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Ancestral Health – what the heck is that?

I attended the Ancestral Health Symposium last week hosted at UCLA’s Ackerman Union. I presented a poster entitled The Multifactorial Influences of Chronic Sleep Restriction on Body Weight and I’m happy to report that it drew a lot of interest and was well received. I also had the chance to answer many good questions from the audiences; questions that ranged from mechanism of certain sleep features to how to determine your own sleep need. Generally, the symposium served as a platform to discuss a variety of topics related to the ancestral patterns of living. I believe the broader objective of the community is to use this information and analysis to inform our decision on how best to live in a healthful manner today. Obviously, if you read our Introduction, you’ll see that the Dan’s Plan philosophy on health and wellness meshes with the Ancestral Health mission.

I also had the chance to meet several bloggers that I regularly follow and respect including, but not limited to, Stephan Guyenet and Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.  You can click on their names to read their recaps of the event and take-aways from individual speaking sessions.

Another great editorial piece that describes the movement and the conference is found at the Big Think  Eat Like a Caveman? Field Notes from a Conference on the Paleo Diet. Here are a few a few excepts from the article that stood out to me.

Yet this wasn’t a conference about fine-tuning the South Beach Diet, or even The Paleo Diet, It really was about eating and living with a certain awareness.

Then there’s the addition of the phrase “Ancestral Health” to the Paleo lexicon: “Paleo in the sense of the Paleolithic period implies something static about our past, as if we need to look to one specific period of time to understand ourselves rather than to focus on our continuous history and our emerging future,” Masterjohn blogged after the event.  “Ancestral, by contrast, allows us to put as much of an importance on our grandparents as on our (great)345-grandparents, and to trace the emergence of genomic, microbiomic, cultural, and technological evolution that has occurred continuously through our history.”

Well said, Masterjohn. Well said.

Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be able to see other health advocates with whom I already have a relationship, including Robb and Nicki Wolf and also Dallas and Melissa Hartwig from Whole 9. I attended a day long seminar put on by Dallas and Melissa about half a year ago. I highly recommend that you check their seminar schedule and attend if you can. There is something special about sitting in a day-long seminar to take a deep and focused dive into a topic. They are both excellent educators and have a convivial rapport between the two of them which makes the presentation entertaining and fun. I believe one derives more from day-long investment than you can from that same 8 hours spread out over an extended period of time, like for example, from reading a book on the topic.

Robb Wolf is one of the biggest names and certainly one of the best representatives of the movement. I’ve been listening to his podcast for over a year now and I’m constantly impressed with his explanatory capabilities. He has a rational approach to the subject and delivers the information in a way that is accessible and fun. Here is a video of him on Mahalo answering some questions about his take on the paleo concept.

Paleo Diet Approach from Robb Wolf (Mahalo)

While interpretations of the ancestral lifestyle vary and will continue to inspire debate about what this means to us today, I think any modern society would be remiss to forsake the wisdom of ancient patterns. In earnest, all of us at Dan’s Plan believe that the health direction of America, and the rest of the world, will be most drastically influenced (for the positive) in the coming decade, not by pharmaceutical advances, but rather from living in a way that is harmonious with our biology.  Good news. In many ways it is much more intuitive and sustainable than recent conventional guidance on the proper approach to health. If you are new to these concepts, kudos to you for investing time to read this article and pay attention to new, or shall I say ‘old’, information. We remain committed and dedicated to providing you with analysis on topics related to food, movement, and sleep so that you are armed with information, tools, and methods to thrive in our modern world.

Be well,


More interesting findings from Brian Wansink at APA

I was just at the 2011 American Psychological Association Convention in Washinton DC where Brian Wansink gave an interesting talk on some of the latest work he has been doing on mindless eating (click here or here to visit his websites, which contains great summaries of his fascinating food research).

Near the end of his talk, he spoke about some of the latest findings from his National Mindless Eating Challenge in which individuals are instructed to make a change or set an eating goal that fits with their lifestyle (sound familiar?). One of the goals of this research is to examine whether certain changes (e.g., using a smaller plate) are more effective than others or more effective for certain types of people.

Wansink reported that they are finding that people who make changes tend to lose weight; however, the really interesting finding was that the rate of weight loss tended to accelerate over time. That is to say that people might lose a pound a week at the beginning, but then two pounds a week later on, and three pounds a week further down the road. Typically, one would expect the opposite sort of pattern, so this was initially puzzling to the investigators. What they found however, is that people who made a single change and stuck to it started to see results and were encouraged by those results. The acceleration in weight loss came when they independently added another change on top of the first (e.g., never eat a meal without a fruit or vegetable on the table).

So, this is really interesting! What might it mean for you? You don’t have to change the world in a day. Make a single change today that fits into your life and is something that you will commit to and stick with. If that change is working for you, you might find yourself looking for the “next step” not too far in the future.


Make your voice heard

You might be familiar with the phrase, “vote with your fork.” This phrase encourages us to make food choices that align with our values. Here is an opportunity to vote with your mouse and send a message that fresh and local food is important.

My sister sent me a link to this website, which is hosting a contest for $10,000. She asked for my vote in support of her friend Gerry Keskeys, one of the three adult finalists in the contest. Although each of the three finalists endorse worthy programs, my strong interests and belief in the right of individuals to have access to fresh and local nutritious food compelled me to vote for Keskeys.

If you have a couple of minutes, click on over to and take a look at the finalists’ videos. If you are so compelled, make your voice heard and cast a vote. The community members in San Diego just might thank you for it.



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