AHS14 Pt 2: quick debrief

Wow, what a whirlwind 12 days. I arrived home this morning from LA at 5.45am with an additional suitcase and minus $85 for the 10kg it was carrying. I’m just thankful that I checked the luggage restrictions before heading to the airport or it could have been a lot worse. I am glad to be on home soil, not least because I think I averaged about 6h sleep a night for the time I was overseas. Now don’t go thinking it was because I was hitting any kind of night scene in a ‘bright lights, big city’ kind of way. Unless your version of that includes a cup of tea then you’re bang on. It was really that Caryn and I had so many things we wanted to see that sleep didn’t take priority. Thankfully, real life resumes and that will be rectified in the next week.

Of course, regular followers of my blog may be expecting a synopsis of the talks from the remaining two days of the conference, but I’ve been pipped at the post by the Ancestral Health Society which is brilliant – they’ve already uploaded a number of the talks and you can find them here. Which is great as the simultaneous streams meant that I was unable to see a number of talks I was interested in, so I’ll be able to catch up with them too. It also means I’ll be able to jot down a few take homes from the overall experience rather than focus on the talks. Both Caryn and I really enjoyed the conference as it was largely nutrition, largely paleo-based (unsurprisingly) and largely low carb too. Obviously there were a number of talks around the other tenets of ancestral health – but such a big part of it is around food (or how lifestyle interacts with nutrition) that we both agreed it was one of the most relevant conferences we’ve attended. Equally, we enjoyed that the conference was attended by people from such diverse backgrounds. While we all converged upon the University of Berkley because of our interest in evolutionary health – we mixed with personal trainers, researchers, academics, nurses, IT specialists, functional medicine practitioners…. Most conferences we’ve attended have largely been with others in our field, so it was a good opportunity to mingle with others on the basis of what they value more than what they have studied or teach in. As Caryn and I stayed in the dorms at Berkely we had an opportunity to mingle more than we would have with others, and enjoyed the company of Tim (who we met initially through Jamie and Anastasia), Darcie, Dana and Sarah either through bumping into them at breakfast or in the dorm rooms and all of whom we may see again next year in Boulder, Colorado for AHS15.

An obvious highlight of the trip was to meet in person those people I’ve either followed on Twitter, or that I’ve read their book or blog, or that I listen when I tune into their podcast. There were a number of ‘big hitters’ in the ancestral health space. It was such a pleasure to meet them and to not be disappointed. At the presenters dinner we sat down with Jamie and Anastasia and were joined with Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo, Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo and Dallas, half of the original Whole 9. I regularly direct people to these sites for recipe inspiration or information and it was great to recognise that they were people genuinely interested in helping others rather than only being motivated by making money. I also had a good chat to Dr Cate Shanahan – the LA Laker’s nutritionist and author of Deep Nutrition, and Caryn and I discussed Spartan events with Ben Greenfield and saturated fat and cholesterol over breakfast with Paul Jaminet, creator of the Perfect Health Diet. I also met Jimmy Moore, podcast host of Livin La Viva Low Carb, author of Cholesterol Clarity and Keto Clarity (which I’m reading right now – it is a brilliant guide for anyone interested in ketogenic diets). A further bonus was being invited to dine with Jeffry Geber (Denver’s Diet Doctor) and his family – along with Gary Taubes. We discussed bad science and what to do with it, and at the end of the conference we came away from dinner not feeling in awe of the company that we had kept but more inspired by the work that is going on to help spread the ancestral health message.

Importantly, though, the conference was a great chance to strengthen the ties with the NZ contingent of the ancestral health conference. I’m someone who values relationships over and above most things, and to be surrounded by like minded people is something that makes me feel energised and inspired. We made the most of being in one place to share meals, debrief the day’s events and get to know each other better. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss how the first bigger symposium of AHSNZ may look next year (as we’ve got another mini symposium organised for Labour weekend in Wanaka – more details to come.) I’m sure that Caryn and I weren’t the only ones to come away feeling that the work we are doing as practitioners and also at AUT is strengthening the ancestral health message.

We also got an opportunity to see what is on offer in the US market in the way of paleo-style snacks and supplements. A favourite for me was the Epic Bar – not for everyone, this meat and fruit based protein bar is not unlike jerkey with a softer texture. It really hit the spot one morning when a sit down breakfast wasn’t going to happen. Equally the Exo bar was another eye opener – a protein bar made with crickets as opposed to whey protein – yep, not a typo. It was delicious but, then, anything that includes cacao powder and dates can probably cover up any questionable flavour that a crushed insect might taste like. I am unsure if either of these ship to NZ, but like most things I am sure that something similar will likely be available at some point. Of course in amongst the more ‘real food’ like options were the paleo treats (almond flour cupcake mixture, anyone?) however I would say there is always a place for these items and to give these smaller companies exposure at a conference with 500 attendees is a win-win. They directly target those who will be interested in purchasing, and the AHS is able to raise funds to run the conference. And those Hail Merry Macaroons are super tasty and deserve the exposure they get.

And, with that – I’m done. It is 6pm NZ time, 11pm LA time, I’m exhausted and I’ve managed to get through about 1/8th of what I wanted to share. Not particularly informative in itself, the main purpose of this is to link to other sites which can help inspire and inform as much as to give you my impression of the conference. I’m already planning on attending next year in Boulder, but more importantly, I’m just excited to be part of the AHSNZ team. For those who are interested in being involved, it’s not too long before general membership will be open. The more people we get involved, the further the ancestral health message will spread. In the meantime, get your tickets for the symposium in Wanaka on Labour weekend at Rippon Valley winery here.