Guest post written by: Mike Ritter
Paleo = Sustainability > Abs
There we were, 1500 or so people packed into a room ready to watch the rockstars of the Paleo movement- Abel James, Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson – give the “State of The Union” of the paleo movement. These people have been through a lot to get to this point. Abel James and his wife sold their cars and house to live in a more ecosystem friendly, solar powered RV. Robb Wolf wrote the Paleo Solution and has been publicly accused of being both; a) a key player in the ADA’s change in opinion of dietary cholesterol and b) a nutcase who is ruining America. Mark Sisson, sitting stage left, is a former endurance athlete who ditched the $250 motion controlled shoes and gatorade gummies for a primal lifestyle. In that process he started the incredibly famous marksdailyapple.com, wrote The Primal Blueprintand, and created a very impressive curriculum for The Primal Blueprint Certification. They answered questions, gave thoughts and insights but the real show wasn’t just the rockstars. You could see that they weren’t necessarily there to discuss carb intake for athletes or debate whether or not resistant starch was a safe bet. Their tone was about community and about movement: movement forward. There were a few hidden gems there like Josh Whiton, and the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. These are amazing people who have created change in their region of the world. Please check them out, they have powerful messages. Dr. Terry Wahls (autoimmune specialist) and Esther Gokhale (spine specialist) were there and delivered great presentations.
The opening remarks from Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson included some key quotes that set the tone and luckily reaffirmed some important elements for me:
“Carbs, fats protein. Full-disclosure guys, I’m getting pretty fuckin bored.” – Robb Wolf on the topic of his career and the fact it’s moving towards sustainable farming methods and government regulatory issues.
“I don’t eat a single bite of food that I don’t absolutely love.” – Mark Sisson
When asked about how to deal with people who make fun of you, the panel all agreed with Mark when he suggested, “You don’t engage in debates on whether paleo, primal, vegetarian, ketogenic or any diet is better than the other. The dividing lines people try to create are so small and thinner than people think. Just do what works for you, for most of us that looks a lot like paleo/primal.”
I feel much like the panel does. Their tone was shying away from militant evangelism towards culture and sustainability. Many times the words “gene expression” and “individuality” were mentioned. I think I might have heard the word “humble” a few times. There was little talk about grains, legumes and dairy. From that point on, I have been enlightened in ways I had hoped and in ways I didn’t expect.
Foremost, I realize that this Paleo movement is morphing into something larger than what it used to be. It’s no longer a book or a person. It’s certainly moving beyond these “rockstars” and onto the shoulders of more people. This is, and has been for a while, a grassroots movement, and if you are willing to jump in and help, there are some important things to think of going forward. These people who have taken it this far, have created this grassroots movement for a few very specific reasons:
- They understand that thinking differently takes time and not everyone will be on board. People will hate the word paleo for reasons you can’t control. Just continue your own lifestyle. If it works, stick with it. If not, try something else until you find your groove.
- Remind yourself there is a bigger picture here than just carbs, fats and protein.
- When making your lifestyle choices, think 7 generations ahead. This includes food sourcing, fitness and how dirty you are willing to get your hands to teach kids and family how the ecosystem works.
- This Paleo thing is working because of decentralization. There is no one single Paleo Diet and there is no Paleo Inc. with a CEO regulating who gets a paleo card. It is just a bunch of N=1 experiments, if it works for you, share your experience.
This is where you and I come into play. If you started the Paleo Diet, Atkins, Zone, or Keto, you probably wanted to get in some skinny jeans and to look kick ass naked. But when you take a step back and look at this whole story, you realize that constantly worrying about abs gets pretty damn boring after a few years. In the end, whether you’re following the everything diet, paleo, vegetarian or whatever, we agree on 99% of the same principles.
We all would love to live more leisurely, enjoy more freedom of choice with less people telling us what we can and can’t eat, where we can garden, etc. We all want to enjoy basic human rights like who we can sell our food to and buy it from. The strong feelings people have against this underground-y movement are the same feelings you may have against conflicting religions or rival sports teams. We tend to dislike militant and alarmist behavior and there are some people like that in every community including this one. Do your best to calm the urge to police your friends unnecessarily.
I had mixed feelings about where our growth, as a movement, is at this current juncture. This is critical to address moving forward. In Austin, we were in the mecca of the Paleo movement with people who have sold their cars and houses to live in solar powered rv’s, live naked and afraid in the jungle, create inner city composts, and 70% or more of the vendors were selling Paleo packaged products. But Michelle (the better half of The Result Cult) asked quite a few of them WHY they were making their products. Many of them supplied market and demographic related answers. Don’t get me wrong, these can be great integration tools, which some people need, but this was by far the majority. We can do better. If I knew nothing about Paleo and walked into that room with an open mind, I wouldn’t have been able to discern us from weight watchers; a centralized business exposing emotionally charged people. Paleo branding is doing 2 things; spreading the word and confusing the shit out of people. If we lose the “WHY” behind the front and center messaging, we lose ground. Capitalism is great and this business expansion is having a positive impact on the movement as of now. But there is potentially a disconnect that will distract the movement in two different directions. It hasn’t yet, but this movement will need a consistent message to grow, from everybody. However, you are contributing to it, think about the WHY first.
The Paleo thing can be viewed a lot like welfare. Some people need it, some people want it, some people will abuse it and some people will hate the idea of it because of the people who abuse it. But in the end, these programs and excellent communities should be used as a program to get you on your feet, self-sustainable so you never need ‘the program’ ever again. Once you hit that point, use your experience to contribute back into the Paleo community to help others open their eyes to the privileges every human should have; freedom of choice, a view of humanity as a whole, experimentation as an art, a deep confounded respect for how tough change can be, and value small change.
Two Huge focal points going forward:
- Building a sustainable and resilient future- Resiliency is a body, company or entities ability to remain unchanged regardless of external influence. Constant medication is an example of a not-so-resilient immune system. Throwing your back out from simply bending down is a not-so-resilient body. The crop loss due to drought in California is an of a not-so-resilient agricultural system. These are all examples of entities that are susceptible to becoming harmed from factors that are out of its control. How can you practice resilience for yourself and your family? Generate ideas about how to use energy in a more efficient way. Do a workout program that makes you feel good instead of achy and horrible. Also, reach out to local farmers and literally get de-insulated from your food source. All of these steps can help. Pick one.
“Most people use ‘planting the seed’ as a metaphor, you literally have to do it.” – Sustainability Panel PaleoFX 2015.
- Think small-This whole movement has been all about big picture thinking and 30,000 foot views but in order to make change we need to value small changes…inside…with just you. Don’t worry about overhauling your property into a solar powered zero-emission household if you aren’t ready. It doesn’t have to be a giant all-or-nothing project. Plant your own tomato plant, add a new food once a month, eliminate one toxic friend, put a compost in your neighborhood or apartment complex and watch how people react. These are all single self-provoked acts that build a better tomorrow. Everybody thinking small will result in big change over time.
Since the conference, my wife and I began a victory garden on our porch. So far, as of day 5, I haven’t killed any plants. #smallvictories #thinksmall #eatdirty