Bunny Shaming

Last weekend, my children took part in a yearly ritual involving a fantastical giant fluffy bunny and a shite-load of chocolate.  Some call it Easter, but in our (seriously non-denominational) family, it’s known as The Chocolate Holiday.

The holy chocolate day starts with the adult rising uncharacteristically early, and sneaking outside – under cover of darkness – to scatter the goods throughout the garden.  It is quickly followed by the stampeding of little feet, the ripping of foil, and the unbridled joy (and heavenly silence) that is legitimate chocolate consumption before breakfast.

At 8 years of age, my daughter is undoubtedly too old to believe in a giant, chocolate-bearing bunny (just as she’s surely too old to believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, yet steadfastly clings to such notions).  But she’s not letting go, or letting on, because …

CHOCOLATE

And you know what?  I totally get that.  In fact I applaud that.

As a dietitian, and a foodie, I believe that finding pleasure in food is a good thing. And following on from that, I believe that it’s okay to eat some foods not for their nutritional value, or health-giving properties, but simply because they’re luxurious / indulgent / insanely delicious.

And that’s why something I read this week made me feel very sad.

Surprise surprise, it was Pete Evans.  Pete with his special brand of blue-eyed, slightly unhinged dietary zeal, preaching once again to his tribe on Facebook.  But what got me this time was that he wasn’t just talking about himself. Nor was it another emotive, highly crafted ‘over to you’ tale of paleo triumphing over the woes of chronic disease.   This time, it was about kids – his kids – and how he was teaching them the ‘right’ way to eat.

Here it is what he posted on 13th April.

Pete Evans and the bunnies

On the surface it’s kind of sweet – is it not? The protective, nurturing father, guiding his daughters through life with a charming tale of (pure, disease free, enlightened) bunnies. And judging by the volumes of adoring comments it garnered, that’s exactly the way Pete’s tribe saw it.

But it’s the subtext that made my stomach churn.  Because when you read between the lines, Pete’s message to his daughters is that eating lollies at a party is a bad thing to do – that it would harm them, and essentially make them less pure.

His is a lesson in the dichotomy of food, and the warped idea that no amount of lollies is ever okay, if they want to lead healthy, happy lives.  It perpetuates the idea that foods are either righteous or sinful.  Tonic or toxin.  Pure or dirty.

To me, the bunny story is food guilt, dressed up as good parenting.  And it makes me sad to think what foundations are being laid down right now in his daughters’ impressionable young minds.  And – for that matter – in the impressionable young minds of children all over the country who’s parents buy into this militant way of thinking.

No bunnies were harmed

Because humans are not bunnies Pete.  We are emotionally complex, intelligent creatures who develop a relationship with food very early on in life.  We don’t just mindlessly nibble away on whatever we are fed – we learn and develop a belief system around foods from our family, friends and life experiences, which will lay the foundation for our eating patterns in the future.

Will Pete’s ‘bunnies’ grow up subscribing to his dogma and never want to eat a lolly?  Or (more likely) will they eat the lollies one day, and then feel the guilt?  What other ‘bad’ foods will they grow up feeling ashamed of eating?  Chocolate surely, and maybe grains, dairy foods, legumes, potatoes?  And how will they fare in their teenage and adult years when their world opens up to reveal a minefield of dangerously available, ultimately alluring ‘banned’ foods?

My opinion is that such teaching is a recipe for disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

And that’s why I won’t be banning my children from any particular foods, regardless of how nutritionally bereft they may be.  I won’t be staying at the party to slap their little hands away from the fairy bread, or cautioning the grandparents against buying them an ice cream.

I’ll be offering them mostly nutrient dense, minimally processed foods that I know will support the growth of their bodies and minds.  I’ll be teaching them that we eat not only to fuel our bodies, but also to indulge our senses, and to socialise, and be part of a community.  I’ll be letting them know that sometimes it is okay to eat food just for pleasure, and hoping to instil in them a mindful, moderate approach to eating, rather than a rigid, fearful one.

And so, ends my little Friday night stint on the soap box – with that vexatious, unsexy message of moderation again.  That, and a couple of questions to ponder:

1.  Are you sure no bunnies were harmed in the making of that statement?

And

2.  Is food the new rock?  Or for some, is it the new religion?

Pete Evans

Is Food the new rock? Image: http://www.news.com.au

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22 thoughts on “Bunny Shaming

  1. Marn, I reckon start a change.org petition to get him a 6 month locum contract in a public Western suburbs hospital and see if he changes his tune. Maybe throw a small country South Australian hospital in there to – I’m think like Keith or Naracoorte? And while he’s working in the public health system, he can take our Fitzroy Crossing clinic and try to impart his paleo knowledge to Aboriginal people who were actually, you know, around before white fellas. The next SBS special ala ‘Go back to where you came from’. I’d pay money.

  2. Could not love this more. I was talking to my regular walking buddy, as we power ambled about Albert park Lake this very morning, about various forms of extreme parenting in all its many guises; food rules, being among them. The messages we send our kids are becoming so complicated and rule laden. Who’s got the time? Keep it simple, stupid.

    • Seems of like a competition sometimes doesn’t it? Ah man. I grew up in the 70’s with bread, sweets, fruit juice even (Tang!). And I’m doing okay. No chronic diseases or food ‘addictions’ even. Hey I’ve had a cherry ripe in the fridge for the past week and it hasn’t flipped me over to the dark side!

  3. Great article. I work with obese and overweight clients who often have a distorted and dysfunctional relationship with food that took years to develop and takes many years to overcome so I really feel for his kids. And ‘everything in moderation’ does work. Most of my clients will be the first to admit they didn’t apply that principle and that’s why they are overweight!!! I am looking forward to following your blog 🙂

    • Thanks Saskia. I’m such a fan of the non-diet approach and teaching clients about mindful eating. Actually off to a retreat next week which is all about exactly that, and I can’t wait!! 🙂

  4. Wonderful! Totally agree with everything, especially the whole disordered eating thing. If food is forbidden, it is desirable but you must feel guilty. Also want to point out I hope Pete knows lettuce is equivalent to feeding rabbits poison. Do not feed lettuce to rabbits!!

    • Okay, I’m no bunny nutritionalist, so I’m gonna trust you on that one (quite a few Facebook comments along the same lines). Thanks for reading and commenting Claire 🙂

  5. We need to get this article out there Marnie!
    PUSH PUSH PUSH
    More people need to read your commentary – not to Pete Bash – it’s no-nonsense guidance with a grin.

  6. “The goal is to have 250000 people on here by the end of the year.” …and then what? All get matching tattoos? Pete for President? World dominance? Blow up countries that produce wheat? This guy is a total nut bag.
    I hope he activates himself regularly.
    Love your work, Marnie!

      • Just thought… has he ever mentioned how does he actually taste all the food he gets served up on MKR??! And why would he be involved in a show promoting food that goes against his own beliefs? Just to get his dial on the telly? Not just nutty. Slightly slutty too. Happy Tuesday everyone 😉

  7. Nice one! I love a good, logical take-down of Peter Evans and his outspoken Paleo mob! Speaking from Cancer-land, I could not tell you how many kind people have told me to cure my Cancer by following whatever wacky dad is on-trend. Everything from eating raw, to juicing myself silly, to snake oil, cannabis oil, coffee enemas! You name it. I get pretty riled up about it too!
    Love your writing Marnie!
    Kate x

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