Rarely do I get passionate about media stories. Our Prime Minister pulling hair? Mildly annoying. George Clooney’s wife has another life? Meh. A young Australian girl became a media star because she had brain cancer and got over it by changing her diet, convincing thousands to buy her app or book, and it turns out it was all bullshit and she never had cancer? I’m fully engaged.
Belle Wilson developed her bestselling app, The Whole Pantry, ‘a world first to focus on health, wellness and lifestyle’ – because she had cured malignant brain cancer by eating whole foods after being given only months to live. Elle called her “The Most Inspiring Woman You’ve Met” last December.
More like Most Immoral. Or Mental.
‘Here at The Whole Pantry we have a ‘back to basics’ approach to both cooking and nutrition, being entirely gluten and sugar free with minimal dairy and allergens. ‘Your whole life starts with you’ promises the site.
Hell, if food or certain kinds of food can heal cancer imagine what they can do to somebody who doesn’t have cancer – thinks our poor brains. And that’s what the 200,000 hopefuls who downloaded Belle’s app thought. And maybe if I eat her food I might look as good as her too.
Belle’s already experiencing the consequences of her gigantic fib.
In Australia her book’s been taken off shelves. And in the UK and US, publishing plans have been halted. People who bought her app are demanding their money back, and the media, who are particularly angry about being duped, slammed her. She does not need a mother of two from Piha, who did not buy the book or app, to jump on the hate train.
But this is about something bigger than a beautiful 23-year-old who told a porker.
It’s about our fear of food.
We currently have a war on sugar. Before that it was carbs. Before that it was fat (which is why sugar intake went up because we took all the fat-slash-flavour out) and before that it was salt. Before that it was eggs. Before that it was smoking. The next war apparently is going to be sitting too much – so as long as you’re standing you can smoke, guzzle sugary coffee and toss raw eggs and vodka into your mouth. I can’t wait.
Then there’s GMOs. Pesticides. Sprays. Factory raised meat. Too much gluten. Too much dairy. Too much fast food. Not enough home cooking. Not enough tumeric. Not enough, according to Gwenyth Paltrow, apple cider vinegar and beet juice squeezed by virgins. Gwenyth likes to talk about the harmful ‘fire retardants’ that make it into our bodies too and I refuse to find out what these are because a) I don’t want more things to fret about and b) I prefer to imagine a platoon of three legged fireman storming my blood and c) for some reason it’s fun to not listen to Gwen.
While a third of the world’s population don’t have enough food, the rest of us are battling it – unless posting pictures of our lunch on Instagram. And healthy eating regimes are, sadly, often less about health and more about looks.
The cleanse obsession swept through California when we lived there and I saw plenty of people sign up to six week detox cleanses to ‘get healthier’ and the sad thing is, at the end they were no doubt healthier but if they hadn’t lost weight (the real objective nobody dared mention) they were unhappy.
Recently a friend said to me, “I’m on the two day, five day thing”.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “So am I – five days drinking wine, two days not!”
Turns out that’s not what she was talking about – five days eat what you like, two days only eat 500 calories a day.
Ooops. Every month there is a new diet, like the ridiculous egg cup one currently on the cover of magazines because, you know, eggs are back.
I used to be on the ‘throw up perfectly good meals’ diet and I am a very average cook so I’m no nutrition expert but I do know that fighting food leads to a miserable existence.
It leads to the fridge, and the whole darn pantry turning into a battle field of deprive. It leads to buying the book, the stupid milkshakes, the app, hoping to find a way to control the weird body you seem to have inherited – who is not listening to your demands to be taller.
It leads to feelings of failure as you inevitably fall off the wagon and eat the whole pantry anyway. Because food isn’t the problem. It’s not the enemy. It’s an overwhelming sense of not being good enough, not fitting in, not being lovable, not, for some young impressionable minds, being suitably fuckable.
That’s what sites and apps like The Whole Pantry pray on: download this to look like this (insert: young blonde hot Australian).
How about fix our desire to be ENOUGH, just as we are, and we don’t need them.
Hopefully next time some gorgeous young sociopathic liar tells us she had cancer, somebody will ask more questions. Or have the insight to know it’s just another dirty diet incognito as a health plan.
I like my Great Aunt Hazel’s approach to food and she looks great at 88. Don’t eat too much. Don’t deny yourself too much. Eat at home. Lots. Especially if you have children. It’s OK if you don’t like potatoes. It’s OK if you like kale (but don’t tell Gwen). When cooking, pour one glass of wine for the dish and one glass for the chef. Especially if you have children. And most importantly, enjoy your food.