The Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand aims to foster collaboration among scientists, health professionals and laypersons who study and communicate about health from an evolutionary perspective in order to develop solutions to our modern health challenges.
The Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand – Te Kauwhata Tūhauora o Aotearoa – is a fully incorporated not-for-profit society, existing with the core aim of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists, healthcare professionals, organisations and laypersons that study and communicate about human health and the human ecological niche from an evolutionary perspective in order to develop solutions to New Zealand’s current and future health challenges. The AHSNZ aims to promote research and disseminate knowledge relevant to the health and other benefits of an ancestral lifestyle, providing a high level of robust scientific evidence to support the views and aims of all those individuals who make up the society and who believe that our individual lives and the health of our country as a whole can be improved by taking such an approach. Via this website, regular open meetings, ongoing collaboration, published position statements, and an biannual symposium, the AHSNZ aims to fulfill all of its aims.
Whilst the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand (AHSNZ) shares many of the same visions, values, and inspirations with other Ancestral Health Societies around the globe, and works in a collaborative manner with them, there are no financial or other formal links to them.
Meet Our People
The Society is organised into three regional teams to better allow each team work more closely and collaboratively than what might otherwise occur with a larger, more centralised structure. To come up with the regions, we split New Zealand into three parts. The Northern Region encompasses the North Island of New Zealand, north of a line running from Taranaki to the East Cape, with the branch headquarters being in Auckland. The Central Region takes in the rest of the North Island below that line, with the branch headquarters being in Wellington. The Southern Region is the South Island plus the team members based offshore (currently Australia and USA), with the branch headquarters being in Christchurch.
Northern Regional Executive Team
Dr Mikki Williden, Northern Regional Executive Officer (Auckland)
Mikki Williden is a registered nutritionist with postgraduate degrees in nutrition and public health, and a physical education degree. She has a private nutrition clinic, an online nutrition coaching business and is a regular contributor to Bite Magazine in the NZ Herald, writes for Kiwi Trail Magazine and is a Research Associate at AUT University, Auckland. In her downtime, she loves to run, on both roads and trails, drink coffee, listen to music and potter in the kitchen.
Matthew Stewart, Northern Regional Executive Support/Social Media Support (Auckland)
Matthew Stewart (BCom BAppSc [Human Bio] MOst PGDipHE PDCI) works as a registered osteopath in private practice in Mt Eden, Auckland. He has worked as a clinician and educator in the health field for over 20 years in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and the USA. Matt contributes to the society by managing social media and being part of the Northern Team based in Auckland delivering public events on various topics relating to ancestral health.
Julianne Taylor, Northern Regional Executive Support/Social Media Support (Auckland)
Julianne Taylor (NZRGON, PGDipSc [Nutrition], NZ Registered Nutritionist) has had a varied career history, as a registered nurse, a designer (of equipment for people with disabilities) and artist. All that changed in 1996 when she tried a diet plan based on ancestral principals and a host of niggling health issues reduced. This led to a career change culminating in the recent completion of a Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition at Massey University, where Julianne carried out qualitative research project investigating the use of a paleolithic diet by people with rheumatoid arthritis. Not satisfied with that, Julianne is now about to embark on further research for her Master’s degree.
In the last few years Julianne has worked as the sole researcher for prime time television documentaries; the highly successful “Is Sugar the New Fat?” presented by Nigel Latta, and a series presented by Simon Gault called “Why Are We Fat?” investigating the obesity epidemic. Powerlifting has become a recent passion, and she is now in training for the Nationals. Julianne contributes to AHSNZ by managing social media and being part of the Northern Team based in Auckland.
Central Regional Executive Team
Dr Karen Faisandier, Central Regional Executive Officer (Wellington)
Karen Faisandier spent the first three years of her clinical psychology career feeling depressed in an overburdened and understaffed DHB addiction and mental health service. Here she became disillusioned about our “mental health system,” and the pathologisation and medicalisation of emotional distress and social issues like inadequate nutrition and lifestyle disease. She saw an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” approach with revolving-door crisis management, paperwork avalanches, compassion fatigue and staff burn-out.
Karen experienced little opportunity for human connection, early intervention, or even better – prevention. After experiencing profound helplessness about continuing on in a DHB setting, she decided the only solution was for her to align her work with her values. She made the decision to leave and create her own service, and for the past two years has run The Integrative Practice in Wellington CBD. This service offers people a combination of nutrition and lifestyle modifications as a mainstay of their healthcare, integrating these with modern therapies. In addition to her practice, Karen tries to be a conduit for this integrated knowledge to a wider New Zealand audience, through her online writing on her Integrative Practice blog.
Karen joined the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand (AHSNZ) finding like-minded others who shared her concerns about the state of our health systems and beyond, but who had found hopeful and inspiring ways to work in their respective roles, with the collective aim of bettering NZ society. Karen is currently our lower North Island Regional Executive Officer, and, together with the team, dream up and deliver public events on various topics relating to ancestral health.
Phil Becker, Central Regional Executive Support/Finance and Compliance (Wellington)
Phil reckons hitting his fifties was like so many other guys doing the same – a mark in our life where we reflect on our past and future years. Phil says it was a point for taking greater responsibility for his health outcomes, physical and mental. Phil doesn’t have any medical training or academic grounding in health, unless you count the too many hours he has spent in accident & emergency wards. His valuable perspective is very much that of a layman, or “Joe Average” as he likes to call it, drawing on his experience of observing both himself and, from a distance, others.
The lack of formal health training hasn’t stopped Phil from trying out different approaches aimed at improving his well-being, which he says was suffering – “that late middle aged thing we are supposed to accept as part of life.” Some approaches worked, some didn’t. Those that did work seemed to be closest to a first principles approach, what he learned to be bedded down in evolutionary frameworks and ancestral practice. With this as the backdrop Phil engaged with a small group of others, mostly health professionals, who shared similar interests and approaches, from which emerged his role as a founding member of the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand.
You often won’t find Phil at the forefront of the society, though he has proved himself handy on the public speaking microphone on several occasions. Phil’s value to AHSNZ echoes his public service ethic – pleased to be able to contribute in the background, providing a platform from which those others can communicate and demonstrate the approaches to health that go some way to addressing our evolutionary mismatch.
Southern Regional Executive Team
Dr Anastasia Boulais, Southern Executive Officer/Digital Media Support (Christchurch)
Born and raised in Russia, Anastasia moved to Australia at the age of 17. With science being her first love, she completed a Diploma in Pathology and a degree in Medical Science, majoring in microbiology and anatomy. Working in the clinical microbiology labs sparked her interest in the medical aspects of science and Anastasia took a plunge to become a doctor. Dividing her time between medical school lectures and working as a part time fitness instructor gave her good understanding of the importance of preventative medicine and the challenges involved in the application of diet and lifestyle advice.
Anastasia became interested in evolutionary medicine and got involved in the Ancestral Health movement while still a medical student, first writing a successful blog and then traveling to the US to attend and later present at the Ancestral Health Symposium. With her partner, nutritionist, Jamie Scott, Anastasia formed an alliance with Whole9 and became Whole 9 South Pacific, running public nutrition seminars in Australia and New Zealand. In 2014, together with a passionate group of like-minded folks, they formed the Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand.
Anastasia is the current Regional Executive Officer for the Southern branch of the society.Anastasia resides in Christchurch and currently works as a locum emergency and urgent care doctor. She spends her free time volunteering for the Society, studying for her Urgent Care fellowship, lifting heavy things, and trying to stay upright on her mountain bike. Every now and then she writes at re-evolutionary.com
Jamie Scott, Southern Regional Executive Support/Organisational Development (Christchurch)
Despite nearly a decade’s worth of formal study in biological health sciences, any notion of our evolutionary biology being mismatched to our modern ways of living was only something Jamie read in a sports nutrition book some 10 years after graduating university. It was a concept barely mentioned across multiple disciplines of study, but one which appeared to address many of the problems Jamie was seeing with his clients at the time, as well as his own professional (and personal) frustration at a lack of success through repeating and applying the common guidelines of the day.
With his interest in this new (old) paradigm for thinking about human health, Jamie began reading, researching, and blogging on a variety of evolutionary mismatch concepts, including nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and resilience, as well as attending and speaking at Ancestral Health symposia in the USA. In 2012, with his partner, Dr Anastasia Boulais, a plan was hatched to form an ancestral health society in New Zealand. In 2013, with the help of a diverse range of New Zealand-based health professionals and interest laypersons, The Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand was formed as a not-for-profit society.
Jamie’s current professional focus is in helping individuals, small business, and large organisations build and maintain their capacity through a focus on physical, emotional, and mental energy – an approach that focuses on working like a human rather than the all-too-commonplace culture of humans working like machines – through his business, Being Human. Using his professional qualifications in nutrition and physical health, as well as skills built up over 20 years in the field, Jamie translates the complexity of human biology into the essential ‘big rocks’ of health and wellbeing, so that people can increase their energy and capacity for living a better life.
Jacqui Lee, Southern Regional Executive Support/Systems and Administration (Christchurch)
After spending a couple of decades studying and working in clinical and research labs, Jacqui noticed that even though society had an ever-increasing amount of knowledge when it came to human health, Her health and the health of those around her continued to deteriorate. These observations and a need for an explanation sent Jacqui down a rabbit hole which eventually lead to AHSNZ. After attending their first public event in Christchurch she became hooked!
Being part of the AHSNZ has allowed Jacqui to interact with some amazingly inspirational people from different walks of life with different perspectives on human health. She takes great pleasure in volunteering for AHSNZ and helping these amazing people develop and disseminate their message.
In Jacqui’s spare time you’ll find her outside exploring and reconnecting with nature, one step (or ride) at a time.
Jo Fitton, Digital Editor (Melbourne)
Jo is a Kiwi (hailing from Whanganui) who’s been calling Melbourne home for the last fourteen years. She currently works in the public service in the areas of contract / project management, and she is also undertaking graduate study in Social Housing Policy. Jo’s career has always had a community focus whether it’s disability, aged care or family services. It is because of her core beliefs in community, ecology and ancestral health principles that Jo was naturally drawn to the work of the Society.
Being a part of the Society also helps Jo maintain strong links with her homeland which is important to her. Plus, Jo reckons the Society are an awesome bunch of people to work with! Jo’s role as Digital Editor involves producing the monthly newsletter and website maintenance.
Craig Zielinski, Web Support (San Diego)
Craig Zielinski is an exotericist. He listens for the echoes of the ancient past to the noise of the modern day and articulates and refines a distillation of timeless concepts around clarity, durability, nourishment, repose, resonance and vitality for the modern human.
A native of Scotland now living in San Diego, California, he coaches powerlifting and weightlifting locally and studies a range of subjects on his website Strong.AF.
He has spoken internationally on the subject of Strength Training for Normal Humans and is currently involved in a number of projects that could have global implications around human health in the modern world.
He is a member of the Ancestral Health Symposium NZ executive committee in a supporting role for the AHSNZ website.
Craig can be found on the internet.
Dr Lara Briden (Christchurch)
Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor with 20 years experience in women’s health. Informed by a strong science background, she’s is a passionate communicator about women’s health and alternatives to hormonal birth control. Through her work with thousands of patients with PCOS, thyroid disease, and other conditions, she’s had the opportunity to witness first-hand the transformative power of ancestral health principles. She’s the author of Period Repair Manual and resides in Christchurch.
Lara joined AHSNZ in 2015 to connect with like-minded people and to help to spread the message of ancestral health. As an associate member, Lara contributes expertise and content, and is always happy to come out for an event!
Felicity Leahy (Wellington)
Felicity (BBMedSc, BNatMed, BA) is a registered Naturopath and Clinical Herbalist. With a varied career to date that has included research, writing and education, she now works full-time in private practice.
She joined the Society to connect with other like-minds who view individual health as inextricably linked with the health of communities and the environment, something which is central to traditional practices of medicine like herbalism but forgotten in modern health policy and practice.
With her fellow regional teammates, Felicity contributes to the society with the creation and delivery of interesting and informative public events.