Scared by too Much Conflicting Nutrition Information?
We’re on the eve of yet another celebratory feast … fortunately perhaps the last (unless you’re one of those who does a big brouhaha for New Year’s). And on the brink of a new year (when many go on diets because of all the feast weight they’ve gained) … it might be prudent to talk about the “food fears” that many have. Food fears that arise from too much information from too many sources.
Information that touts CLEAN! FREE FROM …! NATURAL! ORGANIC! NON-GMO! … and fifty million (I’m exaggerating) other supposedly good-for-you heralds. Unfortunately, these buzzwords, which are supposed to signal foods not only healthful but environmentally-friendly, can backfire.
I have a client who I have warned again and again NOT to go on the internet to find information. Yet I would get phone calls from her where she would begin, “I bought this supplement because I read …” or “I read that this food is (isn’t) good for you …” I’m not that arrogant to think that I know all the answers. But at least, with my nutrition knowledge, I could “yay” or “nay” information and attempt to teach the right stuff to clients. Whether they listened or not.
In an article entitled “Food Fears” in the September 2017 issue of Today’s Dietitian, Leah McGrath, RD, LDN said, “Questions I receive during talks, via email, or on social media are almost all fear-based, and the level of food fears is overwhelming.” Why is this so?
It’s Always Opinion … And Bias. David Katz, MD, blessed food activist, quoted Bertrand Russell, who cautioned, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts”. He also has written scathing reviews of the recent PURE study, which encourages people to avoid nutritious plant foods, scorchingly saying “it takes nutrition nonsense to a whole new level”.
Our latest questionable buzzword appears to be “lectin” and the book The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry, MD, who explains that lectin is “designed by nature to protect plants from predators” and “once ingested, they incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing … serious health conditions”. Obviously, Gundry doesn’t understand any type of nutritional science, which is always more complicated than we would hope. The truth is that there are different types of lectin, mostly non-toxic, and that Americans don’t eat the toxic kind … or much of the non-toxic variety either. But we’re always looking for a very simple, pat solution for something that has multi-layered problems. When it comes to health, that never works.
In reality, it’s always opinion. And don’t forget bias. There is a group of dietitians that have made it their crusade to lambast any of their peers that entertain any type of alternative treatments. Truth is that many of these so-called crusaders are aligned with the chemical company, Monsanto, who has … it seems … a mission to poison us with things even more threatening than lectin.
But bias, I’m afraid to say, even in my particular community, goes deeper than that. In my own dietetics journal, two recent studies revealed that a whopping 49.5% of dietetics professionals exhibited symptoms of Orthorexia Nervosa (not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis but considered as an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating), 12.9% had active eating disordered behaviors, and 25% of dietetics students were at risk for exercise addiction. Not only that …
We Live in a Pervasive Climate of Fear. I’m not political, but I know that Donald Trump was partially elected president because he instilled fear into his base with his talk of building a wall, pumping up the military, and defeating Isis “easily”. To my knowledge, none of those has taken place. As a UCLA sophomore, my very first serious boyfriend told me that “history repeats itself”. I’ve lived through several of these historical repeats, which swing from optimistic to paranoid and back.
And, when we swing into paranoia and divisive thought, which we seem to be in right now, it makes perfect sense that we become fearful of many other things besides fanatics in foreign countries. It seems that we fear for our very lives. And, if we can’t connect to something out there, we turn to an inward battle within ourselves. To name just one example, studies have shown that children as young as age five are obsessed with weight and thinness. Findings from the Project EAT study also revealed that more than 1/2 of girls and 1/3 of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors (fasting, vomiting, laxatives, skipping meals, or smoking to control appetite). And that higher weight and overweight teens are more likely to engage in both binge-eating and unhealthy weight control than normal weight teens. Also, according to these studies, these behaviors increase as teens get older.
This makes perfect sense to me, as I’m currently reading a book called “Hardwiring Happiness” by Dr. Rick Hanson, which explains that, because of our Neanderthal history of survival-of-the-fittest fight-or-flight responses, we tend to readily remember negative over positive reactions in our psyches. In other words, we are much more likely to remember and react to things that cause us pause, like when a random thing kicked up by another vehicle hit my tire recently, flattening it in an instant and sending me on a journey that took eight hours (and ruined my work day), entailed incompetent road service guys, a tow, and an irritatingly chatty woman who verbally sought me out and subsequently attacked me.
I could have been upset, but instead confronted the woman, made friends with the other two ladies she was verbally abusing so rapidly and intensely that they hugged me when they left the service place where I needed to be towed, and later that day reported the incompetent guys. Then I treated myself to a restaurant meal and some good wine. And forgot about the whole thing.
How did I do that when I could have wallowed in misery and become a victim … even with such a slight happening? According to Hanson, I could have added it to a growing litany of “Why me?”. Instead, I called, complained, nurtured, and let it go. I depended upon a lot of spiritual work, my acting training, and lots of living to turn the “sow’s ear” into a “silk purse”. How did I do that? To be continued …
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What foods are you afraid of? Why? Are you willing to entertain new ways to overcome these food fears?