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AHS12 - I'm Going, But I am Afraid my Looks Will be "Tweeted" About

by (15964) Updated December 13, 2011 at 3:58 PM Created September 07, 2011 at 7:45 PM

I did not go to AHS11 - but I did follow the #AHS11 Twitter feed. A big thanks to all of you who kept us homebodies abreast of the symposium!

I am FOR SURE going to AHS12 - I just need to tie up a few loose ends like getting a giant group of people to commit to renting a place to stay and such. So, I'm already very excited.

BUT, I am nervous about one thing. In following the Twitter feeds I read a lot of comments like "Paleo Chicks are HOT! #gopaleogirls" and "All the beautiful people are here" and "That guy looks like a Muppet." (I don't recall exactly who said what so these are just paraphrases.)

After a bit I started having BAD High School flashbacks of young people gawking at each other and making fun of people with lesser physical features. I am afraid that this same atmosphere will permeate AHS12 and I will be made fun of for my 38 year old skin or my poor fashion sense.

Am I being silly about this? Did you get the same sense of #AHS11? What say you?

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21 Replies

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24012 · September 07, 2011 at 11:08 PM

I think it's nice that everyone is comforting Meredith but I think the real point is that as a result of the behavior of some after AHS 2011 people are worried about this. People are actually having to think about this stuff! Meredith is but one of many I'm sure. Actually people were worried about this sort of thing before attending AHS 2011 because of the incessant demand for paleo's to be beautiful and perfect. And before anyone says that's not true if you aren't in touch with this fact you haven't been paying attention. I hesitated to go because of the judgment regarding peoples physical nature here and elsewhere. There clearly is a large contingent who believe that eating paleo endows you with a perfect body and if you don't have one of those you are clearly doing something very wrong. And got forbid you are showing signs of aging. I'm sorry to break it to you guys but people who eat paleo still get old and yes, they die (gasp!)

No one who attended AHS 2001 signed up to be a lab rat for anyone's ridiculous experiment. As far as I know no one gave their consent to have their appearance picked about, laughed about, put on display for comment and fodder. Yet that is exactly what happened. Presenters who gave of their time and expertise where put on display and ridiculed for not having perfect bodies. God forbid you are involved in the paleo community and you don't look like Mark Sisson. You must be a poser right? Participants, normal everyday people who just wanted to come to a meeting to learn and be in community, were very publicly picked apart as well.

How many tweats and posts were there talking about how beautiful the group was? How many blog posts were made about in/out of shape bodies or clear/blotchy skin, etc? Why are we even talking about this stuff? Completely ridiculous, juvenile and downright shameful IMO. It makes me sick to think people did not feel comfortable attending and that even more will not feel comfortable attending the next one because of this attitude and behavior. I would certainly like to see some of the community leaders step in and squelch this sort of talk when it rears its ugly head. They really need to step up to the plate on this one IMO. Paleo is for everyone and everyone should feel more than welcome to come and share with the community regardless of what they look like.

Finally I want to say that I don't believe anyone who participated in all of this meant to be harmful or hurtful. I don't. I just want us all to acknowledge that its not appropriate behavior at least not publicly. As always, we need to think about the consequences of our actions. I hope we will learn from this and do better next time.

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12048 · September 07, 2011 at 7:48 PM

are you suggesting there is a certain strain of narcissism running through a subset of the paleosphere? why i never...

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15120 · September 07, 2011 at 8:05 PM

im going, but the superficial and sort of obsessive focus on what everyone looked like really bothered me. i dont want to go to a conference and come home and read about myself on the intertubes. im not "hot", and never will be. you cant see my abs, and you probably never will. i dont really care, and i resent that anyone else would. its just really immature, and does a disservice to the brilliant people (men and woman but especially the women) in attendance to talk about their "beauty" and weight and skin. its sure as hell not going to stop me from going, but i will publicly shame anyone that comments on wether or not my appearance is acceptable. personally im not too self-conscious after giving birth X2 because i realized that my body is so much more powerful than just how it appears to strangers, but when i hear other women especially critiquing womens bodies and appearance, i go crazy. that shits not cool, yo.

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2426 · September 07, 2011 at 8:00 PM

I'm in the Nor Cal Paleo meet up group, and I've been afraid of going to any of these meet ups because I'm still fat. I sincerely doubt that they'd notice your skin, but when I momentarily contemplated going to the AHS, I didn't feel comfortable with it. Just saying this because I want you to know you're not the only self conscious one.

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13680 · September 07, 2011 at 9:11 PM

Ok, I am coming out of my Low Tech Reward cave for this after 3.5 weeks of silence since someone who shall remain nameless told me that I need reconnect for this.

1) You are GORGEOUS

2) Regardless, I love you for who you are - a funny, witty, thoughtful, caring person that gives a lot of people here support

3) No one would DARE say anything negative about one of my PH gals if they know what's good for them. I'll go to prison for 2-3 years just to prove a point. Shari and Danielle will back me on this one (I hope)

4) LuckyBastard is a badder mo-fo than me. While I'm pulling out their still-beating heart, he will be eating their organ meats (I am a veggie after all but I have no issues killing for a justifiable cause). Don't mess with the brotha...he so crazy!!!

I could go on, but enough of this Tom Foolery.

Ok, back to the PH hibernation cave. Back in 1.5 weeks to report on my Low Reward experiment with Kamal. Ghee Wolverine, out...

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39204 · September 07, 2011 at 9:34 PM

I see hipsters around Portland all day long who are leaner than nearly every one of the people I've seen pictures of who attended the AHS. Their diets consist of equal parts coffee, cigarettes, burritos and PBR and you sure as Hell wouldn't want to go to one of their conferences. Couldn't have it two years in a row anyway because it'd be so last year.

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20462 · September 07, 2011 at 8:29 PM

I'm confused... I thought AHS was for grownups? That kind of crap just ruins fun times. I'm probably not going to go but if I do, and if anyone starts on me, it won't be pretty. With a smile on my face I'll most definitely verbally hand someone their ass if they attempt any petty BS. I've never subscribed to "judge a book by it's cover" and I think most people would be better off if they did just the same.

I don't care what you look like or what your fitness level is as long as you're cool, can hold a conversation, are smart, and don't ask to try my drink or take my snacks.

Even over the le interwebs your personality is awesome so 'eff them. Or shoot me a text if anyone starts and I'll personally drive up and put someone in a triangle hold.

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613 · September 08, 2011 at 2:32 AM

I agree that it's natural to judge and be looking for various sorts of "evidence" one way or another, especially regarding speakers/presenters. But, you never know where someone started from. I'm not a ripped hottie. I'm a LADA diabetic who used to weigh 200 lbs (at 5'2"), and I'm 40, and though i'm now a healthy weight, there is loose skin and gravity and diabetes going on. (no paleo/primal hasnt cured that, but it helps keep my insulin needs low). But anyone who has known me more than a few years knows that compared to before, I DO radiate great health. My friends note the definition in my thigh muscles when I wear shorts, for example, but if I were hanging out with a bunch of hardcore crossfitters, that is not how people would perceive my thighs. Anyway! Great discussion.

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55320 · September 07, 2011 at 11:38 PM

This is more a response to Shari than the original question, but this is an interesting topic. Paleo is for everyone and I have posted on my blog many times that "thinness" is an absurd way to quantify health. However, I strongly disagree that appearances are trivial and we should shut up about them. The vast majority of discussion about appearances was in regards to presenters who make claims about knowing the secret to a healthy diet and it's particularly absurd when people who make claims about weight loss are pudgy or over time they look worse on their special diet, while people who follow the diets they attack look much better. I'm pretty immune to this since I don't write diet books or promote weight loss diets...I don't even promote a particular diet. Honestly I and many other speakers at AHS look like out of shape computer nerds and no one said anything because we weren't marketing particular diets or aggressively posturing against other diets. It would be like me doing a presentation on having awesome teeth and how my special teeth diet is so great and attacking other diets while my teeth are obviously crooked and hideous.

As for women's bodies. I have attacked stupid standards of beauty that have nothing to do with health on my blog many times, because I have been VERY alarmed at women who have all the markers of biological health, yet want to be a size zero. Some of them even become less healthy because of this. In fact, the only instance I even heard about of a women being criticized in AHS was gossip about a woman who was frighteningly thin. THe people who were criticized openly were ALL men and it wasn't an issue of culturally determined beauty

BTW my mom is a lovely woman and has followed paleo for two years now. She still looks like someone who went through two tough c-sections and that will probably never change, but she looks BETTER after doing paleo. Her skin is lovely, her hair is shiny and thick, less of her weight is carried in the visceral region. Same with my grandmother, she is considered "overweight" according to the BMI, but she is lovely for someone who is 92 and since she cut out gluten she looks much better than she did before.

Heck, honestly if you look worse after going paleo, you need to rethink your diet. Some markers of beauty are a cultural construction...some you can't change because they are genetic or they were determined very early in your development (like my teeth), but some are not and are actually markers of health. If these decline on your diet, it's time to ask some questions.

And if you are a public figure, there is a burden to look a certain way or at least explain why you are experiencing issues. I've honestly hesitated to ask questions here or write things on my blog because I worry people will say I'm doing something wrong to have this issue, but actually it's been very helpful for people to do that. When I suffered a severe health crisis in 2010 people commented that it might be related to my diet and instead of digging in my heels to defend my diet I made changes. I benefitted from this. Yeah, there are still issues with me. If I ever write an ebook about 101 ways to get rid of a third nipple, you guys are free to point out that I still have one (yes it is horrible and I can't believe it exists).

stuff I added on edit in italics

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3319 · September 07, 2011 at 8:12 PM

The stress of looking pretty makes me want to run around the halls of the convention draped in nothing but a loin cloth.

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7559 · September 07, 2011 at 8:37 PM

I would go even if I have a goiter...and I would get the goiter tattooed with a picture of a cheetoe bag and then I would eat cheetoes there during the seminars so I could be known as the girl with the cheetoe goiter eating cheetoes. All publicity is good publicity.

(Meredith...I think you will find it's not that way at all and you worried for nothing. I know it's hard to think that before the fact.)

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24343 · September 07, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Part of it might be heightened emotions. Everybody gets nervous that Erwan Le Corre will steal their girlfriend, or that Denise Minger will steal their boyfriend.

At the conference this year, people seemed friendly and non-judgmental on the whole. Many body types were represented. The people I hung with were all totally cool, and coincidentally were also paleohackers. So presuming Aravind, Danielle, Shari, WCC Paul, WCC Paul's better half, Jules K, Andy, etc are there next year, expect a similar vibe.

Also, the speakers were very very easy to talk to! Which I know you'll love because you are the ultimate paleo guru groupie.

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14843 · September 07, 2011 at 9:08 PM

I suspect Nora Gedgaudas had me in mind when she wrote (re AHS participants) "the very few individuals I spoke with who appeared somewhat overweight had typically already lost quite a bit of weight." Well, "appeared somewhat overweight" is a very kind way of putting it in my case!

I had some of these anxieties going into the event. Not only was I not thin, I wasn't young, and I wasn't a guy. I thought I was gonna stick out like a sore thumb. Well, I probably did ... especially since I was hobbling around on a cane due to a meniscus tear and (related?) sciatica.

I'm not sure if people saw what they wanted to, but while there were some quite attractive AHS attendees, many looked (and I don't say this to be critical) just like average people.

Once there, I did not feel at all uncomfortable (save for my annoying mobility issues). So don't worry ... be happy ;).

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1771 · September 07, 2011 at 8:18 PM

I'm in the UK, so won't be attending any AHS conferences stateside any time soon...

However, I think that others have already hit the nail on the head. Paleo is about far more than looking good. It's about being healthy.

I have a friend who is 93lbs at 5ft 2in. I weigh around 123lbs at 4ft 11ins. She is ill so much more than I am. She thinks that because she's thin, she's healthy. That's just not the way it works.

I know that I'm slightly overweight still, but I'm not ill nearly near as much as she is. This is what eating paleo means to me. It's about me being around for my kids when they're older - and for my kids to leave a happy and healthy life too.

And of course, remember that a lot of paleo peeps are pretty much geeky and have so much more to think/talk about than appearance.

Get yourself a ticket and enjoy meeting lots of interesting people!

FWIW; I'd be crapping my pants at meeting all the people in the paleo blogosphere as if they were slebs or something, haha!

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733 · September 07, 2011 at 8:54 PM

Just to play devil's advocate for a minute, sometimes you have to drop down to sheer vanity to get people to change their eating habits. I'm a prime example. I am quite lucky in that I don't have to eat this way because I will terrible if I don't. If I were to cave and eat something non-paleo, I would be none the worse for wear, except maybe my around-the-middle chub would grow an amount only perceptible to me. However, I choose to eat this way because I know in my head that it is a healthier way to eat. But when I'm faced with the temptation to eat a cookie, instead of the "no, I'll feel terrible" motivation, I go with the "no, I'll look terrible" motivation.

That being said, I'm also horribly self-conscience too. If I went to AHS and saw even two people that looked like Greek statues, I would probably tweet a comment about all the fit, lean people. We see what we look for and we look for what we want to see based on our beliefs, insecurities, etc.

All I'm saying is to look at the tweets from that perspective and you might just be talking about someone else who is as nervous about being laughed at for they way they look as you.

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1652 · September 07, 2011 at 8:35 PM

I think paleo chicks ARE hot and all the beautiful girls are here. We should promote that. AND we should be making people feel good about themselves. It's not necessarily superficial unless you view it that way. We have a positive message to share, so let's find a good way to do it.

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1927 · September 07, 2011 at 8:05 PM

laughs Screw it -- don't worry about it! Have a great time!

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287 · September 07, 2011 at 7:50 PM

I'm def going too. Its on the East Coast so a lot cheaper for travel for me. Never really thought about this topic. Honestly, regardless of what people think of me... I'm going to learn for me. No matter where you go in life, people are always going to talk.

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3841 · December 13, 2011 at 3:58 PM

I know I'm late to this conversation, but I have a few points to add. I am still heartbroken that while AHS will be in my proverbial neighborhood this year, I can't go due to familial obligations sigh. But if I could, I would - despite being nothing like thin. And yes, I would probably have a moment or two of normal self-esteem blips, but I'd keep reminding myself of the following:

  • Sometimes I do feel like I have to explain my diet since I'm not thin. Though I have lost some weight, it's coming off slowly and people don't tend to notice. The one explanation I've managed to give my parents is that being overweight is a symptom, not the root problem. First, get healthy and the weight loss will naturally follow. So I focus on my "health" as much as possible, which is 100% attributable to paleo eating.
  • Healthy is attractive. I may not have visible abs, but I have clear skin for the first time in my life. That alone makes me smile every time I think about it. My dark circles are going away. My middle-aged skin looks bright and smooth, and I look younger than my age. A room full of people who meet that description are going to look pretty fantastic to the average SAD American.
  • And one final thought to keep in mind. Please forgive this gross generalization, but having lived on the East coast for most of my life, and spent a decent amount of time on the West coast - people here are as a whole much less appearance-centric. Harvard Square is awash with very thin young people, but never once did I feel like anyone gave a crap about what I looked like. It might just be the fact that people are more intellectually focused, or simple New England practicality, but it's a noticeable difference in culture.

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1371 · September 10, 2011 at 3:23 AM

i hate weight talk...

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10170 · September 08, 2011 at 6:55 AM

I hope I can make it to the AHS12. I'm sure everybody will look fine. Still, I'm a bit worried about recognising people. Maybe we should mark PH on our forehead? Or have a secret sign? Or do you think we will just feel it?

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