Pete's way or the highway...?
Pete’s way or the highway….?
How do I sum it all up? This post could turn into a short story if I let it so I'll do my best to be succinct. In my attempt to do this, let me break it down for you into what I liked, what I disagreed with, and what was blatantly obvious.
What I liked
As a Wholefood Dietitian, my main aim is to help guide people back to an individualised diet based on fresh whole foods as minimally processed and unrefined as possible. And, most importantly, doing this whilst still maintaining a social life and enjoy being who they are (food intolerances and all). Despite the subtle (not subtle) dig at the DAA, our national guidelines, and the fact that journalists often contact dietitians for nutrition related statements (which they’re meant to for an expert opinion), the event actually had many positive messages.
The key ones I took home, and have touched on before in this post, were:
- Eat a diet based on whole foods, minimally processed, unrefined
- Know where your food comes from
- Shop locally
- Choose sustainable food sources
- (Surprisingly to some) Consume a moderate intake of protein
- Eat as many veggies as you want
- You have the choice to decide what you put into your body
- When dining with friends on occasion “make the wisest choices you can” - Pete
- Use your food dollar to support those who care about what you eat – “I’d rather have my food dollars go to someone who tries hard to do the right thing, instead of those who don’t care” – Nora.
- “Everything in moderation is fine until it isn’t” – I actually really like this quote from Pete. When did we start to use moderation as an excuse to eat the things we know we shouldn’t really be consuming on such a regular basis? I find whenever people say “oh everything in moderation”, it’s never about veggies, or fresh fruit, or protein. It’s about an indulgent food. I’m not saying never have them. I’m just saying take note of how often you use it as an excuse. Is ‘moderation’ doing you more harm than you think?
- Take time out, keep a sense of humour, avoid self-medicating, avoid eraditated GMO foods, and supplement only when necessary. Good solid evidence.
- Low fat diets are over.
What I disagreed with:
The 'juicy' part. This is what you’re reading this post for, right?
I’m going to contain it to the main points.
- The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Plate – the largest section is breads and cereals of which “we have no nutritional requirements for at all”. In fact, “once we consume it, it causes us problems” – Pete. You know what – and I may ruffle a few feathers here, but if we have a nutrient rich diet full of wholefoods from the other sections of the plate, we could do with much less of this category, or even leave this group out, depending on the individual. Unfortunately – when you market this group as problematic and poisonous – these scare tactics will sell books, but they also cause a world of confusion and struggle for those simply trying to find out what their healthy diet should be. Not everyone eats meat, nor can everyone afford to not use grains as a staple. Dietitians ethically cannot, on a whole population level, promote a diet that eliminates every single grain or starchy carb. Where does that leave those with a lower economic status? They’re already at a higher risk of chronic disease, so cutting out potatoes, wholegrains such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat; corn, legumes, beans/peas and other staple foods that in fact do have health-promoting properties (if they’re consumed minimally processed and as close to nature as possible) would be disastrous. People may leave them out of their diets, but it doesn't automatically mean they'll switch to eating a nutrient rich diet abundant in the other food groups. If you can and thrive without grains and legumes, then that’s great, but placing a blanket statement about them all being poisonus and horrible for our health only complicates the situation, it doesn’t make it easier. Nutrition simply isn’t so black and white.
- Nora also referred to the healthy eating pyramid as the “feedlot pyramid” as chow fed to pigs ‘has the same nutrient composition’ used to fatten them up before slaughter. Believing it should be turned on its head. First up - Australian Dietitians don’t use the food pyramid anymore. Secondly, if we turned the pyramid upside down, it would be suggesting that to eat paleo – we should be consuming “Most:” lots of oil, butter, reduced fat margarine, and SUGAR. Whoops I guess they left that out of the pyramid for that piece of ammo. Wait, there’s more…Followed by “Eat moderately:” milk, eggs, cheese, lean meat, and fish. But I thought dairy was out? Oh dear. Then lastly, we “should” be “Eating only in small amounts:” breads, cereals, legumes, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Only a few veggies, fruit and nuts? If that’s the case, more than 90% of the population is already close to paleo! Now I know that’s not the paleo diet these guys recommend, so please, quit using it as evidence that current dietary guidelines suck, because it’s an irrelevant and misguided comment.
- Eat “nothing from a packet” – sounds good in theory, but not all packaged foods are bad, there are some that are perfectly nutritious and good for us e.g. frozen berries, coconut milk, olive oil, nuts and seeds – this is simplifying things way too much. Cut back to removing those packaged products that are highly refined and processed and you’ve got me back on board.
- “Eating from 5 food groups is nonsense” – Similar to the previous point, but let me expand. Indirectly calling the food groups and our guidelines as nonsense is not a good way to get more health professionals on your side. Though many people eat from only a select few food groups due to allergies, intolerances, illnesses, personal choice etc. The food groups are there to compliment each other, offering a variety of nutrients. When one group can’t be consumed for whatever reason, then the other groups make up the deficit. The whole point of the plate in my eyes, is to ensure that whatever people eat, from whichever food groups, they should choose a variety of foods from the foods on the plate, and not the sugary, highly processed fat containing junk foods that don’t get any space on the plate whatsoever.
- “Food is medicine or food is poison” with the example of plane food being poison – whilst plane food isn’t wonderful, it’s again, just not that black and white. Also reiterated via “food is going to strengthen you or poison you”. Which, if it was 'strengthen or hinder your health', I’d be ok with. But that doesnt sell as well. This “poison” buzz word makes me think of rat poison – and I imagine this is the desired effect. Though, it’s simply not that drastic. I have a feeling someone has been hanging out with Mr Gillespie recently….
- ‘Fat burning stops when you eat sugar – this lasts a few days until you burn off the sugar.’ Taken out of context – wow! How misleading can you get? Most of us think of ‘fat burning’ as the calories we burn off at the gym or out running right? Our metabolism is firing up and we’re making a dent in our energy stores. The way this was portrayed was that if you eat sugar period, you stop burning off fat. Nobody wants to hear this! Especially those trying to lose weight. What I believe Nora was actually saying (correct me if I’m wrong) – is that if you’re currently functioning on a high fat diet (aka you’re in ketosis), that when you eat a food with glucose or other sugar/carbs, your body will go out of ketosis, and start using glucose as energy. So you’ll stop “burning fat” as your main source of energy. NOT that you’ll stop burning off your fat stores. However, Eating less than what you use up in your daily activities will still result in ‘fat burning’. Though studies do show low carb diets produce better results for weight loss in the short term and improved maintenance long term - your body utilizes your body’s energy stores to create new glucose to fuel its daily functions due to the lower glucose (carb) intake. Just remember, low carb doesn’t mean NO carb.
- ‘Eat as much fat as you want’ – again, and credit to them, they did say that you can’t have it both ways. Your body can either function on fats, or function on glucose (carbs). You can’t have both a high fat, high carb diet and expect your body to function optimally. This is actually the basis of the current standard western diet which is making us sick and miserable. The problem with this statement though, is that when you say ‘eat as much fat as you want’, that’s all people hear. They don’t hear which types, and more often than not, they don’t change the rest of their diet. It’s still high in carbs, processed foods, minimal vege and using the ‘everything in moderation’ to their advantage for frequent “cheat” meals and not-so-good-for-us choices. What does this mean for our health? A whole lot of inflammation and disease.
- Getting too technical. The onslaught of scientific journals (of which the everyday person has probably never laid eyes on before), and which they flew through, was confusing enough for most people. Nora continued to then mention ketones, ketosis, and ketogenesis just enough for people to think 'wait…keto what?'. Only to follow on with recommending we all bought ketone monitors to pin-prick our fingers and assess our levels every few hours like a person trying to manage their diabetes….. (and they said this way of eating was simple!) Some people may have done research prior and stuck with the technical terms, but the guy beside me was sleeping through most of this part.
- Aside from his promotion of his cultured vegetable kits after the event via a flyer, Pete and his team never covered gut health. The foundation for a healthy diet and body. Fair enough they didn’t have a whole lot of time to cover every aspect, but as a foundational concept for good health, I was surprised they didn’t even really touch on it. Considering this was for some, their first real introduction to the paleo way of living and eating – walking away with the idea that they should immediately drop all grains and starches, cut out fruits (at least to a bare minimum), and eat as much fat as they want with a bit of protein and some veggies spells disaster for their gut health. Watch out for a boost in sales of laxatives and senna tea if that’s the case! This is the most common issue Dietitians deal with when ‘paleo goes wrong’. Not to mention bloating, mood changes, and fatigue.
What was blatantly obvious:
As expected, the entire tour is one big advertisement. As most events are, so no drama there. Yet we are criticized as Dietitians and health professionals with the belief major food industries and corporations are putting money in our pockets to influence our individual dietary advice. At $92 a ticket, around $30 for his book, ‘The Paleo Way’ series on TV coming soon, at-home fermentation kits for cultured vegetables, and a 10 week online paleo program coming out shortly – guess who is directly cashing in on offering nutrition advice?
Mind you. It’s not all bad. Pete can cook! 25 years a chef and he’s definitely got skills. The sneak-peak of the TV series we got to see shows some delicious, healthy looking food. But you can also see his skills in the books he still continues to sell also. You'd think if he was so passionate about paleo that he'd pull these books from the shelves which promote him otherwise. See image below…
If one thing is made clear, Pete’s on a mission to create a primal army: “It needs to be a grassroots movement”, “don’t trust others to manage your health”, “we’re not crazy or extreme, we’re just informed”.
For this to occur though, they need to bridge the gap. There is an incredible gap between what they were all promoting to everyone as ‘not extreme’ and actually being able to give practical advice to the everyday Australian. Question time made that very clear. There were over 1000 people at the event I attended, and they gave the audience around 10 minutes for question time. They did go an hour overtime taking, but still. These people stayed for question time for a reason! At least 30 hands went up in the audience, but they answered only 3-4 people’s questions before wrapping it up. That’s it.
Here’s what one lady asked (in a nutshell):
"Where can I find wild caught salmon?"
Pete’s reply went something like this (in a nutshell): Why does it have to be salmon? If you can’t find it, don’t eat it. Swap it out for other fish in recipes. Go to the fish market and choose a local fish from there.
Fair enough. But what if we don’t live near a fish market? Or a fish shop? Or the ocean? What if all we have is the supermarket in our town? What if we have the fish market but never have a chance to get there due to work, family, and other commitments? I guess we go without…. Which is apparently the case, as there was an entire slide practically saying this. That if you can go paleo, you should. If you can’t – then they don’t know how to deal with your situation and you’re left stuck waiting for the day that paleo becomes an option for you. How’s that helping the population? Pretty sure that divides it. Which reminds me, according to paleo, there's no place for a vegan, or vegetarian really for that matter. You guys have to go sit in the corner with your poison.
So if its only for the few that can, then paleo will become a status symbol? Only the diet for the well-off and those who live in big cities with access to a wide variety of these foods, or for those who farm everything themselves in remote locations?
Given paleo’s popularity, and the applause from the room when the event finished, I bet we’ll see the gradual shift in food manufacturing continue along this path too. It’s already happening in the USA. Great news for food intolerance folk!
Where there is a trend, there is a buck to be made…
The last question was from another woman. But first, I’ll give them credit where it’s due. They did say at the beginning to keep the questions general as they can’t diagnose or offer individual medical advice in that setting.
Still, the final lady asked how could she wean her 16 month old baby off 2 bottles of cows milk a day, despite him really enjoying them, and what would be a good paleo substitute.
Pete’s response actually caused a bit of controversy. He rolled his eyes. Stared at her blankly. Said he didn’t understand the question – which, admittedly was a little vague to begin with, and then just couldn’t seem to understand why she was even giving her child cows milk, and why she would even need to ‘wean’ her child off it. Many people felt the response was rude and unnecessary. Nora tried to assist, but they didn’t get anywhere with that one. They did however recommend switching doctors to a holistic one with views the same as hers. I appreciate they told her to seek advice from a professional, because their efforts clearly weren’t helping.
What others had to say:
There was a major cue at the end of the event as only one door was open. What I overheard whilst waiting:
“That was intense”
“When the lady was speaking, I got so lost”
“Yeah, and how they want us to buy those ketone monitors? That’s a bit ridiculous”
Here are some comments from people on his FB page too, good and bad. the response was mixed:
"Generally some interesting and useful information but seriously Pete Evans you were very patronising to that poor woman who asked a perfectly reasonable question regarding an alternative to milk for her young son. When your face is on a large screen you can see the eye roll - just saying…"
"Absolutely agree with xx's comments. Pete I love your shows until it comes to question time. I've seen it twice now. Your audience is genuinely trying to wrap their heads around concepts, they ask you genuine questions and your responses are condescending and demeaning. That poor mum was asking an honest question today. A more appropriate response would have been to encourage her to build bubs up with animal fats in his food so once he's full on that he won't need the milk as a nutritional supplement. I hope she didn't leave today totally turned off Paleo after the way you spoke to her."
"Thankyou Pete, Nora, Luke and Wes for a wonderful night. My husband and I came away feeling incredibly positive about our lifestyle and our children's now and in the future. The facts don't lie and Nora's presentation confirmed it all. Can't wait to see the new Paleo Way Show on Channel 7 and am joining the Paleo Way Online program today. It was great meeting you too"
"Way too long! And the timing from 6- 10:30 without a break or food was ridiculous. I went not knowing much about This way of eating and wanted to know more. I switched off during Nora's talk and left before you got back up on stage. Message was lost on me."
"Fantastic night, Nora was amazing and I am so inspired. Am just at the start of the journey and this just confirms and underlines everything I've been feeling."
"I was looking forward to last night but left early because I found Nora section way to long and repetitive,Although very informative I felt it was way to involved for the average person to take in, wanted to hear more from Pete"
"The Paleo Way event was headed and promoted by Pete Evans which leads the patron to have an expectation that they would hear more about the Paleo lifestyle and Pete's journey of Paleo discovery. More about Paleo foods etc. I admired Nora's knowledge on how micronutrients affect the metabolic system and body's endoctrine system. The section for Nora was way too long and spent too much time on each topic throughout her book. It could have been condensed to 2 hours and more time spent with mixing it up with Pete and Luke. The audience did not need an extensive School lesson on Paleo, most have already been down that path, hence our interest in the first place."
Yet despite all of this, his fans are providing raving reviews, and commending the team of presenters on paving this new way to health. I just hope that the attendees took away the same key messages that I did, and not simply – eat lots of fat and stop eating bread and sugar. Because the rest of the talk seemed to go over many heads.
Don’t get me wrong, the paleo diet can be a good healthy eating and lifestyle plan with the potential to help a lot of people if done correctly. But as for whether it’s the right way for the population, or just Pete’s black and white pied piper way is yet to be determined…