Now that Valentine’s Day has passed (and I’ve thrown away my girls’ stash of classroom candy exchanges, minus the few lollipops they enjoyed) we are coming upon St. Patrick’s Day and right around the corner is…EASTER.
As one might assume, Easter is not an edible celebration in our house. My husband and I have always treated this holiday as a welcoming of Spring. I always say our backyard is the reason we bought our house, where a previous owner erected an above ground pool, we have a great big circle of sand/dirt, which makes for hours of dirty play and fire pits. Two things we enjoy together as a family. Keeping that in mind, on Easter morning, our daughters awaken to a reload of shiny new outdoor toys including buckets, shovels, pinwheels, seeds, nets and we’ll probably include bike helmets this year since their big heads keep getting bigger.
The first year we celebrated, my husband and I were sitting around our sand pit while the girls took naps. We discussed the impending holiday and decided to take turns running down to the local Dollar Store, spend $6 each, pick out 3 things for each kid, than surprise each other with the items once we were done shopping. It was fun for us, and them, and has become a tradition for all of us!
Holiday doesn’t mean sugar rush or wheat feast for me. It means family, celebration, special memories. It means tradition. You have the power to create any type of tradition you choose. Memories will mean more than a chocolate bunny to your children when they become adults. Sure, I look forward to nibbling around the food table at my sister’s house on holidays, but you can guarantee it’s loaded with fruits and veggies and some kind of delicious meat, deviled eggs, olives, and whatever treat we add to the spread. There are usually a few things that spark my non-paleo interest, but with all the yummy(ier) options, it’s become no big deal.
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.
As many of you know, and evident in my Twitter feed over the past 3 days, I’ve been camped out in Austin, Texas this week attending the PaleoFX Ancestral Momentum – Theory to Practice Symposium. (I KNOW!) It’s been an exciting experience to be part of such a strong group of like-minded individuals focused on health and wellness despite the pressures of modern culture. Keeping that in mind, I will be posting several blogs over the next few weeks that pertain to the information that touched me most during this 3 day event.
First up: Food and Fitness in Children
This is a very personal topic for me, and I’m sure every other parent reading, as I have 2 young girls growing up in a very sick world. If you would do anything to protect your children, then diet (noun, not verb) should be your #1 concern. Fight for their health by feeding them well. (Feed yourself the same.)
There was a most exciting panel on Thursday that included Angelo Coppola as moderator, Chris Kresser, Marissa Pelligrino, Stacy Toth, Dave Asprey, Sarah Pope and Michelle Tam. There were a few prepared questions for the panel to answer, followed by a Q & A session with the audience. I hope to link you to the online video of this session soon, as PaleoFX is recording all events.
Now to touch on some items that stood out to me and which I feel an obligation to share and explore with my fellow warrior-parents.
1. Fitness: Get that kid moving early. In fact, their first movements could come within the first 20 minutes of life. Plopped lovingly and naturally upon their mothers belly, they will lick their own afterbirth from the hand, then crawl their way towards the nipple, fueled by natural instinct and the smell of amino acids. AMAZING. Jump ahead a several months, once your child is able to grip, they can hang, hold, and lift items from ground to overhead. Watch how they squat naturally (flat feet, chest up, butt down, you should try it sometime), allow them space to scoot, crawl or shimmy their way towards their most optimal food source: Mom.
Melissa Pelligrino is a trainer at Relentless Fitness in Philadelphia, PA and runs classes for children (and their family) as young as 18 months. She focuses on simple, natural movements and strengths like hanging, rolling, jumping and balance. She also stressed that the WHOLE family must be involved in any wellness program. Your children learn what they’re taught and the great majority comes from their parents. If mom and dad aren’t moving and eating well, why should they?
Speaking of fitness, but unrelated to this specific panel: I had the pleasure of participating in a MovNat workshop on Thursday morning. This is a natural movements fitness program created by Erwan Le Corre and/or every human being and animal on the planet who has come before us, depending on how you look at it. MovNat is based on real, practical movement done in the most efficient manner. It is a comprehensive conditioning program and now I can say that with real experience. Over the course of 2 hours we trained with one of Erwan’s understudies, Brian, and engaged in balance exercises, ground movements, rolling techniques and traversing (when it wasn’t raining, talk about nature!). My calves hurt today and it was a real test of coordination and balance throughout every move, which is not my forte. It was a load of fun!
Back to kids: The following day, I enjoyed Erwan’s lecture and Q & A session. The real, simple and logical information he presented had me thinking about my (almost) 13-year-old nephew. Erwan spoke (in his endearing accent) of mindfulness in movement, action, posture, thought, etc. How the level of mindfulness and thoughtfulness involved in essential and proper movement leads to mindfulness in all aspects of life. My nephew is brilliant, and yet…insufficiently alert. The MovNat concept would be an amazing addition to a child’s life. As Erwan said best, “If you teach a child, you will not have to rebuild an adult.” Powerful and true and primal. He also mentioned creating Physical Education Curriculum as a forthcoming project from MovNat – EXCITING.
Keep in mind, the playground is full of options. Don’t let your children shy away from the monkey bars, boost them up and see how long they can hang or hold themselves above a bar, you’d be surprised! In fact, I traversed the monkey bars for the first time in my life (yes folks, my life) on thursday right before I pulled myself up and over a pull-up bar (despite being unable to do an unassisted pull-up). Climbing all over, running, jumping and screeching up a storm is natural and positive. If you’re child is not given the opportunity to be active, their bodies are not in their natural state, already upsetting their internal system. Let’s not forget the delicious amount of natural (and free) Vitamin D they will be exposed to while playing outdoors. Encourage exploration, if you’re worried about them soiling their knickers, you’re doing it wrong.
2. Food: Okay, let’s dive in! This was very exciting for me. My husband and I, whether out of sheer laziness or personal preference, never ‘fed’ our infants solids. I felt an infant should ‘eat’ solids when they could eat solids. And by that I mean, when they were able to pick up real food and put it in their mouth. My pediatrician never pushed me towards anything, although he did suggest rice cereal as a first food around 6 months. I politely declined after which he said, “Good choice.” Speaking of rice cereal, let’s go there.
Sarah Pope turned my head so fast with the following statement, which I will paraphrase, that I immediately posted this information on my Facebook page, where I infrequently share things I feel everyone should hear at least once. As the panel discussed feeding infants, only after they could sit upright, displaying proper core muscle development which aids in proper digestion (MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE!), they touched on why rice cereal is a bad idea for your infant.
An aside: As I was typing that very paragraph, a friend commented on my Facebook post with a good point (thanks Josh!) “I’m pretty sure there are worse things to feed a baby than rice. Let’s set the hyperbole aside for a minute.” Of course! I would never feed an infant chips or soda, or a million other things. Especially as their 1st experience with food. I’m coming from the point of view that rice cereal is the most recommended first food by pediatricians. Therefore, my post stating it is the worst food to feed your infant is referring to this popular suggestion and to the average intelligent and informed way of feeding your infants in general (meaning: NOT JUNK). Make sense?
Back to what Sarah said: Rice cereal is the worst first food you could feed your infant because babies do not have the ability to properly digest carbohydrates until later in life. Therefor, the rice sits in their gut and rots. Eczema, autoimmune, and allergies all stem from their sick guts. Her full blog post on this topic is found here: The Right Way to Feed Babies. I could also argue that despite developing the proper enzymes for carb digestion, humans never really digest grain, evident in the grain fibers found in your stool.
When Sarah, in a very adamant tone, made the correlation between an infant’s inability to properly digest non-green carbohydrates (rice, cereal, bagels, crackers, etc) properly and gut rot, my head almost exploded. This resonates with me so heavily because of the information I’ve read on gut health and how it is directly related to most modern disease, including autoimmune diseases, mental illness, gluten sensitivity, and much more. How many of you have a child, or who has themselves, battled with skin issues, or have been diagnosed with celiac, or possibly deal with one or more of a slew of autoimmune malfunctions? In my mind, I immediately thought: We’re starting their lives out with a sick gut. It only gets sicker from there if you’re feeding/eating a standard diet, high in processed foods and grain, beginning their path towards disease. HUGE.
As Dr. Lane Sebring, of the Sebring Clinic, stated during a solo session on Friday entitled Disease Reversal with the Paleo Diet, “What can Paleo treat? EVERYTHING.” Dr. Jack Kruse also made a good point when I spoke with him privately about my family’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, “Fix the gut and then you can begin to fix everything else. You can’t replace the floor in a burning building and expect it to be safe from the fire. You got to put the fire out first.” Dr. Jack is a wild guy, full of passion, a neurosurgeon and trailblazer in the medical community by focusing on nutrition instead of the scalpel. More to come on both of these men in the very near future.
3. The good news: You can heal the gut. It takes time and is a longterm process, expect real healing after two years (or more) but it will begin to get better as soon as you stop putting processed foods and grain into your children’s (or your own) belly which includes elimination of all the fancy new gluten-free products that look just like the old poor choices. Pro and Prebiotics are a huge asset in the healing process and should be staples in your diet. Prebiotics are consumed through lots of vegetable and fruit options like onions, bananas, honey, garlic, artichokes, among others. Probiotics are found in foods like sauerkraut, yogurt (not all are created equal) and other fermented and cultured products. Choosing full fat options will provide you with a great amount of nutrients the body doesn’t otherwise obtain, as well as keep you full and satiated. It’s also not as processed, I mean, how do they get the fat out of stuff anyway?
4. Sacred Foods: I’ll make this brief as I know this is a lot for most people to take in at one time. The introduction of ancient, sacred foods to an infant or expectant mother has a dramatic effect on their health, proper growth and essential brain development. Fish eggs, liver, bone marrow broth are all rich in minerals and fat-soluble activators which allow all the good stuff to be absorbed by the body. This is different than most common foods which the body does not absorb efficiently. The sacred foods of indigenous people are viewed as the strongest possible foundation for development. A baby’s first foods would ideally include pastured egg yolks and liver.
As the Weston A Price Foundation puts it: “Generations ago, sacred foods were revered, non-optional and non-negotiable additions to the diet. Today, the burden rests on all of us to reestablish these truths in our nutritionally confused culture. Only with our effort will inclusion of sacred foods in the diet become a common practice, passed down to future generations for the health of their own families, communities, and nations.”
Other sacred foods to add to everyone’s diet (because it does provide a greater source of nutrition for grown children and adults as well) include: anchovies, sardines and whitebait, other small fish, cod liver oil, organ meats, raw pastured dairy, pastured animal fat, insects.
Do what you can, get creative in the kitchen and you’ll forget you added it to your tacos, dip, soup, etc.
5. Win/Lose: This is not a black and white issue. If you weren’t able or chose not to breastfeed, like myself (yes, I know, I’m going to hell), had a c-section, fed your infant rice, started before they could sit upright or never ate a sacred food, you haven’t lost the battle. The ship can turn but it’s important that you realize you can’t turn a ship without a captain. Practice what you preach, look at these new ideas as experiments and have fun! Your children will grow tall and strong and happy. Influence is powerful and they look at you, their parent, like a god. Go with it. Give them the most positive influence you possibly can (whether from birth, age 3, 8, 17…) and they will learn to live well. They will be fueled with experience to make good choices. You can then thank yourself.
In Short: Do I think everyone has to eat Paleo or exactly like me? Absolutely NOT. Do I feel GRAIN and processed foods need to be eliminated from the diet for an optimal chance at health? Yes. The beautiful thing about life: we have the ability to CHOOSE. I am but a vehicle of information.
More to come from PaleoFX!