As I fly over snow-covered Minnesota, I have a lot of time to sit here on the plane and reflect on the incredible experience I just had at the first ever Paleo Mom Workshop in Santa Cruz, California. The tranquil retreat center was nestled in the middle of the redwood forest, and the abundant AIP meal options, free yoga and meditation classes, and breathtaking natural surroundings made it an AIP dream location.
The main reason that I attended the retreat was for connection. Being in an environment with other women (and a couple men!) who struggle with health issues but are committed to improving their wellness was inspiring. The Paleo Mom Workshop also gave me experiences far beyond the classroom…for the first time I saw the beauty of Northern California, hiked through a Redwood forest, and learned Tai Chi. Two years ago, my aching joints would have dreaded the flight, and the hike and Tai Chi wouldn’t have happened because of the pain I would have suffered afterwards. I wanted to learn from the woman who literally wrote the book on the Autoimmune Protocol that has changed my life and made this travel and these experiences possible. I wanted to hear from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s own lips why she wrote the protocol as she did, and what she believes are the most important aspect of wellness that we should be following in our own lives.
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne delivered every bit that she promised and more. I can’t believe her stamina and her excitement for the research – on Sunday morning she stood in front of us and spoke about nutritional science for over four hours straight without a break. That lady definitely knows her science! But what was even more powerful was her attention to us. She patiently answered hours of questions from the audience, then stayed after each session to answer even more questions, sign books, pose for pictures, and give each person in line a heartfelt hug. I genuinely felt that she wanted her knowledge to make an impact on our lives.
Over the course of 4 days, she spoke for over 14 hours about the scientific evidence that supports such topics as the foundations of nutrition, the keys to living a healthy life, gut health, and weight loss management, which is way more than I could ever convey in one blog post. As I sit on the plane rereading my notes from the weekend, there are some key points that stuck out to me—some are things that I want to go home and change (like get more sleep!) and some help clarify the path to better health (any inaccuracies in sharing her information are my own). Without further ado, here are a few of the lessons that I learned from The Paleo Mom:
On Elimination Diets:
- There are some nutrients that you can only get from plants, and some nutrients that you can only get from animal protein, which is the argument for eating both. However, there is not a single nutrient that you can only get from grains that you can’t get from other sources (like leafy greens). In fact, if you replace the grains on your plate with vegetables, you will get more nutrients for the same amount of calories.
- She does not advocate for Paleo because of anything to do with what cavemen or our ancestors used to eat. Rather, she broke down the science of the nutrients (like vitamins and minerals) our bodies need to live and thrive for optimal wellness, and what you have at the end is basically the Paleo diet.
- Paleo is not an all or even majority meat diet—20-30% of your diet should be coming from animal protein, 20-50% from fat, and 30-50% from carbs (yes, she knows that those numbers don’t add up to 100%. You can choose whether you are eating from the low or high end of the range, and you can change each day which food you eat on the high end of in a day.)
The problem with an elimination diet:
- People get results when they eliminate foods, so they think that the answer is always to eliminate more to get more. When they’re not getting the results that they want, they keep eliminating more and more. Instead, Dr. Sarah says that the answer is to add things into your diet and life. If you’re not getting the results you want, her first questions to you would be:
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you eating enough offal, shellfish, and vegetables?
- Are you moving enough?
- Are you managing your stress?
There is so much she said (over 14 hours worth!) that I can’t even fit my biggest a-ha moments into one article. Next week I’ll write more about the nutrients that she spoke so much about, plus her thoughts on medications. What do you think about elimination diets?