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SKEPTOID BLOG:

A Skeptical, (Mostly) Non-Mocking Look at Amanda Chantal Bacon's Diet

by Mike Rothschild

February 9, 2016

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Donate Internet wags and pseudoscience watchers alike went nuts when an Elle magazine article about the daily eating regimen of one Amanda Chantal Bacon went viral. Ms. Bacon is a resident of Venice, California and the owner of Moon Juice, which is "a cold pressed, 100% organic, juice and nut milk shop." She also appears to be someone whose eating habits Elle felt it would be illuminating to write about. Her food diary is a doozy, as she appears to live entirely off juice, homemade yogurt and chocolate, and the occasional salad. And herbs. A lot of herbs.

The piece is actually from May 2015, but it went viral on February 5th, 2016 after feminist blog Jezebel wrote about it with the headline "I Have Never Heard Of, Much Less Eaten, Any of the Foods in This Juice Lady's Food Diary." Other outlets picked it up after that, using similarly mocking headlines, and by the end of the day the Internet was replete with thinkpieces and videos mocking Ms. Bacon's diet, the bizarre things in it, and how laughably out of touch rich white people are.

While mocking people's food choices simply because they're unusual isn't particularly skeptical, examining a diet held up as aspirational, when it's actually ludicrously expensive, woo-laden, and quite possibly disordered, is. In fact, it's likely that eating the way Ms. Bacon does will leave Elle readers broke, exhausted, and non-functional — even if she herself isn't.

Ms. Bacon starts her first-person food diary with a little tea and solitude:
"I usually wake up at 6:30am, and start with some Kundalini meditation and a 23-minute breath set—along with a copper cup of silver needle and calendula tea—before my son Rohan wakes."
So far so good, right. Her copper tea cup sells for $12.95, which isn't much for a cup you use every day. Her tea is available in a box of 90 bags for $49 — a lot to pay for tea, but only about 55 cents per bag. Incidentally, the FDA recommends against drinking hot liquids out of copper cups, but they're just in bed with Big Food and want us all to be fat and sick, right?

She goes on to a pre-breakfast drink, and we crash hard upon the shoals of woo:
"At 8am, I had a warm, morning chi drink on my way to the school drop off, drunk in the car! It contains more than 25 grams of plant protein, thanks to vanilla mushroom protein and stone ground almond butter, and also has the super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy."
Wow. Okay. That's a lot to digest (or not) so let's start with cost. Vanilla mushroom protein costs $35 for a 20 ounce jar with a serving of one ounce. Almond butter is $19 for jar with a 2 tbsp serving and 8 servings in a jar. The Brain Dust is a staggering $55 for a 2 oz jar containing 25 servings, while Cordyceps runs $35 for 3.1 ounce jar, and Reishi is $48 for a 2.8 ounce container.

Maca will lighten your wallet by $25 for an 11 ounce jar with a 1 tsp serving, while Shilajit resin is $7 per serving, and ho shou wu runs $18 for a 2.8 ounce jar. Pearl is $35 for a 3 ounce jar. The three quinton shots come for $60 in a box containing 30 shots, and those two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets run $32.95 box in a 30 packets.

Added all together, that's a staggering amount of money - $370 before taxes. But keep in mind you don't eat all this stuff every day. I tried to amortize the cost of the chi drink/quinton/vitamin combo based on what one morning's worth costs, using one serving of each and 1 teaspoon as a serving size for supplements that don't have a serving size (because the FDA probably has never heard of them), and came up with $28.26.

For that much money, all these supplements and herbs must do some pretty amazing things, right? Likely, no. The Moon Juice website extols Brain Dust as "[an] enlightening mental potion alchemized with elite herbs used traditionally by great thinkers and meditators. An elixir to maintain healthy systems for superior states of cognitive flow."

As Skeptoid has discussed many times, anything that uses science-sounding driven to sell you brain, libido, and immune boosting properties is probably somewhere between useless and harmful. Speaking of harmful, Cordyceps mushrooms are known to have toxic properties that can cause paralysis, while Shilajit resin is the black tar extract of a rock, sold in a tonic that contains fulvic acid, a pollutant thought to cause bone disorder. None of the things she lists have been studied in any kind of major trials, and none are approved by the FDA to treat anything. And remember, immune system boosting is bad.

As for the Quinton, it's a supplement containing "100% raw pure marine plasma, enriched by the vortex plankton bloom environment." The "mineralization" she speaks of is an actual scientific term, meaning impregnating an organic substance with an inorganic one. What that has to do with "pure marine plasma" is anyone's guess. The vitamin B she takes can be purchased in much larger quantities for much less money.

And by "drunk in the car" I sincerely hope Ms. Bacon means she drinks her drink in the car, not that she's drunk in her car. She goes on, describing phase two of her liquid breakfast:
"At 9:30am, I drink 16 ounces of unsweetened, strong green juice, which is my alkalizer, hydrator, energizer, source of protein and calcium, and overall mood balancer. [...] I also take three tablespoons of bee pollen. I love Moon Juice's soft and chewy bee pollen—it's a creamy, candy-like treat that gives me my daily B-vitamin blast. I'll also grab a handful of activated cashews. I try to get these in every day for their brain chemistry magic. I chase this with a shot of pressed turmeric root in freshly squeezed grapefruit juice."
Again, a double barreled blast of nonsense. In case you're scoring at home, green juice runs $8 per bottle, while three tablespoons of bee pollen will denude your bank account of $15. The "activated cashews" — "activating" being a fancy way to describe being soaked in salt water and baked — are $21 for a 16 ounce bag, and a shot of pressed turmeric root can be had at most juice bars for $3. Second breakfast runs about $26, assuming one ounce of cashews and without the grapefruit juice, which you can make pretty cheaply at home.

What does any of this stuff do? Beats me. Woo peddlers make a lot of money off goofy concepts like alkalizing blood and balancing mood, and if you know what "brain chemistry magic" is, then you're probably making money off it already. Also, why does she need a "B-vitamin blast" if she's already hammered down two B-complex packets? Hopefully Ms. Bacon knows that overdosing on vitamin B can cause liver damage, jaundice, and nerve damage. That's not great for the skin.

On to lunch we go, and at last, real food appears:
"For lunch, I had zucchini ribbons with basil, pine nuts, sun-cured olives, and lemon. [...] I often alternate this with my other lunch staple: a nori roll with umeboshi paste, avocado, cultured sea vegetables, and pea sprouts. [...] These ingredients are all pantry staples, so I eat some version of this everyday. It's probiotic-rich [...], and deeply mineralizing thanks to the sea vegetables, and the avocado nourishes the brain and hormones. [...] I usually make this while standing, working with someone, simultaneously emailing and definitely texting. I know the right answer would be to sit down and take 10 minutes to eat, but that doesn't happen for lunch, ever."
Putting aside the woo terms like "mineralizing" and "nourish the brain," it's hard to fault someone for basically eating vegetables. Though you might want to ask yourself where the protein and fiber are in this lunch? I can't find it in anything other than small amounts. Ms. Bacon is likely too busy to ask herself this, inhaling her food while multi-tasking. Balance!

PS: the "pantry staple" of umeboshi paste runs $9.45 for a 7 ounce tray.
"If I'm home around 3pm, I always reach for coconut yogurt with cardamom, dried figs, walnuts, and apricots from a weekend farm visit—and a chunk of raw dark chocolate. I ferment big batches of coconut yogurt and make big batches of raw chocolate spiked with maca and any other medicinal herb I'm focusing on. It's easy to do, and makes for potent, fast snack food throughout the month."
All kidding aside, the yogurt with figs and walnuts sounds pretty good, and like an actual food that a person would eat. Why she has to go ahead and ruin it by "spiking" it full of herbs is beyond me.

Incidental question — it's literally impossible for her to sit down and spend ten minutes eating, but it's "easy" to make huge batches of yogurt and chocolate, both of which can be found in any respectable grocery store?
"Today I also called into Moon Juice and got some 'drive through.' [...] I grabbed a mint chip hemp milk with double servings of maca and sprouted brown rice protein, sweetened with stevia, as well as two Goodness Greens juices."
Mint chip hemp milk runs $10 and two Goodness Greens juices set you back $9 per bottle. Ms. Bacon owns the store and probably gets it all for free, but for those of you playing at home (assuming you haven't given up and hit In-N-Out Burger) that's about $30 more down the drain.
"I had an early, pre-yoga dinner at Shima in Abbot Kinney, which is my 3-year-old's favorite restaurant. I had a seaweed salad with micro cilantro and daikon, and a delicate broth of mushrooms and herbs."
I couldn't find the menu for Shima online, but Yelp lists it as $$$, meaning a meal there will run between $30-60. Of course, Ms. Bacon isn't eating a meal — she's having seaweed salad and miso soup, essentially. It's actual food, in the sense that some of it involves chewing, but where's the protein?

[...]
"At 11pm, I had a nightcap of heart tonic and raw chocolate made from one of my big batches—this one was made with our Moon Pantry heirloom raw cacao, reishi and Chaga mushroom, sprouted brown rice protein, and coconut oil."
A bottle of Moon Juice heart tonic is $18 for four ounces, with a serving of 2 tsp. That heirloom raw cacao is $15 for 16 ounces, the chaga mushroom is $35 for a 1.6 ounce jar, and the sprouted brown rice protein is $30 for a 21 ounce container — about $7-10 for a nightcap, depending on how much chocolate she eats. Not that expensive, given everything else she's splashed her cash on — again, assuming one serving is one tsp.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us having spent over $90 on food that's either juice or supplements. It's not a crazy guess to think that eating like this, including organic fruit and vegetables, the makings of coconut yogurt and raw chocolate, and going out to dinner could easily run $150 for a day's worth of food. Per week, this is close to $1,000 - or over $50,000 for a year. Just for comparison, the median household income for the average Elle reader is $69,973, as of 2007.

One factor here is something I mentioned above — Ms. Bacon owns Moon Juice, which happens to sell most of the supplements and juices she ingests in lieu of food. So she's likely getting either a major discount or just snagging it all for free. Obviously, this would cut down on the cost of eating like Ms. Bacon. Neither she nor the article ever mention this.

I want to make it clear that Ms. Bacon can eat in the fashion she chooses. It's her right to spend whatever she wants on whatever she wants, whether it's McDonalds or activated nuts and liquefied rock tar. Her health is her business.

But for most women, this diet doesn't and can't work. It's ludicrously expensive, dangerously low in calories, stuffed full of dodgy herbs and sugar-packed juices, dependent on non-existent or unproven magical benefits, and involves spending far more time obsessively preparing food than actually enjoying it. Some of these traits are warning signs of orthorexia or disordered eating. I'm not diagnosing Ms. Bacon with anything, but for her diet to held up as an aspirational model to Elle readers is insane.

As I was finishing up this piece, I found another quote from Ms. Bacon, this from a 2013 interview, and it confirms everything I already figured out already -
"Here's my dirty little secret—living in Southern California, I'm in the sun everyday and I don't wear sunscreen. I don't know why I don't wear it, It's not like I'm unaware of the dangers; I'm a fanatic about my son wearing it. But it just feels so good to be in the sun."

by Mike Rothschild

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