If you were in attendance at PaleoFX, you may quote the mythical Mark Sisson with “Life is an experiment” for me, however, it was a resounding message heard first and often from my father, a behavioral psychologist, one G. David Smith. Both men are fairly laid back, read a lot and take an active approach towards life. Sisson, however (sorry dad), brought it home for me in a new way and solidified the ideals my father has instilled in me and that I often share with others.
Before I get into that I must comment on my use of the term ‘mythical’ in reference to Sisson. To witness him with my own eyes and hear him speak on lifestyle choice and his approach is, I said it, legendary. As I awaited Jack Kruse to take the podium and present his keynote on the eve of PaleoFX, I turned my head to the left and spotted what I thought was surely a hologram walking among us. It was bronzed, blond and wearing a signature blue shirt. I literally just stared at it until it turned toward me. I quickly looked down, turned around and tried to catch my breath as I realized ‘it’ was Mark Sisson! I wasn’t even a ‘huge’ fan (really big fan? yes) coming into the conference, so I was doubly shocked by my inability to approach or communicate with Sisson directly. I never did speak with him, although I’m certain he would have been welcoming and helpful as he interacted in a genuine and casual manner with guests. I just didn’t have a reason other than the fact that I’m still not sure he’s real. His individual lecture and Q/A the following day sealed the deal on the fact that he is super human, at least in my mind, I’m sure he and his family may disagree but I’m going to go with it. He displayed everything I strive towards; health, strength, and most importantly for me, calm.
Mark Sisson’s individual talk centered on, you guessed it, lifestyle CHOICE. Each of us chooses what path(s) we’d like to explore or take in life and he even went as far as to connect the fact that we sometimes choose disease. We choose happiness, opportunity, friendship. Sometimes, we choose to let our health slide a bit (or a lot) for the sake of our family or careers, personal goals. In the end, it is our choice and we must own that in order to change or celebrate where we are in life. This is something I often stress in my blogs, it is your CHOICE to focus on healthy eating, complete and whole living. Mark Sisson brought it together for me with the mere fact that he is a living, breathing example of choice. His demeanor was relaxed and welcoming. He was not just calm, he was so chilled out (or seemingly so, good job Mark!) that I felt calm too. With the excitement of the previous panel and new ideas and information still running through my brain, I was immediately soothed by his presence. Deep.
On Sisson’s blog, he answers what his typical day-to-day looks like and it’s a simple one: a mix between business, family and activity. He focuses his activity on PLAY, mentioning in his lecture, if he’s not having fun it’s not something he’s interested in doing. Good call, Mark. Remember, stress plays an integral role in health. No matter how fit you look on the outside, it could be killing you on the inside. Stress, lack of sleep and over training were spoken of often during PaleoFX as a way to burn through your stem cells at a more rapid speed, leading to a shortened lifespan. Which brings us back to CHOICE. You choose to be a Wall Street Millionaire and work your ass off 20 hours a day. That could bring you great personal satisfaction in life. Others choose to over train and hold onto extremely low body fat, compete in fitness and strength or sports arenas and fulfill lifelong dreams. With choice comes consequence, positive and negative. This is all okay. It’s a matter of perspective and personal interest.
Enter dietary choice. When folks visit the Paleo Diet for the first or fifth time, they are sometimes overwhelmed and to that I always say “you’re doing it wrong.” Paleo is not just about food choice but a simpler way of living. If protein and plants is too complicated for one to approach, then choose to do it differently. Plan a pasta night, or include white rice and sweet pots in moderation. Anything is better than a grain focused, sugar heavy diet, in my opinion. I usually urge folks to work their way towards drinking the beloved cup of coffee black, no sugar, no dairy. The fantastic thing is: YOU CAN CHOOSE however you’d like to drink that delicious, warm, mug full of joe. Mark Sisson made a statement that may have floored many in attendance, “I enjoy heavy cream and a little sugar in my coffee.” GASP. Sugar?! He CHOSE sugar?
Now, before everyone runs out and buys a bag of sugar for their morning coffee (UNrefined if you must), remember my first sentence “Life is an experiment.” I usually suggest approaching Paleo by getting back to basics: Protein and plants, water. This allows your body to detox and purge the anti-nutrient dense foods and chemicals in our systems. It allows our taste buds to be re-born and come to taste food again, instead of living in an inflamed state, requiring more and more additives, sugar and salt in your food for ‘taste’. THEN, after several weeks begin your experiment(s) and HAVE FUN with it. Be thoughtful (remember my MovNat experience mentioned in the previous blog?) in your actions and you’ll notice how your body reacts after you eat certain foods. Want cream in your coffee? Choose less processed options: pastured whole milk, heavy cream. Afterwards, be mindful of your body and see if there is a reaction to the dairy. Many of us are allergic and don’t know it. Many of us choose diary anyway because the side effects aren’t that bad and ice cream brings back childhood memories and comforts us. After eating the sun-dried tomato chicken salad provided by Caveman Cuisine on the 2nd day of PaleoFX, although delicious, I was reminded why I stay away from tomatoes. Every piece of food we choose affects our body and how it functions.
PaleoFX was packed full of individuals on a quest for health and fitness, whether because of disease control & prevention or for one’s ego, the reason was not up for debate. There were folks of all shapes and sizes, from many different cultures and religions but all with a similar interest in the food and movement we choose. Sisson emphasized that we are all together to share and learn from one another. We are each vehicles of information and, as I hope I remain true to, we are not here to push ideals on others. Paleo is MY choice, it is not my husband’s. I struggle with allowing my children to eat items full of grain and sugar but I choose compromise and family over control. They are, after all, my husband’s children too.
In the end, Choice is the most powerful gift we, as humans, have been given. Food choice, for example, will allow you the pleasures of taste, freedom from disease, a commonality among friends and/or all of the above. It is as simple as a “Thank you” or “No, thank you”. You must certainly use your manners (my mama didn’t raise me otherwise) but also your willpower. Some folks will find it more pleasurable to indulge in the occasional sugary snack then go off their medication for Type II Diabetes, and that’s okay. It’s their CHOICE. See, powerful. Others will find it perfectly acceptable to over train to meet an elite body type despite the potential of shortening their lifespan. CHOICE. After 16 months Paleo, I am just now choosing not to take a nibble of the box-brownies my girls made with their daddy. I have chosen a piece or a bite in the past to be met with stomach pains and a headache. That being said, please don’t try to ‘catch’ me choosing poorly, as people often do. It’s MY choice, after all.
Now that my choices have brought me from 162lbs to 122lbs, I am focusing my choices on reversing possible hormone imbalances, sleep and, of course, PLAY. Thank you for the further inspiration, Mark. My experiment continues with Day 4 of 10 hours of night sleep in a row. My skin is clear and moist, my body feels strong, my head clear.