I returned to Austin in April for my third attendance at PaleoF(x), the largest and most complex gathering of Paleo physicians, enthusiasts, athletes, chefs, and those just curious about the possibilities. Many sessions were informative and inspirational, I’ll just mention three topics in this article.
Two speakers addressed the subject of will power. Dave Asprey and Dr. Kirk Parsley each addressed the topic from their different areas of expertise, and both talks were fantastic. Asprey shared the observation that parole boards take their applicants much more seriously in the morning and by the afternoon are worn out: everyone gets sent back into the slammer. He defines will power as the ability to use your intelligence or insight to override your impulses. Citing the Bulletproof Diet as a will power enhancer, he suggests that wise food choices will enable one to learn the difference between cravings (sure to exhaust and overwhelm will power) and hunger – which can be attended to with good intentions still intact. Parsley attended to the connection between adequate sleep and will power. He spoke of will power as the ability to “do the harder thing,” and that although it’s a finite resource, it’s neither a genetic gift nor should it be used as a way to beat yourself up. In any person it’s highly variable and it can be trained up with intention and bolstered in general by adequate sleep. Will power is primarily exerted through the pre-frontal cortex and declines over the day… Perhaps that explains why I have a harder time doing afternoon exercise?! The pre-frontal cortex is refueled during sleep… as is everything. And remember: anything non-physiological that you take to get to sleep alters sleep architecture, interferes with normal sleep brain function. So for optimizing will power, get enough natural sleep AND find a way of eating that reduces any cravings and leaves you with the ability to make choices.
Second topic is the microbiome and the information came out jam-packed in two presentations, one by Dr. Grace Liu and the other by Dr. Michael Ruscio. Liu presented a wealth of information about our microbiome, particularly addressing that part of the microbiome that connect an alteration of the microbiome to the development of obesity. Bacteria bugs that she refers to as “peacekeepers” actually help people lose excess body fat, each by different mechanisms. She presented two case studies and reported her own success, dropping that “last 15 pounds” we all know so well. Ruscio charged into another vast area of the microbiome, namely how little we actually know about the role of diversity and how fruitless can be many attempts to tweak what seems to be out of line in our gut flora. Would have loved to see them discuss their different points of view on a panel!
The third most salient point I enjoyed about PaleoF(x) – and I enjoyed a lot more of the presentations and will revisit them with you – was the 30,000 foot view many of the presenters took. Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson reminded us all that being gentle with yourself and believing your own experience are of prime importance. Sisson’s son thrives as a lifelong vegetarian: it may not be my choice, but if it works for him, that’s great. And Wolf had a great line, “Protein, fat, carbs, I’m getting bored with that: let’s talk about planetary sustainability.” He was referring to his expanding work with the Savory Institute, studying the environmentally friendly applications of wise animal husbandry. If you haven’t yet watched Allan Savory’s TED talk, drop everything and watch it right now: a brilliant and inspiring description of his experiences in Africa and his experiments with restoring grasslands that had dried to desert landscapes.
You can also watch some of the talks yourself, available for rental through this Vimeo portal here.
PaleoF(x) 2016 is already in the planning stages, I think it’s the end of May next year. Austin’s a great and easy place to visit, and it’s a wonderful event. Maybe I'll see you there?