Real food/Paleo fan TV recommendation: Meat Eater

Since I began learning about the benefits of grassfed versus conventional meats, I've started to understand how the best meat sources could be even more than "grassfed"--wild. Products from grassfed or pastured animals are without a doubt higher quality than food from commercial animal feeding operation "conventional" sources, providing more Omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamins, and other benefits (see a few sources here, here, and here). But even responsibly raised animals like cows, hogs, and chicken are probably not the same quality as the animals our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate (if we're taking "Paleo" somewhat literally). I would love to eat mostly wild meats, freshly caught after they've been walking around in their natural habitat eating the diets meant for them. They say it's impossible to eat the actual diet of wild foods that humans in the Paleolithic era did, so isn't the most "Paleo" thing we can do to eat wild game and local produce?

One of the big mysteries in our culture is the perfect falseness of the American supermarket. Rows of bland uniform eggs, identical chicken legs, packaged, dyed bologna, pre-cooked vegetables... this monotony and easy access make us so disconnected from the sometimes painful, visceral, process than had to occur for us to find those prepackaged slices on the shelf. How disrespectful to this animal, to never recognize where it came from and the sacrifice it made to be my nutrition.

If part of why we've decided a Paleo diet is good is to be connected with our food and understand and respect it (that is, the quality, type, and quantity), having an intimate connection to the foods we might have eaten many years ago is the ultimate goal.

One step toward this connection to my food was visiting the herd at Kookoolan Farms where we have purchased beef and hog shares. We didn't get to see the specific cow we purchased, and didn't watch the killing or butchering process, but it was a good first step. However, these steps are nothing compared to what people have been doing forever, which is hunting and processing their own food.

The idea of hunting was totally foreign to me. I grew up never knowing any hunters and knowing nothing about hunting. I never realized how hunters might be living the close connection to their food sources that I would end up holding in such high regard. So much of the focus in popular hunting culture (magazines, TV shows, advertisements) is on getting the biggest buck with the biggest antlers to put on your wall as a trophy. This, by itself, has next to no appeal to me, and it never did, which is why I mostly wrote off hunting as a beneficial activity.

But then I found the show Meat Eater, a reality show on the Sportsman Channel that follows writer and host Steven Rinella. I was introduced to Steve's knowledge and methods, including fair chase hunting, eating every animal you kill, and not shying away from cuts and dishes that we don't often see in the typical American restaurant.

Steven Rinella is an avid outdoorsman, writer, and television host. He is the author of The Scavenger's Guide to Haute CuisineAmerican Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, and ... Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter. Rinella's writing has also appeared in many publications, including Outside, Field and Stream, the New Yorker, Glamour, the New York Times, Men's Journal, Salon.com, O the Oprah Magazine, Bowhunter, and the annual anthologies Best American Travel Writing and Best Food Writing. In 2010, Rinella hosted The Wild Within on Travel Channel. Currently, he is the host of MeatEater, on Sportsman Channel. He was born in Twin Lake, Michigan.

I was blown away. Every episode I watched, I learned countless new things about being and eating in the wild. I admired the respect and understanding Steve had about the dozens of animals he hunts--and I was always impressed by his  cooking skills both over the fire and back at home. 

I loved seeing Steve take some first-time hunters (and some of my favorite podcasters) out on a hunt (they've since been out a few times). He's been hunting his whole life so his perspective is very different than mine, and it's cool to see other beginners out there. It made me start to feel like hunting might be something I could actually do.

I also introduced my wife to the show. She was vegan and vegetarian for 13 years before starting to eat Paleo about two years ago, so she had even more discomfort with the concept of hunting for many years. Yet she loves the show now as much as I do. Steve is respectful, knowledgeable, and smart about how he hunts and leads by example, and I think his message rings loud and clear. He shows that hunting is primarily about the experience of being in the wild, looking at and appreciating wildlife, and bringing home food to feed your family. It's a huge adventure, and a huge unknown, every time you step out.

So while I've come to think that hunting might be the ultimate way to be in touch with my food, be respectful to the animals I eat, and to achieve my personal best as a human, I'm still not sure how I'll find an opportunity to hunt. Now my wife is interested, too, but we still don't know many hunters. We're hoping to take the steps to learn about the tools and knowledge we'll need.

Bottom line: I highly recommend the show! Meat Eater, check it out.

You can also check out Steve's book, Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter and this cool post about it.


Holiday 2014 Gift Guide - for the mobility & fitness fan

A gift guide for and from those of us who are interested or learning about fitness, training, mobility, and movement--regardless of skill level or athleticism.

I spend a lot of time thinking about strength and have been making big gains in my performance in the weight room, but mobility is equally, if not more, important. My dad and I often compare notes about our latest mobility exercises and tools, and my wife gets as excited as I do when we figure out a new technique or get new at-home equipment.

Last year at Christmas, my dad gave everyone lacrosse balls for rolling and smashing on muscle tissue and some bands for active stretching. We use them all the time. This got me thinking, there are some great gift ideas you could give friends and family to get them started with mobility work that feels good and helps training or everyday performance.

  1. Resistance bands for assisted pull-ups and banded distraction. This set of 4 or this set of 2 would be a great gift. I use them for banded distraction for my hips as well as higher rep  sets or working strictly on form in the pull-up.
  2. A high density foam roller is a great tool for working out tissue and a fun way for someone to start doing rolling work before and after workouts. (Or while watching TV!) We have the longest one (36") and use it all the time.
  3. I've worn Chuck Taylor Converse for years, but now when learning about weight training and natural movement patterns, I understand the importance of zero-drop shoes--especially for weight training. A squat or deadlift in positive heeled shoes feels so strange now. My Converse get worn out before I replace them, so I think these are a great gift for anyone like me or someone who's used to working out in Nikes but wants to start wearing flat shoes.
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett really is the "Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance." It's thick and comprehensive like a textbook, but easy to read and goes over so many of our questions about movement and strength and conditioning. I bought a copy and showed my dad, then he had to buy a copy.
  5. We use basic lacrosse balls for rolling out tight tissue. One or two of these would be a great stocking stuffer. Or get a few and tape two together to create a roller for the neck and down the thoracic spine.
  6. Kettlebells!!! The ultimate portable, versatile fitness tool. (You can read about our experience kettlebell training here.) Even if you only have ONE, you can get a good workout with swings (single- or both arm), goblet squats, and more. I think the 35 pound one would be a good one to start with, but a cheaper option that would be good for a beginner (or intermediate trainer doing Turkish get-ups) is the 15 or 20 pound one. I add these in to an otherwise mobility focused guide because working with kettle bells in proper form will really show you all of your weak spots. Whether it's tight hamstrings, shoulders, poor posture, short pecs. etc. Kettlebell training will help you improve your total body awareness and point you to spots you need to roll out with a roller or lacrosse ball, in addition to getting you stronger!
Hope you enjoy these gift ideas for family and friends!

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