And now for something a little different! With New Year upon us and many of us and our clients trying to eat more healthily I thought this made interesting reading. And I loved the parallels in this article between nutrition facts and self-help facts – I’m sure you’ve seen some of these with your clients like 1) A wish to believe the ‘facts’ that suit us and ignore facts that don’t or 2) How easily people can get stuck collecting facts and end up in ‘analysis paralysis’, 3) Don’t believe the hype! or 4) That ‘facts’ can be a moving target. Please note: The italics have been added by me for emphasis.
Nutrition facts are easy to come by, yet many of us believe that if we somehow knew all the nutrition information that there is to know, then we’d have access to eternal life, perfect health, and a really hot body. I’m quite a nutrition junkie when it comes to learning about the latest info, the current research, the hot supplements or the newest diets. I could probably have a great second career selling all the nutrition books I’ve accumulated over the decades. I love nutrition facts. And at some point, being a bit of a realist, I started to question the nature of nutritional facts. Where do they come from? Who certifies them? And do they pass by a committee of really smart guys with white beards and white coats?
I also started to question the interesting phenomenon of intelligent and charismatic nutrition experts – be they a Harvard doctor, a super smart dietitian, a raw food guru, or a scientifically sophisticated vegan – all touting the right way to eat, all hitting us hard with research and facts to back up their diet, and all saying something very different from one another. How is this possible?
Surely, there must be one expert who is ultimately the smartest and the ‘rightist’. If only we could determine which person that is.
Facts are funny things. When they prove our beliefs, we love them. When they go counter to our most sacred commandments, we tend to become cranky and combative and ready for a moral crusade. If you work in the nutrition or health or food fields, or if you simply have an interest in these, it’s time to get real about facts. Indeed, it’s time to grapple with this one very important and perhaps immutable nutrition fact:
Most nutrition facts have a very short shelf life. We need to simply get over it. I believe that collectively, it’s time to stop the nutrition wars that experts and laypeople alike are participating in. There are very few tried and true and eternal nutrition facts. In the old days of clinical nutrition, meat was considered the king of foods. Not anymore. Vegetables were once considered food for paupers and nutritionally bankrupt. Fat was once seen as good for you, then we decided it was bad, and now it’s making a comeback. Oats were once seen as fit for animals alone. Now we put them in energy bars. Supplements, vitamins and herbs were thought of as suitable only for hippies, or yuppies who used to be hippies. Now we have mountains of research on the proven clinical value of so many different nutrients and herbs.
Science is a moving target. It always has been and always will be. We are still growing and evolving in our knowledge of the world. Probability-wise, it’s a bad bet and surely a bit arrogant to think we have found the one correct way to eat, or a nutrition fact that is bullet proof. So check in with yourself and ask: How attached am I to the facts about food that I believe so dearly? Do I tend to get overly moralistic? Are there other points of view to consider? Does a nutrition guru who has “the answer” easily sway me?
Yes, facts are important. But like anything else in life, too much is too much. Of course, I am not anti-science or anti-facts. In fact, I am pro-fact. I’m simply calling attention to what I believe is a very important and necessary nutritional requirement – the need to not over dose on information to the point where it clutters our intelligent decision-making process. So if you’re suffering from a “high fact diet,” then it may be time to let go a bit and breathe. Notice others around you. Does the certainty they carry around their nutrition philosophy truly serve them? Does it serve others? Do the facts you hold dear ultimately free you, or limit you?
It may also be helpful to consider where your nutrition knowledge actually comes from. Knowledge can come to us from so many different sources. Book knowledge in this realm is surely helpful and necessary. But I would suggest that a list of equally compelling sources of nutrition “facts” should include body wisdom, intuition, personal experience, trial and error, experimentation, your grandma, and the collective wisdom of our stories and traditions.
Nutrition facts are like food. Choose wisely, ruminate over it slowly, and constantly check to see that it’s fresh and not outdated.
We’d love to hear what parallels you noticed, or what you loved about this article. Just comment below.
Contributing Author: Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (IPE), a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. The IPE is the world’s first and only teaching organization dedicated to a forward thinking, positive, holistic approach to nutritional psychology. IPE is unique and revolutionary in its approach – teaching students and professionals how to effectively work with the most common eating challenges of our times. For a free audio gift and to learn more, go to www.psychologyofeating.com.
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