I’m not really sure when I started hating him. It probably grew out of impatience around the paleo diet—it sounds a lot like any other high-protein-and-vegetables low carb diet that has ever been created ever, except the marketing guy struck gold with the whole “caveman” thing. And Pete bloody Evans bloody loves it.
For those blissfully ignorant of who Pete Evans is, I am envious and shall enlighten you. Pete Evans is a glorified celebrity chef who made it big in the pizza business in Australia, and became one of the judges on My Kitchen Rules. He is also a huge advocate and figurehead of the paleo diet.
My loathing may have grown as I sat on a stool one afternoon and peeled labels off 80 of his cookbooks. There had just been an event; tickets had been in the neighbourhood of $100 to hear him talk about the paleo diet, or advertise his paleo cookbooks. As I looked again and again at his plastic expression and saw his artificially bright blue eyes (it has to be artificial—I mean, how do his eyes get so blue?) I became enraged. How has he built such a consumable celebrity for himself off a diet no one wanted to eat for millions of years?
The paleo diet isn’t new to anyone unless you’ve been living in a cave… oh wait… The basis of it is thus: a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or cereal products and processed food. This is all because, according to the Paleo-Pete’s of the world, despite the paleolithic period being 2.6 million years ago, our digestion hasn’t yet evolved to be able to consume and process grains, legumes, and dairy. Sure.
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In recent months his latest cookbook, the grossly title Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way, was pulled by the Australian publishers Pan Macmillan as there were claims that recipes might, well, kill babies. The recipe that was particularly alarming is one that calls for bone broth as a replacement for formula—needless to say the FDA is looking into these claims. Pete, along with the co-authors, released an online version instead, and are still backing it.
As a rule, dieticians generally say that unwarranted removal of food groups from one’s diet, especially vital ones such as grains, legumes, and dairy (my dinner tonight was literally all three groups—beans and rice with cheese), is depriving people of that food group’s nutritional value. There are also the risks of building unhealthy relationships to food.
Pete Evans has shiny blue eyes and luminescent teeth, his skin is dark in the Australian kind of tan way—he is the picture of a healthy life. An Australian reporter, Mike Willesee, took on the challenge of Paleo-Pete, who relished in the reporter’s scepticism. With the help of his wife Nicola Robinson (or Nicky Watson for you minor kiwi celeb fans (note: her Instagram handle is “nurtitionalmermaid”—a perfect description for the mythical nature of their diet, and the pseudo-science that backs it)), they set Willesee up with the goods he needed, and binned all of his Cokes.
Willesee loses weight, his cholesterol improves a bit, and his addictions have passed. For Willesee, it was his first real attempt at eating healthily: cutting out his three daily Cokes and ice cream, and including vegetables and proteins instead; it isn’t surprising he saw health benefits. But as most scientific studies have concluded, the results only prove short-term improvements, which are often marginal to insignificant at best. It’s a nicely packaged “eat healthy” slogan.
It’s not personal—Pete might be a really nice guy. He might be really into dental bleaching and contact lenses. My issue is that this diet has reached huge levels of fame and has people like Pete endorsing it with such unrelenting devotion. A diet that has been criticised by professionals, one that is akin to a juice cleanse for its removal of vital nutritional fibres and proteins, and one that has been augmented and expanded into a “lifestyle”.
Look at Pete’s Instagram account, or nutrionalmermaids’, and you’ll see that “the paleo way” allows people to have a lot of time and money, and live an agricultural dream, and also own a horse. Who wouldn’t be fooled?
We have parameters to measure religious extremists, to measure excessive racism and sexism. So do we need to develop a way to measure the excessive and unnecessary proselytising of a diet, especially one so unsubstantiated?
Jayne has recently made it as an adult after purchasing a yoghurt maker.