UPDATE: President's Trainer Calling Paleo a "Silly Fad Diet" Is a Vegan Advocate

What? Am I psychic, or does my attempt to make a logically connected hypothesis just blow my own mind? In yesterday’s post, I linked the politics of veganism to that of agribusiness by way of what I thought was a coincidental connection… An article by President Obama’s Personal Trainer, Cornell McClellan.

Shocker! News just floated my way that Mr. McClellan just happens to also be a vegan advocate! An ABC affiliate reports (emphasis mine):

“For three years, [Cornell McClellan] served on the inter-national(sic) board for Earth Save, an organization founded by John Robbins, author of “Diet for a New America.” Their mission is to bring the world closer to a plant-based lifestyle. He was a member of Roots of Peace, a Chicago-based vegan group, whose mission is to educate the children and community about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.” –ABC News Chicago

Well now does’t that put this hokum visual of your insides rotting in a bit of melodramatic context? “Eating a steak three times a day can potentially whittle your waistline, but the impact it’s having on your insides might not be as attractive”

The other main idea I proposed in the article was that religious folks often have an axe to grind with paleolithic diets because of the reliance on adaptive principles of Darwinian evolution. And double shocker:

Cornell’s Statement of Commitment
“I want clients to understand what needs to be done, and to commit to doing it. Living a healthy life is just one way to give thanks to God for the life He has given us.”

Now, I can’t say that Mr. McClellan is a Creationist at this point. However, the implications of the statement that “God” has “given us” life are many. It hints strongly at the negation of adaptation in human evolution. Notions of a creator god don’t allow room for evolution to happen in an adaptive way. Unlike the release of Darwin’s 1959 1859 work, “On the Origin of Species”, the paleo diet has a very real and visceral day-to-day meaning to people. Using the logical framework of a paleo approach tends to inherently keep the logic of evolution in one’s mind. Like Darwin’s book, paleo has the potential to cause further erosion of beliefs in Creationist myths and the anti-adaptationist motives of ID.

The new information on McClellan’s vegan advocacy adds another dimension to the lack of journalistic integrity in his original article. With this new light, the attempts to berate paleolithic diets by completely sensationalized rhetoric is amplified by concealing a very significant motivational bias. Sinister may be too strong of a word, but hiding a vegan advocacy agenda behind a nutritional propaganda is, to borrow the words of Mr. McClellan, “somewhat questionable”. Is that enough to qualify for “shill” status? You tell me.

UPDATE: November 7, 2010

McClellan apparently has a real problem with celebrities eating meat…

“McClellan bemoans the fact that celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Jessica Simpson have misconstrued vegan diets as being unhealthful; in a recent interview for her movie Salt, Jolie said that being a vegan “nearly killed me. I found that I was not getting enough nutrition.” …The best part of the article, though, is the fact that McClellan recommends Dreena’s cookbook Eat, Drink & Be Vegan” –Arsenalia.com

…and he’s clearly not skimping on the ultra vegan bias in general.

Perhaps the more important question is whether the vegan fad diet is healthy.

For a comprehensive list of paleo related links and, including some related to veg*an ideas, you might check out paleodiet.com.

  1. Richard Nikoley 5 years ago

    Well, I just recorded an episode of BULLSHIT! and this deal was first up. Luckily, as I was preparing I got an email from Don Wiss, a reader so I was able to include this info in the video.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      Yeah! I just finished watching your video. Hilarious! And thanks for the plug.

  2. Angela 5 years ago

    Interesting background on McClellan. I am of the opinion that choosing to feed children a vegan diet is pretty much child abuse, and every time I hear someone with money trying to convince people to do so it makes me spitting mad.

    One small thing: On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, not 1959 😉


    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      And not to equate human babies with animals (for trembling fear that vegans will say "gotcha" in a reflexive argument for bestowing personhood on animals), but forcing one's canines and felines to eat a vegan diet is similarly problematic.

      Thanks for pointing out the typo! To prevent future incidents, I have summarily fired my entire editorial staff. :)

  3. David Csonka 5 years ago

    Honestly, I feel like there is very little reason to assume journalistic integrity in the media now-a-days. Otherwise, why would blogs be so popular? (excluding crap like Perez Hilton)

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      I'm with ya. When Chomsky wrote "Manufacturing Consent", he probably intended it as a critique. Nobody told that to the media so they used it as a how-to manual.

  4. Chris Ruttan 5 years ago

    Disclaimer: I eat meat, wheat, cheese, seafood, and am willing to try just about anything once (with the possible exception of supplement bars or powdered protein products).

    However the recent emergence of the Paleo diet is disturbs me on two fronts that nobody seems to be addressing. The first is that the Paleo diet is an elitist diet. Most of the world cannot afford to eat this way. Now that’s fine and all but it needs to be acknowledged.

    The second, related and most important is that meat production is not efficient. The conversion of grains to meat is not sustainable in today’s world and certainly North American consumption levels could not be adopted in the poorer 80% of the planet without causing massive famines.

    Now I agree that many of the points in your previous post, including corporate interests in wheat/corn negatively impacting world diets and that this fellow McClellan may be a crock are valid, but the first opens up the whole giant issue of commodities trading and its negative affect on the worlds poor and the second just reinforces the truth that the world is full of loud obnoxious narcissists. Now, I think on an individual level the Paleo diet has its attraction and makes sense in many ways.

    Also, almost every post I read also advocates free range and organic meat which I agree is a great movement and the more demand, the more pressure on meat producers to improve their health standards, the better, but this remains a diet for rich North Americans, (I exclude Europeans as for some reason they are able to smoke, drink, eat crepes and roast duck, and exude health and longevity into old age). For these reasons I ignore your thesis and argument almost completely as I feel it addresses an irrelevant argument and ignores the obvious. I do enjoy your writing immensely and please continue engaging us with your often thought provoking material.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      As a side note: did you see my post that briefly mentions commodity trading related to gluten? It’s indirectly related, but this is all stuff I think about.

      On your two points, which I think are inextricably linked… It’s not the fault of the paleo community that the world’s food supply is based on a grain-centric, monoculture, CAFO nightmare. Within a capitalist system, the more momentum paleo gains, the closer it will get to effecting positive change. Damning it as an elitist movement is too cynical for me, and seems only to state the temporary truth of today rather than consider the future implications. That seems rather short-sighted. Ironically, the poor, many of which are forced to subsist on grains, perhaps stand to benefit from paleo more than anyone.

      The notion of efficiency and requisite consumption levels is only true if we continue to assume that the current methods of farming (of plants and animals) are the most efficient. I’d say that assumption is flat wrong.

      [youtube guxA3PQ1jv0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guxA3PQ1jv0 youtube]

      Your rejection of my thesis and argument, while certainly your prerogative, seems like a non sequitur. The issues you mention are in no way mutually exclusive of mine. Rather, they seem quite compatible, if not symbiotic. So… I’m going to go ahead and continue to include both in my thinking. :)

      I hope you’ll subscribe via RSS or email as it’s always been my intention to address the things you’re concerned with. It’s just that this blog has only been online for 5 1/2 weeks… 2 of which were spent with me unable to type due to a broken bone in my shoulder. But I’ll get there…

      Oh, and if you’re looking for someone else who’s thinking along these same lines, check out Kevin at <a href="http://www.paleoplaybook.com” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://www.paleoplaybook.com” target=”_blank”>www.paleoplaybook.com

      My recent post The Myth of Food

    • Jamie Scott 5 years ago

      In New Zealand I have been able to selectively eat free-range (eggs & bacon) and some organic fruit items (all our meat is grassfed with no cost penalty), AT LOWER COST than pre-paleo… because I generally need to eat less. Add in the associated lower costs of healthcare, and it is anything but elitist. Hearing that it is elitist or too expensive (again, in New Zealand at least), does not hold true and becomes a tiresome counter-argument.

      • Author
        Andrew 5 years ago

        I can’t say that it’s cheaper in the U.S. per se. But on a volume basis, it’s cheaper to buy whole foods for paleo eating than it is to buy processed food. It’s also cheaper to buy grass-fed beef in bulk than it is to buy junk beef at the grocery store. I picked up 1/4 of a grass-fed cow from the butcher about 10 days ago, and paid less for the steaks than random ground beef at the store. Local pastured eggs are a lot cheaper, but I can’t always get more than a dozen a week.

        But… the “elitist” thing persists. Coincidentally, here are a few terms that people searched for to find my blog just today! Check out the 4th one…

        This is something I plan on writing about in the near future, but I may meander through a couple other posts to get there.

        Oh, and thanks for you comment over on Mark’s blog. I already commented on that thread quite a bit and didn’t want to dominate it even more.

  5. Author
    Andrew 5 years ago

    Good points. You certainly won't get flamed by me.

    Population control by the inability of an environment to support population X in any species has been a constant adaptive pressure since forever. There is a fundamental flaw in the assumption humans are exempt from this. Environmental collapse is the Dawrinian solution to species who evolve in a way that ignores (usually non-consciously, but the result is the same if it's conscious) this fact.

    The "we have to support the biggest population possible" argument seems strange to me. It's almost as if those making it consider it unethical and suggest future humans that are mathematically possible, yet don't exist, have rights to exist.

  6. Author
    Andrew 5 years ago

    Exactly! My underlying metatheory is that the agricultural revolution is the devil… in so many ways. It lead from everything from the shrinking of humans due to grain consumption to the demotion of women to ownable property and the authoritarian state. All of civilization, quite literally, is its side-effect.

    And yet somehow, I’m not a Luddite.

    • JasonS 5 years ago

      I agree whole-heartedly! Everything we have, good and bad, is downstream from agriculture. When we discovered that I can grow enough food for all of us, then you can make clothing and David can make pottery and Angela can build houses. Eventually there are enough specialists, and therefore enough "stuff", for some to amass more than others and gain power and influence. Then decisions must be made about laws and such, so we turn to the smartest, strongest, or most ambitious among us to make these dicisions while we toil away, and government is born. Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but the "agriculture is the root of all evil" theory is not tough to graph.

  7. Mike Norris 5 years ago

    Great post! You guys should check out "Pandora's Seed – The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization" if you haven't already read it.Keep up the good work!

  8. Andy Fuentes 5 years ago

    Great post and entertaining discussion.

  9. paleoworks 4 years ago

    I think you have missed the point by looking at what fits us today and our present habits. To resolve an issue effectively you start not with what you have but the root cause. That is the present diet almost all in the modern world are consuming this very moment, or more specifically the refined carbohydrate proportion of this diet. The main reason the evolutionary diet model has been 're-discovered', is down to some rather clever work by folk who didn't accept what they were being told and so decided to dig a little deeper. To look behind the smoke screen created by governments and their large corporation paymasters. What was discovered is what amounts to the greatest health scam of the century, no let's tell it like it is…Ever! I hear what you say about being enough food to go round to feed large grain fed populations, however that little matter is for those in high places to figure out how they will address the issue, after all it is they who created the problem.
    What is absolutely not in question is that refined carbohydrate is the devil that got us in this mess, it is refined carbohydrate that causes chemical and thus genetic triggers that will ensure if nothing is done all our futures are in question. You come across as someone who cares, well to truly care we surely have to consider the bigger picture by facing up to the issues now and not continuing with the same flawed theories we've been spoon fed for the last 60 years…although that's what they'd like us to do.

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