The PaleoFX Conference: A Success

PaleoFX Ancestral Momentum - Theory To Practice Symposium

This week I attended the PaleoFX conference in Austin, TX, and overall I’d say it was a productive, inspiring, thought-provoking event. It was put on by Keith Norris, Michelle Norris, Kevin Cottrell, and Mark Alexander. Read more about them here. The gathering was created to bridge the gap between the science behind the Paleo diet and putting it into practice. There were 3 stages that housed individual speakers, as well as many “Mastermind Panels” that consisted of up to 8 experts on certain topics like the “Psychology of Change”, “Ancestral Wellness for Babies, Tots, & Children”, and many, many more.

I was lucky enough to be on the “Community Outreach: Grassroots to Mainstream” Masterminds panel with Robb Wolf, Angelo Coppola, Benjamin Palmer, Roger Dickerman, and a last minute addition of Dr. Kim Mulvihill. Dr. Mulvihill is a doctor and a reporter for CBS News in San Francisco who went Paleo herself as a way to report on the diet. She had massive success with the diet and so many viewers that the station made it a 5-part story and aired it several times. Pretty awesome.

Robb Wolf did a novel talk on how to run a successful gym, which was totally relevant since about 3/4 of the audience represented a gym. He made some awesome points about business in general, like that your decisions should be made by figuring out what is best for not only your clients, but your employees and yourself, as well. He talked about how dumb he thinks scaling is, which means he’d rather see an out-of-shape newcomer doing a completely different set of exercises than just doing the Workout Of The Day (WOD) scaled down to their ability.

Dr. Lane Sebring was one of my favorite speakers. He’s an MD practicing in the Austin area and has been promoting Paleo since before The Paleo Diet was published. He’s a highly intelligent, level-headed, fair man. He told us about some amazing transformations he’s had with patients in his practice.

One of the main themes throughout the conference was about athleticism vs. longevity. It’s become very apparent to me that there are a lot of people overtraining in the U.S. It’s no secret that doing CrossFit 6 times a week might not be the best thing for your health (or even your weight loss goals). James Fitzgerald from Optimum Performance Training really hammered it home for me when he said he asks all of his clients when they walk in the door, “What’s your priority? Is it health and longevity or is it performance right now?” And depending on their answer, they’d get a completely different training regimen because overtraining inhibits health and longevity.

I will say that although the conference was super well laid out and organized, and it flowed seamlessly with impressive speakers, I did have a couple problems with the content of the conference. I think that the panelists were sometimes hesitant to go ahead and give real, concrete, practical advice for people in the wake of the safe starches debate, which showed its face only the tiniest bit during a panel that included Dr. Kruse and Paul Jaminet.

  • For instance, on the “Paleo/Primal Nutrition Optimization vs. Performance Mastermind” the panel was asked what they thought about calories. Paul Jaminet was the only person to say that counting calories might be helpful for people in any way. On the contrary, Krista Scott Dixon of wrote an ebook called “F*#k Calories” and she said there was no use for counting calories and that she never brought it up with clients. I wholeheartedly disagree and think it’s very useful for SOME people who are eating way too much out of habit, or not enough for neurotic weight loss reasons. It can be the difference between getting someone to their weight goal or not.
  • Also, when asked what kinds of foods an athlete might want to increase or decrease on the Paleo diet, panelist Dallas Hartwig of, along with most everyone else, said something along the lines of, “Stay away from non-Paleo foods” and “Figure out what works for you”. I guess I wanted them to give the people in the audience some sage advice about carbs, fat, and protein, and what your plate might look like if you were trying to become really good at being an endurance athlete who burns mostly fat. That’s what people really want to know. We’ve all heard “counting calories is useless” and “don’t eat non-Paleo foods”. We came to the conference for something deeper and more practical than that.
  • On that same note, I talked with Dr. Ron Rosedale after his presentation to clear a few things up. Basically Dr. Rosedale thinks any amount of insulin-inducing carbohydrate in the diet will decrease your lifespan and hurt your health. So I asked him afterward, “What are your recommendations for grams or percentage of carbs per day?” Because that wasn’t part of his talk, surprisingly. He said, “Oh, I don’t know. Just don’t eat too many starchy carbs.” Okaaay…

Other than that, I loved… Chris Kresser’s talk on cholesterol, and was happy to finally meet him in person. Dr. Jack Kruse actually got me to think about using the cold to improve my athletic performance and increase my lifespan. The protocol is here.  Paul Jaminet inspired me to drink bone broth instead of water at my meals. And Dave Asprey convinced me (by placing his leg behind his head while sitting in a chair) that I should be taking grass-fed collagen just like he does…

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  1. Brian Beaven

    I agree with your post. I would have liked the speakers to focus more on the “practice”. It seemed to me that the doctors were focused more on the theory. But, I still enjoyed the PaleoFX and I’m looking forward to next year.

  2. Krista Scott-Dixon

    Hey there, just wanted to clarify. I do discuss the general idea of energy balance and the energy density of foods with our clients, but after 8000+ people have gone through our Lean Eating program we now know that having them count calories is a waste of time. In fact, the majority of our clients have come to us as champion calorie counters — but they’re still over-fat.

    We use satiety and appetite awareness monitoring, which has been demonstrated in research and our own practice to be vastly superior.

    • Neely

      Hi Krista – Thanks for taking the time to clarify. While I agree that it would be optimal for everyone to know how much to eat by using satiety and appetite cues, I know there are plenty of people out there who have lost touch with those cues and don’t trust themselves to use them. In te beginning, I think it can be useful to use calorie counting temporarily for them. For non-expert calorie counters I’ve had really good success with using it as a tool – a last resort tool. I don’t think we should write it off completely and I don’t think we should be telling the public to do so, either. However, clearly you’re having success with your approach, so I’m glad there are many different points of view in this, as some people will resonate with your approach and some with mine.

  3. WriteLegends

    I would love to hear more about the benefits of taking collagen. Google isn’t giving me a whole lot to go on.

    • Neely

      WriteLegendds – For lack of time, I’m going to send you to the Weston A Price Foundation on this one. Here’s a blog post: and you can certainly search their site for more info on it. It’s found in bone broth, and that article is about bone broth and its constituents. Hope this helps!

  4. Dallas Hartwig

    I’d also like to clarify that, despite some of the panelists’ (including mine) desire to really get into the nitty-gritty of specific topics, the format of the panels, with way too many panelists and generally poor moderation, simply didn’t allow us to get into the detail that you mentioned was lacking. At the end of the day, you can’t generalize food recommendations for “an athlete” or even “an endurance athlete” any more than you can for “a mother” or “a businessman”. It’s impossible to make responsible, useful recommendations for an individual (athlete) without knowing more about their training, health history, and goals. The good news is that if attendees were consistently following our generalized meal recommendations, it would also fuel them pretty darn well for many athletic pursuits, and if they require more personalized customization, there are several good nutrition consultants who do just that, including Amy Kubal and Stephanie Greunke.

    • Neely

      Dallas – Thanks for clarifying. I get it that it’s difficult to sum things up in the short amount of time the sessions lasted, and I agree there were usually too many panelists. Maybe next year will be different.

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