Is a sentence that you will never hear me speak. Why? Because I don’t do the whole dieting thing. I know that relying on external rules to tell me when, what or how much to eat isn’t actually going to help improve my health.
But there are a LOT of diets out there, and one that just refuses to quiet down is the Paleo diet. And since it seems to refuse to go away, I still feel the need to talk about it.
Certainly the Paleo tribe seem the most dedicated to flooding Facebook pages with fevered anecdotes. They claim everything from autism to cancer has been “cured” by following a Paleo diet.
They relentlessly attack dietitians for not endorsing the Paleo way and urge the public to wake up and educate themselves.
There’s apparently even a fund dedicated to raising money to “educate” dietitians about how they should be treating their patients – by prescribing, you guessed it, a Paleo diet.
Everywhere you look there is a rabid fan pushing their questionable n=1 data at you while at the same time claiming that by following the Dietitian’s advice they got sick.
Oh and, my personal favourite. If only a dietitian would try eating by Paleo principals then they would understand. Why don’t you just try it, they say. You’ll feel amazing and then you’ll see the truth. You’ll see why you need to join the cult.
Here’s exactly why I won’t be trying Paleo, or any diet for that matter.
Like most diets, the Paleo diet does have some good points. The diet does encourage vegetable consumption, which is a tick any dietitians box. Most forms of Paleo do encourage high amounts of meat but if you are following a well know chefs version, you’ll be eating lots of vegetables and “small” amounts of meat. (Hmm doesn’t that sound like the Australian guide to healthy eating?)
BUT. That’s about where the good points end.
It is absolutely not okay to manipulate people into cutting out entire food groups by using fear mongering tactics, as Paleo advocates do.
Insinuating that people should remove all grains from the diet because of links to autism is not okay.
It is not okay to advise someone with osteoporosis to remove dairy from their diets because milk leaches calcium from bones. There is not a shred of evidence to back this claim up.
It is not okay to conveniently overlook the fact that liver has 10 times more vitamin A in it than breast milk and it is completely unethical to then market a both broth to mothers made with said liver as a substitute for breast milk.
In short, it is absolutely not okay to put the fear of God into people, scaring them into giving up perfectly healthy, every day foods because it doesn’t happen to suit the dogma of the day.
It’s also questionable to keep pushing the idea that the meat and veggies you eat should be organic.
All this does is contribute to disordered eating patterns and eating disorders. And quite frankly, there is enough of that out there and I’ve had enough! Scaring people into giving up food is not going to help people improve their health, it’s just not.
I also won’t be trying this diet as:
- There’s nothing wrong with how I eat now.
- Bread, milk and lentils are staples in my diet. I like eating them and they help keep me healthy and I don’t see any reason why I should stop eating them. I know that the supposed “dangers” of eating grains and dairy are nothing more than fear mongering tactics of Paleo pushers designed to get you to sign up to their programs
- I feel great when I eat a wide variety of foods- some very nutritious some less so. This is part of the human experience. Imagine not being able to go out for coffee and cake with your friends because some diet tells you this isn’t okay?
- This diet is built on flawed evidence and there have been no long term studies of its effectiveness
I’m not sure why we are all arguing over who’s fad diet is better. They all have the same chance of success in the long term- 3-5%. No, that isn’t a typo. 95-98% diets will not work in the long term. The vast majority of people will re-gain weight with interest.
So can we just shut up with the diet talk already?
The reality is if someone goes from eating very sporadically and chaotically and eats lots of sometimes foods, moving to an eating pattern that includes regular meals, vegetables and other everyday foods is going to make them feel better. That’s no surprise.
But don’t think for a second that that is down to the magical powers of Paleo, or any diet for that matter. Eating in this manner is actually practicing good self care. And when we practice good self care, whether that be through nutrition or movement or by looking our mental, social or emotional health we are most probably going to feel better.