Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exposing the Ideology of Nutritionism: A Glimpse at a Bigger Picture

Well I am not sure how to begin this month’s blog. A proper investigation of the topic at hand could take several Parts, but I will try to at least get some ideas started so that many of you can begin to at least question your questions and perhaps being a process of thinking differently. One of the more key tenets of a Tao- based understanding is that if you are not finding the right answers, then you are not asking the right questions (within yourself).

Another key aspect of modern brilliance is the non-acceptance of reductionist science as ‘truth’ in and of itself, and that wholes are always greater than the sum of their parts. The modern tendency toward ‘isms’ is categorizing many useful practices in ways that end up amounting to no more than ideologies masquerading as truth. In this sense there is no such thing as Tao-ism.

 It cannot be surmised in that way as a category of truth, thought, or practice. It is a much greater and more profound whole than what can be captured even in discussion. For some of the more ethereal topics in life, mere discussion or delineation is a mode of reduction that negates its own wholeness. (For example trying to explain ‘love’ without context)

To make matters worse the modern trend has been to accept as truth what is anything but. I have been speaking a lot lately about paradigm blindness and its associated ‘isms’ Of these, scientism and within that, nutritionism are two accepted ‘truths’ that are as arrogantly employed as all of their previous ancestors which over time were proven either false or at least faulty.

The modern issue now is that nutrition study has turned into nutritionism, an ideology all its own, which does not stand on truth. And the same can be said of science, now becoming ‘scientism’ a false ideology that influences application, thought and practice based on little else but interpretations of questionable science of questionable scientists.

These are now huge industries. Industry has a need first and foremost to perpetuate itself. Industry is selfish, not self-less and that should always be kept in mind when consuming ‘information’ or propaganda in any form from any industry. Tradition, which was faulty in and of itself, has now been replaced by scientism, which is just as faulty, when context is not considered. As an example I would like to address in greater depth the notion of ‘nutrition-ism’ in this month’s blog.

In recent years at the top of the academic chain there has been a shift away from reductionist thought and toward looking at whole patterns rather than component parts. This is decidedly Tao as well whether labelled as such or not.

 Science is still employed within that mode of investigation, but it more appropriately places science back as the horse before the cart within inquiry and investigation. The move is away from mechanistic reductionist approaches to more quantum understanding that focuses on relationships, contexts, flow, rhythms, connections etc.

 We see and know that the body is more than a machine; it is more complex than what reductionist science would have us think. And yet the beauty is that within that complexity lays the simplicity that allowed man to flourish and adapt as a species.

A study of nutrition can yield very specific answers to very specific questions, and yet at the same time alienate us further and further away from our own nature. This is what Marx referred to as ‘alienation from species being.’

It should be noted that food and nutrition are different things, yet a study of one or the other is inclusive of both. And herein lays the problem of context.

Man is much more than sum of his parts. It is ironic that as science and nutritionism replaced culture and tradition in the last 30 years, man has become more and more ill and less healthy because of it, and not in spite of it. We need look no further than our own industry of health and wellness to notice the irony and the falsehood of nutritionism.

 A recent long term study showed that over a period of 5-7 years, the group that gained the most unwanted fat and became overweight, was the group that qualified themselves as ‘chronic dieters.’ Those who ate freely manifested less weight issues, metabolically, physically, and more importantly mentally and emotionally.

So lets’ get to it then. What is this ‘nutritionism’ that I am talking about? Nutritionism as an ideology has as its core many pernicious myths. One is that what matters most is the nutrient and not the food; another is that the purpose of eating is to promote a very narrow concept of physical health and wellness.

And yet the irony of this science is that it has produced the most unhealthy and unwell consumers among its believers. Everyone following a western diet mentality now seemingly ‘eats for a purpose.’ In our industry it can be to get lean, get ripped, compete, or off-season to bulk up, to gain muscle etc just to name a few.

But much is lost in this quagmire of ‘purpose.’ And the key thing lost is the connection of the dots to awareness and health.

“ There comes to be a disassociation between mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health and wellness connected to food”

The ideology of nutritionism like most ideologies produces a duality in thought and process. Food becomes associated with good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, positive/negative, fattening/not fattening etc. And yet this duality itself produces more problems than nutrition science solves.

Reductionist science can never encapsulate or address metaphysical forces so important as vitality, vitalism, wholism, and the connection of these parts to overall wellness and completeness. In original cultures across the globe there was no such thing as an unhealthy diet, until the modern western diet and western thought associated with it, replaced traditional cultural thinking.

A common thread throughout my new book is to use ‘diet’ as an example and illustration of illusion. And the point I make consistently is that “it is not about the diet!

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