Nutrition has become such a controversial topic that it is slowly but surely earning its place alongside politics and religion. Every expert seems to have the right answer for losing that stubborn weight or reversing chronic disease.
There is so much disagreement in the field about which foods are healthy and which foods shouldn’t be touched with a 10 ft pole that consumers often feel overwhelmed. Some individuals feel it’s not even worth trying to develop healthier eating habits because they are constantly bombarded with conflicting information all over the internet, on TV and from different practitioners.
Chris Kresser has been writing for years about the Paleo diet’s effectiveness in reversing chronic disease, while Dean Ornish is the expert in achieving similar results using a low fat vegetarian diet. So who is right?
Our biases shape our views
I sometimes envy the straight forwardness of an accountant’s job; not having to go through perils of carefully “individualizing” numbers to fit their client’s needs (hopefully). In the contrasting field of nutrition 2 + 2 isn’t always equals 4. And I suspect this discrepancy can be partly attributed to the answer to one seemingly innocuous question – what do you believe?
The answer will likely be rooted in your own biases and experiences, and not necessarily in carefully reviewed researched. While we take pride in using scientific studies to objectively shape our stance on a particular topic, we often do so in a biased way. We tend to use research as means of rationalizing and supporting our own convictions.
Whatever your position on a subject, there is likely a published study that will, conveniently, support your beliefs.
But what about all the other studies that support the opposing argument? You’d be surprised at the flagrant methodological flaws you can easily find in the studies that don’t agree with your beliefs – if you look closely enough, that is. Seek and ye shall find.
Just genuinely analyze the journey that paved your belief systems. Let me give you a few examples.
People believe in what has worked for them
If you are a health practitioner working with individuals that have had success loosing weight on a high fat diet, you’ll likely advocate it as a great weight loss tool. Or if you’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years and you developed an autoimmune disease, which prompted you to start an Autoimmune Paleo Diet (not without a fight though) which then led you into remission.
Believe me, you will search the seven kingdoms if needed to find the evidence to support your belief that an AIP is the best approach to manage AI disease.
Conversely, if you were the epitome of a carnivore for the better part of your life and as a result you were prematurely diagnosed with CVD, but you are now successfully reversing heart disease on a vegetarian diet; you’ll likely promote it as the holy grail for reversing heart disease.
However, none of the above-mentioned interventions are mutually exclusive.
It’s not black and white
People can loose weight on high carb diets and there are paleo cardiologists just as there are vegetarian protocols for autoimmune diseases. Assessing what will work for you will require some investigation (medical history, food preferences, health status, goals…) along with some tweaking as you go. This will also require open communication between you and your doctor/nutritionist/healer, so please look for a skilled practitioner that knows how to interpret symptoms and test results appropriately to avoid making you a disservice with unwarranted explorations.
While I obviously appreciate the need for dietary interventions for managing and reversing disease, I do not sympathize with the dogmatic manner in which it is often times practiced.
However, I am no way denying the effectiveness of specific, targeted and restricted nutrition protocols for individuals with certain health conditions. Instead, my point to practitioners is that it may be worth considering the client’s nutritional history and preferences as an outline for the nutritional intervention before blatantly disregarding them if they don’t fit your paradigm.
I should also clarify that I am in no way advocating allowing unhealthy eating patterns as means to please a client/patient. Rather, I am calling for more compassionate interactions and recommendations that won’t leave an individual feeling like he/she has been doomed by his/her past choices.
Regret and helplessness can add unneeded levels of stress to an already burdened individual; and stress, my friends, is another topic that merits its own conversation.