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Paleo Diet Blogs and Commodity Fetishism

Paleo Diet Blogs and Commodity Fetishism

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Published by Allison Jones
Paleo diet blogs: A case study of how commodity fetishism manifests in a diet subculture.

This paper explores the hypothesis that specific forms of digital media both reveal and drive the commodity fetishisation of food through their content and production models. A case study of two different Paleo diet websites – Nom Nom Paleo and PaleoHacks - will be used to illustrate this hypothesis, with emphasis on the forms this fetishisation takes. The significance of the growth of these types of movements in relation to late capitalism will also be examined.
Paleo diet blogs: A case study of how commodity fetishism manifests in a diet subculture.

This paper explores the hypothesis that specific forms of digital media both reveal and drive the commodity fetishisation of food through their content and production models. A case study of two different Paleo diet websites – Nom Nom Paleo and PaleoHacks - will be used to illustrate this hypothesis, with emphasis on the forms this fetishisation takes. The significance of the growth of these types of movements in relation to late capitalism will also be examined.

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Published by: Allison Jones on Jun 28, 2011
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WMST6903 GENDER, MEDIA AND CONSUMER SOCIETIES | ASSIGNMENT 3
ALLISON JONES | 310268141
   P  a  g  e
   1 
WMST6903 GENDER, MEDIA AND CONSUMER SOCIETIES | ASSIGNMENT 3  CASE STUDY
ALLISON JONES | 310268141
Paleo diet blogs: A case study of how commodity fetishismmanifests in a diet subculture
 ³A
lot of people on here are living the Paleo myth and that's fine, if it'sworking for you: namely, you are truly maintaining good health. Theproblem with myths is that they can fail you and you are so submerged inthem (like the fish scientists) that you can't see beyond them. There is atleast a comfort that comes from the certainty they provide.Now I've got to tell you. I have been seduced by the Paleo narrative, butit's time to throw it off.
I have fared dismally on the Paleo diet
. Mindyou, when I began this experiment I was not overweight. I have eatenhealthy for a long, long time, so I did not come to this screwed up from aS
AD
diet.
However, the negative results from this diet (for me, Imust qualify) have been dramatic.
 
D
espite having come to thisconclusion about two weeks ago, when I think about it, sometimes a voicewhispers to me, "...what would your Paleolithic ancestors have done?"
 ³
 (user
 ³
Thomas Seay´ on PaleoHacks.com)
Introduction
In the Western world, the past decade in particular has seen an apparentgastronomic fixation emerge, both reflected in and propelled by, different formsof media, specifically television programs such as
Masterchef, Two Fat Ladies
 and
Nigella Bites
and their spinoff books and websites. The proverbialwatercooler at work, the Twitter feed and the Facebook wall are not immunefrom the influence of this obsession with food, its provenance and its role aslifestyle accessory. Movements or trends such as Slow Food
1
, locavorism
2
and
1
Slow Food is an international movement, originally from northern Italy with a manifesto as follows:
 ³
Slow Food's approach to agriculture, food production and gastronomy is based on a concept of food qualitydefined by three interconnected principles:GOO
D
a fresh and flavorsome seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of our local culture;CLE
A
N food production and consumption that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health;F
A
IR accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for small-scale producers.´ 
 
 
WMST6903 GENDER, MEDIA AND CONSUMER SOCIETIES | ASSIGNMENT 3
ALLISON JONES | 310268141
   P  a  g  e
   2 
community gardens are gaining increasing amounts of media attention, enteringthe lexicon and taking on significance within a growing anti-consumerist
3
 context.Concurrently, more significant trends impact the context that these consumptiontrends have emerged within: the startling rates of chronic illness rates indeveloped nations such as the United States
4
, healthcare systems that areoverstretched
5
and the increasing use of the Internet as a source of healthinformation
6
by lay people. The authors of 
Macrowikinomics
believe that thetraditional health care paradigm of patients as passive health-care receivers anddoctors as the all-knowing provider is being challenged, a challenge facilitated bythe collaborative communication model of particular types of communitywebsites: 
 ³A
nd, just as journalists now coexist with a much broader ecosystem of knowledge producers, self-organising patient communities and a greateremphasis on education and preventative medicine are beginning toaugment conventional health care´.(Tapscott and Williams, 2010: 26)This
 
societal context of intersecting trends and an undercurrent of discontentand impending crisis, is the focus for this paper which will explore the hypothesis
http://www.slowfood.com/international/2/our-philosophy?-session=query_session:7C
A8B9
C
D
0ef1b0
A
4E
8Q
LVX46
A
F
A9
 
2
 
A
 
 ³
locavore´ is defined as
 ³
a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.´ http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/locavore?region=us
 
3
Binkley (2008) identifies a growing anti-consumerist theme to modern consumption practices, which hasbecome an almost
de rigeur 
lifestyle choice for many consumer sectors rather than simply intellectuals andradicals.
4
D
ata from the US Centres for
D
isease Control and Prevention states that about 133 million
A
mericans²nearly1 in 2 adults²live with at least one chronic illness:http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/
AA
G/pdf/chronic.pdf 
 
5
A
ccording to
A
rmstrong et al,
 ³
...advances are now under threat as our health system is stretched by anageing population, the growing burden of chronic illness, and the increasingly outmoded organisation of ourhealth services.´ (2007)
6
 
Research by The Pew Internet and
A
merican Life Project (Fox and Jones: 200
9
) reports that 74% of 
A
merican adults use the Internet and that
8
3% of them look online for health information (regardless of whether they have a chronic disease or not).
 
 
WMST6903 GENDER, MEDIA AND CONSUMER SOCIETIES | ASSIGNMENT 3
ALLISON JONES | 310268141
   P  a  g  e
   3 
that specific forms of digital media both reveal and drive the commodityfetishisation of food through their content and production models.
A
case studyof two different Paleo diet websites ± Nom Nom Paleo and PaleoHacks - will beused to illustrate this hypothesis, with emphasis on the forms this fetishisationtakes. The significance of the growth of these types of movements in relation tolate capitalism will also be examined.
T
he Paleo diet: eat like a caveman
The Paleo diet, or µcaveman¶ diet, is one that purports to be a return to a style of eating prior to the agricultural revolution and our modern day diet with itsabundance of processed, convenience foods.
A
s such, the diet revolves aroundfresh, unprocessed food - specifically meat, seafood, poultry, nuts, seeds,vegetables and fruit. Professor Loren Cordain, one of the foremost Paleoproponents, writes in
The Paleo Solution
of 
 ³
...the remarkable good health of our Paleolithic ancestors, and how thathealth changed with the transition to agriculture and a diet dominated byhumanity¶s
 ³
double-edged sword´ ± cereal grains.´ (Wolf, 2010:
9
)It is important to note that Paleo is considered µalternative¶ as it sits outside of,and in opposition to, the more common µS
AD
¶ (Standard
A
merican
D
iet) which isendorsed by various government agencies and promoted with such devices asthe Food Pyramid. The influence of S
AD
permeates different areas where poweris enacted: the medical profession, via nutritionists and health authorities, andacademia, in the form of the syllabus content all the way from early education totertiary education.Paleo stands alongside more overtly anti-consumerist movements, such as strictveganism and raw foodism, that are opposed to elements of mass foodproduction associated with late capitalism: factory-farmed animals, heavilyprocessed and marketed foods, exploitation of impoverished producers, and thehigh
 ³
food miles´ food often takes from farm to plate. It is an attempt to returnto a way of eating supposedly closer to our evolutionary genetics, however mostadherents are not attempting to re-create the Paleolithic lifestyle as such. There

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