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Ancestral Health Symposium 2011: You Never Forget Your First Time

“Why Are We Hungry?” will return next week.
(Jump to Part I, Part II, Part III)

I’m sure everyone who wasn’t there is experiencing some combination of fatigue and jealousy upon seeing everyone post about the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium—because it’s nearly impossible to say anything about it without blatant namedropping. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, though, I have to recognize those who were, to me, the most important people in attendance:

YOU.

My readers, fans, and commenters.

I was thrilled to meet so many people who read, enjoy, and learn from the articles I write here at gnolls.org—and to meet so many fans of The Gnoll Credo, both at the Friday night “Meet the Authors” event and throughout the Symposium. From the MD who told me “I refer people in the ER to your website” to the person who had just bought his fourth copy of TGC because his friends won’t give them back, I was honored by each and every one of you. Writing is communication, and your respect means I’ve succeeded.

Thank you.

You Never Forget Your First Time

Beginnings are always special. There’s something magical about meeting someone else for the first time. Multiply that by several hundred in attendance and an exploding field of knowledge…

Having been present at or near the beginnings of other now-famous events and movements, I can say this: the AHS will be huge next year. Not only is everyone talking about what a great time they had—it’s become obvious that there’s much more to discuss. 2011 was mostly about diet, and the presentations didn’t even come close to exhausting that subject, let alone all the other evolutionary discordances of modern life.

Disagreement Is How Science Gets Done

Though the AHS was mostly a hugfest, there were disagreements. This is healthy! The ancestral health movement depends on many hypotheses, and science is how we decide whether they are correct—or just plausible.

Plus, if everyone already knew everything and agreed on everything, we wouldn’t need to have conferences.

I’ve noticed several people dismissing Dr. Boyd Eaton’s talk as utopian, and embracing the “nasty, brutish, and short” stereotype. Ask yourself: where does the human sense of fairness and justice come from? Why do we instinctively desire it? Perhaps…because it was our evolutionary context? (See: The Civilized Savage and the Uncivilized Civilization)

Also consider the difference between individual and tribal violence (single and small-group combat) and institutional violence (war, genocide, famine). I’ll have more to say about this in the future.

Special Mention: The Namedropping Section

Many people have commented on the physical health of the attendees. However, I was more impressed by the vitality of everyone I met. Faces were animated, discussions were intense, speech was articulate and quick. I was surrounded by people who were mentally sharp as well as physically capable. The energy was intoxicating.

No doubt I will forget some of the wonderful people I met, but here goes:

First I must appreciate my dinner guests for the first night: since I eat like a carnivorous horse and realized that Animal would be tapas-like portions (and not gluten-free), I organized an outing to Koreatown for delicious all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue.

Yes, that's thick-sliced pork belly. And brisket. Not shown: everything from tongue to abomasum.

I had the honor of being joined by the frighteningly smart yet totally unassuming Dr. Paul and Dr. Shou-Ching Jaminet; the amazing, dynamic Dr. B G and her wonderful sister; David Despain, who should be better-known in the ancestral nutrition community; Dr. Tim Gerstmar, whose presentation with Dr. B G was excellent; and Jolly the unstoppable conference photographer. We sampled everything from thick-sliced pork belly to beef tongue to cow abomasum, and of course, plenty of delicious kimchi to aid and replenish our intestinal flora. Thank you all for a wonderful evening!

And after the MovNat session went for twice its allotted time, I was glad to be invited to Fogo de Chao (aka “Meat On A Sword”) on Saturday night by Clifton Harski, James Dang, Justin, and the rest of the crew which caipirinhas made me not remember.

Caipirinha!

I blame Brazil.

I had the further privilege of meeting and speaking with:

Dr. Doug McGuff, who gave a refreshingly technical yet straightforward talk about what Body By Science does and how it works; Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, who deserves all our thanks for making the AHS happen; the kind yet piercingly sharp Dr. Emily Deans; Richard Nikoley, who needs no introduction from me or anyone else; the ubiquitous and unstoppable Dr. Jack Kruse (aka The Quilt); Denise Minger, who, contrary to the vegan propaganda, is indeed a real person; Tom Naughton, who is just as funny in person; the ubiquitous and gracious John Durant; the dynamic duo of Henry from Fitbomb and Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo; the wonderful Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo; Melissa ‘Melicious’ Joulwan, whom I can totally picture kicking butt in roller derby; Andrew Badenoch, whom I need a late-night conversation with; Kyle from Bare 5; Tony from the unjustly neglected Emotions for Engineers; Pete from the similarly and unjustly neglected Grass Based Health; Dr. David Pendergrass for sending a copy of his poster; Tucker Max, who is far more patient and articulate than you’d guess; Chris Masterjohn, whose name is its own adjective, and Melissa McEwen; Robb Wolf, who is two people worth of energy; the unfailingly gracious Dr. Stephan Guyenet; Dr. Guy André Pelouze, the Doctors Eades, Mark Sisson, Jamie Scott, Julianne, Dr. Boyd Eaton, Dr. Staffan Lindeberg, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, and all the hundreds of people that two days full of presentations didn’t give me time to meaningfully interact with or whom I forgot to mention.

A Few Requests For The Next AHS

  • More “down time” to talk with the other attendees. I was often faced with a choice of cutting off a great conversation or missing a presentation.
  • A mix of short and long time slots. I think there are a lot of topics that would be well-served by a 20-minute presentation, and it would give more people a chance to present.
  • A barbecue or other paleo food option on site. I brought gravlax, tri-tip, fruit, and Greek yogurt in a cooler—but it was a long walk to the car and back in order not to miss anything, and I wasn’t going to eat the junk from the food court.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


Any other ideas for next time? Suggestions for a location? Did I forget you by accident? Leave a comment!

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29 comments

Permalink: Ancestral Health Symposium 2011: You Never Forget Your First Time
  • eddie watts

    stop with the hyperlinks! i can’t keep up with all the blogs i find in paleo/primal world!!
    i hear that don matesz was there, that could have been interesting? given the direction he is now going in i mean

  • Chowstalker

    I agree about the down time. I tried to say hello to you, but I was so engrossed in the presentations and the energy flowing from the crowd, I missed the opportunity to meet you and many others.

  • Todd S.

    I agree with Eddie Watts above. All the buzz seems to be about the “debate” between Taubes and Guyenet, but I can’t imagine that Matesz escaped totally unscathed. I’m a bit surprised he was even there.

  • The Great Ancestral

    […] J. Stanton, Gnolls.org. Ancestral Health Symposium 2011: You Never Forget Your First Time. […]

  • Tony K

    It was great to meet you. I agree with the more time between talks and also allowing for some shorter ones.

    Regards,
    Tony

  • Aaron Blaisdell

    J, it was a sincere pleasure meeting you! First, thanks for the suggestions, they are excellent and we’ll try to accommodate going forward. Please include me in that late night discussion with Andrew if you ever make it happen. You never forget your first time, and it grows with the telling/reminiscing. Keep writing, keep blogging, keep thinking! Die biting the throat (which has special meaning to me, being a descendant of vampires).

    Ciao, my friend!
    Aaron

  • Toppmötet, Ancestral

    […] Wisdom Emily Deans, Evolutionary Psychiatry (1) (2) Fitbomb Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal J Stanton, Gnolls.org Jack Kruse Jamie Scott, That Paleo Guy (1) (2) Jennifer Hunt, Vibrant Sexy Strong John Durant, […]

  • neal matheson

    I’ve noticed several people dismissing Dr. Boyd Eaton’s talk as utopian, and embracing the “nasty, brutish, and short” stereotype. Ask yourself: where does the human sense of fairness and justice come from? Why do we instinctively desire it? Perhaps…because it was our evolutionary context? (See: The Civilized Savage and the Uncivilized Civilization)

    Also consider the difference between individual and tribal violence (single and small-group combat) and institutional violence (war, genocide, famine). I’ll have more to say about this in the future.

    Nice to see this,
    from what I have read a lot of people there seem to have found him quite compelling. I look forward to seeing a vid of his talk but it has been interesting so see how people seem to want to believe that life was violent in paleolithic.

  • neal matheson

    nuts!
    In the same week (two weeks) of this event Frank Forencich wrote this wonderful piece
    http://www.ptonthenet.com/blog/the-inner-unit/fighting-fighting-why-mma-and-bootcamp-training-are-a-step-backwards-334

  • Christopher Sturdy

    Hey JS,

    It was cool meeting you and I totally agree with your suggestions!

    Cheers,
    Chris

  • Peter Ballerstedt

    It was a pleasure meeting you! Thanks for your comments, both in person and here on your blog. Your encouragement is much appreciated. The “down-time” during my trip home was occupied by the “Credo.” And when I got home, Nancy was so glad to see I had an autographed copy!

    Great suggestions, by the way, and I appreciate your observations on a wonderful event. Here’s to the next one!

    Kind Regards,

  • Garrett Nichols

    J. –

    It was a real treat meeting you and having you sign my brand new copy of TGC. It’s on the top of my reading stack which I’ll start if I can ever get away from the expanding blog universe!

    What an inspiring two days. I think you’re correct about next year being huge and I like the suggestions about down-time and 20 minute slots.

    Garrett

  • Tim Gerstmar, ND

    Hi J,
    Thanks for the spectacular Korean BBQ pick on Friday night and working your magic to get us in. I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to talk much, let’s make it happen next time.

    Best,
    Tim Gerstmar, ND

  • julianne

    I’ll never forget this first time either. It was all such a buzz. And great to meet you too.
    More time to meet and talk to people at a BBQ or similar sounds like a great idea.

    I agree – disagreement is great, it stimulates questioning ones (possibly entrenched) point of view, and more research and debate.

  • Nom Nom Paleo

    It was great meeting you at AHS! In my esteemed opinion (Ha!), you and Andrew Badenoch tied for best dressed caveman. See you next year!

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  • Hello everybody!  I'm going to start catching up on comments now as I can.  Sorry for the delay.

    eddie, Todd S.:

    I didn't watch Don Matesz' talk.  Apparently it was somewhat more moderate and reasonable than his recent postings, but I have no interest in the theoretical foundations of woo.  Give me Mat Lalonde any way.

    Patty:

    It's probably good that unfinished business gives us something to look forward to next year!

    Tony K:

    Thank you!  A pleasure.

    Aaron:

    Likewise!  I'm proud to have been a part of the first AHS.  

    I think you'll find the upcoming articles intriguing, and I look forward to your thoughts.

    neal matheson:

    Dr. Eaton's talk isn't uploaded yet, but it should be at some point:

    http://vimeo.com/ancestralhealthsymposium

    And I love and respect Frank, but I disagree with him on the role and function of MMA.  It's not a street fight.  The time of the brawlers like Tank Abbott is long past, and anyone who steps in the ring without a clear head and a diverse set of skills honed over years of training is going to get tapped or KTFO.

    Chris:

    I'm always glad to meet my readers and fans.  Thanks for the support!

    Peter:

    Absolutely!  I'm glad to plug your work.

    Garrett:

    Read it whenever you're moved to…it's not an assignment.

    Tim:

    Like I said to Patty, it gives us something to look foward to next year.

    Julianne:

    I was glad to see you and Jamie there, especially since it was such a long trip for you.

    Michelle:

    The funny thing is I was debating whether to wear the kilt or the suit.  It's a good thing I chose the suit, or Andrew and I would have had to fight!

    JS

  • Walter

    Did you get to ask the Easdes if they were functional paleo?

  • Walter:

    I barely got to say “hello” to the Eadeses.  They're among the many people I wish I had been able to converse with.  It's hard to overstate how hectic those two days were.

    JS

  • Toppmötet, Ancestral

    […] Animal Pharm Emily Deans, Evolutionary Psychiatry (1) (2) Fitbomb Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal J Stanton, Gnolls.org Jack Kruse Jamie Scott, That Paleo Guy (1) (2) Jennifer Hunt, Vibrant Sexy Strong John Durant, […]

  • Debbie Young

    It was fun to see you running around the AHS grounds and I love my sticker, my daughter put it on her door!
    Good work and all your suggestions for next years AHS are spot on. FOOD!!
    Deb

  • Deb:

    A pleasure! Food will be critical, as I can't drive to next year's symposium (I mostly ate out of my cooler this year).

    JS

  • Charles

    I completely agree with your comment about session length and intersession down time. Some of the most fascinating ideas were popping around during the breaks. What blew me away was how approachable everyone was and how people were genuinely interested in new knowledge. I enjoyed meeting you and hope to see you at a future event (I was the idiot who asked if your book was available as an ebook — blame the Nook I picked up the day before).
    Cheers
    Charlie

  • Charles:

    It was a pleasure to meet you!  And “Is the ebook available” isn't a dumb question at all, even if the answer right now is still “No.”

    There was definitely a charge in the air, and I feel proud to have been a part of it.

    JS

  • Charles

    Thanks, JS. “change in the air, and feel proud to be a part of it” pretty well sums it up. Cool study at RPI showing how as little as 10% of a population of “true believers” can influence the majority: “Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities.”
    Which brings me to one of my favourite presentations: Mat Lalonde’s rant about how faulty science can sink our “movement”. Heed his message and we *will* prevail.
    Cheers
    Charlie
    p.s. went “walkabout” with my brother and my dog for a couple weeks in the British Columbia backcountry right after the symposium — what an august August! I am still wired…
    p.p.s If you are ever up Vancouver way, give me a call.

  • Charlie:

    I agree that we shouldn't knowingly propagate bad science…but faulty science didn't stop Ancel Keys and the McGovern Committee from killing millions of people by propagating and popularizing clear scientific fraud.  It's more important to have a simple, understandable message than one that's correct in every single particular — and it's also important to remember that peer-reviewed science is often flat wrong, so citing it is no guarantee of scientific rigor.

    The question is: how much simplification can the message stand before it becomes misleading, or worse than what we're trying to replace?  There is no pat answer, and we'll have to figure it out as we go.

    JS

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