Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Chef is Angry

The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner is an important book, which was published in England in June, but will not be available in the US until January. I was very excited by a review in the Guardian called "Why we fell for clean eating: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked – but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it" by Bee Wilson. As a result, I ordered a copy of the book from England, and I'm glad I have read it. If you can't get your hands on the book yet, I urge you at least to read the review.

What makes the chef angry? He hates the fact that large numbers of people are adopting truly harmful diets and food lifestyles because attractive -- though completely unqualified -- writers, celebrities, and bloggers are promoting them. Very few of the bogus claims are harmless. Followers of these fads may become malnourished. Some of the diet advice may foster underlying eating disorders. Adherents may harm their children by withholding needed nutrition. Above all, gullible victims of a variety of illnesses may fail to obtain rational treatments for themselves or their children. Most harrowing are the author's specific cases of people who have refused mainstream cancer treatment and died because they believed they could cure cancer through food choices.

Some of the promotors of these misguided claims are fooled by their own malarky. Others have commercial motives or just want to advance their popularity. As with many other anti-science movements in our self-deluding and celebrity-worshipping society, the reason why people fall for such con jobs is complicated. Anthony Warner does a good job of explaining a number of misguided ideas, unproven claims, outdated science, and outright hoaxes.

One extreme case he describes is "Dr." Robert O. Young, who successfully promoted a crackpot diet involving "acidic" and "alkaline" foods, and collected lots of money from desperate health seekers. Young is now in jail for several crimes including practicing medicine without a license. And in the news right now is an item that's also very relevant to the book: "Ad Watchdog Group Calls For Investigation Into Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop" -- reported August 24, 2017, in the Consumerist website from Consumer Reports. Much debunking about this website appears in The Angry Chef!

If you have been tempted by "clean eating," detox diets, extreme food restrictions, the so-called paleo diet, or similar misguided claims, please read this book as soon as you can. You might find a better way to become healthy, you might gain insight into why you think self-styled experts can help you, and you might save money by not paying for worthless junk.


Judee Algazi said...

This does sound like an interesting book. I think that people are drawn to alternative diets because they don't feel good, haven't felt good for a long time, and think that a new approach might be helpful. I have to agree that some diets prove to be very unhealthy- but then again so is the typical American diet of soda, fast food, high sugar, high salt and way too much quantity. Unfortunately, Americans are suffering from too many degenerative diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc that seem to respond to omitting many of the foods in the typical American diet. I guess we have two extremes and need to be conscious both ways. Sounds like a worthwhile read.

Beth F said...

I'll have to look for it. I'm always astounded by the fad diets.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I don't understand people following fad diets either, eat less and move more is common sense.

Jeanie said...

I'm not always great at doing it but I truly believe the best "diets" are well-prepared foods of many kinds in moderation and (here's where I go south) ongoing exercise. I've done the fads. Don't work. Don't stay. And yes, dangerous. Thanks for sharing this.