How to Build a Tribe: What I Learnt at HEALTH Unplugged

Unless you’re a frog lurking under a coconut shell (don’t laugh, it’s an old Malay saying!), you’ll know that I’ve spent the last three months volunteering for HEALTH Unplugged. In the three months run up to the conference I have been writing blog posts covering what I consider to be the ten important paleo lifestyle principles. If you missed them, here are the links:

  1. Introduction: Unplugging the Paleo Doctrine
  2. Eat real foods
  3. Move healthily
  4. Sleep well
  5. Avoid poisoning yourself
  6. Avoid harming yourself
  7. Get outside in your natural environment
  8. Develop your intellect
  9. Socialise
  10. Be playful and have fun
  11. Be kind to yourself

Writing the blog posts was great because I had to step outside of my normal writing style, I had to do a lot of research and I had to be sure about the information I was writing. It was great experience. And I learnt A LOT.

That spirit of learning continued through to the weekend of the conference itself. This was my second one – I went as an attendee last year, and while I loved being part of the community, I felt that I got a lot more out of this year’s, even though as a volunteer I technically had less time and certainly less choice over which talks I could go to. But actually that worked well for me as it meant I sat in talks or sessions I might not have gone to otherwise. And I learnt A LOT (have I said that already?).

Here are my top six takeaways from HEALTH Unplugged 2015

1.) The paleo world is evolving FAST.

One of my criticisms of last year’s conference was that I felt there was a lot of information missing. For example no one mentioned prebiotics – and that was just when the paleo people were starting to whisper about eating cold potatoes and white rice again. Not so this year. I felt the information being given out was the latest, and it was so much less dogmatic than last year. There was a definite sense that paleo is evolving, and that everyone’s interpretation is completely valid. There were die-hard LCHFers in the form of Jimmy Moore there, alongside the more moderate ‘legumes are OK if you tolerate them’ in the form of Tommy Wood. And everyone had valid arguments and approaches. In fact, the n=1 approach was really emphasised – the fact that the most important person to work with is yourself.

2.) Eating meat IS ethical and it IS sustainable.

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I was only a little bit surprised to find how interested and passionate I felt listening to Caroline Watson and Sam Feltham on ethical meat. I find their passion infective and realised that I feel much the same frustration in constantly hearing that only a vegetarian diet can save the world. The statistics and facts they showed in their presentation more than convinced me that eating the way I am eating is fine, just to be mindful of having a variety of protein sources. Caroline Watson wrote an article for Primal Eye which explains her rationale behind the ethics of eating meat if you’re interested to read more.

3.) Sometimes it just takes one person to turn everything you thought you knew on its head.

Post workout – everyone knows to eat carbs after working out right? Not so, says Sam Feltham. He says to eat your carbs BEFORE the workout to allow your body to use the glucose during the workout and then post workout your body continues to burn the fat already in the body, not the energy from the glucose you give it afterwards. Mind = BLOWN! (Sorry, this is probably a really mundane fact for most people. It’s just that I am SO confused by all the different info out there so it’s interesting to hear a different perspective. I’ll experiment with both!)

4.) And sometimes it takes just one person to completely inspire you.

I had a chance to talk to Andrew Scarborough only right at the end of the conference when he told me a small part of his amazing story. I am hoping to get him on here to tell us a bit about his story but, in a nutshell, he was diagnosed with a rare malignant brain tumour that was treatable but uncurable. He suffered from serious epileptic seizures as a result, and decided to take his health in his own hands by researching the hell out of ketogenic diets. Without giving too many spoilers away, he has already outlived his prognosis by a year and has recently had an MRI scan that he was ‘very happy with’.

5.) Sometimes I wish I was doing research.

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It’s amazing how much people who are really clever and so passionate about what they do can inspire you. I listened to both of Tommy Wood’s talks and came away wondering how to use Systems Analysis in my every day life. No seriously, he even managed to include how getting a dog can affect insulin resistance. But that’s so true of all the talks though – I came away from most sessions wondering how I can get into what they do. Foraging, campaigning for the ethical treatment of animals, movement. Heck I’m even considering training to be a doctor! But that’s what going to these sort of events is all about – just keep learning!

5.) Keep It Simple. Really. Keep it very, very simple.

Move. Sleep. Socialise. Love. Move. Move. Move.

6.) Having a tribe is really important.

There’s nothing more inspiring than being surrounded by people who think, move, act like you. You don’t have to explain your weirdness around them. You don’t have to adapt who you are or want to be. You can be honest and say ‘I don’t know how to…’ and there will be someone there who can guide you in the right direction. I have come away from the conference with more friends than I went in with. And that’s as good a result as I would ever have hoped for.

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