Monday, September 30, 2013

What IS "paleo"? (No loincloth required...)

What IS paleo, anyway?... It's probably not what you think.
When it comes to "eating paleo" my first month of trying it out blew my mind!

As it gains momentum, and more people begin looking into it, I expect that many folks will attempt to define it in varying ways. As someone who has been exploring it for almost 4 years (a "newbie" by some standards) I feel a need to add my voice to the online conversation.

As with anything that threatens the current norms, "Paleo" (aka the Ancestral Health Movement, aka Primal, Real Food, Clean Eating, etc...) is quickly dismissed by many as a fad: "You know, that silly caveman diet."...

 Except that it's growing, and doing so quite rapidly. Thousands of people are finding vitality, energy, and health that they previously thought impossible. Of course, we will expect some backlash. Some people are already calling it a cult. Obviously, none of these people have actually looked into it much:

Paleo is the OPPOSITE of a cult.

A cult is a group of people who unquestioningly follow a leader. The members of a cult look to the leader for their answers. A cult worships a specific deity... A specific "truth" of how the world is.

Paleo is a COMMUNITY.

We question everything. Not just "DIET and EXERCISE" but all aspects of how we live our lives. There are some mothersfarmers, biologists, doctors, writers, coaches, playful movers acupuncturists, diabetics, and nutritionists who are major contributors to this community... and the list keeps growing! There is even a network of paleo physicians. However, since there are no "leaders", Paleo is completely decentralized. We (including you, if you're actually reading this) are a large, and rapidly growing worldwide community. We come from different religions, ethnicities, political alignments, etc. We are a diverse group of people who are willing to ask a simple question:

"What if we are wrong about this?"

This question leads us to seek real answers from a multitude of sources. Yes, we ARE learning from our grandparents, but also from much further back in time. We are looking at more than just how we eat. We are learning not just from our ancestors, but also from the latest scientific breakthroughs. We are also learning from looking at the remaining societies of "primitive" cultures today. We are trying these various ideas out, and seeing if they work (or not). We are taking control of our own health, with seemingly miraculous results. And, I might add... having a GREAT time doing it! There are huge, international Facebook groups, and small, local ones. In a matter of seconds, you could find one in your town. Those of us in Asheville, NC have a great resource in Synchronicity Wellness.

Many folks in what is now often referred to as the "Ancestral Health Community" give credit to Weston A. Price as being the father of this movement. He was a dentist who travelled the world and noticed that so-called "primitive" cultures had far greater health than the "civilized" folks. Anyone with rural farming roots knows this.  Many of us have very old relatives who had glowing health despite eating "all the wrong foods". And NO, we don't hate vegetarians... many of us used to be vegetarians!

For many people, they find paleo through crossfit. (Which, by the way, is also NOT a cult, but a community of people who love what they do and constantly question the details of their beliefs and methods in regards to exercise.)

My introduction to this shifting, formless community was through vibram five fingers and the barefoot movement people. (also not a cult.)

My introduction to the nutrition aspect was from Robb Wolf's book "The Paleo Solution." Robb Wolf presented a very appealing challenge to me. It was roughly this:

"Don't believe anything I say... God love people who think! Prove me wrong... Try it for a month, and see what happens!"

So... There you have it.
Make caveman jokes if you want to, (we think they're funny too).
But, seriously... Don't knock it 'till you try it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Could too much exercise be killing you?

I love to run.

Those who spend time with me in daily life see it in my daily activity. I run from the car to work, I run in the woods with my kids. I run to get somewhere if I'm in a hurry. However, I almost never go for a long run, and I never see it as "exercise". To me, running falls into the "play" category, and generally only happens in short spurts. (see 1 minute video below if you like...)

Thanks to Ken Bob Saxton's Book  and a load of other resources I was able to run again for the first time in years without any pain in my knees and feet. I have never been fast, but that's not the point... to me -it's just joyful, childish playtime. I've never run a marathon, or even a half marathon. Heck, I've never run a race at all! (Did I mention I'm not very fast?)

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm NOT saying it's healthy to be inactive. Exercise is good. However, a growing body of evidence is suggesting that too much might be just as dangerous as not enough.

In the past few years (since re-evaluating all I thought I knew) I have been learning more and more that tells me... it's a really good thing I never caught the competitive bug! A growing pile of research is showing that "chronic cardio" is actually causing some serious damage to the heart muscle and coronary arteries of many runners... regardless of their "good form". Even if their knees, hips, feet, and back aren't being destroyed, it appears their hearts may be. It seems that, contrary to the overriding message of the book "Born to Run", too much exercise can actually INCREASE the effects of aging! Now, nobody is saying exercise is bad. However, too much seems to be.

I now have good reason to believe the same thing could also be happening to hard core cyclists (which I was for many years), cross-country skiers, etc...

Would you rather be a healthy "tortoise", or a dead "hare"?

I have to give a BIG thanks to cardiologist James O'Keefe for simplifying most of what I've been learning from various sources into an 18 minute video that in my opinion is well worth watching.

Thanks for reading, Now go outside and play!

                                                                             Much love, Mo the human

PS if you have a taste for a more geeky version of Dr. O'Keefe's talk, go here.

A one-minute paleo-esqe dessert: Maple Bacon Yogurt!

OMG... Maple-Bacon Yogurt:
(A delectable dessert treat for those who can tolerate dairy...)
-finely chop 1 strip of cooked bacon and place in glass bowl
-microwave (covered) about 20 seconds to make really crispy and render fat. Leave the fat in the bowl.
-mix in 1 or 2 TBSP maple syrup
-Mix in 1/2 cup (or so) full fat unsweetened yogurt. (Full fat Greek yogurt if you want super-deluxe!)

A friend of mine suggested that in place of yogurt, refrigerated coconut cream could be a non-dairy option, but I have yet to test this idea... Since dairy usually doesn't sit well with me, I'll have to try it out soon! 
*(Oh, the terrible burden of food experiments I must bear...)*

All measurements are variable to your taste.

If swine in a dessert is unappealing to you (or any of your guests), any chopped nuts can be substituted for the microwaved bacon. (This will, of course, create a far less amazing desert.)

You're welcome!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wheat isn't health food? What in the world do you mean?

I know, it sounds crazy... I grew up thinking wheat was health food too.

"Wheat sustained entire civilizations for centuries!" I thought.

"It's loaded with heart healthy fiber, reduces cholesterol, and is super-duper yummy!"
"Can I never eat a doughnut again!?" I gasped...
Well, not to fear, no one is gonna take your doughnuts away.

However, cardiologist William Davis, MD makes a pretty good case that perhaps we need to take another look at our relationship with this grain.

For those who love to ready sciency-type stuff, Dr. Davis' book "Wheat Belly" is well worth a look.

Gluten has been getting loads of press these days. However, it turns out WGA and other proteins in wheat may be of much greater danger to most of us. This link to a short article by Dr. David Perlmutter is well worth reading.

Wheat, It's not the wheat your great grandma used to make pie crusts from.
If you want more of Dr. Davis, look here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eggs in my coffee... (it sounded nasty to me too)

If you like the idea of some good fat and good protein in your breakfast, and don't feel like cooking. Or, if you want a creamy latte but don't tolerate dairy well... I might have a delicious solution.
May I humbly present..."the Paleo Latté"

aka "Mo-Joe"
aka "Eeeew...  You put WHAT in your coffee!?"

RAW EGGS! If you're concerned about bacterial safety, you can just pour some boiling water over your eggs in a bowl, let sit 10-20 seconds, and then drain and dry them before cracking. 

1: Using an immersion blender in a wide mouth quart jar (or a regular blender), blend 2 raw eggs and 1-4 TBS organic coconut oil or MCT oil(Warning: If you are new to drinking high fat coffee, go easy on the coconut oil at first... Too much can have a laxative effect.)
2: With blender running, slowly pour about 12 oz freshly brewed French press coffee into eggs and continue blending until frothy. 
3: Pour into large mug or glass and enjoy! 
4: (Optional) Top with cocoa nibs for extra flair and a tasty crunch.
5: (DANGEROUS OPTION) add 1/2 tsp of sugar or honey while blending. This will make the beverage a little TOO good! :)

This can also work with fresh hot chai tea instead of coffee for a "Chai Latte"

I originally got the rough idea from Mark Sisson

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I'm 42 and in the best shape of my life... Really.

When I say I'm fit, I am not referring to my appearance, but more so to my functional ability in daily life, and my overall health and energy. According to my wife, I have never looked better. (I consider that a nice bonus!) See below for a cheesy snapshot she took of me while I was doing yard work:

I "work out" for about 10-20 minutes... once per week.

If you're saying "I don't have time to work out", I must humbly disagree.

I will admit, exercise plays a somewhat small part in the overall "fitness equation" of my current personal self-care plan. I really think nutrition makes up about 80% of what we call "Health and Fitness" for most people, but for now let's address exercise.

First of all, let me say... I don't like "exercise" very much. Plenty of people do. I have lots of friends who love to go to the gym. Many folks I know and respect are big time fans of crossfit.  I do plan someday to write a post: "Why I love crossfit. (Even though I don't do it.)"

I really LOVE movement.

Ah, yes... Sheer, playful, joyful movement! For me, this has at times been numerous martial arts, (especially BJJ), cycling, hiking, dancing, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, running, yoga, swimming, yard work,  etc.

But, truthfully,  I don't really enjoy exercise just for the sake of exercise...

If you want the accountability, safety, support, and community that comes along with it, you might hire a trainer, take a spin class, consider crossfit, powerlifting, pilates, yoga, or any martial art or dance form that appeals to you.  I think there are some great active communities to be found out there.  Here in Asheville, we have a truly great BJJ/MMA/Judo facility that I hope someday to have the time to go play in! My wife teaches at an amazingly beautiful yoga studio, and we have quite possibly the best pilates instruction anywhere... Oh, and may I add... as of August 2014: I am now available for personal wellness coaching though Synchronicity Wellness !) Yipeee!!!!

I'll go into my mental separation and joining of work, play and exercise later, as this whole subject is very dear to my healthy and happy heart.

That being said, I do see the medical benefit of exercise. Therefore, in my busy life, I follow a "Play as much as possible, exercise as little as necessary" plan. There are thousands of books and blogs out there on the various theories of exercise. So far, my favorite book on the physiology and biochemistry exercise is Body By Science by Doug McGuff, MD (review to come later, eventually).

If you'd like to save yourself countless hours on a treadmill, by watching one talk… HERE is a great talk by Dr. McGuff explaining the cellular biochemistry of exercise.

If you are self-motivated, Drew Baye's Project KRATOS offers a great way to get effective training done with bodyweight exercise, and very little equipment (or none).

Also, there is a great no-gym option that will fit in your pocket! If you have an iPhone or iPad, this $3 app is money well spent for some no-gym workouts. Android users can get theirs here.

Ok, now go outside and PLAY!
                                                                       -love, Mo the human

To dance with those who are not yet born...

I hope, someday, to be very old.
I hope to live that long, but not at the expense of living.
Through scraped knees, and broken bones,
Stubbed toes, and broken hearts, I plan to earn my way...
To graceful wisdom.

I hope to dance with those who are not yet born.
To sing with them their songs.
To see through their eyes.
To taste, once again, the reckless joy of a youthful body,
Like the one I have today.

I wrote this short poem over 7 years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first kid.
I'm happy to say, thanks largely to a few key changes,  I feel even more youthful and alive today than I did then!

OK, Now go outside and play!

                                                                Much love, Mo the human

Monday, September 16, 2013

Books that blew my mind #1: "Born to Run"

Let me first say, I loved this book! It's not perfect, but I loved it anyway.

This one book by Chris McDougall has probably done more to encourage running than anyone thought possible. (For better or worse, I can not say... as the myth that running causes fat loss, longevity, and "fitness" still persists.)
McDougall weaves a fascinating, wild adventure tale of his treks and adventures in the Copper Canyons area of Mexico. He seeks out a lost tribe of indigenous super-runners, and recruits an eclectic mix of US based ultra-runners to join him on his adventures.
 More importantly to me, he makes a compelling case that the human body is the most elegantly designed and efficient long distance runner on earth. Rather than viewing running as a destructive activity for our joints, I now view it as a valuable basic human skill. Rather than looking at our hip, knee, and feet as faulty, (and in need of padding, support, and "motion control") I once again view the entire human body as a true marvel. That being said, I consider this book to be quite dangerous for a few key reasons:

  • Runners love this book, and recommend it to almost everyone who likes to read. 
  • Many non-runners read this book, love it too, and become runners.
  • It can give the impression that running long distances frequently is a healthy thing for the body, and an effective means to long term health and fitness. (I do not agree with this point, but more on that later...)
  • Key danger: While it stirs the passion and desire to run wild, happy, and free... It offers no instruction on HOW to re-learn the proper technique to run injury free!
Fortunately, there are other books that solved these issues for me.