Patrick Clark grew up in the Wayehutta Valley in Cullowhee, North Carolina where he developed a unique bond with nature.
In college he majored in Outdoor Recreation and spent six weeks in Nantahala and Pisgua National Forests studying Outdoor Leadership with the legendary Paul Petzoldt (founder of NOLS, Outward Bound, and Wilderness Education Association (1983).
Patrick went on to become the editor of an award winning outdoor adventure magazine, Kokopelli Notes (1993), which coined the term ‘green transportation’ and helped build awareness of what became a revolution in biker friendly cities.
Mr. Clark then ended up in the organic bedding industry where he preceeded to create a mini revolution in minimalist sleeping on a hard surface. He also invented the world’s first lightweight natural fiber wool sleeping bag at Lucky Sheep™.
Due to declining health, Mr. Clark became a health researcher to find answers to his own problems which no one seemed to be able to address.
After years of struggling, he brought himself back to life by adopting lifestyle and diet elements from the Paleo/Primal and Ancestral Health movement. Patrick is here tonight to share some of the things he discovered.
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESENTATION (goes with the slides at the link above)
I got into the paleo diet 14 years ago and I started feeling really hot after a short time. It changed the way I relate to the outdoors.
This picture of me last year in the ice cold water in winter. I never would have imagined I would be able to do this. I was skinny and freezing and I couldn’t handle anything anywhere near that. This is what I got to.
And I’m going to explain my story about how I achieved this ability, how the science works, and then show you the way you can incorporate this paleo diet and lifestyle into your life.
Most people are afraid of the cold. We are always told to put our hat on,
We never experience winter.
We live in modern houses where all year round it’s within this tiny range of temperature. We neither like the hot nor the cold. Maybe 65 and 75 F. is our range.
We tell our kids to put your hat on. They want to go out and we tell them to put your hat on. They still have some instincts left.
We call the most common illness: The Cold. So that tells you something about how we feel about the cold.
When I tell my friends about what I do, they don’t even want me to mention the cold, that there’s anything about it. and that I do it.
So want to congratulate you all for coming out tonight. I think us outdoor people have a special interest in this. You are already half paleo, even if you don’t do the diet.
The things we know about health, diet and cold is basically wrong.
When I tell people about the cold they don’t even want to hear it.
There’s been tons of scientific discoveries in the past few years that were hidden from the common everyday person.
Even to this day most paleo people are still living in indoor environments. In this talk I am going to talk about how to take paleo outdoors where the real paleo environment is.
How I got Into This
I saw pictures like this (Native Americans out in the winter wearing not a lot of clothing) and I couldn’t even relate to it. They are out there in the ice working on a buffalo hide or something and wearing so little clothing. What’s different about me from these people I am seeing. I kept being fascinated about it. As I was doing the paleo diet I kept feeling warmer. I started to have the urge to go into the water in the fall. I experimented just a little bit, maybe less than a minute of plunging in the cold.
I hadn’t even thought about it before that. i had been vegan for the previous 18 years. Suddenly I just wanted to jump in that water. Just because it was there.
I was really strong as a child. I grew up barefoot and wild in Wayehutta Valley climbing around the mountains and playing in the creek.
Then in high school I got sick. I totally lost it. I spent 18 years trying to get well. I weighed between 109 and 120 for those years. I was so skinny and barely there.
When I tried the paleo diet I got better immediately. I not only got better, but I got better than I had ever been before.
Before that I hadn’t even heard about it.
It’s like taking the food pyramid and turning it upside down. And taking a lot of our ideas of health and reality and turning them upside down.
This was the missing link that I overlooked all those years.
I would go outside and get so cold. My fingers and toes would get numb. I would do it but it wasn’t fun. I was trying to prove to myself of someone else that I could do it, but I would always come back all ragged out. I couldn’t recuperate without coming back into the warm house.
I was on this six week Leadership Training Course with Paul Petzhold in May 1983. We were up near Devil’s Courthouse in Pisguah National Forest. We had this unexpected winter storm in May and we weren’t prepared. That night the wind came down on us and battered our tents. Some tents got smashed. I was terrified.
It was a good learning experience. We were trying to learn outdoor skills and how to use our Leadership Skills to figure out problems. Great opportunity. How would we deal with this.
So these people were coming back from town due to a medical emergency and they went around to our tents and severed us these things. They went to a fast-food place and got donuts and hot coffee.
That was the totally wrong thing to do.
Now Paul Petzholdt, as far as an outdoor teacher…I mean he was IT. I totally respect and admire him. But that was totally the wrong thing to serve us for generating heat.
These things I’m teaching were not known back then. This paleo/ ketogenic info has only been brought out after Paul died.
That’s kind of an example of how I went through life, not matching up things to make things work.
I kept going downhill with my health and I gave up backpacking for awhile. I needed to just focus on my health.
Eventually I got totally better and not just better, but beyond anything I had before. I could now relate to these Natives and understand what they were doing.
There was this neurosurgeon Jack Kruse that helped me bring it to another level. Jack isn’t an outdoor guy but he showed the science behind how we can adapt to the cold. He teaches how to do this thing called Cold Thermogenesis training.
A scientific way to train the body to generate heat. You do this by exposing your body to cold in incremental measured amounts.
It’s best to do the Paleo Diet for awhile and get yourself to burn fat first. It helps the process. But you can do them both at the same time…that is start cold and pale at the same time.
There is a general Paleo diet and then there is a Circadian Specific Paleo diet. And that’s where you eat specifically to help you with living outdoors.
There is a medical type protocol and then there is just an everyday approach to adapting to the cold, with incremental exposure to the weather.
Tipi Experiement. That’s when I moved into a tipi to see if all this theory stuff would really work. It worked amazingly. Not only was I able to adapt tot he cold but I was also able to use the cold to help get my health better.
I started philosophizing about it. I realized the body is the main GEAR in outdoor gear. And how can we optimize it and make it work the best.
I had to rethink how I was doing this. Before I used to just go all out. But then I realized if I was going to keep my new health I was going to to slow down and watch my health indicators to make sure I wasn’t wearing my battery down.
My question was: How can I go out there and merge and harmonize with nature and enjoy the experience. Not just how many miles can I get in or something. Not just that, but I saw that water and I wondered, how can I go in there? I really want to go in there. How can I go out there and blend and harmonize with nature. Not just that but
I spent a few years playing around with all these things. I was also trying to figure out how to bring this food out there? How can I do this backpacking. You can’t bring a fridge. Don’t have access to fresh meat. All my life I was told to eat carbs. Carb loading was where it was at. How can I do this paleo?
This is totally the opposite. How can I do this backpacking…bring the food out there.
It was just amazing to be able to start getting into this freezing ass water and be able to enjoy it.
It’s relative–Cold Adapted. It’s not just you ARE or you AREN’T. It’s more like, to what degree can you or can’t you.
I started out with two minutes early in the spring and worked my way up throughout the summer to 20 minutes in a 55 degree stream. There’s some really cold water around here. Even all year you can find these creeks that are close to 55 degrees.
And even with all this training…when I moved into the tipi in winter I still wasn’t ready for it. It still took me time to get adapted to that new level.
You still have to worry about hypothermia and frostbite. It’s just gong to make you be able to be there longer and extend your limits. I wanted to be able to SUSTAINABLY do it. Go out there and enjoy it and not need to recuperate later.
For instance I can extend the temperature range of my sleeping bag. I can experience shivering which eventually stops as my body has generated enough heat to stay on this margin of comfort between too cold and good enough.
You kind of get this sense, I can do anything! You don’t tighten up. There’s not this transition going outside and taking a few days to get used to it.
You look like you have a tan…it increases your circulation.
You start craving different types of food. Some of the things I’m talking about you might not have thought about as food or you weren’t attracted to it. But when you get cold things change. Your tastes change.
You can hike further, faster, You can lift thing heavier. And what I mean by this is, you can perform better during the cold. The heat becomes a different story. When adapted to the cold, I find it much harder to handle heat. But that is very easy to remedy or balance by doing more Cold Thermogenesis during the hotter months.
I use cold water to keep my body temperature down instead of using air conditioning. At least as much as I can.
Your mental focus is amazing. You sleep amazing. Rapid healing of injuries. Just recently I had a stitch like cut on my finger. It would have needed about three stitches at the emergency room. I just put a butterfly bandage on it…actually two.
The next day I was out working, with a glove. In about a week it had healed over, without a scar.
When I first moved into the tipi during the winter I couldn’t operate my fingers but in two weeks I could move my fingers like normal. They swelled up real big and looked terrible. Like they were arthritic but they didn’t hurt at all.
Paleo is also synonymous with Ketogenic. To be ketogenic you would need to eat more fat and protein per calorie than carbohydrate.
Glycolosis vs. Ketosis….
Glycolosis is where you make cellular energy through burning carbohydrates.
You can get 36 units of ATP with carbs or glucose, compared to 147 with fat.
That cellular energy is what generates the heat.
I compare it to a standard high octane car vs. a diesel engine. You get many more miles per gallon with the ketogenic.
You want to have a plan to start this. It is a very specific and radical change in the way your body uses food. It takes adjusting and transitioning.
Slides showing the mapping of Cold Adaptation Pathways.
I wrote three articles about my tipi experience. Read about it on my blog.
It was a big deal to live in the tipi. It took forever to figure out how to construct it and work it. All these odd sized poles. There is an art and a science to it. It is a knowledge that was almost lost but was kept alive by a few survivors.
It took awhile to get up to 20 minutes. I started with like two minutes for awhile, then I got up to five minutes. I stayed there for a long time then got to 10 minutes and eventually to twenty. Now all this depends on what time of year it is and how cold the air is. I do less water time in winter because I’m already getting the cold effect from the air.
Living in the tipi…It wasn’t just cold. It was being outside with the sun, fresh air, animals. Most paleo people don’t know about this. They don’t do it. You all DO it.
Anything which synchronizes your circadian rhythms is going to help you cold adapt because it saves you energy by optimizing all the functions of your body.
All these things are triggers for balancing circadian rhythms.
One week of camping resets out biological clock and resets our hormones, etc.
Winter started coming. I got a wood stove. I even had WI FI at some places. I lived in several places over about a two year period.
My hands actually got so big. They swelled up and they never went down. They looked arthritic but they didn’t hurt at all.
Some health benefits:
I gained 20 pounds of lean muscle. (Went from 135 to 155).
I started eating tons of butter. At first I was eating only a few tablespoons but within a few days of being in this real winter…I was eating about a pound a day. First it was a stick
It was real demanding to live this way. I couldn’t do it forever. But I learned what I wanted to learn. And you can totally do it, without living in a tipi.
The main thing for heat generating is to burn fat. Get your body to be a fat burner.
So just exactly what can you do? At what temperature can I go outside and sit down and be comfortable without moving. It turned out once I was Adapted I could go and sit and be comfortable at 45 degrees and 55 degrees. Before paleo, I could be cold at 72 degrees.
I’m just pointing out the different nuances of what you can do at different temperatures.
For instance, during the Ice Age, how did we survive? We are still the same species. How could we possibly do that? They weren’t eating grain and fruit and sugar and stuff like that.
Being exposed to the cold creates a type of resistance. It’s a bit like doing exercise where the right amount, intensity and timing builds muscle over time.
Here I was outside with no shirt at about 45 degree. I felt great that day. That shows me after I toughened up.
Sleep became amazing. I would go to the edge of where my sleeping bag range would meet the temperature it was designed to go to. And then I would start shivering. Then the shivering would stop and I would be warm at that temperature that had previously caused the shivering.
It’s just pretty amazing. It opens up a whole new universe. There is a world out there noone wants to enter. If you can enter it, you have increased your options tremendously.
The cold helps us by preserving cellular energy.
Mitohondrial Responsiveness. The part of the cell that’s the communication center. So anything that helps that helps your body to make adjustments as the environment changes.
Jack Kruse has all this stuff mapped out. You have to be a geek to follow him. He’s got all this mapped out about what makes what work. I’ve got a link to him here.
Cold and hibernation.
We can’t handle the most basic things. We’ve just been pampered and domesticated. They say we are over domesticated. But you all probably know how to dress.
Synthetic Fabrics don’t work because our body runs off of magnetism. We have this subtle electric current running along our skin. Our cells are using that current to communicate. Synthetics have metals because they are from petroleum. So those metals short circuit that electric current. This adds one more burden for the body.
I invented a lightweight wool sleeping bag because there is no such thing on the market. I started noticing how synthetic bags were so different, i never slept right. I had actually converted to synthetic everything for backpacking just like everyone else, but then went back to wool. It took me years to collect clothing to create and entire wardrobe. Base layer and sweaters. Then the sleeping bag was the last thing to figure out. Go here to see it:
Your body is passing moisture through the skin and synthetics hamper this process, which is also related to temperature regulation.
So WOOL is the way to go. Cotton doesn’t work because it doesn’t hold heat. Wool is like fur. It makes us have that ability like animals with fur. To regulate that energy flow, breathability, moisture and temperature regulation.
The things that are the biggest killers to Cold Adaptation.
But you have to really rethink things. You can’t exactly go out and buy this stuff. But they are coming up with some of these things. I noticed REI now has a really good jerky bar thing.
These are the main killers to heat:
Alcohol…I hate to rain on the party but it’s terrible for heat production.
I tested it recently to see if just a shot or two would hurt. I got really cold with just a little wine. I decided I wouldn’t do that anymore.
Sugars and starches. You don’t have to do this entirely to still get results. But I’m giving you some guidelines here.
Staying up late at night. Using artificial blue lights.
Our Circadian Rhythms are already off to begin with.
We stay in heated places too much.
We don’t understand fats. Hydrogenated fats are full of thyroid inhibitors. Seed oils are full of thyroid inhibitors.
I’m talking real fats. Saturated fats…like coconut oil, lard, butter, tallow. People are really confused about fats. Saturated fats act like anti-oxidants and also provide the building blocks for the steroid hormones that create vitality, thyroid funtion, testosterone, and such.
You will crave this stuff if you start experimenting with it. You might think right now there is no way, but once you get cold you will think different.
And when I first started this I was vegan for 20 years.
Omega 3’s are important because they help you in the cold.
The way to get them is to eat grassfed, high quality fats and meats. That’s what puts them in there. You might feel achy in the cold if you don’t have enough. O 3’s help your joints be more fluid.
Of course you get them from fish and cod liver oil as well. But you don’t have to have that.
Trace minerals. These come from salt, seafood, veggie juices, organ meats among other places.
Avoiding Carbohydrates. That means the typical trail foods like power bars and electrolyte drinks and pasta.
Just playing with your edge. Just playing with the heat in your house . Turn it down or off and just play with it. Then when you go outside there won’t be this big shock.
We don’t live out there where all the creeks are. People do this in their bathtubs and showers and stuff. So, that’s especially good in the summer.
If you do 20 minutes of Cold Thermogenesis in your bathtub 3 times a week, that is sufficient to keep all these cold adaptation pathways open.
There are several other ways of doing CT as well. The easiest way is to lay down and place an ice pack on each side of your neck for 20 minutes. That will cool all the blood in your body. You will notice a difference right away. It’s as if you were laying in the shade or something.
You don’t really want to go all year and then suddenly start doing this. It is something that you build up to. You can start with just splashing your face with cold water. You can also put ice packs on your body.
The earliest you can get outside in the morning and let the sunlight hit your retina.
Going to bed early.
Having the biggest meal of the day for breakfast.
When you sleep create a sanctuary. If you can get it cool in your sleep area you will go into deeper stages of sleep when it’s colder. Not extremely cold. You just have to explore your edge and work with it.
Sedentary kills cold adaptation and thyroid. So getting a movement lifestyle where you aren’t sitting for hours without moving. See more about this on my blog. www.footlooseandchairfree.com
Three layer dressing system.
Hot liquids with butter and gelatin.
Shivering and moving.
Natural Fibers. See this video for explanation:
On a weekend hike I would just bring fresh food. I’m not the only one with that philosophy. Ray Jardine world class long distant hiker says the same thing. The more you spend camping under the sky, the more you realize it’s not good to compromise on food quality. Of all times that’s when you need it.
This time of year you could bring fresh meat at least for a weekend. Other times of year rubbing meat with spices which preserves it with antioxidants.
It’s better to have cold air and more clothing and covers than to heat the air and have less insulation.
The way I eat is on my blog so you can go on there and get some recipes.
The main paleo backpacking food is traditional Native American pemmican.
There is an article about that here.
Question from audience:
I tend to be real hot so what would this do to me in the summer time?
You kinda have to choose. You can drink a lot of ice cold liquids. You can do cold thermogenesis more often. Keep your body temperature low that way. Of course air conditioning is another option.
What is this going to do to my arteries and plaque.
The pufas (Poly Unsaturated Fats) are actually responsible for plaque build up in arteries. Our body needs cholesterol for the building blocks of youth giving regenerative hormones like testosterone, HGH, progesterone, thyroid.
The seed oil companies actually put out propaganda in the 1920s and 40s to make us believe saturated fats are bad. The paleo. movement actually exposed that scandal.
But before the paleo movement, Dr. Ray Peat spelled it our very well. Here is his blog post on it:
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