The Balanced Bites Seminar: Stacy's Review

This post is LONG overdue. I won’t go into details or give long-winded excuses, but we’d been a little busy and I had to put it off more than I really wanted. Regardless, I’m happy to finally be giving my thoughts on the Practical Paleo Seminar I attended in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. It became an idea of mine a few months ago when Diane from Balanced Bites announced she was having a seminar in Philadelphia, PA.  It was around the same time I realized I was never going to be able to make it to a Robb Wolf seminar, since he’s retired that service as of August.  Loving the city of Philadelphia (and a particularly awesome and gorgeous nearby resident) and hoping to make a romantic couples weekend out of it with Matt (spoiler: didn’t happen), I immediately booked a ticket.

The good news is, my dear friend Liz from Cave Girl Eats did come for a post-seminar visit to have dinner with us gals. My friend Hillary came with me and, by this time, Diane and Liz were their own buddies from doing the Balanced Bites Podcast. So the weekend turned girls only and was awesome.

Here’s what I had going against me:

  • Philadelphia is more than 3 hours away
  • I didn’t have anyone to go with me (at the time)
  • I had no one to stay with in order to be ready for the 9am start
  • I already have a ton of knowledge from listening to about 8 zillion hours of paleo-related podcasts, reading several books and running a humble paleo website

But I made it work because I wanted to go. And if I can learn several new things and really enjoy the seminar so will you. The length seemed just right for the material covered and the camaraderie of attendees was really great. We’re not cross-fitters, so it is a rare treat to be around “our people.”

What’s awesome is that the seminar combines material you know and love from Balanced Bites with new material that’s just as impressive. I personally found that despite my own endless research and reading on particular topics (cholesterol in particular) I finally had some light bulb moments with Diane’s simple and clear-cut explanation and information. I’m going to pull out her nifty handout, where I took a ton of notes, and share some goodies with you guys:

  • Insulin and Glucagon are hormones. Insulin is a storage hormone. Glucagon is a releasing hormone. High blood sugar triggers insulin to be released so that your body stores the energy, then your blood sugar dips too low which causes a stress response. And then that releases insulin as well. So you’re in constant fat storage mode if you’re riding the carbohydrate waves. Made me realize, since my kids go CRAZY after some treats – that’s a good thing. It means they’re insulin sensitive – rather than insulin resistant and in a state of constant fat storage.
  • Why shouldn’t you use non-calorie sweeteners? Because your brain doesn’t know it’s non-calorie and still puts out insulin because your brain puts out insulin when it tastes sweetness.
  • What the heck IS cortisol and how does it affect those of us that aren’t cross-fit professional athletes? It’s a fight or flight hormone. It should be high when you wake up, gives you energy, and tapers off when you want to go to sleep. Exercise and stress affect it, but so do sleep patterns, inflammatory foods and too much sugar – since insulin overload is inflammatory.
  • Why do you get sick from foods you didn’t used to get sick from pre-Paleo? Chronic inflammation. Instead of a painful tummy ache (your body recovering inflammation) it was just constantly fighting sick in other ways: allergies, asthma, leaky gut, etc.
  • Finally, I get oils vs. fats! Oils: liquid at room temperate. Fats: solid at room temperate. Oils, by the fact that they’re liquid, are an unstable compound – it has to be manipulated and weakened (literal bend in the chemical structure) in order to enable it to be a liquid. Smoked oil is even more unstable, in fact it’s damaged. Diane explains it best here.
    I literally came home and declared that we no longer cook foods in olive oil. We’re now focusing on MONOunsaturated because it means it only has ONE “bent” link in the chemical structure. POLYunsaturated fats have MANY bent links, hence even more unstable. Duh, how did I not get this before? Short answer: since we don’t eat butter our choices are lard, tallow, duck fat, coconut oil, palm oil and palm shortening for cooking and olive oil for salad dressing.
  • Cholesterol. I finally understand how and why it’s not dietary intake (i.e. saturated fat) that’s causing high cholesterol and heart disease. Your serum cholesterol levels have very little to nothing to do with dietary cholesterol intake. It has everything to do with inflammation. All cholesterol related diseases are  inflammatory diseases. When you eat seed oils, grains and other highly inflammatory foods, your chances of those diseases increases. Simple: don’t eat for cholesterol numbers, eat for anti-inflammatory foods and the cholesterol results will follow.
  • And my favorite from the whole seminar: Your saliva has “salivary amylase” which makes foods sweeter as you chew. It makes broccoli more palatable. You know who hasn’t fully developed salivary amylase? Young kids. THAT’S why they don’t like bitter foods, like brussel sprouts and broccoli! The solution: caramelize the food when you cook it (roast, pan sear with healthy fats, etc.) or avoid those foods until they’re a bit older (3 1/2 years seems to be about what we see as a turning point).

What makes this experience different from books and podcasts, sites and medical journals, and whatever else you’re doing is that you’re able to ask detailed questions and get answers from an expert and a room full of like-minded individuals. Heck, I even got to meet Kristin of FastPaleo and Leigh from PaleoAtPenn at the seminar too! I was worried I might know too much for the seminar, but I, too, gained something from listening to some of the newbies’ questions and hearing how to answer at the level they need. I even learned how to explain the value of “protein with a face” to a vegetarian and witness them walk away a meat eater.

Plus, there was free jerky and Lara Bar samples! Speaking of Lara Bar, Diane will guarantee to make you laugh with her down to earth approach. Some of my favorite jokes:

  • “Can you move that fan so it’s not blowing my stank into the crowd?”
  • “I don’t have a problem with fruit or however you want to treat yourself. Personally that stuff makes me chunky if I over do it, but that’s up to you.”
  • “We’re going to need another order of bone marrow.”

So, my completely unbiased opinion (I am in no way being compensated for this review, and I did, in fact, pay for the seminar) is that if you’re serious about learning about why eating with a Paleo approach is good for you, this Seminar would be a great place to start.

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