This is a guest post, by Bryan Barksdale (see bio at end of article).
There is no arguing that the Paleo community has one of the best and most responsive online communities out there. We have amazing bloggers
and you can always find lively discussions on the forums of Mark’s Daily Apple
or Paleo Hacks
. There is no denying that this trend is growing, and the chances are that in 2011 you are not the only one living this lifestyle in your city.
So why not get off your computer and interact with other adherents of the primal lifestyle face-to-face?
That was my thought last year when I started the Austin Primal Living Group
on Meetup.com. It can get tiring trying to explain your eating habits to your family and friends, and it can be hard not being able to eat things at social gatherings. That prompted me, motivated by the success of the NYC group, to start a meetup group in Austin, TX.
One year later: it has been a great success and something I am very proud of. We have over 170 members, and we have a meetup almost every week.
So why is it important to create real world communities in this digital age?
Community was essential to the survival of our hunter-gatherer ancestors; man is by nature a social animal. Hunter-gatherers lived in tight-knit egalitarian communities that were inter-dependent on the hunting and gathering of others in the tribe. They were the original affluent society, with short “work” hours and an abundance of leisure and playtime. They desired very little in the material sense.
However in this modern age we have a society that idolizes the rugged individual along with technology and consumerism that isolates us further. Consequently, we see now that a person’s social network can affect their well-being and mental health.
This quote is from the abstract of a review article on the subject:
A search of the literature published since the mid-1970s (under the MEDLINE key words, “social ties,” “social network,” “social isolation,” “social environment”) presented strong evidence that social integration leads to reduced mortality risks, and to a better state of mental health.
Having friends and being part of a tight knit community is the default state for humans, it is the ancestral condition.
I also think that starting real-life communities will help the ancestral health movement grow and prosper. People are more likely to stick to this lifestyle if they have friends who do it and they can have fun while doing it. It also gets the right people together and generates ideas and partnerships that didn’t exist before.So how can you get involved?Check meetup.com and see if you have a group that is near you. If so, join the group and RSVP for the next meetup that strikes your fancy. If they don’t have anything scheduled you may be able to suggest one if their settings allow that. Now if there isn’t one around you, take a chance and start one, it is definitely worth the small amount of money.So what is there to do at a meetup? Let me give you some ideas:
- The mainstay is the Potluck; we primal folk love our food and this is a great way to show off your skills and try new things. You can do these at a public park or someone’s home and it’s just a great dinner party. The conversations just flow.
- Hikes on local trails are great or maybe a swim at a local natural spring like Barton Springs in Austin.
- Natural Movement workouts are good idea — I even started a separate meetup group just for that.
- Book discussions are great if you have a knowledgeable and passionate crowd.
- Skill workshops and cooking demonstrations — f you have a primal skill share it with your community. We recently did a fermentation workshop and it was great, I’ve started making my own sauerkraut and kombucha.
- Try touring a local farm or farmers market and get closer to your food. You could even work out a meat share with the members of your group.
- Volunteering, get together and give back to a local food bank or community garden
- Have a meetup at a restaurant that serves good primal food; the best places I have found so far are Brazilian steakhouses and barbeques. Or you could have your own cookout or backyard barbeque.
- Look for speakers visiting your area or knowledgeable community members and invite them to come speak at a meetup.
- You could try going camping or a have a bonfire.
There you have it! I hope you are encouraged to attend or start a paleo meetup group, or any group for that matter, and make some primal friends.
Bryan Barksdale is a recent UT graduate who is passionate about helping others attain optimal health. He is currently working on his MD/PhD at UTMB and UT Austin. He is interested in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases with nutrition and lifestyle modifications. He is currently the organizer of the Austin Primal Living Group and the Austin Natural Movement Meetup Group. He will be getting married to the lovely Tracy Bennet this July 2nd.