The Origin Story
(This was originally intended as an About Me Page, however it grew into a post, so read it as an insight into how CountryBoyPaleo.com came into existence.)
Disclaimer, repeat after me, I am not a Doctor nor do I play one on the internet. Got that? Good. Let me be very very clear, this is not a medical site. Nothing here is to be construed as medical information. Okay good. If it is real trained medical help you seek, check out Primal Docs, if you currently are bleeding profusely, quit reading and dial 911 numb nuts or at the very least grab some Super Glue and/or Duct Tape. Now that we’ve gotten the CYA stuff out of the way…
A little about me. First thing you should know is I grew up in the country and I used to work for the enemy. The growing up part is pretty easy to get, the working for the enemy takes some explaining. Let’s see if I can do it justice.
For an extended period of time there, I was the bright and shining face of the processed and packaged food industry. If you attended a major event in the US in the mid 2000’s you probably saw or interacted with me or one of my teams. X Games, NASCAR, Dew Tour, Major Festivals, BBQ Comps, Fan Days, Stadium Concerts, you name it. Hell, Mountain Dew paid me to ride a motorcycle for 4 months nationwide promoting their red antifreeze colored version for one particular campaign. Yes, the line Profession Sport Bike Rider appears on my resume.
However, after a couple of years I started getting disillusioned as only someone inside of a system can. From my first event, I realized that with most processed food campaigns and soda companies in particular, the goal of almost every event was to get product in the hands and mouths of kids and lower income consumers. And it was a lot of product, in one case 17,000 sixteen ounce cans of the energy drink AMP were distributed in less than 20 minutes at the end of a NASCAR race. In another we handed out 3 pallets of Code Red somewhere in the inner city of Indianapolis in less than an hour. As part of a cog in the system it took time to really understand what was going on.
Then it hit me, I believe I was in Daytona for February Speed Weeks and I looked around. The junk food industry had stolen a page from the Crack Dealers Handbook. They knew who the power users of their products or competing products were and they hit them up unmercifully. If you weren’t a user, they would push free samples on you to get you to try it. However, most of the efforts were focused on the bread and butter consumers, the Power Users as Coke refers to them as. Just like the Tobacco companies, the Purveyors of Sugar (actually corn syrup) had realized it was a whole hell of a lot cheaper and easier to get a current consumer to buy more than it was to get a new consumer, unless that consumer was under 16. If you were unlucky enough to be under 16, then an almost unending rain of advertising dollars was going to get thrown directly at you. All food companies know that kids direct food spending dollars and that if you can convert a kid to your brand, you have a long term consumer. As an added benefit most kids don’t have the finely tuned bullshit meter most adults do when it comes to advertising. Not really a novel approach but not one that felt right to me, especially as the obesity epidemic was exploding. Not only that but my basic job description was to be the cool guy that impressionable kids aspire to be. Couple that with a few events where I ran into kids who had visible tooth decay and yet proudly professed that they drank 4 or more Mountain Dew’s a day. After one event somewhere in the Midwest, I clearly remember having to delete a photo from an after action report. In the photo there were 8 or 10 kids smiling and holding up bottles of the green sugar, that was the point of the shot, however during proofing I realized half of them had severely jacked up smiles due to tooth decay. The oldest kid couldn’t have been more than 13.
Rewind a few years and prior to college I had been an all around athlete, mostly martial arts, swimming, bicycling and running when given no other choice. During high school I was an Aquatics, Martial Arts, and Climbing Instructor and gear-head in my free time. Couple that with being an Eagle Scout and spending as much time as possible in the woods either camping or attached to something with rubber tires and an internal combustion engine and I was lucky to have not faced the issues with obesity that kids do today. It was only after being the “Public Smiling Face of Diabetes”, as I like to refer to my years in the industry, that I realized I was a part of the problem not the solution.
That realization was enough to make me leave the industry and at the same time realize that I longed to be back on the positive side of the equation. That point was hammered home when my Grandfather’s health started failing. The ensuing few years took me on a winding journey through the modern medical system, culminating in him having and making a full recovery from Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery at the age of 87. His son, my father had died years earlier at 50 from a massive Myocardial Infarction, as had my Mother’s Father at the age of 63. My Grandfather had been a Educator and Superintendent of Schools in NJ, my father a Vocational Education Teacher/General Contractor and strict adherent to the SAD diet and my Mother’s Father an employee of Goodyear Mill for 43 years with most of those being 2nd and 3rd shift. I’m sure I’ll get into this in depth in a post but looking at the overall lifestyles of those three men and their outcomes is what got my brain working towards what is now CountryBoyPaleo.com
It was around this time I found CrossFit and later Paleo. I found CrossFit like most of the first generation of people did, through CrossFit.com. I would love to say it was a local box that turned me on but those didn’t exist at the time. There was 1 box in the surrounding 3 counties at the time, and they were attached to a Christian School. Needless to say not really my people. Eventually the gym where I was a member, half ass started a CrossFit program that lasted maybe a year. Enough time for me to get my L1 and get a little CF coaching experience under my belt. Couple that with my 8 years of teaching human movement in various forms before college and I realized I was back where I needed to be.
Since then I’ve coached clients in a private non-CrossFit setting called RockBilt Fitness. I feel like Greg Glassman has gotten the theories of movement and training closer to right than anyone who has come before him but my extremely rural area won’t quite support the actual operation of CrossFit box. That was the impetus this site emerged from. In my rural setting, higher income consumers kept hiring me. Which is great, but they were already at the fitness end of the fitness-wellness-sickness continuum. They were the ones who were already free of chronic diseases. They were the ones who had a handle on their health. Yet, when I would go to the local grocery store I would see 200 more people who looked to be knocking on deaths door, usually with a cart full of crap. I ran into people from my own graduating class who were already on disability due to COPD and heart failure, not even to their mid 30’s. Those are the people who need the most help and those are the people who aren’t going to pay $100+ bucks a month for a membership at a CrossFit box. Especially when they don’t understand the value of health in general. Especially, in this case, when the population of the entire county is a shade under 40,000 and receives a little over $4,000,000 a month in SNAP/EBT benefits. I only say this because it is a fairly normal example of modern rural America. The people who used to grow America’s food, now receive a large chunk of subsidies to buy packaged and processed foods. I love coaching, but there is a bigger way to get the needle started moving.
I realized the way to make my community and the thousands of other rural communities like it across the globe truly healthier was to look to the past. To recover the knowledge that is on the brink of being lost forever and frame it with the emerging research. 50 or 75 years ago the average poor southern farmer had by default, what most people today would consider to be an extremely high quality diet. (I try very hard not to use the term “healthy” because it is far too flexible and corruptible.) I use the term high quality in regard to nutrient density in food and lack of anti-nutrients. 50 or 75 years ago wasn’t too long ago to be lost to time forever, it can still be recovered and revived. In many ways the Venn Diagram overlap between a large chunk of most rural diets and culture and the ways of Paleo are far more inclusive of the two, than exclusive.
Much has been publicized about what happens to health outcomes in a population when they are quickly exposed to the SAD. The Maori people in New Zealand and many native American groups in the US, are examples most cited. What has not been as well documented is that the same experience has befallen many other rural communities across the globe, the time and exposure just weren’t as compressed. Though, in some cases in the span of less than a generation, traditional foods and lifestyles and cultures have been replaced completely and health outcomes have fallen through the floor.
When I first discovered Paleo and once I wrapped my head around it, the entire concept felt so intuitive I hadn’t realized there was actually a word for it. Not only in the food sense but the overall idea that looking at optimizing how the human body functions requires understanding of how evolution got us here and then working with that evolution not against it. The most important piece is that much of that knowledge has been encoded though the centuries in the habits, customs and cultures of our world, long before Darwin officially framed the idea of evolution. Much of that knowledge has in turn been lost over the past 150 years or so as society single-handily accepted the clinical over the intuitive. This was the final piece of the puzzle in dovetailing the thoughts together to create CountryBoyPaleo.
As I stand here, at my writing desk, and gaze out the window at the hickory, red oak and long-leaf pine that make up the forest around me, I am reminded that what seems so permanent is merely a wrinkle in time. My forest, less than a human lifetime ago was a working cotton field, and less than a half lifetime ago was a timber plantation. In much the same way we can recover and discover the past, and we can find a way to help rural populations both return to their roots and return to a real version of life. We can undercover the wisdom of the ages by coupling it with the science of today. We by no means are anti-science. Quite the opposite in fact, we realize that science is just now beginning to discover what the collective human memory figured out long ago.
Until next time,
Keep it real and keep it rural,