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Archive for April 2013

The unhealthy vegan: When your values let you down

Food <- -> Values

Recently some things I've read and written have prompted me to ponder (yet again) the values behind how we live, including how we nourish ourselves. I suspect most people don't think about that very much, but if you've had a health problem you've wanted to fix (whether it's obesity or illness) or an ethical aversion to eating the animals you love, then you're likely making a value-based choice about what you eat. I'd even argue that the people who eat "badly" are doing so as well, and it may be that the value they're knowingly or subconsciously honoring is that they don't matter enough not to, or eating better won't make a difference, or they're not strong enough to do that very hard thing.

The other day my friend posted this quote on Facebook from Veganism Is The Future with the comment "I'm not there yet, but getting closer". Danger, Will Robinson, danger! I quickly leaped onto my soapbox (box jump!) to say that while I sincerely admire the values behind the ethical decision to become vegan, the reality is that is it not the healthiest choice for our body. That's a simple fact, and it doesn't in any way negate my belief that there are plenty of laudable reasons to choose a plant-based diet. But understand you may pay for your values with your health, and that if health is your driving reason to choose to become vegan you are terribly mistaken.

My first and best advice to everyone who wants to become healthier, regardless of whether or not they eat animals, fish, eggs, or dairy is: For the love of god do not eat processed foods! Start there. What about the type 2 diabetics who were cured of their disease by eating raw vegan? If they'd simply swapped their processed foods for real, fresh ingredients, I contend they'd have gotten there no matter what their diet. That said, a diet which includes animal protein will keep the vast majority of us healthier in the long run and that's a hard fact of life backed by science and our growing knowledge about human evolution.

So it was kind of odd, almost fortuitous, that just moments after my passionate rant to my friend I stumbled across a link to this recent post by a raw vegan author and blogger named Kristen Suzanne: My Vegan Diet Caused Health Problems. Would Primal, Paleo, Or “Real Food” Be Better?

It made me sad.

Luckily Kristen's post has a happy ending: Her family is healthy now and feels better than ever; that's great news. And they're doing it by eating along paleo lines, which if you're the kind of person who takes sides, would seem like a win for "our team".

Except I'm not on a team; I'm part of the stream of life (dare I say The Human League?!). So I feel genuinely sad that someone like Kristen who for ethical reasons turned to eating a vegan, sometimes raw, diet almost 10 years ago, would find she has to reconsider those values in order to stop being sick. I'm not surprised that she feels so much better adding back eggs, meat, and seafood, but as an idealist who genuinely loves all animals and hates that I enjoy eating their flesh, I secretly hope that anyone who makes such difficult, self-sacrificing choices founded in love and peace will be repaid for their faith. To put it bluntly, it sucks that she got screwed.

In a separate post I'll go into the details of my belief - in fact, my conviction - that paleo and vegan lifestyles share more in common than not, even though as "animal eaters" and "animal protectors" these groups would appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. But the conscientious eater should always be an animal protector to some degree (yes, even as we sometimes eat them). Just as I believe that to be a whole, loving, compassionate, happy person we need to care about Mother Earth and not simply wring what we can from her to fulfill our own needs. More on that soon. In the meantime, don't miss Kristen's insightful post on the details of her courageous but painful change of heart.

Have you read Kristen's blog? What do you think?

xo Danielle

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My PaleoFX wrap-up (part 2): Austin, CrossFit & the symposium

Welcome to Chill-town!

Holy Hannah, it's already been a week since I returned from Austin and PaleoFX! If I don't get this update done it ain't gonna happen. So here goes!

This was my first time in Austin in about 20 years and my first trip anywhere alone knowing no one at the other end. Kind of intimidating but also exciting! I love to travel and I'm pretty gregarious. I knew there were a few paleo bloggers, authors and podcasters who I wanted to say more than just hello to so I contacted them in advance and somehow the stars aligned for us to hook up. So that was AMAZING! Really, so much more than I could've ever hoped for.

For my star-struck, slack-jawed, name-dropping celebrity recap, don't miss Yeeeehaaaw! My PaleoFX wrap-up (part 1)!

The road to Mecca

Although I don't really do CrossFit anymore (I'm a powerlifter and feel like at my age their metcons hinder my ability to recover from the heavy weightlifting that I value most), I was really into it about 5-6 years ago. Whatever the CrossFit Games has become, it was THE COOLEST in 2008-2009 when it was much smaller and far less commercial. At the 2009 Games, the 3rd fittest woman was a powerhouse named Carey Kepler. Her brother Jeremy Thiel is also a top CrossFitter and together they own CrossFit Central. It's in Austin. It is MECCA. So months before my trip I contacted Carey so I could be trained and inspired by this incredible woman at this legendary box. And so I was!

Which of these 2 women on the right has a stick of dynamite up her ass? Hint: It's a trick question...!

Two days before the start of the PaleoFX symposium I met Carey at her gym on Burnet road. As I parked I could hear yelling and grunting coming from Central's famous garage doors. Oh my god!! I was so nervous. I'm no great athlete by any means but I'm in pretty good shape, strong willed, and especially passionate. For me what always shone about Carey was her crazy enthusiasm. She's one of those athletes who just LAUGHS as she's training like she's having a ball! And when I get in my zone I'm like that too. I just felt like to go to Austin without spending time with Carey would be to miss an incredible opportunity.

Training with Carey Kepler was everything I could've hoped for and more! It was hard work but we had a blast and I spent the hour sweating, swearing, laughing, hugging, panting, and high-fiving! By the end of our session I could do things I hadn't been able to before, like 24" box jumps and perfect inverted handstand holds. Afterwards I told Carey I needed to settle up, as I'd brought cash to pay for her time. Instead she thanked me for allowing her to train me and said the session was on the house! I was floored!!! Again and again life seems intent on proving to me how frikkin' lucky I am. Yet at the same time I'm starting to think that perhaps there's something about ME and what I put out that attracts these incredible situations and people to my life. Whatever the case, I am SO grateful.

Tacodeli yumminess and lovely Houndstooth Coffee next door

My every day in Austin began with a 50 block drive for coffee. Houndstooth Coffee on North Lamar at 43rd is the best cup I found in the city and a space I just loved, with charming staff like adorable Nate and top quality, custom-brewed beans. Next door I discovered fresh, delicious tacos and salad at Tacodeli and ate there 3 times! There's something so comforting about creating a home base in a strange city. Houndstooth was that for me, and so was 24Diner, which must have Austin's BEST bacon and eggs. It's also on North Lamar, at 6th Street near a gigantic Whole Foods supermarket which carries Nom Nom Paleo-approved, hard-to-find Red Boat Fish Sauce!

Let the symposium begin!

I'm just a health-seeking "layperson" and while I love to listen to smarties like Chris Kresser and Mat Lalonde talk about science, I'd be a liar if I said that I get it all. Or most of it. So on THURSDAY I really enjoyed the accessible but too-brief presentation by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo about putting ourselves first. Sarah's impressive transformation is sometimes forgotten but she was a young mom who'd lost her mojo and fortuitously walked into NorCal Strength & Conditioning, under the wing of its owner, soon-to-be paleo guru Robb Wolf. During her talk Sarah was relaxed, charming and funny and reminded us that when our motivation is to feel better rather than simply to look better, we'll end up healthier, more energetic, and happier - "healthy by choice, hot by accident". Later that day I heard Robb Wolf discuss an exciting risk assessment project he's involved in with the city of Reno where he now lives.

Amy Kubal, Stefani Ruper, Beverly Meyer, Diane Sanfilippo, Sarah Fragoso and Nora Gedgaudas

FRIDAY was chockablock with discussion panels and cooking demos, which made time management crucial. Perhaps my favorite of the symposium was Ancestral Wellness for Women's Health, featuring an incredible line-up of Nora Gedgaudas, Beverly Meyer, Stefani Ruper, Sarah Fragoso, Diane Sanfilippo, moderated by Amy Kubal. Often in paleo (and life) the "default" for anything is male and despite being 51% of the population women are an afterthought. These ladies discussed the challenges faced by women turning to paleo and offered heartfelt advice on how to achieve a healthier body and mind.

Sean Croxton, Dr. Cate Shanahan, Chris Kresser, Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Lauren Noel, and Nora Gedgaudas

Another fantastic panel was Hormones -­ You're a Walking Chemistry Set featuring Nora Gedgaudas, Chris Kresser, Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Cate Shanahan, Dr. Lauren Noel, moderated by Sean Croxton. The more I know, the more I see I have completely underestimated the profound, complex role hormones play in our health and well-being. This discussion was a real eye-opener for me and I now realize I'll feel better than ever when I give my hormones the attention they deserve. Got to get on that! By the way, to that end, don't miss these illuminating Balanced Bites podcasts with guest Dr. Sara Gottfried!

Me with my faves, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo and Stefani Ruper of Paleo For Women

Later on Friday I watched a terrific cooking demo featuring the fan-frikking-tastic Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo, who made her paleo sriracha sauce assisted by Diana Rodgers. Other cooks that day included Diana, Practical Paleo author Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites, and paleo treats-meisters Juli Bauer of PaleOMG with Civilized Caveman George Bryant.

Cooking hotties Sarah Fragoso and Melissa Joulwan work their magic!

SATURDAY was the final day and another jackpot of presentations, discussion panels and cooking demos. I headed straight to the expo floor to see my new buddy Melissa Joulwan of The Clothes Make The Girl whip up Cauliflower Rice Pilaf from her unmissable cookbook Well Fed. As usual Mel was hilarious and the dish smelled exotic and delicious! Later that day I also saw Sarah Fragoso whip up meatballs with the help of her hunky husband John, from her upcoming cookbook Paleo Around The World: Italian Cuisine. It was such a privilege to see these funny, charismatic women in action! Wow. I was secretly pinching myself.

Dr. Lane Sebring, Andrew Badenoch, Hamilton Stapell, Dan Pardi, and Robb Wolf

Another outstanding discussion panel was around the Evolution of Ancestral Wellness, featuring Robb Wolf, Dr. Lane Sebring, Hamilton Stapell, Andrew Badenoch, and Dan Pardi, moderated by Roger Dickerman.

Tony Federico, Steve Cooksey, Jimmy Moore, George Bryant, Abel Bascom, and Stacy Toth

My PaleoFX experience capped off with a panel that struck close to home: Journey of Transformation with Steve Cooksey, Jimmy Moore, Abel Bascom, Stacy Toth, and George Bryant, moderated by Tony Federico. This gathering of paleo authors, bloggers and podcasters all famously used to be heavier and discussed the challenges of maintaining a healthy weight and relationship with food over a lifetime. Stacy of The Paleo Parents made an excellent point, I thought, about how orthorexia (an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating) runs rampant in the paleo community yet is never addressed and how the pleasure of eating is an intrinsic part of life and happiness. Yes! Finding balance (particularly for those who lost it) is the key but it's also the greatest challenge. I'm happy to say that the paleo people I hung with in Austin clearly shared Stacy's belief about the value of food as a treasured source of community and joy.

South Congress Street... And The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. YUM!
Austin's beautiful trees

Overall my first PaleoFX and community experience was incredible.

I had high hopes but PaleoFX, Austin, and the people I met exceeded them all. What a thrill and privilege it was to rub shoulders with and learn from the paleo world's best! From the moment I met Melissa, my feet never touched the ground. (Not even at yoga!)

As for Austin, it's a funky, pretty, laid-back city teeming with terrific restaurants, oddball shops, adorable neighbourhoods, and lots to do and see. Austin feels right - a little worn but so comfy - like a favorite pair of jeans. I will definitely return next year! But I will not eat as much ice cream. ;-)

Would you like to attend a paleo event?

xo Danielle

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On being 83... and 48

Yesterday my dad turned 83 years old.

He has outlived his parents, siblings and many of his friends. He is a man who is still full of enthusiasm, vitality, plans, and dreams. But he's never seen the link between health and food beyond its connection to obesity. And since neither of my parents are big (though both are quite ill in their own way), and because they're older, he doesn't see the point of modifying the way he eats in the hope of achieving greater health. If he's slim, where's the connection? And if he's 83, why bother? This is my dad's thinking.

My mom is 80 years old and has advanced Alzheimer's. She's had type 2 diabetes for many years and this disease has taken down many members of my family including my mom's mom in her fifties. At 35 I was diabetic myself and it's a theme that I'll return to often because being so sick so young based on lifestyle choices was just, frankly, the most ridiculous, fucked-up thing ever. HOW does that happen?! How do we let it?

My parents are from a time when the connection between processed foods and bad health was not as clear as it is today. I'll be 48 on Friday so I did most of my growing up in the 1970s. For breakfast then it wasn't unusual for me to have Cocoa Puffs, Pop Tarts or Count Chocula and to this day I dream of a parallel universe in which I could have a cupboard filled with boxes of cereal that I could consume with no ill effects. Fruit Loops? Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs? I'm so there! Not a Weetabix in sight. Not surprisingly, my whole family developed a brutal sweet tooth and to some degree my brother, sister and I each have a troubled relationship with food.

So at my dad's yesterday, when my mom's caregiver asked me about my trip to Austin for PaleoFX, I found myself inevitably talking to her excitedly about health and in doing so reconnecting - as I do many times a day - with the values that give my life purpose and direction. Principles like deciding what "health" means to me. Or the importance of making the right choices consistently in order to live a life that's not simply long and sustained by drugs but where I will grow old being energetic, strong, and able-bodied. It's possible and it starts now. At 20, 30, 40. 48. Even at 80 and 83. To quote Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, it starts with food.

But as I was talking to this lady I realized that, as much as I can write her a list of what to eat and avoid (and did), ultimately our success boils down to our ability to conquer the massive emotional piece behind eating right and becoming well. If we imagine our body as a car and food as the fuel, then our thoughts, emotions and motivations are the engine. They're really that important!

This week on YouTube, Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness posted an interview with Jason Seib, author of The Paleo Coach, and I noticed that one commenter quipped "I didn't know eating required a coach." Logically, his remark does make sense - really, a coach? But surely anybody with any attachment to food will understand how the list of what to eat and what not to eat is not enough. CLEARLY it's not enough. So the problem really isn't not knowing what to eat. It's that ultimately we want to eat things that are yummy, that make us feel good in our hearts, that may even soothe us, and for the most part many people would sooner take a drug or supplement than eliminate that food. I get it; I have days like that too.

The bottom line is that no matter how passionately we might feel about eating properly and living with purpose, if we have an emotional attachment to food as so many of us do it will be a daily challenge and at times a struggle to make the choices we know are right. The truth is that, despite our best intentions, sometimes it can be really hard.

Let's remember that what we're doing here goes beyond getting our body healthy and attractive, avoiding or reversing disease, or even aging well; these are outcomes. But it is in the process that we must learn to not medicate our painful feelings, insecurities, sadness and fear with foods that hurt us and will shorten or ruin our lives. I love my parents so much but their health and nutrition provide a valuable reminder that I can and must make better choices every day to create the present and future I deserve.

Do you struggle with emotional eating too? How does your family help or hinder you?

xo Danielle

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Yeeeehaaaw! My PaleoFX wrap-up (part 1)

What a week!

I'm back home after eight fantastic, exhausting days in Austin! I may be the only person returning from a nutrition conference less lean than when I left. Can we not just pretend that Amy's (amazing!) Ice Cream is paleo? Deal? Super!

So from March 28th to 31st I attended the 2nd annual PaleoFX health and fitness symposium, where many of the best and brightest addressed issues that should matter to all of us. Achieving vibrant health, reversing disease, understanding hormones, eating for athletic performance, weight maintenance, environmental sustainability, and reforming health care were among the issues discussed by dozens of experts like Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Terry Wahls, Paul Jaminet, and Nora Gedgaudas.

Let me just admit, and I know I may lose what little credibility I have, that more than a couple of the speakers were "sponge-worthy". Sitting beside a young woman as a panel gathered onstage, I said "is it just me or is Robb Wolf a hunk?" to which she excitedly replied "I can't take my eyes off him!" as she continued to stare ahead, transfixed. And I get it: There's something about a lean, tanned, broad-shouldered, super smart, modest yet confident guy with light in his eyes and passion in his heart that inspires... Well sure, admiration. But more... let's call them "salacious thoughts".

Robb Wolf: Clearly sponge-worthy

The symposium launched on Thursday at noon. This year it was held in the beautiful, enormous Palmer Center on the south side of Lady Bird Lake overlooking downtown Austin. (Full disclosure: Every time I hear "Lady Bird" I kind of giggle!) The first speaker was Nora Gedgaudas, the dynamic, brilliant author of Primal Diet, Primal Mind. I'm sure her talk was fascinating but poor me, I was doing kundalini yoga with my *new friend* Melissa Joulwan, the faboo blogger and author of Well Fed, while panting like a dog!!! (Truly, the teacher said to do it. But I was so happy and excited, it came easily!)

That I've had the opportunity to befriend Mel and even hang a little with several other of my role models in this community - wonderful, gifted people like Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo, Stefani Ruper of Paleo For Women, Sarah Fragoso and husband John of Everyday Paleo and EPLifefit, and Sarah's partner Jason Seib, author of The Paleo Coach - is a testament to how unique this gathering is.

Me with the awesomest cooks in paleo or anywhere

"Holy shit, there's Chris Kresser!" "Oh man, that looks like Matt and Stacy of The Paleo Parents!" On Day One my head was spinning. I'm a lot of things but aloof isn't one of them so with each sighting and handshake I could feel my face growing more flushed. Alas, I peaked at purple when, while talking to the Ryan Seacrest of paleo podcasting Jimmy Moore, I suddenly found myself choking on a piece of jerky! I'll let you imagine Jimmy's expression as I gasped wordlessly for air, both fearing death and wishing for it. But it's his pithy observation afterward that's truly priceless: "Eating and talking... That's not smart!" I AM AWARE! We spent the next two days pretending to not see each other. (Eventually I broke the ice in line for cocktails at the banquet at Springdale Farms on Saturday night.)

With few exceptions - most notably Mark Sisson and Melissa and Dallas Hartwig - the cream of the paleosphere could be found roaming the halls of Palmer Center. There was Amy Kubal (she's pocket-sized!), best-selling author Diane Sanfilippo from Balanced Bites, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason of The Food Lovers Kitchen, Julie and Charles Mayfield of Paleo Comfort Foods, CrossFit Games winner and coach James "OPT" Fitzgerald, two-time Olympic skier and fitness coach Eva Twardokens, podcasters Sean Croxton and Abel James, PaleOMG's Juli Bauer with George Bryant of Civilized Caveman, naturopathic doctor and podcaster Dr. Lauren Noel... There was no end to the stream of notable paleo peeps.

Me with Sarah Fragoso and my pretend hubby Jason Seib

For my first time ever this placed me in proximity to, quite frankly, many of my heroes: These passionate writers, scientists, coaches, and cooks whose efforts enrich my daily life. After years of following their work, there in Austin I was in the delightfully surreal position to shake their hands and say thanks. So at PaleoFX I was about as happy as a pig in shit and felt incredibly, tearfully grateful for the opportunity my life had presented me to be there and to care.

Because the truth is, if their work is improving my life it's because I give a crap about how I live. So I was proud of myself too: I had travelled all the way from Montreal to Austin to listen to people talk about health on my own time and dime. Who does that? In these moments it's important to remember that roads often lead us to places and down other paths we cannot imagine. So my seeming misstep as an obese, secretly unhappy young adult paved the way for me to flourish into the healthy, vibrant woman I am today. I now realize that no other path could have guided me to this life I now live and love.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my PaleoFX wrap-up, coming soon!

xo Danielle

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Hi! I'm Danielle

I'm Danielle Bartholomew and this is my blog!

Join me on this adventure as I muse about life, love, food, training, and travel, and question notions about age, gender, strength, and more. Welcome!

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