I was paleo, primal, ancestral (and gluten free) for a decade, before I learned how to do science better and stopped being a food snob. Also, flan and ice cream – both are forbidden in this diet, so there’s that. After awhile, I noticed that racism, misogyny and xenophobia (fat shaming) started showing up in the Paleo and ‘Ancestral’ communities. The only two people that spoke up about it, were mocked, bullied and threatened. Not only is this bigotry tolerated, it’s defended by people claiming to be experts in ‘health’ and promoted by leading Paleo organizations.
Here are but a few examples of hunter-gatherer, indigenous, traditional diets being misrepresented by low carb Paleo authors/bloggers to suit their personal diet bias or political agendas.
Gary Taubes, low carb Paleo hero, claims the original Pima Indian diet was low carb and that switching to a high carb diet contributed to their obesity & diabetes – except it’s simply not true.
“[…] six starchy foods traditionally eaten by the Pimas: mesquite pods, acorns, white and yellow tepary beans, lima beans and a strain of corn long cultivated by the tribe.“
Authors of low carb diet books, Paul Jaminet (Perfect Health Diet) and Cate Shanahan (Deep Nutrition), both misrepresent the native Hawaiian diet to suit their low carb agenda.
Jaminet also misrepresents the Thai diet – as with others, he says that these native diets were low in carbs and high in fat, which again, is simply not the case.
Cultural appropriation is when a non-Mexican Paleo author takes traditional Mexican food and makes it Paleo by making it not-Mexican, and profits from it. Other than a lack of ethics, respect and empathy, what is cultural appropriation?
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law by Susan Scafidi
Twisting data or popular assumptions about traditional diets, both in the past and present day, is a common tactic with all dietary ideologies. However, Paleo gurus have based their entire premise on some flawed ideas. They often misrepresent facts and reality to support their agenda, and systematize it into lifestyle makeover programs and conferences.
Paleo Conferences, Incongruity and Women’s Health
The authors listed above, among others, are regularly featured at paleo/ancestral conferences. The two most prominent organizations/conferences in the Paleo movement that provide a platform for messages incongruent with health are Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) and Paleo f(x).
Paleo f(x) – part of their mission is to ‘show how theories of evolutionary health can be “made functional” — turned into real world practices that improve human health and wellbeing.’ PFX14 is run by Christian fundamentalists, who sell a multi-level marketing (MLM) supplement line and provide a platform for the ‘Manosphere’ – men’s rights activist (MRA). MRA are dudes who hate women. (see References for more info on MRA).
Serious Question – if the diet is so awesome, why do you need so many supplements?
Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) – an organization that believes ‘evolution has much to teach us about healthful living and effective healing.’
Both organizations feature ‘experts’ who misrepresent native indigenous diets and promote ideas on women that are archaic and harmful (which defies ‘health’ and ‘wellness’ FTR)
To be fair, Paleo brownies, cauliflower muffins and coconut flour pancakes, industrial-era supplements and coconut oil are totally evolutionary.
These organizations feature (among others) Geoffrey Miller, Tucker Max, Jimmy Moore, Richard Nikoley & John Durant on panel discussions or as keynote speakers. Who are these featured ‘experts’, you might ask?
Tucker Max is an author, self-described narcissist and asshole who writes about drinking and picking up women. His books include Assholes Finish First, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and The Definitive Book of Pick-Up Lines.
Tucker Max has a new schtick – he’s totally Paleo, drinks Bulletproof Coffee and speaks at Paleo & AHS conferences. If you know anything about show biz, you get it. Also, anyone who takes Bulletproof Coffee seriously has issues distilling science facts from fiction. Regardless, these quotes are not health or wellness related, to say the least.
Miller is Tucker Max’s partner on a new podcast ‘The Mating Grounds’ and presented on the ‘Well Adjusted Male’ at Paleo (f)x and is a speaker at AHS. You may have heard of Miller recently when he fat shamed obese PhD students and was censured from UNM for lying about the incident.
Wanna bet the anti-diversity guy eats Mexican or French foods? He doesn’t drink imported liquor?
If we all ate Paleo diets? It appears he is not familiar with the research on this topic.
Which definition of ‘Paleo’ diet is he suggesting here? If you follow the paleo blogs, you’d know the term is nebulous and its definition constantly in flux. Has he not traveled to Latin America, Thailand, India, Africa or the Pacific Islands and experienced the diversity of diets around the world, which are high in delicious and nutritious carbs?
Also, if you think Crossfit … oh, never mind.
John Durant, author of The Paleo Manifesto
John Durant is involved with both groups. His twitter feed is full of awesome health-related topics and MRA-style rhetoric. Here are his thoughts on workplace sexual harassment:
Durant on immigration, diversity and what it’s like to be clueless on Ferguson:
Those straight, white, oppressed, teary-eyed, male victims.
Durant disappointed that a writer was fired for writing a good review of a racist book; that book was rejected and debunked by many well-known scientists and anthropologists for being racist and for not providing any actual science.
Durant was also displeased when Victoria’s Secret was called out for and later apologized for overtly sexist appropriation.
Durant’s Stereotype Manifesto?
It’s not just that stereotypes are cool, but he & AHS know better than the Natives! Also, a failed attempt at satire for the Redskins controversy:
Native Americans have been fighting harmful, racist stereotypes for hundreds of years, this particular incident since 1972. A 69-year-old Native American grandmother has been fighting this since 1992.
Here is an attempt at humor, I’m totally guessing though:
He is the Paleo sweetheart and Young Earth Creationist (YEC) who interviewed with and promoted David Duke, but then quickly deleted and denied when called out. Deleting, denying, banning dissent – a hallmark of many low carb Facebookers. You really shouldn’t need me to point out the hypocrisy of an obese person selling a weight loss diet, or a YEC profiting off a Paleo related concept, nor the problem with promoting the former Grand Wizard of the KKK.
Mexican food inferior? How did this guy get in here? Is this a prank? This is a prank, right?
Here are some actual facts on high-carb food cultures around the world.
He also recently said that the reason people pick on him is because he is a white Christian male, so we’re starting to see a picture of the real victim here. In what some might consider a South Park episode, Moore appeared on Pat Robertson’s TV show (the 700 Club) to promote the diet that isn’t actually working for him. However, the plan backfired because Robertson said low carb diets violate God’s principles.
Divine Comedy? Retribution?
Paul Jaminet, author of The Perfect Health Diet
I actually liked his book for awhile, until I understood carbs and sugar better and stopped the whole puritanical diet thing. Then one day I called him out for occasionally tweeting links to Mangans. Mangans is a white power, MRA blog. Now, some may argue it’s white nationalist, not white power. Potato, potahto. When I called this out, people criticized me saying Paul is a ‘good Christian’ and I was being a politically correct meanie and also, sharing links to a white power blog doesn’t actually mean he endorses racism.
Durant also retweets Mangan’s.
Tim Noakes is a South African professor of sports and exercise science who recently jumped on the low carb Paleo bandwagon and don’t laugh, but he’s rallying endurance athletes to follow suit. Noakes regularly retweets low carb mythologists Cronau, Harcombe, Teicholz and Jimmy Moore (LOL). Noakes also quotes Louis Agassiz, a 19th Century eugenicist who opposed Darwinian evolution.
Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and business ethics at University of Cape Town, has a 14 part series exploring the faulty science of Noakes.
Nikoley speaks at AHS for some odd reason and is friends with Jimmy Moore (LOL). He is a case study in modern day ‘health blogger’ dysfunction.
He has also done workshops on dating, which is a bigger joke than an obese man with cholesterol of 300 selling a weight loss plan.
UPDATE: I said Nikoley did workshops on dating. Incorrect. It was not on dating, per se, although he gives props to The Game (Strauss) and Pick Up Artist and says it’s related to his work. He also briefly explains how ‘pick up artist’ stuff is maligned/misunderstood. Apparently, the bulk of his talk is on philosophy, epistemology, sociology, diet; about knowledge of reality, becoming the best ‘you’ and rational approaches to life & relationships. I say ‘apparently’ because I could only watch a few minutes of the videos. This was at The 21 Convention, their motto is ‘To Actualize the Ideal Man’.
And yet, LOL
Evelyn and Melissa have expertly debunked many faulty Paleo premises. They stick to the science which gets thereliefs all up in arms. This is a common Paleo theme – when you criticize faulty science or bigotry in Paleo, the Paleo crew will launch a full-scale elementary school style attack with all sorts of name calling and not actually address the issues at hand.
Just the other day my friend and author James Fell (Body for Wife) wrote an excellent piece on similar problems in Paleo. This is the twitter response he got from the Paleo Crew:
This begs the question, how is he involved in AHS or any health-related organization? Those last two homoerotic tweets are disturbing, but not surprising. His blog is a hotbed for sexist trolls and mad ramblings, or something. Considering both Nikoley and Durant publically admit to heavy drinking, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hitting the bottle when tweeting this and simultaneously writing a blog on how sugar is a neolithic poison.
Am I saying that people with different opinions on race are horrible people? No, they are certainly not as bad as Westboro Baptist Church or Nazi skinheads. Am I saying that misinformed opinions and hate speech like this contribute to widespread ignorance, fear and a culture of violence? Yes.
These bigoted opinions and misrepresentation of traditional cultures and diets have no place in ‘health’ communities, they are clearly incongruent with health and well being.
A diet cannot be sexist or racist in and of itself. It can be based on bad science, however, which on its own is enough reason not to follow Paleo. Beyond that, it’s worth taking a deeper look at some (not all) of the adherents of the diet, and how the Paleo establishment gives a platform to their hate speech. Understanding this, you need to ask yourself the question: Do I want to be associated with these people?
“Simply thinking about someone as a person rather than a category makes … automatic xenophobia toward other races evaporate in an instant.”
– Robert Sapolsky, author, neuroendocrinologist, professor of biology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery at Stanford University.
Paleo (f)x and Jimmy Moore are Christian fundamentalists and/or Young Earth Creationists. Chances are, Whole30 fall along that spectrum somewhere. Since some paleo followers do not understand the significance of this, I’ll to briefly point this out. The Paleo era ended 10,000 yrs ago before the advent of modern religion. So, if someone believes the Earth is roughly 5-10k years old, yet sells a ‘Paleo’ product; it’s not ironic, it’s fraudulent or indicative of delusion. You decide.
Whole30 responded, they are not Christian. They did, however, teach a nutrition workshop in Mexico last year. I’d love to find notes, articles or hear from anyone who attended. And no, I’m not mocking anyone’s religion. I’m curious to know personal biases of anyone/group in this industry, especially when their diet philosophy is puritanical in nature and marketed with zealotry.
Paleo (f)x responded that only half of their founders are Christian, but not YEC or fundamentalist. They do sell IDLife products, an MLM supplement company headed by an evangelical missionary. Paleo (f)x also provides a platform for YEC and the problems mentioned in the remaining 98% of the article.
Want to Learn More? Read This, Not That
Here is some well researched, accurate reporting on traditional diets including the Kitavan, Masai and Australian Aboriginal communities by an actual expert on the topic: Staffan Lindeberg (Food and Western Disease).
More paleo, primal, ancestral promoters of ‘hunter-gather’ diets, yet misrepresent or exaggerate to support their own bias.
The Paleo Diet’s Bad Reputation (James Fell)
Low Carb and Paleo Dieting as Religious Zealotry
Pseudoscience, orthorexia, racism and sexism in the paleo & ancestral communities: http://paleodrama.tumblr.com/
MRA – Men’s Rights Activists: