What’s Good, What’s Bad, What Works?
It seems almost every day a major “study” is reported that tells us some “breaking news” about the foods that we eat. Nearly always, it’s that something is “bad” for us. We have become grazers of information and it’s amazing how we can become so easily swayed by these studies (simply taking them at face value and never questioning them). It doesn’t mean we are stupid. Many of them are written by experts and professionals and, at some point, we have to trust someone, right? It means we take shortcuts and assume something is true if we trust the source.
The inspiration for this post is the recent proclamation that “coconut oil is ‘bad’ for you” and the new vegan-backed-agenda-driven movie on Netflix that I am not going to name here because I don’t want to get into the crosshairs of those crazy folks. The movie in question basically says meat is as bad for you as anything on the planet. The people who created that movie are also the same animal “rights” activists who see no problem killing and/or maiming people who work with animals or, worse, eat them. So. I am giving no credence to that movie, but, what’s going to happen, and I’m starting to see it, is pieces of that movie are going to be picked up and repurposed as soundbites of health news. Just like the coconut oil story. And people are going to believe it. Even my husband, who has to listen to me jabber on about my health/nutrition journey all the time said to me yesterday when he saw the new bottle of coconut oil I bought, “I thought this stuff was bad for you. Didn’t you just write something about how this was bad for you?” Sigh.
We are bombarded with “information” and studies and agendas, how do we choose? How do we really know what’s absolutely the truth?
The answer? We don’t.
Think about it. To truly know how anything affects human beings, we have to set up studies that truly measure that effect on human beings. A study that has a random sample of people representative of the population it is trying to make inferences about. Any such study is, by default, unethical. For example, if you want to know if processed red meat causes heart disease, you have to design a study where all of your subjects are in comparable health. None of your subjects can start the study with heart disease. Then you have to divide those subjects into control and non-control groups. In the non-control groups, you feed them red meat. The control group gets no red meat. And you have to follow these same people over time and all those people have to stick to the prescribed diet. Basically, you have to control everything to truly test the effects of red meat. In both groups, you’d have to control fat and carbohydrate intake. Both groups would need to have diets with the same amount of fats and carbohydrates. Are you seeing the problem here? Besides the ethical issues? It’s actually impossible to design this study. It’s been done, but at what cost? We, as a modern society, do not condone testing on humans in that way. And even if we could, how generalizable is the sample? Are the subjects truly randomly selected from our population? If they are all mental patients, or prisoners or volunteers, they are not a random sample and you cannot generalize from that population. The outcome of this study, if the hypothesis is true, is some people are going to get a fatal disease. So. There are really no studies that can tell us, beyond a shadow of a doubt (i.e., “truth”) that red meat causes heart disease.
Where does that leave us? How do we know what to believe? You will go crazy trying to source every piece of information you read about nutrition. I know. I’ve made myself almost crazy. But I’ve learned to step back and assess and here’s my method for seeking and believing “truth.”
- At a minimum, find out who funded the study. Scientists and medical professionals need money to run their studies. There is no such thing as pure science. So the money is going to influence the outcome in some way.
- Don’t assume your doctor knows all. I work with veterinary students and since I’ve been working with them, I have seen the vast amount of learning they have to do as opposed to human doctors. They need to know how several species work, not just one. There is simply no way any doctor knows all. And, for the most part, nutrition is rarely part of the curriculum (in either case, sadly). So, if your doctor says, “Do not eat saturated fat. It will kill you.” Take it with a grain of salt. There is no evidence it does (see paragraph above about the only way to determine if that statement is true.)
- Find and stick to what works for YOU. For example, I’m obviously a big fan of LCHF/Keto. I’m neither pure LCHF nor pure Keto. I eat (and love) dairy, but I suspect it’s stalling weight loss for me. So I may eventually give up dairy, but at what cost? When I started this journey, I said I’d not deprive myself to the point of depression. So. We’ll see if I give up dairy. So far, I’m not. So I follow what works for me on the LCHF/Keto plans. The simple act of cutting carbs has made me lose weight, feel a gazillion times better, made my mind less foggy (I was really getting concerned at how forgetful I was getting) and just generally feel healthy. It’s working for me.
- Finally, just like our political world is loaded with “fake news” so is our nutritional world. When any media outlet publishes a “Don’t eat X it will kill you” or “You can now eat Y, it’s now good for you” type articles, take these proclamations with a grain of salt. Seriously. Don’t scan a headline and commit it to some part of your mind that ultimately becomes truth such that when you see a jar of coconut oil on the counter, you don’t automatically think, “Oh. That’s bad for me.”
In reality, any truly scientific, peer-reviewed study has some grain of truth in it. Uncovering what works and doesn’t work for you is a bit of trial and error. Will what you do cause irreparable damage? Maybe. We don’t really know. But at the end of the day, if we eat real foods and avoid processed foods it’s got to be better for us.
For the longest time, I said: “GMOs are the cause of my obesity.” And I still believe that, but the picture is more complex. It’s not just GMOs, it’s all processed foods. We have become lemmings to bad science. We have stopped listening to (or watching) our bodies. So many people have said to me, “I cannot possibly give up carbs.” Ask yourself. Why? Are those potatoes, pasta, rice, and sweets really that good? Do you really feel so awesome after indulging in them? Really? Why are they so irresistible? Think about it. It’s addiction. Plain and simple. Break the addiction and you will feel better and you will see your health turning around and your weight going down (if it needs to).
I will continue to avoid carbs.
I will continue to eat meat and healthy fats.
I will continue to weigh myself daily (this is how I “watch” my body).
I will continue to enjoy food but not to the point of killing myself.
I will continue to research and read scientific studies but will take them with a grain of salt.
I will not defend LCHF/Keto against any other way of eating. I won’t say other ways of eating are “wrong.” Well, maybe I’ll do that, but I’m just saying it’s wrong for ME!. I have done my research and started this WOE and found it works for me. Yup. It’s working just dandy for me.