Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seek Out Knowledge: Nutrition Workshop

In the journey to become your best self, you've got to actively seek out information that will help you make better choices.  This weekend, I had such an opportunity, and took it.

And that means another event recap...

Balanced Bites Nutrition Workshop

Appropriately coinciding with my one-year paleoversary, I traveled this weekend to Washington D.C. to learn even more about the science behind and practical implementation of a paleo lifestyle.  At Crossfit Metro Center,  the Balanced Bites Nutrition Workshop would be presented for the last audience for a while.  I'm so fortunate to have taken part!

The Balanced Bites Workshop is led by Diane Sanfilippo (of BalancedBites.comand Liz Wolfe (of, two very smart and funny women whose podcast has made my commutes far more enjoyable and educational. 

The workshop was basically an all-inclusive schooling on what different foods--and the nutrients and micronutrients that come with them--do in and to our bodies, and how we can make better choices for optimal health.  We'd learn about grains, cholesterol, fats, blood sugar regulation, stress management, the importance of sleep, and what super-food supplements can help us reach our goals. 

When I first walked in and recognized Liz standing before me, tall and just as stunning as her photos, I shyly said "Hi," obviously knowing who she was but not expecting her to know me.  To my delight, she responded, "Hey... I've tweeted with you..."  Yes!  Yes you have.  Awesome.  We've bonded over moleskine journals and coconut oil.  I've been reading more and more by Liz, who not only is a knowledgeable Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (also working toward her Master's in Public Health), but is also a fantastic resource for and walking example of natural beauty and skincare.  Thanks to her advice on the podcast, I've already begun making several changes to my personal care routine, and have many more to come!  (When she complimented my bus-riding, couch-sleeping hair--swoon!--and asked if I was doing no-poo, I responded that's on my list for summer when I can just hide during the transition phase.  One step at a time!)

So, in I went to find a seat in the already packed room.  As I settled in, the first thing I noticed was the audience, a mix of young and old, male and female (with more of the latter), and all genuinely interested in talking about health.  Although the earlier workshop audiences were more new to the paleo lifestyle, recent audiences--including this one--were largely paleo savvy already, and most had already begun or were already on their journey to health.  The conversation in the crowd included words like "almond butter," "CrossFit," "triglycerides," and "naturopath."  Topics covered health, fitness, disease, and personal experiences of discovering and transitioning to paleo.  These are my people!

And then it began.  After introductions to Diane and Liz, themselves, we started with the history of the human diet, how it changed, and how it has been negatively influenced by the government, drug companies, and media.  "There are no definitive answers," Diane explained.  What once was accepted as truth has repeatedly been overturned.  We looked at advertisements in which doctors endorse Camel cigarettes and babies drink 7-Up.  We learned the twisted history of the invention of margarine and the disgusting factory processes that create canola oil.  We were shown videos and studies that support a more traditional diet, which has kept isolated populations extremely healthy, even in the absence of modern medical and dental care. 

Diane taking a question from the audience

Then we moved into the processes that occur within our bodies.  Inflammation, blood sugar management, chronic disease, and leaky gut.  We talked about the powerful impact of stress and hormones on our systems, and what types of lifestyle adjustments are necessary to support our health goals.  "Stress is interconnected to EVERYTHING." So calm down, take time for yourself, get adequate, high-quality sleep, and relax.

We took a few breaks throughout the day, during which we got up to stretch our legs, chat with the presenters, and check out the "Party Table."  Several samples were kindly available to us.  We each got a sample of Real Salt and Justin's Almond Butter.  Looking forward to trying these out!

Stacy of Paleo Parents and the Cave Husband distributing samples and selling books

There were also samples of Paleo Kits available for sale/donation.  Steve's Original produces these snack and meal kits to raise money for Steve's Club.  Liz has written about them and talked about them, and seeing her describe the program and share a video, it was clear how strongly connected she is to the children and believes in the power of the program.

It was a long (but worthwhile!) day, so naturally we needed some fuel throughout the morning presentations.  Some guests dug right into the samples as a snack, nibbling on a Paleo Krunch bar or lapping up their almond butter.  Several people also brought their own snacks.  After all, we're mostly accustomed to doing this already.  It was interesting how different the snacks were from what you typically see out and about. Instead of chips, muffins, or M&Ms, workshop attendees reached into their bags for real food.  I brought an apple.  A woman two seats down noshed on pistachios.  And I swear I saw a woman eating diced steak from a tupperwear.  Welcome to Paleoworld.

Speaking of Paleoworld, we also had Primal Palate in attendance for a short time, signing copies of their cookbook, Make It Paleo (remember how you salivated over my review photos?)

PlusStacy Toth of Paleo Parents lives in the area, so she spent the day at the workshop, also selling and signing books on the break.  I listen to her Paleo View Podcast regularly, so it was very cool to meet the friendly woman behind the voice.

What a Paleo Picture! 
Two top paleo bloggers, Paleo Kits, Kombucha, Practical Paleo, and Eat Like a Dinosaur!

Plus, Stacy brought along her and her husband's book, Eat Like a Dinosaur.  It's packed with fun-for-kids meals--a great family recipe book!  However, flipping through it, I and several other non-children in attendance became smitten with the recipes and photos.  ...So I got one for myself!  I want to eat like a dinosaur, too!

And eat like dinosaurs, we did.  Lunch was provided by a local (DC) meal delivery service: Power Supply: Fuel for a Powerful Life.  Diane and Power Supply were super accommodating with various dietary restrictions.  Would you expect any less from health professionals?

Lunch provided by Power Supply, a DC-local prepared meal provider.

The chicken salad was delicious!  I don't usually like chicken salads, but this one was good, with sweet mix-ins.  The dressing was good, as well, and there was actually another dressing company offering samples.  Tessemae's brought some delicious dressings. Seriously. I'm about to hunt those down in my local Whole Foods.


I really liked the Southwest Ranch dressing, and especially Matty's BBQ Sauce.  I don't think I've ever even bought a BBQ sauce for myself before, but this is now on my list.  It was goo-oo-ood!

After lunch, it was time to digest, and to learn about digestion!

Gut and digestion troubles are often the source of other seemingly unrelated problems in the body, brain, and skin, so it's important to ensure that everything is functioning as it should!

Then we moved into different myths and truths about different foods, and how we can make better decisions about what we put into our body.  Knowing what a food does--down to the molecule--empowers you to choose better.

We learned about fat and cholesterol, and debunked the ubiquitous myth that both are evil.  In fact, this Time Magazine cover, coincidentally from the year 1984, was given as the starting point for all the libel about cholesterol that would follow for the next 20 years.

Time Magazine

As the slide was shown, an attendee near me laughed, "Looks like breakfast!"  And it's true; this is the foundation a typical paleo breakfast: high-quality animal protein.

That was one major message from the day: If you can get it from a plant or an animal, choose animal.  The animals eat the plants, and we eat the animals.  They have the stomachs to digest the insoluble fiber, and we don't.  If we don't eat animal protein, we're missing out on so many essential nutrients, which is one reason I opted to start eating meat--even red meat--again.  We learned not to fear cholesterol or saturated fats, because the studies linking them to cancer and heart disease included trans fats and were scandalously manipulated in other ways, like THIS:

With videos like this, visual aids, and even legos, Liz & Diane painted a comprehensive picture of how the foods that are touted by the USDA, the Big Food industry, and popular media as healthy, are actually detrimental to our health, and by relying on smarter science regarding fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and all the micronutrients that support their use in our bodies, we can make better choices for ourselves. 

Diane and Liz explained the complex science in relatable terms, so layfolk like myself could understand how food works in the body, where things can go wrong, and what we can do to keep things running smoothly.  A lot of the information can be found in Practical Paleo or on the Balanced Bites website, but there was also much that I felt was somewhat new, or that it was explained in a way that I could truly understand.  Merely reading something is so different from having someone explain it to you, with visuals, and where you can even ask questions.

I, personally, internalize what I learn by writing, so I took extensive notes...

"Could I BE taking any more notes?"

I'm pumped to sift through these notes and compare them to the helpful charts, tables, and diagrams in the book.  Learn, learn, learn!  Understanding drives doing.  And, as Diane pointed out, regarding paleo nutrition: "It only works if you do it.

A Balanced Bites sandwich lettuce wrap. My life is complete! (Again.)

NOTE: As they also pointed out, you can't make someone ELSE change.  You can only make better choices for yourself.  My goal in this post is not to convince you to "Go paleo," but rather to question conventional wisdom and seek out scientific support for your lifestyle and nutritional choices.  

As the workshop came to an end, I was sad it was over but excited to have learned so much.  One thing that I took away was to take my paleo beyond just what not to eat, but also what to eat.  I already got started on my sauerkraut and fermented cod liver oil, and have re-integrated meat into my diet after two years of pescetarianism, but now I'll continue actively seeking micronutrient-rich foods to include in my diet.

At last, the long bus ride home... I took the time to reflect on what I'd learned and how I can make more positive changes, particularly in the lifestyle area (sleep, stress, and skincare).  It was also suppertime, and I was getting hungry again.  I picked up some hard-boiled eggs, but that wouldn't be enough.  Good thing Stacey helped me out with an extra Paleo Krunch!  It was my first time sampling these bad boys, and let me tell you: they're good. 

Seriously, when I took my first bite, I almost stopped chewing and checked the package. This tasted like a legitimate, sweet, full-grain granola bar.  It wasn't the dense, moist fruit-and-nut bars I'd accustomed myself to.  This was the real deal.

It ended up being a little crumbly, but overall a GREAT travel snack to keep on hand.  I've got another one I bought to try, so we'll see if that one's more cohesive.  Either way, it's very tasty, and I'm definitely going to order myself a few more. Dare you to check them out, too, and support Steve's Club!

It was a long trip, but definitely worth it! I learned a ton, and you can too!  For more information, I dare you to check out and  You can also get your own copy of Diane Sanfilippo's Practical Paleo and Liz Wolfe's Skintervention Guide.  They've also both got new books coming out this spring and next fall, so look out for their faces in your local bookstore!

Dare you to keep an eye out for health and wellness workshops in your area!  You never know what you'll find, what you'll learn, and how it can change your life.


  1. Loved this post it was very informative. Sounds like an amazing workshop and some great food and snacks too :)


  3. Love love going to new things and filling my brain with knowledge!! I have listened to their podcast before and believe they are well informed, I still just can't quite get behind no grains and no beans.

  4. Nutrition is a informational beast this looks very interesting!

  5. sounds very cool! What a great weekend!

  6. It sounds like you had an amazing time and learned TONS!! That's so awesome!

  7. Sounds like you had a great time--and learned so much! I keep telling myself that I need to learn more about paleo---it is on my list of things to consider. (AndI love that salad dressing! I am in the DC area and our Whole Foods carries it!)

  8. I am so excited that you got to attend this! Great recap! I checked to get tickets at the last minute, but of course it was sold out. Sounds like an amazingly informative event! I love that they pointed out that you can't make others change. I struggle with this with my mother and am trying to back off and realize that she will change when she is ready.

    Thanks for sharing love!


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