It’s that time again. The Ancestral Health Symposium is taking over Atlanta, GA next week (August 15-17), and I’ll be on the ground Tweeting up a storm and having the time of my life amongst some of the coolest people on the planet.
This will be the third Paleo gathering for me. And while I always have an amazing time and meet incredibly interesting and fun folks, I’ve noticed a bit of negativity around these events. Three things tend to happen:
- Negative trolls come out of the woodwork to talk smack about people and their appearances.
- Well-meaning folks nervous about their appearance make apologies for themselves and try to explain it away by discussing their health issues.
- Other people attending the conference put blinders on and all they can see are the ripped, lean guys walking around barefoot, blinding us all with their pecs. They then assume they don’t belong. I promise you, these Adonises are in the minority, though I deeply, deeply appreciate their presence.
This is the first of a handful of posts I’ve solicited from some friends in the ancestral health community whose voices I admire. I’ll be posting these in the days leading up to AHS13, and I’ll add my own story just as soon as I can carve out a few minutes to myself. It’s my hope that these dispatches will resonate with others out there and help dispel the notion that everyone in ancestral health have hunter-gatherer physiques and zero health struggles. I’m tired of the apologies and I’m tired of people not feeling welcome. We all come to ancestral health for our own reasons, and this is too important of a movement to let divisions arise over perfectly normal, human experiences.
As for the trolls? Well, nothing to do but drown them out with the cacophony of our collective voice of reason.
First up, Tara Grant, whom you may know from PrimalGirl.com. (Part 2 by Kendall Kendrick here, Part 3 by Anastasia Boulais here, Part 4 by James Murphy here, Part 5 by Ben Morgan here, Part 6 by Jamie Scott here)
“The sexiest thing about a woman is confidence.”
– James Deen, International Porn Star
Am I afraid? Hell, yes. Every upcoming event is another chance for me to feel judged. Sometimes I even schedule them as a way to keep myself “honest.” All the women I’ve talked to in the Paleo movement feel something similar.
Strangers don’t know – or care – that you’ve been sitting on your ass for six months writing a book. They can’t see the autoimmune condition you’re trying to heal from. They don’t know you in your real life: toddlers screaming for bread, sleep as elusive as hell, eating way more carbs than you should because your body just can’t keep up.
Strangers expect you to be perfect. At least, that’s what my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) tells me. I’ve been living with BDD since I was about eight years old – about the same time I gained a little weight and the boys at school started calling me a cow.
Ever since, I’ve been dramatically concerned with how I look. When I look in the mirror, I see someone big and lumpy. I notice every imperfection. I have no idea what I really look like to others, just this negative image of everything that’s wrong. I didn’t ask for people to look up to me, or try to emulate me or my lifestyle – I was just doing something for my health. The constant pressure to keep it up for reasons other than my health can be overwhelming.
So meeting a bunch of strangers who are going to judge me for looking the way I do is terrifying. Even if I know that by the end of the conference, most of those strangers will be friends.
In reality, we’re all kind of feeling the same way – self-conscious, worried about what everyone else thinks, worried that we don’t look good enough. Not good enough to be representing a movement, anyway.
Wait – who made us the spokesmodels for the Paleo movement? And why does the Paleo movement feel the need to promote the slender, big-boobed, 24-Hour Fitness look? Better yet, why do we feel that’s what we should look like in order to be worthy enough? Ancestral health isn’t concerned with looking picture-perfect.
A lot of us don’t have fitness goals, other than being able to move freely, without pain. Our hobbies are cooking, sewing, reading, or shopping – not slacklining or extreme cave diving. How do you train for shopping? You don’t. So, we work out by lifting our children up in the air, carrying groceries, dancing in the kitchen, taking stairs two at a time and sprinting for band-aids. At least once every 7-10 days.
And yet, every single woman I’ve met through the Ancestral Health Movement looks perfect to me – whether they’re rail thin, bulging with muscles or not. We’re real women. We all have different goals and are at different points on our journey. We have families to take care of, stress from work, blogs and emails – plus the added pressure of not being able to order fast food for fear of being ostracized, upsetting our delicate Omega 3:6 ratio, or – God forbid – getting glutened. We don’t look like models, thank God. Models are boring. We look like women.
So, if we’re living naturally, making the best choices most of the time, and moving around a lot, then doesn’t it make sense that we’re what a woman is actually supposed to look like?
And if we’re all insecure about how we look, but we think everyone else is beautiful, then isn’t it possible that they think we’re beautiful, too?
Because, honestly, all the women I’ve met through the Ancestral Health Movement just have this glow about them. This beautiful light inside, the glow of health. And if everyone else around you is beautiful, chances are that you are too.
If you’re still feeling a little anxious, remember that confidence goes a long, long way to improving how others see you. If you’re not feeling confident, fake it baby. Fake it ‘til you make it. (Something I’ve noticed is that it’s only confident people who tend to give compliments to others. Keep that in mind.)
Tara Grant blogs irregularly at primalgirl.com when her screaming toddlers aren’t clamoring for her attention and time. She’s been sitting on her butt for over a year, writing a book for Primal Blueprint and developing recipes for the carbiest foods she can find. You’ll find her at AHS, either yelling at volunteers or lying by the pool, wondering how her legs look.