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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