• 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.


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:


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.


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.


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