I have a confession to make. I’m a reformed Paleo.
Nope, I didn't used to be a cavewoman. I mean, I used to do the diet. From 2010 through 2012 I was all 'whole eggs, no dairy, grains-are-the-devil, eat fatty meat and be merry'. Minimal fruit. No refined sugar. Except on special occasions, where I would eat cake for a birthday, or the occasional weekend piece of sourdough at my favourite brekky spot. Which would inevitably make me feel sick from not being used to that kind of food. Reactions that made me even more convinced that non-paleo food was some kind of poison.
I trained personal trainers for a job. When it came to the nutrition part of the course, I advocated Dr. Robert Lustig’s ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ and told all of my students to read Gary Taubes ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories.’ I was convinced that the public health doctrine of ‘fat and cholesterol lead to heart disease’ was false, and that the rise of refined sugars and carbohydrates in our diet were the cause of obesity and chronic disease. Me and Pete would’ve got on great guns.
So what happened? Well, for all my restrictive eating, I was still a bit...fat.
Besides avoiding diabetes and feeling good, the reason for this regime was to look amazing in denim cut-offs! And it wasn’t happening.
So, I went to a new gym, tracked my food intake for a few weeks and realised I was eating way too much fat, and it was sending me in to calorie surplus every day. Fat ass, explained.
Long story short, I now eat a more ‘traditional’ mix of food groups, grains and dairy included. Not to mention my penchant for champagne. I’m slimmer, satisfied and feel pretty good. Do some of my meals still qualify as Paleo? Absolutely. Replacing carbs with veggies is a great way to increase the volume you can eat without 'overeating' in a caloric sense. It's a huge win. But I don't want to do it all the time. Sometimes I want to eat real pasta. And I'm stoked that pasta and bread are a part of my life again.
So imagine my mixed feelings towards attending a Paleo convention to listen to Pete Evans wax lyrical about bone broth, zucchini noodles and the benefits of cutting out all of my favourite foods. Ugh. But hey, I scored free tickets and the opportunity to review it for a fab Brisbane magazine, so off I went to devote the best part of my Sunday to hanging out with these two:
Pete and Luke Hines last Sunday at BCEC in Southbank.
Pete has copped a lot of flak for his advocacy of the Paleo diet. The My Kitchen Rules judge is a household name, and has undergone quite the transformation over the past four years. Just Google 'Pete Evans before and after' and see what I mean. I'll wait.
Right!??? Impressive. I mean, my theory is a calorie deficit achieved by any diet, some fake tan (sorry Pete, I know you said it's real) and some teeth whitener could achieve this, but he attributes it all to his Paleo regime. And fair enough, there's a lot of healthy gear going on.
Despite Pete punching out salad after salad, The Dietary Association of Australia does not support the Paleo diet. Conspiracy theorists, on your starting blocks! Murmurs of funding from the agriculturul industry, Kelloggs, dairy farmers, corruption, bias, etc.
Despite The DAA and some dieticians renouncing the diet, Paleo is gaining momentum as a lifestyle choice for many Australians. Evidence can be found in The Paleo Café, Primal Pantry and several other successful caveman-style eateries that are popping up all over Brisbane, and throughout the rest of the country. The hashtag #paleo has 3.3 million posts on Instagram. Paleo may be a fad, but it sure is a popular one.
It's popular, but it's also polarising. People are emotional about food. So when a CHEF, of all people, stands up and shouts that we should cut out espresso martinis and toasted cheese sandwiches, cue #OUTRAGE and #PANIC!! (Seriously, though, does anyone have a cocktail shaker at hand? I'm thirsty.)
Certainly a change of heart from Pete, who used to be passionate about pizza. In fact, before he sold out of his restaurant venues in Sydney, Pete’s restaurant ‘Hugo’s Bar Pizza’ in Kings Cross had won Best Pizza in the World at the New York Pizza Challenge, as well as several Australian awards. He even published a pizza cookbook as recently as 2012. You can still buy ‘Pete Evan’s Pizza’ here. Delicious!
Pete has been criticised for the lack of scientific basis for the Paleo diet he’s been following and promoting for the past three years. In his defence, he's gathered several respected doctors, a biochemist, naturopaths, and even a cultural anthropologist for The Paleo Way tour. All passionate about the Paleo way of life, and all pictures of health and vitality. The number of toned, glowing individuals on that stage were enough to give any grain-lover reason for reflection!
Pete has also interviewed experts in the US and UK on the topic and has their support. These interviews featured during the first season of his show ‘The Paleo Way’ on Channel 7 at the end of last year. The episodes now make up part of his 10 Week Activation Program, an online programme he is selling off the back of his tour and through his Facebook community of over 700,000.
Whilst some organisations speculate the diet ‘could be dangerous’, the most common complaint about the regime is the expense, inconvenience and social isolation of cutting out so many food groups. The Paleo Way crew are focussed on changing this perception; presenting easy, inexpensive meals featuring vegetables, meats, seafood, fresh herbs and even offal. The focus is on community, sourcing good food and eating together. I must admit that The Paleo Way did re-ignite my passion for plant-based meals, and home cooking. It's so easy to eat out in Brisbane - there are so many beautiful restaurants to try. It's good to balance it with good old-fashioned home cooking and simple, comforting food. There have certainly been more salads and roasted vegetables going on in our house the past 6 days!
Pete recommends utilising cheaper cuts of meat as well as internal organs, from organic grass-fed animals. So whilst the prime cuts of grass fed animals may be expensive, these cheaper cuts and organs provide a nutritious, inexpensive alternative. This ‘nose-to-tail’ concept is gaining popularity in the restaurant world, and has inspired a renaissance of offal in fine-dining restaurants. Evans also claims that offal is highly nutritious, with liver being touted as the most nutrient dense. Personally, I've only ever eated liver in pate: delicious! But of course the traditional pate is full of butter, cream and booze. Actually, Mum makes a killer pate. If you're reading this Mum, get on that! On Sunday, Petey put together a pate of blended sauteed livers in some oil with onion and garlic. Apparently delicious. Am yet to try. There maaaay be some duck livers awaiting experimentation in my freezer.
Speaking of meat, a common perception of Paleo is that it’s the new Atkins. Not so. Sunday saw a big push for a plant-based regime, with small amounts of good quality protein from land and sea. Evans also spoke of eating sustainable local seafood, with a particular push on mussels, oysters, clams and pippies. There’s a focus on fostering relationships with food suppliers, and also homegrown herbs and vegetables where possible. For those that feel Paleo is ‘too hard’, Evans insists that Australians must consider their health, and do the best we can with what’s available to us. And I love that approach. He's passionate, but not pushy.
The Paleo Way 10 Week Activation Program can be found here. For more information, follow Chef Pete Evans on Facebook. His recipe books ‘The Paleo Chef’, ‘Family Food’, and ‘Healthy Every Day’ are also available at all good retailers.
If you need me, I'll be eating Spag Bol with Zucchini Noodles....with a glass of red on the side!