limited diet, heavy in natural sugars, nuts, and dried fruits…and brussels sprouts. I did eat meat at dinner and had jerky throughout the day as needed, but I didn’t have a variety of vegetables, and, while Paleo-friendly “treats” are nice once in a while, I really wasn’t fueling my body well.

My exercise was erratic and my sleep was non-existent. I was running on Chameleon Cold Brew and chocolate bars—and feeling less than healthy.

By 6 pm, I was hungry—very hungry. But we weren’t leaving for dinner until 7:30, so I figured I could wait.

By 8, we still hadn’t left the house, and I was starting to get lightheaded and antsy. We walked to see the bats fly, which was fun, but the restaurant we had chosen for dinner was 20 minutes by foot in the other direction, and getting our group to start walking was like herding cats.

We approached the restaurant around 9—and by this point, I was past hangry. In fact, I was downright anxious. When the hostess assured us that the wait would “only” be another 10 minutes, I broke.

You know how I talk about social anxiety and panic attacks? Well, they’re real. And I haven’t had a panic attack this absolutely crushingly devastating in many, many years…but it happened.

If you’ve never had a panic attack, then let me just give you a brief introduction: couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. I felt like a 300 pound man was sitting on my chest, and my soul was falling down an abyss so dark and unending that I would never be able to find my way out. (Dramatic, right? It’s silly in hindsight, but soul-crushing in the moment.)

After this weekend of unpacking and confronting some seriously difficult pieces of my past around sexuality, womanhood, and weight, once the panic started, all of those emotions came cascading out, snowballing until it wasn’t just about the 10 minute wait for food but also the darkest memories of my battle with anorexia and my fears of starvation and abuse and death.

So…needless to say, when Marilyn helped me, heaving and sobbing, to the bar and ordered me a chicken soup, I didn’t complain when it came laden with about 3 cups of white rice (and probably as much table salt). I ate until my tears of desperation became tears of embarrassment. Needless to say, I decided not to join the rest of the party at the dinner table. This, my friends, is why I’m still nervous to go out with people. It’s a once in a blue moon situation, but at least you can plan for blue moons–panic is a lot more random than the cosmos.

Thankfully, Marilyn stayed by my side and tried to make me laugh while I basically ate my way through the menu, and then Stefani drove me home.

It was a climactic anti-climax to this incredible weekend—and a reminder that I need to treat my body well, establish boundaries, and eat what makes me feel good, even if it means being inconvenient. I know myself and my limits so much more intimately now, and I know what I need to do to make sure that the panic doesn’t happen again.

MONDAY

 Hunger

I had scheduled my flight for Monday night so that I could enjoy my last day in Austin without extra stress or early wake ups.

I woke up with my hands swollen from the restaurant food from the evening before. After a cup of coconut coffee, I ate….leftover brussels sprouts (of course) and attempted to answer emails and write this post.

At 2, Andrea, her boyfriend, and I drove to Rudy’s BBQ to meet Ragan, Clay, Shawnna, Mary, and Justin for one final meal—and my first Austin barbecue experience, despite having been to Austin before.

Not only was the moist brisket delicious, but spending time decompressing with my friends was exactly what I needed. After we said our goodbyes, Andrea and I walked to Whole Foods to stock up on airplane provisions and talked about everything under the sun.

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Departure

By the time I boarded the plane, I was ready to leave. Don’t get me wrong: I had the most incredible time at Paleo FX, and I will always, always hold the memories I’ve made these past two years in Austin in my heart…but I was also ready to come back home to California for a little sleep, a little work, and a little introspection.

On the plane ride home, I read a book on epigenetics while a scientist sitting beside me wrote a paper on virology. Of course, we ended up striking up a conversation, and it turns out that he had read Robb’s book and was interested in learning more about Paleo. (See? Even when I leave Paleo FX, it comes with me!)

I made it into bed by midnight, San Jose time—just enough time for about 5 hours of sleep before physical therapy and work the next day.

 Fullness

Despite the emotional roller coaster, the confrontation with my own capacity to be recovered and still face the depths of panic and depression, the non-Paleo treatment of my body, I feel like I got SO much more good out of this conference than anything else.

Honestly, I constantly bother Michelle and Keith with #gratitude for this event, but I do it for a reason: Paleo FX completely altered the course of my life last year, and I believe that this year is no different. The connections I’ve made, the people I’ve met, the clarity I’ve gained, and the momentum I’ve started are all due in part to this conference.

The talks and panels (including mine) will soon be available if you want to watch them. Just click here to see Paleo FX On-Demand once it’s released!

And if you can…try to come to PFX15. I’ll be there, and I’ll be giving you a hug—because #hugsarepaleo and by April of next year, I’ll be needing some more vitamin H. (But PLEASE don’t bring me brussels sprouts.)

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

*Any link with an asterisk is an affiliate link. That means that if you decide to make a purchase, a portion goes to fund the Finding Our Hunger podcast! (Thanks in advance!)

Trigger HAPPY Thursday: Don’t Prioritize an Event over Your Health

ED thoughts make my brain hurt. (So I try not to think them!)

Dear lord. It’s time for Paleo F(X) and my thighs touch. In the past, this would have been cause for a major break down/panic attack/crash diet/30 day weight loss challenge. Instead…I bought a beautiful dress (on sale–score!) and went out … Continue reading 

Reflections on Recovery and Returning to New York City

new-york-city-winter

The summer of 2010 was a hot one in New York City. The kind of hot where you get out of the shower and never dry but for the sweat. The kind of hot where people die from heat exhaustion … Continue reading 

UN-Podcast 040: Is My Healthy Diet Restrictive?

What is restriction?

Restriction is a compulsive act, a desperate attempt to control a world that feels disordered by handing over your power to a disorder that pretends to be manageable. It’s the attempt to discipline a chaotic mind with the misplaced bullying of a powerless body. 

Restriction is a subconsciously malicious act, punishment for a body that refuses to act as your mind wills it. It’s a removal of the things you love for the sake of purposely leaving a hole in their place—a reminder than you do not deserve to feel full.

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[image source]

In the nutrition world, restriction is practiced with the halo of health, but the intention of weight loss. In the nutrition world, less is more is always less—and it leads to the awful pendulum swing to more and more and more. Restriction and bingeing: equal and opposite reactions.

In the nutrition world, restriction is practiced and maintained through lies—to yourself and others:

“I know I’m only eating oatmeal and egg whites and protein powder and sugar-free syrup, but I feel so full all of the time. And I have so many options—I can make pancakes and mug cakes and protein pudding. That’s not restriction at all.”

“I have points/calories/macros left over today/it’s my cheat day. I’m free to eat—I’m not restricted at all.”

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I’m not restricted; I’m skinny. You see the difference?”

Me neither.

But what do you do when you have to make a change to your diet for your health? When eliminating an inflammatory food means the difference between living an optimal life and dealing with crippling stomach pain, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, or more serious diseases like MS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or cancer?

take-care

What do you do when the “unrestricted” eating has to brush past the realm of restriction? Especially if you come from a past that includes disordered eating (anything from yo-yo dieting to a full blown ED), restriction—rules, elimination, plans, goals, etc.—can be a slippery slope.

So many people choose to restrict for aesthetics. For punishment. This body I have is not the body I want, so I will chip away at it until it looks or weighs the way I desire it to be. Restriction is the attempt of a willful mind to conquer an unwilling body. Restriction for aesthetics will ultimately lead to ill health (physical and/or mental).

That’s why I have to tread carefully around the “gluten-free”/Paleo/etc. etc. world. Is my healthy diet restrictive? Are we here because we’re trying to define our bodies through rules and limitations?  Or because we’re allowing ourselves to open up our diets and nourish our bodies in a different way?

When I was a vegan, I was restricting. My ultimate goal was to be light and thin and free. Instead, I broke my hormones and found myself chained to a body worked even more poorly than when I first started punishing it.

When I first started eating Paleo, I was restricting. My ultimate goal was to heal myself from the damage I had done as a vegan—but also to get thin.

And then something snapped. My health took center stage. Thin stopped meaning. Restriction fell away. I put away the bathroom scale, let the food scale’s batteries die, removed the calorie counting apps from my phone. I went to the farmer’s market. Bought new cuts of meat. Learned to love new vegetables. Added heaps of saturated and monounsaturated fat. And I allowed my body to change–without trying to control it.

There’s a line between restricting for thinness and changing your diet for health reasons. And it’s a fine, fine, fine, fine line. But I believe it’s possible to choose health-promoting food without falling into the trap of orthorexic/restrictive thinking–or just giving up and adding twinkles to the shopping cart. It starts with choosing your body over your mind. It starts with choosing to do the scary thing of potentially gaining weight so you can get your hormones in order. With choosing to let go of your desire for a six pack to ensure your bones won’t break when you’re 30. With choosing to love your body instead of trying to force it into submission.

This week’s podcast with Jennifer Fugo from Gluten Free School attempts to parse the language of restriction. Although Jennifer didn’t come from a background of ED, she works with clients who have had to start doing the work to put their bodies first and their minds’ desire for a different body second.

The number one lesson you’ll learn is: how to TAKE CARE of YOU.

 

Go Listen Now!

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 I’d love to hear your thoughts on where the restriction/health line begins and ends—and how you have found a way to start taking care of yourself. (But please be civil…I know this is a highly charged topic, and people tend to get a little incensed about it…)

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes