They Swore by the Diet I Created — but I Completely Made It Up
How exposure to misinformation inoculation sometimes makes things worse
While on vacation, Marcial Conte, the Brazilian publisher of my first book, met a woman who asked about his work. Upon learning he was responsible for A Mentira do Glutén: E Outros Mitos Sobre O Que Voce Comê (The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat), she lit up.
Her husband, she said, had followed my revolutionary diet protocol and changed his life. Pounds melted away. Myriad health problems resolved themselves.
“She told me to thank you for saving her husband’s life with the ‘UNpacked Diet,’” Conte grinned at me. “Incredible, no? The only change they made was keeping aluminum foil.”
Incredible, indeed. The diet was satire, invented by me, and it came at the end of a book dedicated to exposing pseudoscientific nutrition claims. For the centerpiece of the faux diet, I used just such a claim: that the cause of all modern ailments was food packaging. By “unpacking” your food — that is, by refusing to eat food that had come in contact with plastic, styrofoam, or aluminum foil — I pretended to promise readers a magical panacea for everything from autism to Alzheimer’s, as well as effortless weight loss.
Readers have emailed asking where they can buy the “UNpacked Diet–approved unbleached coffee filters” that I dreamed up as part of the satire.
The satire should have been clear. Every chapter was packed with warnings about precisely the kinds of claims made in the diet, such as:
- Beware of panaceas… like a diet that promises miraculous weight loss and a solution to every chronic illness.
- Distrust the promise of secret knowledge hidden by conspiracies… like the diet that “they” don’t want you to know about.
- Don’t trust individual anecdotes… like the glowing testimonials I included at the end of the invented diet. (I took them from other pseudoscientific diet books.)
- Stay alert for myths and fallacies such as the “appeal to antiquity”… the idea that our ancestors lived in a…