I have such a special treat for you! I had the opportunity to interview Sean Flanagan of AncestralHealthCoach.com. He’s located in Bellingham, MA and is a Health & Nutrition Coach helping clients implement the wisdom of the Weston A. Price, Paleo, and Primal communities. Sean piqued my interest for an interview when I was researching nutritional consultations and coaching. He’s raw, to the point and has an excellent outlook on becoming and staying healthy. Now that we’ve got the intro out of the way, let’s hear what he had to say to my ridiculous questions .
1. Can you tell me a bit about what you do and what made you decide to take this route?
Sure! I coach clients to maximize the benefits of an Ancestral Health approach in their lives. In addition to the obvious educational-component, my role is to troubleshoot the issues that cause them to “fall of the wagon”, to provide a support system and accountability, and provide clear direction on what they would most benefit from focusing on at a given time. In a way, my aim is to break their addiction to the Standard American Diet and the deprivation-based nutrition model that is the predominant “health” paradigm. A modest goal I guess…. haha.
The past few years I’ve been working in Personal Training – which I now do just a few hours per week as an enjoyable ‘side project.’ It was a common theme with my personal training clients to come across a lot of confusion on the topic of healthy food. I asked people to describe their diets and they would say things like “Great! I don’t eat any red meat and eat lots of whole grains.” After seeing that enough times, it made me realize that helping people with their food and lifestyle is really the most important area for me to be focusing on – and generally, what would have the greatest impact on them reaching their goals.. So that’s essentially what brought me to where I am and what I’m doing today.
I started getting into fitness and nutrition at around age 12/13 reading the usual bodybuilding-based magazines and viewing nutrition as a way to get bigger and stronger – you know…the important stuff. Haha. At some point in the next few years I was introduced to Dr. Mercola’s website and that got me to start seeing things in a deeper way. I feel fortunate that I was reading “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A. Price before I even had my driver’s permit. And with some ebbs and flows through the years, my Weston A. Price influenced self eventually landed more-or-less officially in this whole Paleo thing.
As a kid I was sick – what felt like – all the time, diagnosed with “ADHD” (don’t get me started on THAT one…), had brutal seasonal allergies, and in retrospect suffered rather frequently from hypoglycemic states. I found out at pretty young age that I am sensitive to so many non-foods – realizing that I get headaches and brain fog from many processed food products. So that kept me on the straight and narrow – and I’m quite grateful for that. I see many people who are seemingly cursed by their lack of short term consequences – killing themselves but no immediate feedback from consuming bad foods – so there’s a disconnect. Most people want to feel better, but they really don’t know where to begin. In general, to me this whole nutrition and health thing is a non-brainer – I remember feeling like garbage and now in general I keep feeling better – so it’s a positive feedback loop.
2. If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?
View this whole ancestral/Paleo thing as a framework of good ideas and a scientific focus – not as dogma or a “diet.” YOUR “Paleo” doesn’t need to be MY “Paleo” and vice versa.
3. Who are your biggest influences in Paleo-land?
Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Diane Sanfilippo, and Liz Wolfe come to mind. I really dig their nutrition info – but even more, I really appreciate their respective “bigger picture” views they bring to the table. Chris Kresser comes to mind for his intellectual depth and precision. And not “Paleo” per say, but Sally Fallon will always hold a near and dear place in my heart. As without her, I would not appreciate butter to the degree that I do. Robb Wolf also deserves a second mentioning for making me more acceptable of myself for lacing brainy comments with robust profanity.
4. What’s one thing not many people know about you?
Well….I’m probably just about the only person in the world to have been turned OFF from the Paleo community for a long time due to the talking points of “LEAN meats.” It struck me as typical saturated fat paranoia and made me disinterested. But now I understand where that recommendation comes from – assuming people are getting non-ideal meat sources and the need to limit omega 6 fats. So now me and the “lean meat” idea are reluctantly okay with each other.
5. What are your favorite shoes and why?
Not a very Paleo answer at all….New Balance. One of the few brands that makes shoes for my wide-ass feet and I have a mostly good history with them. I for sure want to try some minimalist shoes…glad to see them moving away from the Peter Pan-esque look now. Now that my gym (which will remain nameless) is forcing me to wear shoes – YES, even when deadlifting – I’ll for sure have to hurry up and get some minimalist shoes soon.
6. Do you think the Paleo lifestyle will ever become a mainstream way of living? Why or why not?
My guess is that “Paleo” as a total idea will become mainstream-ish….but ideas FROM Paleo would likely be embraced on their own. To the point where perhaps in 30 years not everyone will be talking about “Paleo,” but will be choosing pasture raised meats and eschewing grains as an example.
We already see grass fed beef sales rising fast and people at large are giving wheat and gluten the hardest scrutiny they’ve received in 10,000 years. The science will stand on its own – one fight after another. It’s just a matter of time before all the money the garbage-food industry throws at public relations won’t be enough to compensate for all the testimonials flowing authentically person-to-person.
7. What do your friends and family think of your Paleo lifestyle and who’s on board?
Don’t know, don’t care mostly. Proselytizing to family members and friends is probably the least effective and least fun form of proselytizing – and I don’t feel like I need any external validation. In general I think having good social support when you start down a new healthy path is a good thing – but I also strongly discourage being dependent on “approval.”
On the home front, my special lady is a marvelous Paleo cook and working together on shopping, trying new foods, and creating recipes is a delightful aspect of our relationship.
8. Can you share your “elevator pitch” when someone asks you “What’s Paleo?”
Ya know….I really SHOULD have an elevator pitch. But as of right now I’m sure I mumble a bunch of overly-complex gibberish – while making sure to get “traditional nutrient-rich foods,” “gut health,” and “managing inflammation” somehow in there to make it at least somewhat clear.
9. If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?
Sweet potatoes – because bacon and I belong together.
10. What’s next for you? Any projects that we should keep our eyes out for?
I just finished creating my first (and free) eBook titled “The Ancestral Health Start-Up Guide,” which your readers can get HERE. Creating the eBook was fun and I see more projects like that in the future. For now, my main focus is on making my coaching programs as powerful as they can be. I am also blogging weekly as well as sharing tips and staying connected with folks on my Facebook page over at Facebook.com/SeanFlanaganHealth.
*Sean works with people via phone and email – and is currently accepting a small number of new clients. His official website can be found at www.ancestralhealthcoach.com. Give him a jingle!
Live to Thrive,