Yesterday, I was feeling a wee bit stabby.
A friend on Facebook posted about his mother’s cancer, which had grown, and was looking for input about the efficacy of chemotherapy to counter the YouTube videos about how chemo is all a Big Pharma scam that doctors prescribe solely for kickbacks.
Someone named Ray Audette posted in the comments: “Ketosis works better.”
Fuck you, Ray, you fucking fuck.
A ketogenic diet does NOT work better than chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer. This, according to respected surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski, who wrote of using a ketogenic diet to treat cancer: “the evidence is so darned thin and unconvincing thus far” and “Clearly, ketogenic diets are not ready for prime time as a treatment for cancer, either alone or in combination with conventional therapy.”
If you are battling cancer and your physician is recommending chemotherapy as part of your treatment and someone else says “Ketosis works better,” then that someone else wants you to die. They may be too fucking stupid to realize it, but there it is.
This isn’t the first time ol’ Ray missed the boat on something, because as it turns out, Ray had the opportunity to earn untold riches, and he screwed the pooch.
See, way back in 1999 Ray wrote a book entitled NeanderThin: Eat Like a Caveman to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body.
Sound a little familiar? It sounds a helluva lot like paleo to me (and I refuse to do paleo the honor of capitalizing it unless I’m referencing the actual Paleolithic period). NeanderThin never took hold. Conversely, three years later Loren Cordain came out with The Paleo Diet and even trademarked the term.
And allegedly eating like a caveman allegedly did exploded like a potato in the microwave.
It didn’t matter that the science behind paleo is largely crap, making it the scientology of diets. What mattered was the coolness factor. It was all about how it was branded.
Let’s look at where Ray fucked up and got relegated to the dustbin of fad diet history.
We’ll start with Neanderthals. Who wants to be a Neanderthal? Answer: nobody, because they’re all fucking dead. If Neanderthals were so great why did they all fucking die?
What’s more, a lot of people (and perhaps specifically those who continuously fall for bullshit diets) don’t even know what a Neanderthal is. For those who do know, there is little appeal to becoming more Neanderthal. It’s too “other.” Hell, it’s a whole different species. With the rise of Trump, think of how racists feel about that.
It’s not just the mistake of using Neanderthals, but also the word “thin.” In the beginning, at least, paleo was very much a guy thing. In many circles, it still is, and I’ve written about how there is an undercurrent of sexism that often infiltrates the followers. Look at this logo for a paleo diet conference and spot the gender stereotyping:
Guys aren’t that interested in being “thin.” Ray did okay on the subtitle with the use of “lean” and “strong,” but no one cares about subtitles if they can’t get past the main title. We want to be lean and mean and muscular, and “paleo” had a coolness factor to it that NeanderThin totally lacks. Paleo sounds all scientific and shit, and appeals to that toxic masculinity about how we’re all supposed to be out stalking, stabbing and skinning mammoths for dinner and getting all the cave bitches rather than driving tin cans through traffic jams to take our place in the cube farm and hoping that maybe a woman will one day give us permission to have sex with her if we hand over our balls along with our paychecks and beg sufficiently.
Yep. Paleo fucking nailed it.
I’ll note that I haven’t read NeanderThin, but I suspect it’s about as scientifically valid as my own Neanderthal Diet. Considering the author asserts keto > chemo, my guess is he’s not that scientifically literate. But that’s not the point. A book can be complete and total bullshit, void of any scientific legitimacy, and this will not affect sales one whit. In fact, being full of shit is often the path to the bestseller list.
In 2013 Dr. James Hamblin wrote in The Atlantic about how scientific validity is far from a prerequisite for a diet book being a bestseller. Rather, it’s more about there either being a silver bullet or a scapegoat.
Grains, sugar, carbs, wheat, GMOs, non-organic, meat etc. are all currently popular scapegoats for your bodyweight woes. Going high fat, low carb, keto, vegan, organic, paleo, cleansing, detoxes etc. are all hot silver bullets in the current dietary environment.
Novelty is also a terrific branding tool. Despite the fact that we’ve known a great deal about healthy and sustainable weight loss for a long time, people are always interested in some new way that is supposed to make the old way totally wrong and irrelevant.
Remember the blood type diet? Published in 1997 it was written by a naturopathic “doctor” and entitled Eat Right 4 Your Type®. (Yes, it’s a registered trademark.) At the top of the book in bold text it proclaimed: “4 Blood Types, 4 Diets.”
To this day people continue to go to their family physician to find out what their blood type is so they know which diet they’re “supposed” to follow (according to this wholly unscientific book). The concept was so novel that it could not help but garner international attention. You mean I’m supposed to eat based on my blood type? My God, I’ve been doing it all wrong! Mind BLOWN!
That’s how many copies Eat Right 4 Your Type has sold. It’s also been translated into 52 languages. That’s some novel fucking branding right there.
Skinny Bitch is another bestselling approach that comes to mind. It had the scapegoat (animal products) and the silver bullet (go vegan) intermixed with the novelty of a sweary, in-your-face delivery coupled with a provocative title.
Or you could also just go epic dumbfuck and put butter in coffee and charge people $9 for a cup while telling them it’s a low toxin brain and energy boosting weight loss miracle drink, and people will buy that shit.
Let’s recap to make sure you don’t end up being the next Ray Audette and have your book go nowhere. You want to be a mega bestseller and go on tour and get all those speaking fees, don’t you?
- Step 1: Your soul, sell it. It’s of no use to you. Throw in your conscience for free.
- Step 2: Be full of shit. Reality doesn’t sell. Snake oil flies off the shelves like half price paleo pancake batter.
- Step 3: Determine something to make people deathly afraid of and demonize the shit out of it. Moderation is for suckers. This ingredient / macronutrient / breeding method needs to be wholly purged, cuz toxic, yo.
- Step 4: Offer your patented-registered-trademark-Russian-scientist-secret-shaman-spirit-vision-silver-bullet solution.
- Step 5: Don’t be Ray. Know your market and choose a snappy title that appeals to the buyer and makes them feel superior to others.
- Step 6: Be weird. Remember Step 2 and throw science out the window. Make shit up. The crazier / more novel the better. It has to have never been done before, except maybe on The Simpsons, because Homer was the real inventor of Bulletproof Coffee.
- Step 7: Twist the shit out of the science to make it seem legitimate. No one checks references, so just pad the bibliography regardless of whether or not those studies reinforce your thesis. This is known as the Gary Taubes gambit.
- Step 8 (Optional): Throw out some numbers that refer to pounds lost / days / hours / meals etc. Or name the diet after an exotic location.
Step 9: Mother. Fucking. Profit.
James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com and a regular contributor to Men’s Health.