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Pete Evens and his paleo influence

Pete Evans from My Kitchen Rules Australia has been in the news a lot lately, all centred around his promotion of the paleo diet. The release of his paleo diet book for babies, Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way, has caused a lot of controversy because dieticians and doctors are highly critical of a DIY baby formula that they deem likely to be harmful to babies. The height of this criticism peaked when Professor Heather Yeatman, president of the Public Health Association of Australia said; "In my view, there's a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead”.

Last week I was talking to a guy who had attended one of Pete’s seminars on the Paleo diet. He told me that it felt like attending a cult meeting where everyone was completely mesmerised and in awe of their speaker. While he found this aspect of the seminar amusing he was impressed by one moment where Pete asked the audience to stand up if by using the paleo diet they had become healthier, the majority of the audience stood up. This single moment was the selling point for the guy I was having the conversation with, he knew he was unhealthy in his dietary habits and there was a personal health cost that came with these choices. From this moment forward he was now on the paleo diet. 

This shift in diet turned out to be a good move as he lost around 5kg of weight within the first month, he was becoming a believer in the paleo way. When I asked him why he thought it was such a success he replied that he hadn’t had any alcohol in a month, he was a regular drinker before the start of his diet and he was no longer eating junk food. The types of  unhealthy food he was eating regularly beforehand became scarce and by sticking to the rules of the paleo diet meant he was eating healthier all the time and he also started exercising. 

While it was cool to hear about his success I did think to myself, if you get anyone to remove alcohol and junk food from their lives and replace them with healthy food and then get them exercising it’s obvious that they would be in a healthier place. 

Like many diets, the paleo diet has it’s fair share of credible critics and it does seem that the promoters of it, like Pete Evans, spend a lot of time and energy defending it - often against experts who have spent their lives studying nutrition. But to me, one of the biggest reasons these types of diets work in helping people lose weight is that they give people a set of rules to live within to help them achieve their desired weight loss. The guy I was talking to was a classic example of this. The paleo diet gave him a plan and a set of rules around what he should be eating and these rules made it easier for him to make healthier eating choices, there was no room for interpretation or substitution, they were black and white. 

However one of the downfalls of the rules within any diet is that they aren’t sustainable long term, the guy I was talking to proceeded to tell me that he was looking forward to getting alcohol back into his life, the rules he was living by weren’t sustainable.

This got me thinking, if one of the reasons diets work in the short term is mainly due to the creation of rules, shouldn’t one of our jobs as individuals be to develop a set of personal rules around our own eating habits? These should be realistic, sustainable and provide you with your nutritional needs required to live a healthy life. 

Some of you may be thinking you wouldn't know where to start in creating your rules. On the food side of things, healthed.govt.nzis a good website that helps you understand the basics of healthy eating and taking that one step further, you could also look to invest in a nutritionist to guide you through this process. 

You also want to develop some behavioural rules that you live by around your nutrition. These could address portion size, eating out, emotional eating, and alcohol. Ideally you are creating a set of healthy rules that you live by for the long term based on what the latest science says and what you know about yourself.  

I doubt we’ll be talking about the paleo diet 50 years from now but I’m sure there will be another ‘answer to everything diet’ out there. Instead of putting your energy in to the next quick answer, perhaps a good way to approach it is to develop your own nutritional rules which keeps you in your healthy place for the long term.

This piece orginally appeared in The Press


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Episode 53 Fitness Behavior - Wendy Sweet

Wendy Sweet has been a leading fitness instructor, personal trainer, personal trainer educator, and academic. Her work on behaviour change around fitness has been massively influential. On this months show she shares some amazing insight from her important career.


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Can life really be that simple? 

Every four or five months I sit down and set my goals, from an early age I’ve always been a goal setter, I’ve found the process of stepping out of my everyday life and contemplating where I currently am and where I want to be heading a valuable activity that keeps me moving in the right direction. 

When I sit down to do my goals I firstly work through a series of questions which make me explore the various parts of my life and myself as a person, they question my current position and reassess where and what I am aiming for over the next period of time. These questions include: What is my current position in life? If I had six months to live what would I want to be doing with my time? Who do I admire and why? What are my core values as a person? These questions are about exploring the ‘who’ of me. It’s important that I am clear with where I am as a person and what’s important to me before I start looking at what I want to achieve as ultimately my actions over the next period of time should be helping me to evolve my core person. 

One of the key questions I ask myself is: What do I love doing? This question enables me to look at the day to day actions that I love doing. Some of my answers include: Challenging myself through exercise, having good conversation, being creative on the piano, having connection time with Jo, solving a challenging problem, having my cup of tea and four pieces of dark chocolate at night, making people laugh, reading, experiencing new people and parts of the world, being in nature, the list goes on. This question helps to reinforce the actions that are highlights of my existence.  

If I were to ask you to write a list of the activities that you love in your life what would they be? If you were to go into detail and explore those little or big moments that are highlights in your day what would you come up with? Sometimes I wonder if we complicate life too much and if life is really as simple as filling as much time up with the activities that we love doing as we can. This is where I find value in asking the ‘what do you love’ question, it helps me to see if I am doing those activities or not. 

If we were to audit your time and see exactly what you do with it, how much of your time would be spent filled with activities you love doing? What would the ratio be; activities you love vs activities that are unfulfilling? When we start to explore these questions we can see where we can create change. There will always be tasks and activities that we don’t love but just need to get done as part of our daily life responsibilities such as certain aspects of your job or doing the cleaning at home but outside of your core responsibilities our aim should be filling our time up with activities that sit on our love list. 

If we understand and identify the activities we enjoy we can also start to see the ones that aren’t necessary and this is important because we can then start to make different choices. Let’s say that you spend over 90mins on Facebook a day, you enjoy Facebook but after 30mins you find yourself just mindlessly looking through the newsfeed which tends to repeat itself, it is at this point where Facebook is wasting your life. From here you determine that 30mins of Facebook is good for you but after that you want to replace the other 60mins with doing one of the activities you love. It could be spending time in nature, a creative pursuit, sitting outside with a cup of coffee, or doing a challenging activity that grows you. This would be such a healthy shift.

This life of yours is a precious thing and as you age you realise that you are limited on that thing called ‘time’. We want to make sure we are filling as much of this time with what we love doing. This may seem hard initially but it can be as simple as identifying when you aren’t using your time well and gradually adding more of the activities you enjoy into your daily life - even if only for a short duration, give it a try, who knows where it will lead to.  

This piece orginally appeared in The Press


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