Monday, May 28, 2012

The Dogma of Fear in Diet and Nutrition Study and Practice

The more things change the more they seem to stay the same. The truth is - the way nutrition has been studied over the last 30-40 years has not changed much. And while this may seem like a good thing for those who are studying nutrition – there is a Yin and Yang effect going on here as well. As I’ve said many times the reductionist nature of the study of nutrition - not only has not led to a solid knowledge of dieting and metabolism – but it remains as confused now as it ever was. Moreover, what is more troubling to me is the kind of “mindset” this current mode of study produces. Between the reductionist-nature of nutrition study and the mass market of diet and weight-loss – a type of dangerous “diet-mentality” ensues. I have discussed this in many of my books. But often, the way the field of nutrition study contributes to this,  it all often goes unnoticed.

There is an old academic expression in regards to real search for the truth. It dictates, “Let sleeping dogma’s lie.” This is sort of a reminder to researcher’s how easy it is to get caught up in their own paradigm blindness and research bias – and how easy it can be to slide into dogmatic thinking. Well, the reductionist nature of nutrition study strikes me as one type of dogma. But there is more to the expression, “let sleeping dogma’s lie” – and that is – what about the possible “lie” within any dogma. And this is what I’d like to address in regards to how the study of nutrition contributes, directly and indirectly to the modern “diet-mentality.”
People my age remember the 70’s as the “low fat” era of nutrition practice. In the 70’s till the late 80’s we were told to load up on our rice cakes, get margarine instead of butter, and keep all fats as low as possible. The message back then was clear – “fats” were the enemy of weight-control. And the “low-fat” diet was the “right way” to stay healthy and lose weight. Fast forward a few decades and various forms of low-carbs mania becomes all the rage. Now, instead of including your potatoes and rice, you needed to get rid of them. In this ‘new and improved’ nutritional thinking – the ‘low-fat’ movement was all wrong. “Low-carbs” – this is truly the “right way” to go. And now the message from the nutrition-world is equally clear – “carbs” are the enemy to weight control, and a low-carb diet is the key to health and weight-loss.

But the mindset behind both methodologies remains the same in the western world. The mindset created and intensified is to “fear” and vilify one macro-nutrient group, and make another your nutritional “super-heroes.” And of course, all any of this does is lead to emotional attachments to how people eat: Emotional attachments that are decidedly negative and stress-inducing.
And as nutritional knowledge seems to expand, what we are supposed to “fear” simply becomes more refined. Now, the prevailing “dogma” that lies – is that we need not fear ALL fats, just “bad ones. We need not fear ALL carbs, just “bad” ones. And of course this just intensifies an emotional connection to food as good/bad, right/wrong. But the bottom-line message of all this new knowledge has not changed the faulty mindsets behind nutritional thinking. The so-called knowledge and logic is still reinforcing a mindset to “be afraid” of certain foods, and that if you indulge in them, then because they are bad, then by association, YOU are bad. And this kind of dogmatic thinking is creating more harm than good - when the study of nutrition is taken out of its own domain and employed by marketers for public consumption – And/or when it is twisted and corrupted by the diet and fitness industry.

This mistaken ‘fear-based dogma’ of nutrition has led to a ‘fear-based relationship to food’. People are disconnected from food, their own food sources, like no other species on the planet. All other animals know what foods to eat, “naturally” and instinctively. They are ‘wired and connected’ to do so. They have no ‘fear-based’ thinking or emotion distorting this natural relationship. Only humans do this! And it’s time to reclaim your connection to food “as a pleasure source.” And you cannot do that with a fear-based dogmatism motivating your thinking of how and what to eat. It’s time to claim back all of it and accept that you live in a world of indulgent foods. It’s time to stop pretending that you don’t. What if you could claim it all back in your mind? (Get rid of the diet-mentality) What if you could embrace food, all food, as a source of pleasure again, instead of a source of fear, instead of as a source for guilt and reward? What if you could teach yourself to embrace all of it – fats, carbs, proteins, treats, and celebrations - of using food as part of your human connection? Aren’t you tired of the schizophrenic diet-mentality that tells you to eat ‘this’ not ‘that’ – and then reverses itself every decade or so? And the fear-based diet-mentality and schizophrenia that tells us, we should use food as celebration for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Weddings, funerals, Christenings, Bar-mitzvahs – oh, but be careful and be afraid of over-indulgence when you do so?  Aren’t you tired and confused of the ongoing “intellectual” arguments among nutritionists – the kind of arguments that don’t help you, but keep you locked in the fear-based dogma of the “diet-mentality?” So, while proponents argue for no to low-carbs diets and push DR. Atkins – Dr. Ornish on the other hand offers the exact opposite argument and “pushes” carbohydrates? Who is right? What if it ‘just doesn’t matter’?
Instead of focusing on who ‘may be’ right nutritionally – maybe it is time to focus what this fear-based dogma does to YOU, the individual consumer. Maybe instead of trying to ‘get it right’ – you can just embrace that it’s all, all-right. It’s all right to love food again. And maybe without the fear-based dogmatic approach to nutrition and the diet-mentality it produces – maybe you can more easily claim back being “responsible” with food choices, without being “judgmental” over them. It’s time NOT to let sleeping dogmas of the nutrition and diet industry “lie” – it’s instead time to stop buying the ‘lie’ of their dogma!

I talk about the French Paradox a great deal because it is so relevant to how mindset reflects behavior and outcome. Well another part of the French Paradox that should “educate” us is that the French don’t mandate “nutrition labels” on foods. – In fact the whole idea of this is relatively foreign to them. And they see no reason to ‘reduce’ a food to its component parts, because they are not taught to fear food components of any kind, but to embrace food – all food.
In 2009, I was in the South of France. My brief time there reinforced to me the lessons of the French Paradox. I spent time at many outdoor markets, where you can sit and eat as well. The sights and smells of indulgent food is everywhere. But of course there are no fast food companies at all. What I observed is that I noticed few, if any overweight people. There just weren’t any. It was pretty cool to witness the French Paradox in reality. Conversely, I also spend time each year travelling back east in Canada. Recently, while in a huge food court at one of the bigger malls – I contrasted this experience to my time in France. The opposite of the open-market experience in France – the food court of course is composed mostly of fast food companies. And as I looked around in the mall, I noticed the opposite as well about the people. The majority of people, were overweight, just the opposite of what I saw in France. I observed a lot more of mindless eating as well. Now, none of this is hardly a scientific study at all – but it sure seems relevant to me. No one seems to be discussing the “fear-factor” of the diet-mentality in North America. No one seems to be discussing the difference between an appreciation of food which leads to “savoring” a meal experience – vs. the North American notion that what we covet and appreciate we “consume” more of. So while we are assimilated to a ‘fear of food’ paradox, we also engage in practicing a ‘portion distortion’ obsession with food that in the French Paradox – would just be perceived as “gluttony.” (all this Supersize and other unreal elements of portion size)

So the question remains – how is this helter-skelter-fear-based-schizophrenic approach to nutrition and diet – ever going to lead back to a healthy re-connection to food – to appreciating it, savoring it, enjoying it? Aren’t you exhausted from living in the fears you embrace when you internalize the “diet-mentality?” I deal with clients day in and day out whose lives are forever negatively altered by their learned fear-based thinking in regards to food, nutrition, and diet. Isn’t it time to release yourself from such a faulty and distorted schizophrenic mindset? Don’t you want to reconnect to using food as a source of pleasure, while still having it NOT occupy a place of such emotional significance in your mind? It’s time to simply let it go!
Some of you will get it

Some of you will not

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Consequences of the “Diet-Mentality” OVERSENSITIZATION

When I wrote the book “Beyond Metabolism: Understanding Your Modern Diet Dilemma” it was to try to explain to people how the North American focus on “diet/dieting and weight” often produces the exact problems it claims to eradicate. Little did I know at the time, that there was so much to say in that book – that it led to another 3-book project, “FoodIssues and You: Finally Facing Your Phantom Menace . And this latter project has one book dedicated entirely to the “diet-mentality” and all the unintended consequences it causes. When you consider the triangle of awareness (physical/mental/emotional realms) in the overall equation of individual consciousness, the only conclusion you can draw is that the “diet-mentality” is not only limited as a way of thinking about eating/food/weight and health – it is more or less decidedly destructive as well. And yet, as many people seem to nod their heads in agreement with my arguments – they go right back to the mentality that this diet-obsessed culture has infused in them – and that is that diet-awareness requires a diet-focused mentality. And this is a fundamental error in thinking. And I have to deal with the ramifications of such thinking on a daily basis, in my Coaching practice.

The diet-mentality is completely limited in scope and yet it is absolute in the way it swallows people into believing in it. In terms of true awareness-training there is an expression that “what you focus on expands” and this is a statement to advise people to pay attention to what they think about, and how they think about it. Nowhere is such an advisement a servable warning as to when it comes to the diet-mentality. The diet/fitness/health industries want you to believe in their own delusion – and that is that wellness can only be secured with an eternal vigilance approach to what you eat. And this is not true. Not only is it true that what you focus on expands – but it is also true that when you are led to believe you must be “vigilant” in your approach to a normal biological imperative, like eating – then something you possess naturally – ends up unnaturally possessing you.
One of the consequences of the diet-mentality is an over-sensitization to all things and matters connected to food, diet, and especially hunger. The more you are told to write down, concentrate on, learn about, and focus on food – the more all these things take control of you instead of you taking meaningful control of them. The result is not greater “self”-awareness, but instead a type of “hyper”-sensitivity, to all environmental and biological cues dealing with hunger/appetite/food/weight control. What this means is that the diet-mentality has the exact opposite effect of its intended purpose. When you become over-sensitized/hyper-sensitized to a given environment – it means you have a lower threshold for noticing all the cues associated within that environment. You may think this is a good thing toward “mindfulness” and control of eating, but the unintended consequences say otherwise. Think about it from a broader perspective for a minute.

When you fall under the spell to the “diet-mentality” one simple but faulty equation rules that mindset – And that equation is “diet = good, because fat = bad.” And then you buy into all the cultural hysteria that surrounds that faulty equation. And you buy into most in the two realms of awareness which will have the most devastating and destructive consequences – your mental and emotional realm. So then you get all concerned and educated and vigilant about “fat” – you study “about” fat – being fat, fat grams, good fats, bad fats, how much fats, specific fats, and yet, with all this education about “fat” - people are fatter than ever! Why? – Because the diet-mentality has unintended consequences no one is talking about.

What you truly assimilate and absorb about educating yourself more and more on “fats” is that fat scares you! It’s acronym – “F.A.T.” – (Fear Adipose Tissue) and so you unwittingly start attaching emotional components to inanimate concerns like fat and all its relevant components. But that is what happens on the general level. What happens to the person on the individual level is a level of over- sensitization to all matters dealing with food/eating and weight control. Think about that for a minute.
Everything about food and hunger becomes amplified in your mind and emotional brain. So, the question becomes how can this “diet-mentality” ever lead you to the peace of mind it promises? The answer is that it can’t. For example, a normal person that I deal with has a normal functioning appetite/hunger control center. It doesn’t occupy or control their mind-set. The minds are not set on “auto” for diet-awareness, but instead their minds are set for life awareness. Therefore as they go through their day they may notice a hunger cue and think, “oh, I’m hungry, how long to my next meal?” – and then they get back to whatever they are doing. But under the influence of the diet-mentality, this cue gets amplified, because what you focus on expands – so for the dieter it’s “OMG, I feel Hungry – how long till my next meal?” – Why am I hungry? – Do I need more calories? – Did I not eat enough at my last meal? Should I eat more at my next meal? – Am I catabolic now? – and so on.(I amplified the font to illustrate the amplification in the mind of someone with the diet-mentality) They have been told to be “hyper-vigilent” in the diet-mentality so now they are more over-sensitized and hyper-sensitive to any and all cues associated with hunger. And because “what you focus on, expands” in awareness – this over-sensitization to “cues” only feeds an imprisoning form of thought and feeling about hunger and appetite. In fact you start being aware of hunger and cravings at a far lower more susceptible level than normal people, because it has been ingrained in your head to be “hyper-vigilant” about it.

And then the exact same thing happens with cravings. A normally thinking person may think to himself, “Hmm, I’m a little peck-ish right now. I could really go for a bag of dill pickle chips” – but the thought has no amplified value – so the thought passes and they keep on with whatever they are doing. But for someone under the influence of the diet-mentality – “cravings” and all thoughts and feelings surrounding them become “amplified” because the diet-mentality tells them to be hyper-vigilant, which make them over-sensitive to ‘normal’ human biological cues – which they are told to believe are dangerous and negative and that they must guard against. So the person under the influence of the diet-mentality - not only gets a craving but gets way more of them because they are over-sensitized to them. And instead of letting such cravings pass – they “feel” they must deal with it. So it becomes, “Oh no, I’m craving a bag of dill pickle chips! – Why am I craving that? What if I give into it? How did that happen? (again, I amplified the font, because that is what happens in the brain of someone under the influence of the diet-mentality.
Moreover in the behavioral realm you try to control this natural influence by limiting or discontinuing fat or indulgent foods. But how long can you do so, when you have an over-sensitized mind that is hyper aware of cravings? You try to deprive yourself of fats, sometimes even combining that behaviour with an elimination of carbs as well – but what happens, in this hyper-awareness, hyper-attentive state? Your food feels less appealing, and it also feels less filling. And this reality only increases both biological hunger and biological cravings. You then try to control this, as you were taught in the diet-mentality, but you can’t. So you eat more of these “good” foods, hoping to “feel” satisfied. But your over-sensitized notion of what constitutes “feeling” satisfied, cannot be met this way.  So the unintended consequence of the diet-mentality is that instead of “helping” you lose weight – your over-sensitization to hunger/appetite/cravings/ and food cues, actually inevitably leads you to gaining weight.

So, as the diet-mentality promises to deliver you to mastery and control over food/diet/ and weight and it actually has the opposite effect and these things now master and control you. And they master and control you because of the unintended consequences of “over-sensitization/hyper-sensitization” to hunger/appetite/craving/ and food cues – a type of amplified sensitization that normal people do not experience. Therefore hunger and cravings don’t control normal people – these things just pass, as many other non-relevant thoughts pass in a day.

And another side effect of this is that, with all the worry and stress of over-sensitization to biological and environmental cues – there is a release of stress hormones – and stress hormones are the most cosmetically “unfriendly” hormones of the human body. So, indirectly, this is yet another negative consequence of the diet-mentality – also discussed in my book, “BeyondMetabolism.”

The point of all of this is that the diet-mentality is a fear-based mentality. Therefore it can never work. Even if you lose weight, you so intensely fear gaining it back, that the diet-mentality still owns you. You don’t own it. “Over-sensitization” which leads to heavily amplifying normal food and hunger cues in your mind – mentally and emotionally – is just another variation of why the diet-mentality cannot work!
The goal for weight and diet and food control is to get over them controlling you! The diet-mentality doesn’t do that! Instead of cognitive restructuring (discussed in my book) over-sensitization/hyper-sensitization just reinforces and intensifies the current disempowering cognition of the diet-mentality. And the result produces as I say, not an empowering “thinking strategy” – but instead a disempowering “stinking tragedy” of the mind.

I say you need to surrender this mindset of F.A.T (Fear Adipose Tissue) and make it something more empowering, like F.A.T. (Finally Accepting Truth) or (Forget Acknowledging Thin). The diet-mentality is not the path to freedom from food/eating/weight issues – but instead it’s a “go directly to jail” mindset, monopoly card.

Some of you will get it
Some of you will not