AHS 13 – moving forward.

I am not sure that I am at all able to sit down and write something remotely coherent about the Ancestral Health Symposium 2013. I feel like my jetlagged brain will struggle to sort through the blur of those 3 days but I shall do my best.


Physicians in evolutionary medicine panel

Physicians in evolutionary medicine panel


I was really impressed with the talks this year. Overall I felt that the spread was really even between more popularised topics and hard-hitting science. AHS12 seemed a bit hit and miss, as if the presenters haven’t quite decided whether they were delivering content to laypersons or presenting at a scientific gathering. This year we struck a really good balance. The quality of the talks was also more even, unlike last year when I actually walked out on a couple of talks with a WTF expression on my face. For those of you watching the action at home here are the ones I found interesting:

1. Nassim Taleb – if you haven’t read the book “Antifragile” (and you absolutely must) you are going to think that his presentation is wordy, baffling and incoherent. If you are a fan you will nod fervently at every sentence. A few of us had a quick conversation with Nassim just before his talk. That is to say, Nassim was talking and I was trying (and failing) to look as intelligent as possible. One for the fans, for sure.

2. Gad Saad (“The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature”) had a really relaxed engaging style. He presented great arguments for why our penchant for symmetrical face, big booty, junk food and red sports cars may be evolutionarily driven. I was quite befuddled to hear that evolutionary psychology is still considered a bit “woo” in academic circles. But then I had a recent conversation with a paediatrician about evolutionary medicine and she shocked me by asking innocently: “Isn’t evolutionary biology a bit alternative and unscientific?”

3. Esther Gokhale (“Walk the Talk”)- I was determined not to miss this talk like I did last year. Esther share more of her insights on what constitutes a good posture and why the traditional view of S-shaped spine is not it. She managed to conjure up a real-life baby to assist with her demonstration of traditional baby-carrying style. The baby cried when she handed him back to the parent. I enjoyed browsing through her very well-illustrated book.

4. Victoria Prince (“Fatty Liver – Is It the Fat’s Fault?”) presented a great talk on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease was the topic of her PhD thesis so this girl knows a lot about liver (and I hear she likes eating it too!) She went through the evidence on dietary fat as a contributor to NAFLD and most of the readers here will not be surprised to hear that all fat ain’t the same. I think we all walked away giving ourselves a firm permission to drink piña coladas.

Keith Norris certainly looks interested

Keith Norris certainly looks interested

5. Jamie Scott (“Are Your Sprint Intervals HIITing You in the ANS?”) – ok, ok, I am biased. But it was a great presentation even though Jamie was accosted by a whole group of Crossfitters at the end, and I had to be on standby to prevent any possible bloodshed. Everyone knows, Crossfitters go nuts when told that maybe smashing yourself to the ground 6 days a week is not a great idea. (Just kidding, they were very polite and inquisitive).

6. Whole9 Seasonal Model Workshop – I have watched this idea develop between the brains of Dallas Hartwig and Jamie for over 1.5 years now. Dallas presented the much under appreciated Seasonal Model poster at last year’s AHS but this year they decided to make it into a 2 hour workshop. I think we need presentations like this at AHS: new untested ideas, untapped frameworks (after all, Paleo is a framework too!) which encourage people to look beyond rigid programming for each of their 3 meals a day from now to the day they kick the bucket. I also like the idea of seasonal approach because it brings us, humans, back into the fold of natural environment. We need a reminder that we are a part of the natural world. I cringe whenever I hear anthropocentric ideas still thrown around even in the ancestral community (“Humans are the only animals with a capacity to play” – WTF?). Anyone who is interested in moving beyond the dietary principles should watch this talk.

photo 4I was very pleased that the conference has moved away from pure focus on diet and weight loss. The diversity of topics is very very welcome because after all, people need to realise that while it starts with food, it certainly doesn’t end there. Sleep was the topic du jour with many post-conferences tweeps confessing they have been guilted into getting their zzzzz.


photo 1While we tried to attend the talks we were interested in we certainly did not travel halfway around the world just for those. We feel very privileged to be able to present our topics at the conference but our primary aim is always to catch up with “our people”. Living on the bottom of the planet is awesome when it comes to good food availability (sorry, US food just doesn’t cut it) but it sucks when it comes to Socialisation. We cherish the opportunity to talk in person with like-minded people and this trip was totally worth the big bucks it cost us for that fact alone.

I was going to say thank you to a few people but I don’t want to leave anyone out. Many have become close personal friends and goodbyes were really heartbreaking. I cannot wait to see them all again, either in the US, or Down Under. You know who you are, and you have an open invitation at our place.


I thought there was some really good vibe this year. There was no nit-picking, no whispers in the corner, no petty arguments. It was just a bunch of people who came together to talk about their passion to make a difference. The academic disagreements were polite and civil, and there was (to me) a general feeling of mutual respect. The word “community” kept coming to the front of my mind. “Community” does not mean “cult”. I think “community” means “a tribe”. It is still totally amazing to me that a misanthropic introvert like myself can mingle, and socialise, and chat for hours to total strangers. That’s how you know that you are among “your people”.

When you have a case of warm’n’fuzzies about where we are as a movement it is really disheartening to see the usual characters come out of the woodworks to trash Paleo from the safety of their computer keyboards. It was entirely laughable to read a few tweets commenting on body shapes of the participants or the interpretation of the scientific merit of the conference based of 140 characters. My diagnosis for these keyboard warriors is the severe case of the sulks on the background of desperate attention-seeking. I have no time for that.

Once again, warm thank you to the Ancestry Foundation, to Katherine Morrison for looking her radiant cheerful self while dealing with all kinds of shitstorms, which seem to be a part and parcel of a huge event like this, and to Aaron Blaisdell for his superb organising skills and for being so gracious and welcoming.


Some of the presentations are already up on slide share. Here is my presentation. I have been told it was quite good.

Here is Jamie’s.

The videos are still forthcoming. Of course I am not going to watch mine as I will undoubtedly feel dejected about its imperfections.

AHS14, we will be there.


Evolution of Reading

Most of you are incapable of reading this post attentively from start to finish. In fact, you will probably just skim the first paragraph, then quickly scroll down, your eyes will skip to the text in bold for a fraction of a second, then you will hover of the picture, and then, convincing yourself that you got the general gist, you will speed off to click on the next tab on your screen.

photoYep, this is the stunning conclusion that Nicholas Carr comes to in his book ‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’. One damning fact at a time he builds a case proving that the Internet is not just a mindless database of knowledge, passively waiting to be accessed and researched. It is an active medium which has the ability to change the very way we think, structure our ideas, the way we learn and the way we communicate.

Hang on, you say. Isn’t that taking this whole ancestral thing a little too far? Am I firmly on the path of giving up on smartphone and flush toilets to live in a hippie paleo commune on a Pacific island, farm coconuts and wipe with a leaf? (in the words of the timeless King Julien: ‘Who wipes??’). Bear with me for a little while.

I used to be an avid reader. I discovered books at a tender age of 3 and started reading ferociously. My mother used to joke that I swallowed books whole and it was not that far from the truth. Written (or rather printed) word had such power of me that when I did not have a fresh fiction text I would read an encyclopaedia. Fiction had the ability to keep me enthralled to the point of danger. I distinctly remember the night when I was supposed to “watch over the stove” while my mother went to see our neighbour. The 8 year old me was engrossed in “Jane Eyre” and only vaguely registered my Mum’s screams at the room full of smoke and the stove on fire on her return. I was in another world, oblivious.

My eyesight started failing early. Blaming my reading obsession, my parents waged war on books, sneaking up on me in the middle of the night (and taking away the torch from underneath my pillow), locking the crime book cupboards when I needed to study, even checking my school bag in the morning for stealthy novels between textbooks.

I continued to read books when I came to Australia but the love somewhat lessened. The language barrier made it more exhausting initially, then I didn’t really know any good authors, and then I needed to work and study. Fiction reading became a rare indulgence. Non-fiction reading was a necessary chore.

In my first degree I owned a little laptop which I used purely for document editing purposes. My knowledge base was still acquired from a printed text. The massive (and expensive) tomes on microbiology, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology were covered in multi-coloured bookmarks with text underlined in pencil. (Yes, in case you haven’t figured it out, I am a nerd). I memorised anatomy structures by drawing them with pencils (multi-coloured, of course) and writing sheets and sheets of text next to the diagrams. I still remember what a writer’s cramp feels like although I haven’t had it for years.

My computer use stepped up a level in medical school. Buying textbooks for a huge variety of subjects was not feasible plus the underground student online book share was supplying me well. I struggled initially reading textbooks online. My eyes would get tired quicker, attention waver at the slightest provocation, I missed my coloured pencils and bookmarks, I missed being able to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea.

At least this last problem was resolved when I got an iPad. Man, I love(d) this thing. My own personal window to everywhere. Not a bulky laptop with a charger, 5 minutes wind up time and somewhat disturbing warmth radiating to my groin. Coupled with a snazzy blood-red cover, this thing was the shiz.

Word processing to emails, to world wide web, to online learning, to blogging, to social media – I am amazed at how quickly my reading and Internet habits changed. I have found the world of Ancestral Health, although the search was initially triggered by a book (Gary Taubes ‘Good Calories Bad Calories’), this world would be unknown to me if it was not for blogs and social media. I have so much to be grateful for: meeting like minds like Dallas and Melissa, and being able to take our combined knowledge to the people in my part of the world. Heck, I would have never met this awesome guy if it wasn’t for the Internet.

However, recently I have been noticing some things that started to concern me. Far from being engrossed by books, I have become inattentive and distractable. Instead of looking forward to a blissful escape, picking up an old-fashioned printed book seems a chore to my concentration. When I click on a new promising link posted by someone on Twitter I skim it quickly. If scrolling down reveals a huge document I get inwardly annoyed. Frequently I get caught in the comments to the blog post, rather than the blog post itself, clicking on more links and letting my opened tabs multiply. My reading in general has become less reflective and more reactive. My interaction with those “like minds” has reduced to 140 character snippets, not the long intellectual discussions.

As for research, it’s getting harder and harder. One search on Pubmed opens you to a spiderweb of articles. One wrong turn, one wrong click – and you are caught in a labyrinth. My innate curiosity encouraged by an easy availability of information leads me away to the point where I forget what it is that I was looking for in the first place. The sheer volume of information is overwhelming. Every study on the benefits of fibre is counteracted by the study deeming it useless. If I feel lost and confused at times, what of the people who rely on popular media for their health advice?

And there is the interwebz conflicts. You never have as many opponents in your real life as you will have on the Internet. When every snippet is available for judgement, when people do not know you as a person, when your printed word is not accompanied by your tone or body language, it is all too easy to wilfully/accidentally misinterpret and cast your vote. I watch the deterioration of a healthy discussion on Facebook into crazytown bitchfest and want to go away to that Pacific island. The reality is, you wouldn’t say half of this to a person to their face, but the ability to instantly type up a knee-jerk reaction in a witty response is hard to pass.

My escape plan

My escape plan

‘The Shallows’ could not have come at a better time for me. Exhausted from meaningless internet jibes, wary of loss of own concentration and feeling the lack of intellectual stimulation, I wanted to understand what was happening. I don’t blame the Internet (neither does the author). I merely concede that to sharpen the signal I need to reduce the noise. I already keep my Twitter account private but I think it is time to take a holiday altogether. I would like to close the comments on this blog. Not because I don’t value my readers or their opinions – far from it. But I would like to concentrate my time and energy on the work that requires a 100% of me. For those who would like to stay in contact – feel free to email me. Those whose opinions I value and cherish (you know who you are) I want to stay more connected, I want to give our interaction more than just a cursory glance on my phone screen. Let’s chat, let’s exchange papers, let’s Skype. Let’s use this powerful force to what it can be – bringing minds and passions together. I am done with wasting time on anything less than that.

One doctor’s take on Whole30: when the Magic doesn’t happen

I can’t take any credit for today’s post. Pam, a general practitioner from Wellington, NZ, has shared her recent Whole30 experience with Jamie and myself, and then kindly allowed me to make it public. We first got in contact with Pam via Twitter a few months ago. A New Zealand based doctor who is vocal about being anti-grain, anti-sugar and pro-real food? Yes, please, we are very interested! I don’t even know how she went from being from a voiceless Twitter handle to a huge part of our “kiwi Paleo gang” (not entirely sure how a Russian-born Australian got invited there either but they tell me it’s a privilege). Pam is 47 years young and her voice is loud and uncompromising. I have been greatly entertained and awestruck watching her take on conventional nutritionists, media and medical authorities, all in a 140 character format. When Jamie and I announced Whole9 South Pacific she became one of our most staunch supporters. It was only a matter of time before we convinced/coerced her into doing a Whole30. I found her insights particularly compelling because it was not all fireworks and champagne. Her motivation is to improve health, prevent becoming hypertensive and diabetic (yes, believe it or not, doctors worry about this too!). Here is her story.

My Whole30 roundup – When the Magic doesn’t happen

I am learning.  Learning to be patient. Learning to have realistic expectations. And learning to appreciate the value of small changes. I have learned that it’s ok not to experience the ‘magic’ that many other people do when they make purposeful changes to their lifestyles. It is hard not to feel disappointed or that you have been rather unsuccessful when you constantly read of these ‘magic’ stories and personal epiphanies. That is the nature of the beast. People crow unashamedly about their great achievements. And so they should. They have done the work. They should be proud of their achievements and we should share in their success. They inspire others to give change a go. I am happy for them. Really I am.

But what of those who put their very best efforts in and don’t experience that ‘magic’. I am sure there are as many or more who land up in this place. But they are not shouting from the ‘comments’ or ‘discussions’.  What happens to them?  I suspect many give up and slink quietly back to their old habits feeling as if they have failed yet again. I’ve been there. Many times.  Not any more. Part of the reason is that I have accepted reality. There is no ‘magic’ for most people. So, what would have been the ‘magic’ for me? Despite trying to convince myself otherwise, a dramatic weight loss would have been my magic. I didn’t start with health problems that others have had to suffer with. Gluten and dairy didn’t mess with me. I had no autoimmune issues. Just too much body fat. So I guess I could say I had /have hormonal issues! What I did learn was that even if there is no magic, there is hope. And there is certainty that you can become healthier.

My ‘aha’ moment occurred about 9 months ago. A chance comment at a random moment piqued my curiosity. With the world of information at my finger tips I could Google, follow links and find any information I wanted. I could formulate questions and find answers. I found the pathway to the truth about dieting, health and weight loss. I found amazing people and I also found out about the lies, politics, egos and money which have ruled the information about diet and health on which the average person relies on for better health. Information gives you knowledge. Knowledge is power.

So what the heck has all this got to do with Whole30? You may be wondering. It has everything to do with my Whole30. You own your own Whole30. I owned my Whole30 and because of this I got through the 30 days (and continuing on).

Whole30 was one of many plans/programs/guides that I came across. When Whole9SouthPacific put out the challenge and fronted the charge to lead by example, I made the decision to take up the challenge too. The time was right and the challenge was right. I had been eating pretty clean for 8 months. Too clean to bother with Whole30? Maybe, maybe not. In my head I decided to commit. Although the challenge was for January I made the decision to delay starting until after our holiday when I could be fully in control of my environment. We were going to stay with friends and I felt it would not be right to be too picky about everything I could and couldn’t eat ‘because it’s not Whole30’. That didn’t mean that I didn’t come pretty close to adhering most of the time.

Holiday over, time to start. My weight had not changed much for 2-3 months. Maybe up a kilo over Christmas/ New Year and holiday. I wasn’t expecting miracles but I was hoping for at least a small change in direction and getting off the stalled weight loss. In order to become totally Whole30 I needed to quit dairy (had already reduced a lot), no alcohol – not too difficult, no coke zero (a bit more challenging). I had already quit bread and wheat as well as other grains many months before. So that was the ‘leave out’ bit.

Whole30 was also about ‘adding in’ – more food and more meals. I was eating very low carb, not eating even starchy vegetables. I started adding in some pumpkin and sweet potato. I also added in occasional fruit as I had not been eating any for months. And it was berry season. I had to put more effort into having 3 meals a day. I was used to skipping breakfast at times. Sometimes because I just wasn’t hungry and other times just because I didn’t have time. My egg intake soared. Spinach became my ‘go to vegetable’ – I added it to everything where I needed more on my plate.

I didn’t find it particularly difficult to complete the Whole30. I made sure I wasn’t hungry. I also made sure I always had some compliant foods to grab if I was hungry coming home at meal times. A stash of ready boiled eggs, homemade mayo and salad greens made sure I had no excuse to eat the wrong things.

So what did I get from Whole30?

  • I lost about 3kg. I am sure that had I gone from SAD to Whole 30 directly I would have lost double that (the double bit being water loss). I think my clothes loosened fractionally.
  • I don’t miss my wine. I seldom really feel like my latte coffees. Black is fine (as long as it’s not too strong).
  • I am absolutely fine eating more vegetable sourced carbohydrates – very low carb is not necessary for me.
  • Bread does not have a hook out for me. The trick is not to be hungry – making sure I eat enough.
  • I think about sweet things less often and they are less tempting.

Perhaps a lot of this resilience to reverting to SAD food is pure willpower because I feel so strongly that I have to avoid unhealthy food to prevent future health problems. But maybe there is a biochemical change that has occurred and that I really have a true lessening of desire for those foods. Probably a bit of both.

The only Whole30 ‘rule’ I broke was the scales one. I make no apologies. This was MY Whole30 and I had to make it work for ME. I get why the rule is there but for me it wasn’t going to work. In the past when I have lost the scales it has started the slippery slope back to weight gain. I realised that I might not lose weight so I wasn’t too stressed about that. But there was no way I was going to contemplate gaining. I didn’t weigh myself every day. I weighed here and there, maybe 2-3 times a week and in a random fashion. It helped me knowing that despite eating well I was not creeping up the scales. After close tracking of weight for 8 months I can recognise the fact that weight loss is both slow and definitely not a straight-line graph. It is an alpine graph with lots of ups and downs but the overall gradient slopes downwards.

The direct and indirect support of the cyber-community has reinforced my awareness of why I need to stick to the plan. My own knowledge growth has made me realise that having knowledge is only part of the plan. It’s up to me to do the very best I can for my own health. Whole30 provides the rudder, its up to me to steer the ship. The pathway doesn’t have to be straight and narrow but if I lose the rudder, the ship will loose its way. The tighter I steer the more stable the ship.

My message: If you don’t feel the magic, don’t give up. Your health depends on following a real food template for the rest of your life. Give yourself years before you decide real food doesn’t make a difference. Your future health is not measured in days or months.

PS: there are no ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. It’s not what you look like that tells you whether you are healthy or not. There is so much more to health than a picture. For me the pictures do not speak a thousand words.

Whole30, Goldilocks and evil carbses

Back to posting after long silence.

Things have been downright crazy here at primalmeded/Whole9SouthPacific HQ. Jamie and I have successfully held our first ever W9SP workshop in Cairns. I expect this to be the flashiest workshop we will ever have since it was conducted in the Shangri-La rather than in a Crossfit gym surrounded by pull up bars, chalked up weights and breathing in the sweat the smell of victory. But hey, we can talk to people about nutrition anywhere as long as nobody decided to punch out 20 burpees when they get bored of our ramblings. The Paleo Cafe in Cairns were awesome organisers and they will be conducting a Whole30 in February and we will get to judge the winner. Our next stop is Crossfit Toowoomba which is getting close to being booked out!

Jamie dropping some knowledge bombs to a full house in Cairns

Jamie dropping some knowledge bombs to a full house in Cairns

Me, with my "d'er" slide

Me, with my “d’er” slide

The obligatory glam shot: me and Julianne Taylor from Paleo Zone Nutrition who was our special guest. Post workshop dinner at Cairns marina

The obligatory glam shot: me and Julianne Taylor from Paleo Zone Nutrition who was our special guest. Post workshop dinner at Cairns marina

This post is mostly about Whole30 and random thoughts on troubleshooting. This is my 4th whole30 and yes, I’m getting pretty good at this. Plus I have the benefit of being intimately familiar with the book, knowing the references and also presenting that material. Not to blow my own trumpet but I think it’s fair to say it gives me a little bit of an insight. But in spite of all this, I found myself wide-eyed and amazed at how much I learnt this time around.

A little bit of personal background to put this into perspective. I have been eating low carb/primal/Paleo for over 2.5 years now. I don’t have any medical conditions or an overt food intolerance. Junk food (sugar, grains, processed food) gives me pimples, makes me bloated and pushes me to the sarcastic bitch end of the spectrum. When I eat well I contain my natural impatience with stupidity a lot better. I never thought I had problems with dairy but I have been having less and less of it in the last few months and my skin which was already pretty good improved more. Plus I don’t really miss it. I put on some weight this year mostly due to stress, irregular hours and meals, and sleep deprivation. I have made it my priority to improve those areas in the last few months and was already getting good results. We decided to do the January Whole30 to “walk the talk” (so nobody could tell us “eating THIS way is soooo hard”) and see what results we can achieve with perfect focus.

First the results:

  1. My satiety levels are the best they have EVER been. I used to snack occasionally (i.e. daily) and felt no hunger in the morning, then was practically starving by lunch, and again before bedtime. Now I have 3 full meals spaced out at around 6hrs with some gentle hunger around hour 5.
  2. My energy levels improved dramatically. We go to the gym 3 days a week doing basic strength. On the days that we don’t train we go for beach walks, sprints and short hikes. Instead of wanting to collapse into the couch when I come home and play dead, I actually look forward to getting out of the house and dissipating some pent-up energy.
  3. Strength gains. This year my training has been really inconsistent. I remember thinking at my surgical rotation that the only exercise I get is holding the retractors in OT. Last few months I introduced more gymnastics-style training which I hugely enjoyed. I sustained a minor injury in late December and somehow found myself coerced convinced to take a month off gymnastics and do a strength block instead. Never thought I’d say it but I actually do enjoy it and will introduce some deadlifts (gasp!) into my regular program. Ok, ok, I’m loving it. I have no doubt that having extra energy and good recovery contributed to that.
  4. Body composition. If you are expecting the Before and After photos you are out of luck. It ain’t happening. The water weight and some extra insulation (he he) that I picked up over winter started to shift in the last few months. But in the last few weeks I felt like somebody just pushed the right button. I am leaner with the biggest differences in my stomach and waist. I probably could say more but I am going to stop there. Let’s just say I am very happy with the change.

So what did I do differently???

  • More food. Seriously. I have always considered that I eat a lot “for a girl”. I thought I was tired and apathetic because of work, stress, “I am just lazy”. It is practically ingrained in women that they should eat less than a man. Dishing out dinner I would go with the Goldilocks principles: papa bear meal, mama bear meal and a baby bear. And of course, somehow accurately estimating with a trained eye that my portion should be about 30% less than Jamie’s. This time we decided to run an experiment and fill my plate. So now we plate out a portion of protein about 150-200g each and fill the white gaps on the plate with veggies and fruit. Occasionally it’s too much and I don’t finish it. More often than not, I do.

I had a few people ask me recently on Twitter and at the workshop whether it was 200g per day or per meal which caused me a lot of merriment. Get you calculators ready, doubters!
3 eggs at 11g protein each = 33g (breakfast)
Smoked salmon 150g = 32g (lunch)
Lamb chop = 33g (dinner)
Total around 100g protein a day. I weigh 60kg. Which makes it ~1.6g of protein per kilo. Hardly a huge amount for a young active female. Don’t forget, you have eliminated snacks with “healthy” sources of useless protein, a.k.a. gluten, like Nutrigrain cereal bars. 3 meals of between 25 and 40g each does not add up to a whole lot.


Very typical dinner: lamb chop (of course!), sweet potato+orange+pecans in olive and ginger marinade, braised cabbage with garlic

Very typical dinner: lamb chop (of course!), sweet potato+orange+pecans in olive and ginger marinade, braised cabbage with garlic

Just in case you think I used an entree plate. Palm size is a minimum, ladies!

Just in case you think I used an entree plate. Palm size is a minimum, ladies!

So yeah, I lost MORE body fat eating MORE food. Still think calories count?

  • More vegetables. When Dallas and Melissa said “Fill the rest of your plate with veggies” they weren’t joking. When I talk to people about vegetables I normally get this slightly guilty shifty look: “Yeah yeah I know they are good for me…” and the voice trails into the distance. Yes, they are bloody good for you. Eat them. I don’t go into throws of ecstasy over broccoli and bok choy. But I eat it. I am a grown up, FFS. I love how people who dislike them find all sort of reasons to avoid them. I know there are many with autoimmune conditions etc. who genuinely need to avoid nightshades or FODMAPs. But something tells me that it’s all too easy to use that excuse to avoid “boring” veggies. Which actually undermines the distress of those who actually cannot tolerate these veggies. Needless to say, all our veggies are cooked in fat (I don’t just want to chew fibre, I actually want to absorb some micronutrients here). And try not to spot diagnose yourself with intolerance to <coconut, onions,=”” radishes=””> after 1 week just because your gut is not used to that amount of fibre and you feel a little bloated. Don’t blame the food. Give it some time to adjust then reassess.
  • Whole30 Meal Template. One of the mistakes that I see often in the newcomers (and sometimes old-timer paleos) is focusing on Whole30/Paleo-approved ingredients. People tend to forget about the fact that these ingredients still need to add up to a MEAL. So yes, almonds, blueberries and cocoa are technically all Whole30-approved but it is still not a meal. Swapping your protein+veggie lunch for a “light” soup with some nuts may sound like a good idea but you are shortchanging yourself on nutrition and will likely crumble like an almond meal cookie in a day or two. The Whole30 Meal Template does not just apply for dinner (most of us are down with that) but also to your Meal1 and Meal2. We successfully melted a few brains at our Cairns workshop suggesting slow cooked lamb and stir-fried veggies for breakfast. For us every single meal but 2 (caught out at Brisbane airport)  followed the protein and veg (and some fruit) format.
Breakfast: 3 eggs, slow cooked lamb and random veggies. Oh and an apple

Breakfast: 3 eggs, slow cooked lamb and random veggies. Oh and an apple

Work lunch sitting on my lap

Work lunch sitting on my lap

  • More starchy vegetables. Oh boy. I am in the process of actively opening a Pandora’s box and I know it. Let’s get one thing straight: “starches” are vegetables. I am not talking about tucking into potato starch with a tablespoon or sprinkling flour over steak. They are VEGETABLES. Since when are vegetables bad for us? News flash: they have more than strings of glucose held together by glycosidic bonds: vitamins, minerals, nutrients. They are cellular carbohydrate sources (if you haven’t yet read this paper you must!)

For those concerned about their glucose tolerance. The glycaemic effect of a meal hugely depends on its fat content. And if you were a diabetic who decided to tuck in a bowl of plain white potato on its own on an empty stomach your BSL may indeed shoot up. But why would you do that unless you were getting paid by a sugar company keen to sell their low GI sugar? If you incorporate the same potato into a normal size meal containing meat/fish and a decent source of fat to slow the stomach emptying I betcha you will see some different numbers.

But of course, everything is a spectrum. And as much as this applies to the middle of the bell curve there are always outliers. I have seen people get a BSL of 18 after a piece of fish and 10 after a bowl of pasta, making me swallow the pill of humility and bite my tongue. If your glucose tolerance is indeed shot to pieces you may have to watch your sweet potato “allowance”. AND you need to look at your activity level and building some good muscle where you can sink some glucose. If you are bed/couch-ridden you will tolerate less. If you get yourself a decent muscle sink and empty it regularly you will tolerate more.

What I find infinitely more frustrating is not the glucose intolerant individuals who have to have a little less sweet potato because they are sick, unable to exercise, their pancreas is on its last legs and they are trying to minimise the damage. It is those who claim that a piece of pumpkin with dinner sends them into hyperglycaemic coma and goes straight to their thighs but pumpkin gluten-free pancakes/cookies/muffins on the other hand are totally “Paleo”. I’m sorry, what? Sure, I like to let my hair down from time to time, I am not some boring Paleo prune who never has fun, I want to give some treats to my child and help her grow up well adjusted. So I will bake her some nut flour/maple syrup/honey/cocoa concoction but will vilify half a sweet potato? Holding onto paleofied sugar methadone with a death grip will prevent you from assessing your real starchy vegetable tolerance. Those evil carbses might actually work for you if you let go of the dessert addiction.

Argh. Ok. This is turning a little more ranty than I intended. I’ll get off my soap box and stop my preaching. Take from it what you want. There is no need to send me BSL measurements to prove that beetroot gets you higher than cocaine. This may not be you. But I sure do see this a lot from people who then go: “This Paleo thing doesn’t work for me!!!!!! I tried it, was tired all the time, couldn’t lose weight, got weak in the gym. It’s a fad people, get over it”.


Good luck with your Whole30.

Low Carb Down Under and carbs…

Second post in a week! What’s going on here? More exciting things to share, that’s what.

I had an opportunity to put my rusty public speaking skills to good use last weekend at the Low Carb Down Under Seminar series “What should we eat?”. I have written about it before and here is Jimmy Moore’s blog on his Aussie adventures. Today I just want to share my impressions on the event.

First off, I am sending my thanks to Dr Rod Tayler and Jamie Hayes for organising the event and inviting some excellent speakers and myself. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a packed conference room with a 200-strong eager crowd. Thank you all for  supporting the event. Here is a snippet of mine and Jamie’s talk courtesy Jimmy Moore. I understand that the full videos of all talks will be available at a later date.

The topic of my talk was somewhat tricky as I attempted to navigate murky waters between low carb and Paleo nutrition strategies. I may or may not have come up with my own definition of Paleo (everyone is hijacking that word, I might as well join the club!) and compromised on discussing the basics of evolutionary approach to health and disease.

BrisbaneTo be completely honest, I do not completely identify myself as “low carb” . On my very “Start here” page (more than 1.5 years ago) I wrote about my “meh” attitude to a rigid macronutrient ratio. I feel even stronger about this now. However, if you plug my diet into fitday.com I will definitely be in the low carb zone of 50-150g of carbohydrate a day. So it’s kinda low carb by default rather than by design.

In spite of the fact that the seminar itself was called LC and had the undisputed king of LC, Jimmy Moore, fronting the line-up, I did not get the impression of the narrow approach that we sometimes see pure low-carbers exhibit. The topics throughout Australia varied from environmental sustainability to oral health, from GAPS diet to the value of sleep. Jimmy himself is starting to turn more towards Paleo diet nowadays and I was delighted to hear of his health gains/weight loss recently (pardon the pun). I am not quite ready to dive into the nutritional ketosis debate just yet but I am wondering how much of his recent success is enhanced by better sleep (8-9 hrs up from 5hrs a night) and lean body mass gains due to his diet and strength training. Either way, Jimmy is a very passionate and genuine guy and I wish him all the best in health!

In fact, it was quite refreshing not to see arguments and petty disputes between various nutritional approaches. At least for now, we seem united in educating Australians in the value of REAL FOOD.

The word on the street is that the seminar may come back next year and I would definitely like to be a part of that. I would like to see a name change (sorry, Rod!) but maybe I am just being picky.

If you have not been able to make it to the Seminars (especially if you had recklessly decided to live in places like, say, Darwin) look out for the videos. On my part, I hope that our Whole9 South Pacific workshops will continue the trend for nutrition education in our region and build on this momentum.