Preaching to the Unconverted

It feels like a long time between drinks for this blogging carry on.  2014 is shaping up to be more of the same.  Sort of.  There have been some exciting developments – developments which won’t leave much time for updating this site.  Firstly, I am now resident in New Zealand again.  Living in another country (and yes, Australia very much is another country) is a great way for broadening the mind, seeing things a bit differently, and most of all, allowing one to see just how god-damn good we have it in this country.  Yes, we have problems.  Yes, we can do things much, much better than we currently do.  But we also have so much to be grateful for and so much good going on.  Coming home I can see how all too often, Kiwi’s look overseas and believe we need to have it as good as they do.  Interesting that we have so many immigrants to our fair shores – so many people from the very countries we seemingly desire to be like – who are loving life and living it to the fullest in a place they consider paradise.

With my return to NZ, I have managed to drag with me one Australian doctor (brain drain reversal), and very soon, we will be accompanied by one tree-climbing Canuck in the form of James Murphy.  It is an interesting experience seeing first-hand how excited both are about life in NZ, the readily accessible environment, and the good food available, all whilst hearing the constant groans from the locals about just how disastrous it is to live here.  I am really looking forward to sharing my country with these two and in developing groups of like-minds to hang out with.

On this note, one of our aims, particularly for Christchurch, is to develop a Paleo Meet-Up group.  Stay-tuned for details on this, but if you are in the Christchurch area and have an interest in good food and quality time in the outdoors with like-minds, by all means leave a comment and we’ll make time to meet up.

Dallas and Melissa, and their Whole9 family continue to go from strength to strength.  This year we have seen the launch of a dedicated Whole30 website, and the relaunch of the Whole9 site, with promises to focus much more on the wider 9 factors that make up Whole9, rather than be overly nutrition-focused (which is where Whole30 comes in).  As a part of the Whole9 team (both through Whole9 South Pacific and as a consultant on the team), I will be dedicating more of my time there rather than here.  So any writing time I have will likely go there first and foremost.  We are really looking forward to getting stuck into some different topics this year, such as sustainability and natural environments.

Closer to home, the development of the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand continues on.  We are now a fully fledged society, built on the foundation of 15 very passionate people who believe we need to do things a bit differently to improve the health of our nation.  The “first-fifteen” are;

  • Dr Anastasia Boulais (CHC)
  • Dr Pam Olver (WLG)
  • Dr Greg Brown (WLG)
  • Dr Mikki Williden (AKL)
  • Brad Norris (CHC)
  • Adrian Buttimore, MNZM (CHC)
  • Julianne Taylor (AKL)
  • Phil Becker (WLG)
  • Rob Moran (AKL)
  • Matt Stewart (SYD)
  • Cliff Harvey (AKL)
  • Peter Tainui (AKL)
  • Colin Charan (AKL)
  • Professor Grant Schofield (AKL)
  • Myself (CHC)

We have a good mix of practitioners, academics, and passionate lay-persons all keen to make a difference.

We are close to launching the AHSNZ website – www.ancestralhealthnz.org – which will become our main way of communicating news and views around our ancestral perspective on health, and will become a resource portal for those looking for how to live such a life, including where to source fresh food from, how to fine-tune other aspects of your health, and where to find additional guidance, be it medical, nutritional, movement, or corporate health education related.  So expect some of my writing to show up there too!

The bulk of the first XV are meeting for the first time in Wellington this coming March in order to plan some further strategies for communicating ancestral health information.  This will include the planing of presentation days, getting our views and stories into the mainstream media, the planning of a larger symposium (now most likely to be in 2015), and there is even early talk of a documentary being filmed!  I’ll let you know when the AHSNZ website is go-for-launch.

As always, if you would like to be a part of this exciting project and the fantastic team behind, please let me know.  We need people from all walks of life and with all skill sets to help us.

The 4th annual Ancestral Health Symposium in the US is already in the pipeline, scheduled for August in the San Francisco area.  We will be travelling up there once again to catch up with all the good friends we have made, to share our knowledge and views on health-related topics, and to promote what we are doing in our part of the world (suffice to say, NZ is ahead of the curve in terms of what we have available to us, even if the majority continue to take this for granted and make some poor choices).

All of this is happening in the background to my day job, working with a company who continues to grow and lead the way in delivering evolutionary/ancestrally-orientated health information direct to corporate clients.  We continue to test the boundaries with this information, providing solid, evidence-based information and practical strategies for people to put in place in their lives.  We get constant feedback from the thousands of people who are exposed to this information through the work the Synergy Health team is doing and there seems to be a real appetite for and positive vibe around this.

There have been all the usual criticisms aimed at the paleo framework, launched with the onset of the new year, with critics saying this framework can’t/doesn’t/won’t work.  Yet it continues to grow.  People are very fickle in this day and age, and if something was altogether too hard to do, they will move on very quickly.  This is exactly what we are finding in our corporate health world.  The growth of our business, not just from new clients, but from the renewals, and the feedback we are receiving about how simple and easy the basic strategies are, confirm our belief that we are on the right track.  In a small market such as NZ, if you are barking up the wrong tree and delivering the wrong message; if your strategies don’t work or are too hard, word gets out and you don’t last too long.

I’ll finish up this update with some observations from my latest tour of corporate presentations.  I have recently conducted 10 hours of talks around the fundamental inputs or signals we require for health – food, movement, sleep, sunlight, play, engagement, etc.  The attendees to this session were a good sample group – well-educated, ahead of the curve on income, predominantly Caucasian with a small number of Asians, spanning early Gen Y to late Baby Boomer in age.  They would be a group whom you might assume would have a better than average understanding of things, and be making the right choices.

Amongst this group I made a handful of interesting observations.  I won’t thresh any of them out here as I think each one would occupy several pages in its own right.  But I think you can take most of these observations at face value and see them as the types of obstacles we need to overcome in order to get people across the line in understanding their bodies and their health:

  • People cannot project into the future when it comes to their health
  • Not being acutely sick or unwell leads to the belief that one is very close to optimal health, especially if not overtly overweight
  • Gen Y’s are not native to a real food diet and thus have further to go understand their health
  • Gen Y’s are often unaware of where food comes from and how it is categorised – I had my first New Zealand “eggs are a dairy food” experience
  • Baby Boomers see the real food message as “just like the old days”
  • People want to inherently trust food companies, even when given examples of the dodgy marketing of ultra-processed food
  • People cannot transfer the concept of processing or problematic foods from one example to the next.

On the last point above, I had a couple of good examples across all the sessions.  There was the young Gen Y girl who, whilst we were discussing the sugar content of Coke and Up & Go’s, she was busy drinking a bottle of V (an energy drink).  When I drew her attention to it, she initially seemed unable to grasp that what she was drinking fell into the same category as what we were discussing.  In another session, a young Gen Y guy did the same thing by reaching for a handful of mints in a bowl whilst I talked about sugar, blissfully unaware of what he was doing.  In discussing cereals, and specifically Nutri-Grain and Special K as my examples, a Gen X man felt that my reasoning (that they are processed cereals) didn’t apply to Weetbix; that despite being a processed form of wheat and having a list of ingredients, it still couldn’t be considered processed.

  • When describing a ‘typical day’ of cereal for breakfast, a muffin mid-morning, sandwiches at lunch, crackers mid-afternoon, a naughty late afternoon sugary [daily] treat, a pasta dinner, and another evening treat, the most common reaction was “that nearly perfectly describes my day”.
  • Nearly all of the attendees are constantly hungry
  • All of them recognise the appetite suppressing effects of a large “full-English” breakfast, but none of them understood why
  • Few of them would consider eating such a large breakfast everyday for fear that it would be too much and they’d gain weight – even after explaining the metabolic processes behind it.
  • There were a significant number in this group who wouldn’t spend money on good food, not because of budget constraints, but because there were other priorities (e.g. saving for a deposit on a home, wanting to get married)
  • Based on the reaction to my suggestion that good health can be achieved via walking over jogging, a significant number of women jog out of the believe that it is what they need to do, even if they don’t enjoy it
  • Walking over jogging was the message that stuck the most
  • Almost everyone admitted to being sleep deprived
  • Gen Y’s are petrified of disconnecting from their phones and tablets in order to be able to get better sleep
  • Gen Y’s want to believe that sleep can be caught up on with a weekend sleep in
  • The concept of adult play is almost entirely foreign
  • I was looked at as if I were from out of space when I admitted I play on children’s playgrounds and climb trees
  • That it is common for people to opt out of movement at every opportunity (e.g travelators at airports, mass car parks next to malls) and that this is undermining our overall movement, came as a shock
  • The majority of these city-dwelling people (especially the Gen Y’s) don’t often leave the city limits and head into more natural environments.
  • There is poor self-awareness of their own values and passions.

Despite all of the above, the groups, discussions, and feedback were a success.  A seed has been planted with many.  There is no expectation that anyone will adopt any of the strategies we went through, lock, stock and barrel, at the first reading.  Very few of us did that when we dived down this rabbit hole.  But the aspects above do represent some of the individual, societal, and cultural barriers that restrict or limit people’s buy in at the start.  Being exposed to these thoughts and limitations, hearing the reactions first hand, reading the body language when concepts are delivered, is a good thing for someone in my position.  We don’t always get to preach to the converted.

11 thoughts on “Preaching to the Unconverted

  1. Pingback: Preaching to the Unconverted | Paleo Digest

  2. Interested in Chch meetup when you’re ready. Eating in a way that’s more Weston Price than paleo (sourdough and yoghurt still part of my diet) but definitely into real food, sleep and play.

  3. Jamie! Thanks for the update and good to hear you are so busy! I recently started doing some “adult playtime”- that sounds dodgy but hear me out- by signing up for Gymnasticbodies by coach Sommer. Really good fun and challenging to boot!

  4. Well written.
    Yes I am doing this on my iPhone at 2 in the morning.
    Always keen to spread the message, I would like to be part of the group spreading the word. I hope that I can make the Wlg meeting

  5. Jamie, I die laughing reading your experiences with the Gen Y crowd. It is no better here in USA. My mid twenties daughter has moved to NYC and therefore has a very walking intensive life style but eats poorly, i.e. Nutri Grain bars, Italian food, all very wheat intensive, plus candy. She is very slender and I have noticed her legs are getting less stick more tone. My feeling is living in the city is emotionally draining at times and she should do better to eat more fat and whole foods and less deli/pastries to stabilize her mood. It does get darker earlier there and the cold/snow is a factor. One plus, she drinks her coffee with no sugar. I have tried to teach her a few cooking skills but she either doesn’t have time, too tired, or wants me to show her how to make mac and cheese. Plus, there is an outfit known as “Seamless” that will deliver anything to one’s apt.

  6. Congrats on your new adventures and the future arrival of your mate YJ, James to NZ! Looking forward to reading more. The play part seems the most challenging for me, along with YJ’s monkey-like tree climbing.

  7. Thanks for the mention, Jamie! I still don’t have the words to describe the incredible excitement I feel toward my move. <– that feels insufficient.

    An excellent detailed post bringing to light many important observations. I've seen a lot of this stuff working one-on-one with people, too, as I'm sure you have. I think the most noticed ones for me were:

    – "Gen Y’s are petrified of disconnecting from their phones and tablets in order to be able to get better sleep";
    – "Gen Y’s want to believe that sleep can be caught up on with a weekend sleep in"; and
    -"There is poor self-awareness of their own values and passions".

    … and I think for the last point you could have easily tied in the "phones and tablets" line as well. People have little self-awareness (not just Gen Y's) because all of their introspection time is now filled with playing a game or watching tv or texting a friend or browsing twitter or facebook, etc. I also think the lack of self-awareness ties in to why people are always hungry but don't make changes, why they don't realize their food is what even *they* recognize as unhealthy, and why they don't connect the dots between poor sleep and how they feel.

    It really is the most difficult idea (for me at least) to communicate to others, because it's something that's taken very personally. Not to mention the fact that I probably sound like a giant hippie in communicating such thoughts to people.

  8. Welcome home!
    Don’t suppose you have seen this laughable BBC Horizon documentary, or should I say mockumentery ‘Sugar v Fat’.
    Dr Briffa did a scathing revue of it as have several other British health professionals.
    Check out the misinformation the British public are subjected to.
    Hope it doesn’t get an airing on NZ television!

    • Thanks, Bill. Whilst I have watched the whole thing (I’m not sure I could without wanting to hulksmash the computer), I have read the basic background to it and did read John Briffa’s excellent take-down.

      One thing Anastasia and I wondered – is this the way this “experiment” was constructed ACTUALLY how the establishment sees LC, OR, do they know that they presented a very warped version of it, but that is their intention anyway?

Comments are closed.