Okay, Enough with Divisiveness in Wellness
I’ve been doing something lately that really hasn’t been serving me well, and it is stoking a fire of frustration.
I’ve been reading comments.
As Facebook has adopted a creepy algorithm that caters ads to our interests (or creepier, what we talk about out loud), the ads we see normally have some sort of relevance to our lives.
So, for me, I get a ton of health and natural health product promotional ads - diets, supplements, detox kits, cleanses, collagen lines . . .
Some of these are solid products and ideas, some not so much, but ALL of them have several “eye roll” or “laughing” emojis below, followed by comments like “this is a scam, don’t waste your money” or “supplements are a hoax, you can get everything you need from diet” or “if you need a pill go to your doctor” or “my doctor said diet won’t make a different with disease” and on and on and on . . .
And whether these diets or products are amazing or not, it was the comments themselves that truly triggered me.
So I sat with it for a while. Why were these comments getting to me on such a deep level? Why was I getting so incredibly frustrated yet saddened by them?
And then I came across a story on Instagram of an individual slamming “so called Experts” and superiorly stating why Keto is the “only way to live a healthy life.”
And then it all clicked. It tapped into the insidious divisiveness of the health and wellness industry, of which I am a part.
The health and wellness world is filled with so much extremism, conflicting opinions, skewed evidence and dismissive experts that there is no room or space to tell what is what. And it creates frustration, overwhelm and a “what’s the point” mentality. It’s no wonder we flock to the message boards to project our resentment.
When it comes to Nutrition . . .
It’s completely understandable why the subject of nutrition is so frustrating. It seems that what was terrible for you one year is now the food that will heal the world the next. And each year, a brand new diet comes about that will trump all the rest.
And adding to the daily news headlines, every now and then we have a documentary that comes out that truly gets the conversation going. These documentaries don't often talk about moderation or balance, they tend to focus on the extremes, because that’s what gets the viewership numbers. There was one doc (that I won’t name) which came out last year that made the compelling argument everyone should become vegan to thrive. It had some points, but missed the mark in many other ways. There was a documentary the year before that compared eating eggs to smoking cigarettes ... I mean. . . come on. . . .
When it comes to documentaries, I highly encourage everyone to always look at who is producing them, and whether they might have a particular bias, or a conflict of interest (it's more common than you might think).
When it comes to nutrition, and why some diets or eating methods work SO well for some, but make other people sick; the reason some thrive on going completely plant based, and others try and feel terrible. . .
The reason for all of these contradictions comes down to individuality. Each of us is a biological snowflake, and because of this, we respond to things differently. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. It’s why you should do what is right for YOU, and when looking for a healthcare practitioner (doctor, nutritionist, naturopath), find one that treats their clients this way.
The Study of Nutrition . . .
It’s a bit tricky when it comes to nutrition science as it’s a very difficult thing to study without outside variables having influence. A lot of nutritional studies are done using observational methods (i.e. observing a population and gathering data, people self-reporting food intake, etc.) which tend to prove correlation and associations, not causation, when it comes to food.
To truly get an accurate study for anything nutrition and long term impact, you would need a large amount of people, isolated in a controlled environment for 30 years, having one group eat one way (control group), and another eat differently, and measure how each group does as they age. Obviously this is not possible, and would be ridiculous to carry out. But study limitations do make it hard to provide definitive conclusions when it comes to the impact of a nutritional intervention on humans, especially long term - so we do the best we can with the studies that are carried out.
If you’re curious about this and the the challenges of nutrition science, and how certain biases can influence results, I highly urge you to check out Dr. Mark Hyman, who explains this way better than I can.
Dr. Hyman also wrote a great book that dissects nutritional research and comes to an educated conclusion about a whole list of foods - it’s called “Food. What the Heck Should I Eat?”, and I’d highly recommend the read.
And finally, when it comes to research - from a place of as much neutrality as I can bring to this statement, there is money to be made in pharmaceuticals, and there tend to be more scientific studies behind a product that can make a fortune, like a pharmaceutical, than a piece of food, which has no patent.
JUST saying. But I digress.
And then WHO to Trust . . .
It really doesn’t help the cloud of confusion and division when experts in their field vocally discount those in another field (Western vs Eastern Medicine or pharmaceutical vs natural, for example), leading to more conflicting information for people to decipher.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we have access to so many ways of healing, especially considering the earlier mentioned point that we are each a biological snowflake, and respond uniquely to everything. We should embrace the fact that we have so many people who have knowledge from varying fields and schools of thoughts, not shut them out.
In my opinion, when it comes to trusting a source (especially in the new world of influencer marketing nowadays), I trust someone who has schooling in their area of expertise, who continually learns and most importantly, is NOT adamant that their way is the ONLY way to do it, and not someone who easily dismisses another modality or opinion.
Like anything in this world, we get there faster when we work together.
Also like anything in this world, things fall into place when they are in balance.
So perhaps the answer isn’t one way, it’s a balance of all the ways.
For me . . .
Division in the wellness sphere is an issue that is admittedly close to my heart, as I am in this industry using my voice to help others. So it’s hard for me sometimes to not take it personally when I see a Doctor on television dismissing nutrition as an effective tool when it comes to healing.
Personally, I strive to make sure that if I ever do recommend something, there is some evidence and/or clinical experience behind it. When something does NOT have that much evidence, but anecdotally seems to hold weight, I share it with that disclaimer. I try to be as transparent as I can.
I do not know everything, and never claim to. My recommendations and knowledge are based on amazing individuals who have studied this for their entire lives, who have written books that I’ve read, who have taught classes that I’ve taken, and who continue to be pioneers. I take that collective information that I have learned, and try to communicate it in a manner that perhaps resonates with someone in a way it hadn’t before. I am grateful for the knowledge and my teachers, and as best I can try to give credit where credit is due.
I am constantly learning, adapting and keeping myself open to ideas that will challenge my current way of thinking in hope that by doing this, I can provide the best possible information to my audience.
And for myself, I do everything I can through food and natural methods up to a point - but if I am sick, or the time comes when I feel I need to see my GP - I have no issue in listening to her advice, and going on prescription medication to nip something in the bud before it escalates. I am open to all opinions, and will do what works for me under the guidance of my health care team (from natural to more mainstream). I feel that is the responsible thing to do for my health, and I advise my clients to do the same.
That is embracing all sides.
Annnd just because . . .
Just to satisfy my own lil’ frustration when reading through some of the comments on Facebook, here’s a brief rundown of my thoughts on certain nay-sayers.
YES, ideally get all of your nutrients from food. BUT, our soils aren’t as nutrient dense as they once were(1), people tend to eat way fewer veggies than they should, tend to eat a very monotonous, processed diet which is vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies, and we have an increased need for nutrients with the more toxic and stressful environment humans find themselves in these days. Supplements can be a huge help to get you to the level of health you are striving for (i.e. thriving, not just surviving), or correct a deficiency faster. They are not meant to be forever (with some notable exceptions like Vitamin D) but at times when you need the extra help.
Collagen can be beneficial for the skin, depending on the brand you buy. Look for collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen; it’s this form that has some research backing up the validity of improving the appearance of the skin. (2)
When it comes to detoxing: Yes, your body is always detoxifying, otherwise you’d die. Before buying any sponsored detox kit, support yourself foundationally first - check this out for more information. There are many ways to support your body’s detox pathway.
Vitamins become a waste of money IF your digestion is suffering, and you aren’t actually absorbing the things you’re consuming (foods or vitamins), which is the bigger issue. This is why it is so important to nurture a healthy digestive system - and if you’re experiencing ongoing issues, consult a health care practitioner.
Greens powders are wonderful, and I stand by them as a way to get added greens into the diet (not replace your normal intake!).
There is a link between Dairy and eczema (and other inflammatory skin conditions); this has been proven time and time again in my own clinical practice. If you are suffering from skin issues, cut dairy first before going out and buying skin formulations.
We Don’t Shine any Brighter when we Tear Someone Down
With all of this, I am not suggesting to embrace and accept all opinions point blank, including ones that are clearly ill-natured or will bring obvious harm. I am just suggesting that we maybe allow more seats at the table when it comes wellness, and accept that there are modalities or methods of healing which we may not fully understand, but do understand that they work for some of us.
And of course you can disagree with someone, and supply your reasons. Give people that information. BUT, there is huge difference between disagreement and dismissal.
You can share your information, give people the tools and information you have learned, and let them come to their own conclusion, and whether or not that might be something to look into for themselves. Telling them “don’t look at X Y or Z” is a disservice.
Knowledge is power. Working together is power. Let’s embrace all we can and add as many colours to our rainbow as possible. Then decide, for ourselves, which colours we’d like to use to live our best life.