Fad diets and the weird world of alt-right radicalisation

2024’s fad diets come with a side order of weirdness. What does that say about health and wellness in the digital age?

Back in my second year of university, when a lot of my time was spent going down YouTube wormholes, I stumbled across someone called Sv3rige. The Latvia-born internet personality caught my attention thanks to the video after video he’d upload of him chowing down on anything from a raw chicken breast to a whole pig’s head, something he did as a stunt during Brighton’s VegFest back in 2019. Sv3rige, who now goes by the username Goatis, was (and still is) a raw carnivore. Nowadays, the raw carnivore diet has taken the form of something more socially acceptable, with proponents filling their plates with grass-fed meat and cheese. Back then, however, it wasn’t en-vogue. It was certifiably wild, and bearing witness to Sv3rige’s unsanitary eating practices left me wanting more. What I found when I delved deeper into the YouTuber was that he had a penchant for alt-right ideologies and far-fetched conspiracy theories. Even more surprising, he was by no means an anomaly. As the years have passed, and as more fad diets have made their way into the zeitgeist, the presence of a deep, dark underbelly is something of a common thread.

For Sv3rige, who peppers his videos with not-so-subtle allusions to his distaste for people of colour and his flat-earth beliefs, the path from alternative diet to political extremism was well paved, and kind of inevitable. For those whom “raw is law”, as one X user put it, a carnivore diet feeds into patriarchal ideals that they wish to return to. Meat equals getting in touch with your masculine, primal instincts, and meat equals the furthest thing away from being a tofu-eating “submissive beta cuck”. It’s also handy that the carnivore diet can count Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan amongst its fans. When Peterson appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2018, he revealed that he ate “beef and salt and water” exclusively.

That’s not to say that everyone who practises the raw carnivore diet – or, at least, something adjacent to it – is automatically a fan of the far-right. The raw carnivore diet that Sv3rige became the creepy face of back in 2018 has diluted and taken the form of the “animal-based” or “ancestral” diet, where skinny white women have “girl dinners” consisting of burger patties, raw dairy, and organs. Elizabeth Seibert is one of the most recognisable faces of this iteration of carnivorism, the New York based model showing her one million TikTok fans hauls from the Amish dairy farm and the method used to eat her daily portion of raw liver — she just swallows it whole, for those wondering. There are whispers of something that feels a little off – a prominent influencer in this space called @animalbasedbae made a video that linked her proposed diet to “lies about [men’s] manhood” – but they’re not launching full-on tirades like their predecessors.

Still, the foundations for the wellness-to-weirdo pipeline are clearly there. With every hot new diet that enters the mainstream, it seems to be only a matter of time before it’s revealed that the person banging on about it has a fair few skeletons in their closet. That was the fate of Tiffany Magee, anyway. The face of the “Tiffany Plate” – where you dip raw vegetables and sausages into cottage cheese and mustard – came under fire when she insinuated that her restrictive diet helped with her “chronic Lyme disease”, something that’s, in itself, divided the scientific community and beyond. Further investigation by those lurking on Reddit forums then divulged that she voted Republican (the consensus on that was “people are allowed to have their own opinions [sic]”) and, worst of all, that she’s purportedly a Scientologist. You can fill in the gaps as to why Scientology isn’t the best.

The same is true for those leading the anti-seed oil movement. While those of us from the UK might have been introduced to the seed oil discourse via mumsy influencers that traipse around Tesco getting annoyed at the ingredients in cream cheese, elsewhere it’s metamorphosed into something much more eerie. A video from Tomo Marjanovic, a self-proclaimed “believer in the unfiltered truth”, positions canola oil as something that was rolled out by huge corporations as a calculated form of poison. Marjanovic also takes issue with how rapeseed oil (or r*peseed oil, according to him) contains the word “rape”, and elsewhere on his Instagram you’ll find him lamenting on everything from girls that like partying to what happens when men are “emasculated”.

It would be easy to brush off the confluence of extremist ideologies and the preoccupation with what we eat as mere coincidence, but there’s clearly things at play which make it much more than that. Namely, there’s that snowball effect that’s inherent to wellness culture. Cut out one thing, whether it’s seed oils or something else, and it seems likely that you’ll start worrying about gender roles or foreigners down the line. What’s most unfortunate about this phenomena is that those predisposed to it usually start out on the more liberal side. It’s something that’s been talked about at length by photographer Sam Morris, who took to TikTok with an eight part series on how he lost his mum to QAnon. It’s the entire premise of the Conspirituality podcast too: hosts Derek Beres, Matthew Remski and Julian Walker expose the many, many times that new-age wellness and alternative health practices have given way to dubious conspiracy theories. Online it’s even been dubbed the “Crunchy-to-Alt-Right Pipeline”. While there’s certainly personality types that are more susceptible – those who feel implored to share their every thought on the interwebs are going to be better vessels of alt-right ideology than those who don’t – it’s radicalisation that’s occurring. And the new landscape of social media, with its increased emphasis on short-form, viral content that’s full to the brim with (often untrue) information, catapults them into the zeitgeist at an alarming rate. 

But what’s also happening faster than ever before is we’re exposing these influencer’s alt-right underpinnings. Snark forums like “r/myadventuretosnark” and “r/FundieSnarkUncensored”, while earning themselves warranted attention for their role in enabling online hate, also function as a means to unpick whether these figures are to be trusted. They remind us that though the digital sphere gives us unprecedented access into the lives of others, seeing their existence mediated through phone and computer screens means a lot is obscured too. One thing hidden from the dedicated followers of Sv3rige, for example, was that he stabbed four people as a teenager. And while we’re not sure that would even ruffle the feathers of his most ardent disciples, it might have helped remove that pedestal a tiny bit.

Is there a “right” way of spreading the word about whatever restrictive diet you’re promoting? Probably not. While the popularity of figures like Eddie Abbew (who claims to eat “between ten and sixteen eggs a day”) suggests we’ve got a hankering for a stripped-back approach, it’s dubious whether anyone without the right credentials should be recommending a highly restrictive diet. We’d favour a real back-to-basics ethos: drink water, don’t drink Tiffany Magee’s “electrolyte water”, get your five a day, and eat crisps in moderation. And avoid Sv3rige.

WriterAmber Rawlings
Banner Image CreditFresh / Hyperobject Industries