Chef Pete Evans, one of the hosts of the popular TV show My Kitchen Rules (MKR), is under fire. He has been for quite a while. The Dietitians Association of Australia (ADA), journalists, and some medical doctors are lashing out against him, bashing his ideas about nutrition and healthy living. They use every weapon they have at their disposal in order to try to discredit him. Some have even gone as far as to say that the diet and lifestyle advice Mr. Evans shares with his followers is dangerous.
Pete Evans has a lot of followers and very many people like what he’s doing and what he stands for; however, the medical and nutritional establishment in Australia is not so fond of him. This isn’t surprising, seeing as his ideas go against much of what the establishment tells us is true about health and medicine and clash with the nutritional guidelines that are put out by government agencies. Moreover, Pete Evans is a vocal opponent of Big Pharma and the drug-centric approach that lies at the root of mainstream medicine. He is a proponent of the Paleolithic diet and makes the case that we should all try to live more in accordance with nature and use less drugs, not more.
The system is royally messed up
It’s baffling and sad that Pete Evans has been criticized as much as he has. It clearly shows us that we humans are very dogmatic in our beliefs. Pete Evans is just trying to help people and make the world a better place. Unlike what some of his opponents claim, his advice is neither radical nor dangerous. On the contrary, I would argue that most of the diet and lifestyle tips he shares with his followers are very good. In my opinion, the advice and recommendations we get from the “establishment“ regarding diet, sun exposure, and healthy living is much more dangerous.
The diet that we are recommended to eat by government-funded agencies does not match well with the evolved human biology. In some areas, the official dietary guidelines hit the mark; however, in others, they completely miss it. Among other things, they instruct us to consume large quantities of cereal grains and certain other foods that can impair our health and well-being.
It’s not just mainstream nutrition that has some fundamental problems at its roots, mainstream medicine does as well. Our health-care system isn’t doing its job, at least not as well as it should. At the moment, we’re not taking good care of people’s health. The population is overdrugged and sick, in part because evolutionary health principles, diet and lifestyle interventions, and microbiome restoration are not prioritized parts of conventional health care.
I’ve studied both nutrition and sports science. I can tell you firsthand that there are many big black holes in our educational system. Students who are enrolled at programs in nutrition, medicine, and most other health-related subjects learn little to nothing about evolutionary science, Darwinian medicine, ancestral health, or anthropological science. During my years at school, I only heard the word evolution a handful of times, and never in the context of health promotion or the prevention and treatment of disease. None of my teachers ever talked about studies on hunter-gatherers and other traditional people or discussed the evolution of the human diet. This is extremely worrying, seeing as it’s virtually impossible to understand what we humans are designed to eat and what type of environment we’re adapted to live in if one doesn’t possess knowledge about evolutionary biology, ancestral health, and Darwinian selection. It’s long past time that students start to learn about these things.
Pete Evans hits the nail on the head
As I see it, Pete Evans hits the nail on the head. I agree with the vast majority of his diet and lifestyle recommendations. As pointed out earlier, there’s nothing extreme or dangerous about his recommendations. The diet and lifestyle he recommend are aligned with the diet and lifestyle that humans adhered to for millions of years prior to the Agricultural Revolution and that supported the evolution of our primal ancestors; hence, it’s crazy to say that Pete’s followers are putting themselves in danger by following his advice.
It’s only recently that we abandoned a “natural” way of life in favor of an industrialized, denatured way of life. We’re more disconnected from Mother Earth than ever before, but unfortunately, not everyone realizes this or acknowledges that we humans are a part of nature, not separated from it.
I suspect that some people view Pete Evans’s health advice as “naturalistic” and non-scientific, which isn’t necessarily surprising, seeing as his advice goes against much of what mainstream medicine/nutrition tells us to be true. A lot of people have been misled into thinking that pharmaceutical drugs are more important than nutrition in the context of human health promotion and disease prevention; that modern medicine is a miracle worker; and that it’s not only unproblematic for us humans to live in a modern, manufactured environment, but that the changes that have occurred to our milieu over the past millennia are exclusively positive. Some even seem to think that the health of Homo sapiens is better than ever before.
These ideas are so ingrained into many people’s minds that they don’t question them even when they are presented with evidence that contradicts them. It’s very common to just accept the status quo and think that things are like they are for a reason. That latter part is certainly true; however, it’s important not to make the mistake of thinking that there are always good reasons as to why things are like they are. Much of conventional wisdom about nutrition, health, medicine, and life in general is not based on solid science or logical thinking, but rather on assumptions, beliefs, and the ideas of charismatic, public figures.
A lot of people don’t realise that we humans are animals, not non-changeable beings produced by divine forces that are elevated above the rest of the organisms on this planet. Moreover, they fail to acknowledge that our milieu has changed rapidly in a very short period of time and that from the perspective of the human genome, the current conditions in which we found ourselves are foreign and novel. Finally, a lot of people don’t know that our hunter-gatherer forebears were a lot healthier than we are. They didn’t live as long as we do (on average), but that wasn’t because they died early of heart disease or cancer, but rather because they didn’t have access to basic health care and because infant mortality was high (1). Also, they lived outside in the wild and therefore faced many dangers that we don’t face, at least not to the same extent, today.
Pete Evans also faces other obstacles, one of which is that his opponents criticize his ideas on the basis that he’s not a health professional and doesn’t have intimate knowledge about medicine or the scientific process. This is a somewhat legitimate concern. With that said, I would argue that Pete Evans understands more about nutrition and health than the vast, vast majority of health professionals. The fact that he doesn’t have a degree in nutrition or medicine doesn’t invalidate his opinions. When I assess someone’s credibility, I look into the validity and strength of their arguments, I don’t count the number of diplomas they have.
The fact is that Pete Evans’s health philosophy has a solid scientific foundation. If you’re interested in seeing what this foundation is composed of, I suggest that you dig into my articles here on the site, in which I cite much scientific research.
All truths go through three stages
As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, all truth goes through three stages. First it’s ridiculed, then it’s violently opposed, and then it’s accepted as being self-evident. Many evolutionary health truths find themselves at the first or second stage of this journey. Will they reach the third stage in the near future? Only time will tell. People such as Pete Evans are certainly doing a good job of accelerating the “truth process”. I’m glad he sticks with the basic evolutionary health principles that have been established via science and doesn’t dilute his beliefs.
I think one of the main reasons why some people oppose Pete Evans is that they believe that it’s very difficult to follow a Paleo-inspired diet and/or lifestyle. By adopting the mindset that Pete Evans’s ideas are wacky and extreme, they get a justification for eating “everything in moderation” (something that can quickly turn into “whatever I want to eat”) and continue with their old ways of doing things. It’s much easier and less scary for these individuals to adopt this strategy than to accept the basic tenets of the evolutionary health movement as valid, seeing as that would mean that they would have to acknowledge that what they’ve been doing so far in their life with respects to diet and lifestyle may have harmed their health and that they would be wise to change their behaviors.