Paleo f(x) 2017 #pfx17 Recap – 4 Recommendations for Radically Improving Health

Geri and I made the trip to one of our favorite towns, Austin, TX, for Paleo f(x) 2017. It was worth every penny.  And as I began to put this post together, a now-familiar problem came to the fore, that being an inability to separate “Paleo,” as it relates to our diet, and more, from our lives in general, and from Primal Woods in particular. By the way, I am using the word “diet” as defined, “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” That is to say, not as some temporary aberration, defined as, “a departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome.” In other words, our diet is not a weight loss plan, it is part of our lifestyle. So, I will be sharing our experience at #pfx17 in the larger context of what we are up to at Primal Woods, and in our lives.

Our Purpose, and Paleo f(x), a perfect fit

I’m going to start at what may seem like it should be a footnote, except in the context of “Our Purpose,” the attendees. Had you walked through the Palmer Events Center in Austin at Paleo f(x) 2017, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that as a community, these folks are not on to something that delivers. A healthier and happier cohort would be difficult to find. I will call out three people as exemplars of what’s good in the world: Karen at Healthy Green Athlete. You can also find her @healthygreenathlete on Facebook and Instagram. Marcelle at Marcelle Phene. Also on Facebook, @MarcellePhene, and on Instagram @marcelle.phene. And Antonio Caligiuri, @achealthcoach on Instagram, and @ACnutritionandwellness on Facebook. Who they are being would be more than enough, what they are doing is nothing short of inspirational. We are truly blessed to have met these three outstanding human beings, and we hope to develop close relationships in the future.

And then there were the vendors. We spent no small amount of time in and around the Bulletproof booths, the title sponsor of #pfx17, and a now-large business in the Paleo and biohacking space. But, let’s spend some time with a couple of start-ups, again as exemplars: Brian Richards, Founder of SaunaSpace. You can also find him @saunaspace on Facebook and Instagram. Now employing 14 in Missouri, and producing a phenomenal product; we put our money where our mouths are on this one. Leslie and Lyndsay at Cultural Revivalists. Also find them @culturalrevivalists on Facebook and Instagram. Love what these two are doing to bring fermentation into the popular culture. Sho’ nuf, we brought home product; cannot wait to make kombucha! Trina Felber, CEO at Primal Life Organics, and a crusader against toxins that are absorbed through the skin. (Interfaces with your environment, and therefore exposed to evironmental assaults; the gut, the lungs, and the skin. I learned the latter firsthand using aluminum oxide based antiperspirants.) Trina gave Geri the gift of her time and knowledge, and not a few samples of her product. Find Trina and her company also on Facebook @PrimalLifeOrganics. And finally, while perhaps not a small business, I really don’t know; Elizabeth Rich and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Defending farmers against governments, unfortunately a much needed service. We are members. You can also find FTCLDF @farmtoconsumer on Instagram and @farmtoconsumerlegaldefensefund on Facebook. I mention too few, but hopefully you get the message; these folks are walking the talk, they are creating good in the world.

And now, on to the show!

Paleo f(x) 2017 was a huge event, 3 full days, close to a hundred speakers, at least a hundred vendors, a packed schedule, and thousands of attendees (“We don’t have the final count yet, but we’re estimating about 5,800-6,000 this year!” – Benjamin, Paleo f(x)) As to the schedule, there were 6 “sessions,” or time blocks, on Friday and Saturday, and 4 on Sunday. In each time block there were presentations or panel Q&A’s in up to 10 different locations throughout the Palmer Events Center, and there were “sub-sessions” I’ll call them, to some sessions! We invested considerable time before departure, and daily during the event, prioritizing our time. At the top of our list, in alphabetical order, were those due thanks, those who have influenced us, or helped us through products and/or services offered; Dave Asprey, Dr. Josh Axe, Sarah Ballantyne, Katy Bowman, Nora Gedgaudas, Abel James (not a presenter this year, but was “in the house” Saturday evening,) Chris Kresser, Dr. David Perlmutter, Elizabeth Rich (Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund), Mark Sisson, and Robb Wolf. For the record, others of our influencer/helper group, though not at Paleo f(x) this year; Clarence Bass, Ty Bollinger, Dallas Hartwig, Melissa Hartwig, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Terry Wahls, and Izabella Wentz, PharmD. Then, we added some influencers to our list at #pfx17; Ryan Frisinger, Ben Greenfield, Arthur De Vany, Charles Mayfield, and Dr. Kirk Parsley.

Whew! That’s a long list, and that’s a good thing. Just so you know, there is a large measure of non-“group think” within this group, which is also refreshing. Fortunately it’s still the wild wild west within the Paleo community so far as information flows are concerned. As soon as something akin to an American Medical Association (AMA) forms, you can bet that the “official line,” the dogma, will not be far behind.

Okay, so what was taken away? I will backup a bit to intermediately pre-conference, and we will go from there. Shortly before the conference, I re-read Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Here is the updated version: The New Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health and Boundless Energy. By the way, product links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links, which cost the shopper nothing, and benefit us slightly; they open in a new tab.

The Primal Blueprint’s 10 Laws – Mark Sisson; this graphic is my creation; please don’t fault Mark for any errors made in the transcription.

I first read this book upon its release, or closely following its release, it was 2009 or 2010 I suppose. Then, I wandered off into the wilderness that was to me the “healthy diet and lifestyle” space, and have just come full circle. My two cents are that Mark’s “10 Laws” are about as close as I’ll get to spot-on, while at a sufficient level of detail to organize the conversation, at least in my own mind. And almost, comprehensive. I will add two to the list. The first missing piece I will add is certainly no less important than any of the aforementioned, I’ll draw from Robb Wolf, and it is the “Community” pillar of his “Four Pillars of Health.”

Four Pillars of Health from Wired to Eat, by Robb Wolf. Again, my graphic, please don’t blame Robb for any errors.

Robb’s first book was The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, which came out in 2010; I bought and read it in Nov of 2011. His new book, including a detailed discussion of the four pillars, is Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You, we picked up this book at #pfx17, and it contains great advice, which we will get to a bit later.

My favorite book, so far, on community, is Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger, published in May 2016. This book is a quick read, and I cannot recommend it too highly.

And the final missing piece of the puzzle that I will add, is “Environment.” Under that heading I put all of those assaults or protective elements impacting us that are not “food and drink,” per se. Assaults could include air pollution, chronic stress, toxic personal care products, off-gassing from furniture, plastics, carpet, mattresses, and the like (think “that new car smell”); noise, electronic and auditory to name just two, artificial “junk” light, and so on. The list is practically endless I suppose. Isolation? How about antibiotics and vaccines; they are both assaults and protective at the same time, by design, are they not? Our conventional “healthcare” system in general; where does that fall? But enough of that for now.

As I look at it then, it’s the 10 Laws plus 2, Community and Environment, and on that structure can be hung pretty much everything we are doing, being, or aspiring to do and be, in the health space. Again, this is simply how I organize a reflection on what we are up to. That does not make it right, or wrong. It’s your understanding that is important; I have merely offered up my attempt to organize and communicate, for myself and to myself, and hopefully to your benefit.

Finally then, what was taken away from #pfx17?

1. Nutrition needs are individual. What works for me will not necessarily work for Geri, or for you. What is important is that we each find what works for us as individuals. Or as Chris Kresser puts it, Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life. This is also addressed in Robb Wolf’s book, Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You. In Wired to Eat, Robb advocates a “30 Day Reset,” Phase One, followed by “The 7-Day Carb Test Plan” in Phase Two, and “Riding into the Sunset” in Phase Three. New to Geri and I, as we follow this prescription, will be the 7-Day Carb Test. The “30 Day Reset” is akin to the Whole30, or the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (Paleo AIP), from my point of view, both of which Geri and I adhered to for 90 days following my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis, or at least it’s close enough that we can adapt Whole30 and Paleo AIP as necessary to comply. (By the way, I have a lot of time for Melissa Hartwig, “Whole30 headmistress.” You can find her @melissa_hartwig on Instagram, and elsewhere.) The intent of the carb test is to establish which sources of carbohydrates prompt the largest blood sugar spike in you, and which are relatively benign with respect to blood sugar. As it turns out, a key tenet of a healthy diet, is to stabilize, and reduce, insulin production. So this Phase Two identifies, at the individual level, which common sources of carbohydrate are most likely to result in a violation of the insulin-response tenet; those sources will be religiously avoided when we are “Riding into the Sunset.” We are excited to go through the process!

Recommendation 1 Define the diet that works for you. By my measurements, diet is 85% of the “fit body” solution, some might say 80%, none less that I have seen or heard. Get the diet right, or close to right; it might take a few experiments to find what works.

Good starting points are Chris’s and Robb’s books. Geri and I started out with Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s book, It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways. We also relied heavily on two lists, “The Autoimmune Protocol: Foods to Avoid,” and “The Autoimmune Protocol: Foods to Include,” from Mickey Trescott, available at AUTOIMMUNEWELLNESS. When we faced the Hashimoto’s challenge, neither Chris’s nor Robb’s books had been published. Chances are, we will be revisiting the Whole30 soon, as again, that “reset” that Robb talks about so eloquently.

2. Movement, preferably throughout the normal course of your day, is important for building and sustaining a healthy and functional body. The body adapts. Unfortunately it adapts to that which we do most often. So if you sit most of the time, guess what, your body will adapt, optimize actually, your muscles, connective tissue, and bone density, among other variables, to most efficiently support a sitting position. Not good, as most of us don’t move: All. Day. Long.

Recommendation 2 Build movement into your day. Play like a child for cryin’ out loud! Running, cycling, jumping, climbing, and yes, falling; most of us have not done that for years, if not decades. For more information on this recommendation, check out Katy Bowman’s book, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement Expanded Edition. And, coming to city near you perhaps, a MovNat workshop. I promise you, this will kick your ass, in a good way, using only your body weight. Here is a little teaser 3 minute YouTube video of Erwan Le Corre, the founder of MovNat. The guy is a stud. I completed a 2-day class in the Chicago area, it changed entirely how I think of exercise. Think you are too old? Check out another my heroes; Clarence Bass, images from 15 – 79 years of age, so far.

3. Community, belonging, tribe; use whatever descriptor flips your switch, it is of paramount importance. There is a “Paleo” community, and there is a broad and heavily traveled intersection between our community and the Paleo community, among others.

Recommendation 3 Support, build, nurture, and be present to, your community.

Tribe, the book by Sebastian Junger, puts the value of community historically, and in the here and now, on display. If you are not convinced, consult the work of Dan Buettner on “Blue Zones,” zones of particularly high longevity, The Blue Zones of Happiness: A Blueprint for a Better Life. Of his “Power 9,” three on the list, 7 Belong, 8 Loved Ones First, and 9 Right Tribe, regard community. Or check out the Blue Zones website.

Blue Zones – Power 9, my rendition, hold Dan Buettner harmless if I’ve erred.

If that isn’t enough, look at Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs; that goes way back. See the level “Social needs,” which comes only after the two levels necessary for physical survival and subsistence.

Wikimedia Commons.

4. There is not a little, there is a lot, to “alternative medicine.” Not to mention, because it has already been mentioned, diet. Well, having said that, as the “Father of Modern Medicine,” Hippocrates is oft quoted, “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” But I digress. The Chinese have been practicing medicine since at least the second century B.C. Some would say the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pre-dates written history. Acupuncture, essential oils, herbal teas; I’ll put chiropractic in there, functional medicine, etc. Conventional medicine, the medical industrial complex, and its dogma, is not the only game in town.

Disabling stuff that, dogma

I’ll give you an example. My primary care physician felt a nodule in the left side of my thyroid on June 18 of 2014, for that I will be forever thankful, because it led to massive, and positive, change. In males, such a nodule is assumed to be cancerous until proven otherwise. Next stop was an ultrasound, boy has that technology come of long way since my days as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. They can measure blood flow, and measure the size of the nodule in three dimensions. Check, there is a nodule. Next step, so-called fine needle biopsy. This is where the Doc takes a handful of syringes, four in my case, and repeatedly jabs each into the nodule, thereby by picking up enough cells for analysis. A few days later I get the call, words to the effect that “it’s not cancer, you have <unintelligible>, we’ll see you in six months, bye.” Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute, I have what? “Hashimoto’s.” Can you spell that for me? And so on. You see, the conventional medicine dogma with respect to Hashimoto’s is this: there is no known cause, and no known cure, we will watch the nodule grow (which of course it will, because we are doing nothing differently), and when it has grown to our dissatisfaction, we will remove part or all of your thyroid, and put you on thyroid hormone replacements for the rest of your life. Have a nice day.

Four days after that phone call, Geri and I were on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). July 11 my blood was tested by the Ear, Nose and Throat doc, ENT, the guy who would do the surgery, for antibodies indicating Hashimoto’s. One of the two, TPO Ab (thyroid peroxidase antibody) was about 500% of normal, the other, Tg Ab (thyroglobulin antibody), was 2,000% of normal. Not good. I think of antibodies as tags; they tag the bad guys, and even if a case of mistaken identity, the cavalry rides in and destroys the poor bastards. In this case my thyroid.

We decided to have blood tests performed every two months to measure our progress. No, the docs did not ask for anything, other than to see me again in 6 months. And did not ask me to do anything differently in the interim. At the first follow-up blood test, on Aug 27, roughly 6 weeks after diagnosis, the TPO Ab was back within the normal range, with only the dietary intervention. By Dec 11, 5 months after diagnosis, the TG Ab had been reduced by 85% from its high, and by 2015 Feb 03 it had been reduced by 91% from its high, all with diet alone. My last blood test, in April of 2016, both antibodies were solidly within range. About that 6 month follow-up you ask? Yes, had that, they measured the nodule, and they noted it had shrunk by 25%. I told the doc, “we did that with diet,” and literally, he laughed at me. Did not ask me a single question. And that my friends, is the last time I consulted a conventional doc regarding Hashimoto’s. Here is the fact; in general, they know less than I now do.  I’ll admit there might be the rare exception <winks>.

Let’s put it this way; unless I’ve suffered severe trauma, which probably means I broke Primal Blueprint Law #9 “Avoid stupid mistakes,” the conventional medical establishment will be my last resort.

Recommendation 4 Take control of your health. Do not even think about delegating the responsibility. The Docs work FOR you, the doc is an adviser, like an attorney. Don’t like what you hear, get a second opinion, or three. If you are reading this, there is a world of information at your fingertips. The so-called “standard of care,” aka, the dogma of the medical establishment, is a small fraction of what is available to you. Reach out to your community, SHARE your problem; you might be surprised at what comes up. Then, be prepared to listen with an open mind. What do you have to lose? The goal is optimal health, not the management, or even the absence, of disease.

If this post touches even one in a positive way, it will have been worth it.

All the best, on your journey,


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2 replies
  1. Marcelle
    Marcelle says:

    Thank you so much for the humbling comments, John! I am touched to hear such kind words and even more so to have met you and Geri. You are both such beautiful people, the kind of people that one can’t help but feel good around. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. I am very much looking forward to a growing relationship 🙂

    • John Newell
      John Newell says:

      Thanks for commenting Marcelle, and we share your sentiment. To the future!


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