Who do YOU listen to?
There is a lot of health information out there today, and it seems like it’s a flurry of new information versus what we’ve always known. It’s enough to make your head spin. So who do YOU listen to?
Yes, it even makes my head spin; on a daily basis. What keeps me grounded is 1) knowing there is always going to be a flood of “new” information, and 2) knowing how to process the information. It you can’t process the information you will be left with overwhelm and confusion. Easier said than done. While processing a lot of health information does require at least a basic understanding of the systems and concepts being analyzed, common sense helps.
How do we know what to believe?
A lot of what we already know cycles back and forth. Eggs are good for you, eggs are bad for you, eggs are good for you, today they’re bad again. The “new” part comes in with the reason; the why, or why not. Why are eggs bad or good? Are they bad for our heart, do they contribute to the growth of cancer, or are they a good source of protein when the chicken is fed a healthy, clean, organic diet? It’s a constant back and forth.
The first thing to consider before taking anything away from a study, story or movie is the source. Who funded the study or movie? Was it funded by an independent group with no commercial ties to the object of the study? Was it funded by an association that has a lot riding ($$$) on the object of the study? Was it funded by a group that has an agenda and it’s trying to get a message out to more people? Rarely will the source be completely unbiased and independent. And that’s a major part of the problem, the confusion. The results, spin, slant is often skewed to meet the objective of the source.
Understanding the information
Let’s take for example the movie I talked about last week, What the Health. The source of the movie was vegans. They may or may not have an agenda, but they certainly have a strong belief system they shared with everyone through the movie. This movie is a good sample for us to break down. It’s not as obvious as something put out by the egg or dairy or take-your-pick industry, however there is still bias. There’s a lot of truth exposed in the movie around food production practices. The movie also raised a lot of good questions around large organizations and how they seem to act in opposite to what they state they’re trying to achieve, their purpose or objective. However, they also only targeted one area of our diet: animal products. In doing so, they may have left some viewers thinking that other things like sugar or processed foods, for example, are not a problem. They took one category, to the exclusion of all others. This is unfortunate because diet and health do not exist in a vacuum.
What we need to keep in mind is the message and the source so we can take away what is relevant. They presented data that supported their belief that veganism is the best way to eat. What they failed to do is help anyone who decided to become a vegan understand the myriad of other issues outside of animal products. Unfortunately, too many people will jump from one diet to another without understanding the full implications. There are healthy vegans and there are junk food vegans. And this, my friends, is the crux of the problem. Too many people are looking for the smoking gun or the magic pill. Don’t you think if it were that easy we would have figured it out by now?
Is it possible the reason the data keeps changing is because the input keeps changing? The eggs we ate 70 years ago were created in a different environment than they are today. The same goes for everything we eat. It’s simply not the same. Nothing is the same. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the way we treat illness and every day aches and pains. They all change rapidly, and they all interact with each other in unknown and untold ways. Additionally, the subjects being studied (the people) are not the same. We have been exposed to so many different stressors and toxins, on top of having different genes and genetic tendencies and defects. What works for one person, may not work for the next one. What triggers inflammation in one person, may have no effect on the person sitting next to them.
I imagine this may not sound helpful to this point. It does but it doesn’t, right? But let’s look at it for what else it might be able to tell us. It may be the reason you don’t succeed when trying to replicate someone else’s success with a certain lifestyle. We are dealing more in complex chemistry than simple math. When this distinction is not taken into account, we end up with confusion over the multitude of outcomes that don’t seem to add up.
What does this mean?
In the context of studies, movies and stories, we need to keep in mind the complexity of the systems involved. We also need to maintain perspective. One movie, or one study, or one article does not generally cover the broad spectrum of issues involved. The fact that the dangers of sugar consumption were not covered in What the Health does not make sugar healthy. It just means we need to take the information for what it is: a part of the bigger picture. There are many issues not touched on in that movie, and many other movies. It does not render the other issues moot, merely unaddressed. So who do you listen to? Yourself. Your body is the best source of information for you. Listen to what it’s telling you. I’ve touched upon this innate knowledge before. In fact, it’s one of the main tools I teach to my clients. You know yourself better than anyone else does. No one else lives your experience. You will decide for yourself what is right, and wrong, for you.
I’ve tried to simplify the way I address mixed messaging on my lifestyle choices. If something is controversial, I opt out rather than stress over it. I mostly stick to things that don’t live on the roller coaster of “is it healthy, or is it risky.” I find that it makes my choices easier to make. Everyone needs to find their own path; the one that makes them feel the best about themselves. It’s good we have access to so much information, but bad if we don’t know how to use it. Be open-minded and aware. Most of all, listen to what your own body is telling you.