• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


AHS 2012, Recommended Reading, and The Ascent And Descent Of Mountains In Winter

For those who haven’t already seen the list of presenters, I will be speaking at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium in Cambridge, MA. My presentation is titled “What Is Hunger, And Why Are We Hungry?”, and I look forward to sharing it with you in August. As I wrote in the abstract, “People aren’t obese because they enjoy being obese, and diets don’t fail because people dislike being slim and healthy. Diets fail because hunger overrides our other motivations.”

There is, however, one unfortunate side effect. My ongoing research on the subject has been devoted to my presentation, so I won’t be continuing my article series "Why Are We Hungry?" until after the AHS. The good news is that my presentation will contain plenty of new information and insight, in addition to summarizing what I’ve already written.

(Note that everyone had a wonderful time last year, and tickets sold out well in advance—so if you’re thinking about attending, it’s best not to put off the purchase. I hope to meet some of you there!)

The Launch Of The “Recommended Reading” Page

Good information is not only difficult to find: it takes a long time to separate it from the ocean of misleading bunk on which it floats. I do my best to keep gnolls.org an information-dense resource for my readers, and I’ve been receiving many requests for additional reading—so I’ve begun a list of books that have held my interest, influenced my thinking, and/or made me laugh.

Rather than dump an entire shelf on my readers at once, I’ve started with two books that receive my highest recommendation. Click here for my new “Recommended Reading” page.

The Ascent And Descent Of Mountains In Winter

Up until last weekend, 2011-2012 had been one of the driest winters in recent memory. We were still riding mountain bikes in the high country in January, and the off-piste and backcountry has been almost entirely off-limits all year.

In other words, this winter season wasn’t just below-average—it was a total bust.

That finally changed last week: a storm moved in on Friday and dropped over four feet of snow on the Sierra Crest before it left. So instead of working on yet another in-depth paleonutrition article for this week, I went skiing for four days straight.

I hope my readers will understand. The Sierra backcountry is a special place, and maintaining the health and vitality to explore it—in all seasons and all weather—is perhaps my strongest motivator to keep learning and writing.

Day 3: Storm Day

Emerging from the trees on the skintrack.

Emerging from the trees on the skintrack

Look closely and you can see a couple black pixels that are people. The top of this pitch is about a third of the way up. It’s a big mountain.

Destination: somewhere in the clouds

The best view we had all day. Soon after this, the weather moved back in.

The best view we had all day

Snow was falling at perhaps an inch an hour by the time we reached the top of the ridge.

At the top of the Mt. Tallac ridge

And we disappeared into it…

Descending Mt. Tallac

…seeking the perfect balance between velocity and gravity…

Ridiculous powder on Mt. Tallac

…as we float on air suspended within crystalline water…

More backcountry powder on Mt. Tallac

…and, lacking gills, try not to inhale too much of it.

Inhaling powder on Mt. Tallac

(Some photos were taken by my friend Jeff.)

Day 4: Blue Skies

Winding our way through the trees. Yes, sunny Tahoe skies are that color of blue.

Skintrack through the pines

Goal sighted! Backcountry skiing isn’t so much about skiing: you spend 99% of your time going uphill. It’s about being here, now, outdoors, in the mountains, on a crisp winter morning.

Goal sighted!

About halfway there. The views only improve as you ascend.

About halfway there

After you’ve been skinning uphill for long enough, the motion is nearly automatic. But eventually you run out of mountain.


The Desolation Wilderness. Pyramid Peak is visible on the left.

Desolation Wilderness, as seen from Flagpole Peak

Sure, it’s perhaps 1% of the time, but it’s 100% of the action! Sometimes you go deep…

More powder on Flagpole Peak

…and sometimes you bounce your turns right out of the snow, like a porpoise, just because you can.


Either way, the trajectory of your descent is visible behind you…

Digging trenches on Flagpole

Now I’m back in the evolutionarily discordant world of bills, and deadlines, and laws, and authority, and problems that cannot be solved with strength, endurance, skill, dexterity, or cleverness. Yet my mind remains in the mountains.

Lake Tahoe from Flagpole Peak

I hope this inspires some of you to use your own hard-won strength, skill, and vitality to explore the Earth in your own way.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


The Overachiever's Week Off: Why Bother With Paleo? A Quick Book Review, Food Reward, and More

Well, it finally happened: after almost six months of regular weekly updates, I found myself completely unable to complete another in-depth nutrition post for this Tuesday. Between traveling all week (last week’s post was written on planes), an inopportune redeye flight, and successfully fighting off the resulting sore throat with sleep and real food, I was simply caught short.

I apologize.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about what all the recent to-do about “food reward” is about, and wondering just what “food reward” means in practical terms, this recent article will be instructive: Why Snack Food Is Addictive: The Grand Unified Theory of Snack Appeal.

And if you’re wondering why you might not want to start binging on carbs despite several recent articles in the paleosphere, my classic series beginning with Mechanisms of Sugar Addiction might be interesting to you.

However, as I am an overachiever, I do have several things to give you this week and an important question to ask, and the first is a reminder: diet and fitness are not an end in themselves. Yes, a healthy, strong, capable body will help us live longer—but why bother? What good is more life if we just spend it sitting in an office chair or on the couch? And what good is strength and endurance if all we do with it is push weights around a gym, or ride bicycles that go nowhere?

Here are a few pictures of my winter. Perhaps they will inspire you.

We skied from mountains to valleys…

Looking down the eastern slope

…and to lakes.

Skiing in a postcard

We skied under clouds and storms…

Going deep

…and under the sun.

Just like being in a movie, except without the helicopter to get us to the top

We skied steep chutes…

The Emerald Bay Chute

…and deep powder.

Yes, that's me. No, I can't see.

There were waterfalls…

Glen Alpine Falls

…and beaches…

Yes, that's a beach down there.

…and sunlight refracted through snow crystals.

Last of the light

These pictures are just echoes: triggers for memories of all the time I’ve spent in the mountains with my friends, skinning uphill for hours, soaking up the view from remote mountaintops, enduring both blizzards and searing sunlight in order to enjoy those perfect turns through virgin snow.

And what will you do with your newly-earned health?

(Thanks to Jeff G. and Brett P. for the photos with me in them.)

Reading For When You’re Stuck In Uncomfortable Seats: Melissa Joulwan’s “Rollergirl”

It turns out that paleo dieters don’t just write books about how they eat and exercise. You already know about my novel—and it turns out that Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan, most famous in the paleosphere for her oft-linked list of paleo recipes, wrote a greatly enjoyable memoir called “Rollergirl” about…the revival of roller derby as a DIY, athlete-controlled sport on flat track, and her own transformation from bookish, mildly obsessive Austin hipster to hard-hitting, butt-kicking athlete/bombshell.

I’ll point you to Amazon for the summary and a grip of positive reviews, to which I’ll add that it makes solid travel reading: breezy, upbeat, and inspiring. And as a man, I’m thrilled to read an account of female empowerment that doesn’t make me feel like I need to slap on some painfully astringent aftershave, grill a steak, fix my truck, and climb a mountain to stop myself from lactating. The world needs a lot less therapy, and a lot more Roller Derby. Well done.

“Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track”, by Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan

(Government-mandated legalese: We traded each other for copies of our respective books.)

Tell Me: What Do You Want Me To Write About?

Don’t worry, I haven’t run out of topics: all that happened this week is that I ran out of time. But I get many of my ideas for articles from talking with my readers, especially my regular commenters, and I want to know what YOU want to know.

So: if you have a question that you’d like to see me answer, or a topic you’d like to see me address, leave me a comment below!

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


HOWTO: Mount Alpine Skis Using The “Ball Of Foot at Center of Running Surface” Method

You might think that ski manufacturers would have some standard for determining where your feet will stand on your skis relative to their length. As far as I can tell, you would be wrong, because they vary dramatically…and manufacturers will even vary the recommended mounting point from year to year!

  • Mounting bindings too far forward on a ski makes it feel “short” and unstable for its length, makes skating awkward, and possibly increases the risk of ACL injury.
  • Mounting bindings too far back on a ski makes it feel “long” and sluggish for its length, decreases rebound, and when taken to an extreme, makes it difficult to hold a carved turn.

After years of experimentation with many different skis and with bindings that allow fore-aft adjustment, I’ve found that one method consistently produces good results for me with almost every ski:

Ball of Foot at Center of Running Surface (BOF/CORS)

Known as BOF/CORS, or just BOF, as in “I mounted these at BOF”. I did not invent this technique: I’m sharing it because it works so well for me.

For those who aren’t sure what I mean by “running surface”, here’s an illustration (marked as “running length”). It’s the part of the ski that contacts the snow when you’re standing on it.

Diagram is from skibuilders.com, a great resource for anyone interested in ski technology and construction. Click the picture to visit their site.

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