About a week ago, I received an email from someone I’d never chatted with before. It wasn’t your typical email asking for advice, or from a previous emailer I’ve been in conversation with.
It was from a complete stranger writing to correct me about my old article titled Clean Eating is a Scam. I don’t often reply in the way I did, but I felt the need this time.
Apparently it’s on the first page of google for most people when they search for Clean Eating, so many people actually find my site for the first time when searching this term.
While I’m bored to tears with this topic, I thought our email exchange was interesting, and brought up something I think is worth discussing, and revisiting from time to time.
Below you’ll see the image from our exchange.
I don’t think I need to write much more about the exchange above, but I wanted to bring up a few things that fuel these types of conversations and debates all over the internet and even in real-life conversation.
1. A Need To Know Everything
As humans, I feel like there’s a desire within most of us to know everything, or at least have a good grasp on what’s going on, how things work, with the goal of trying to guide and direct our lives.
We know knowledge can improve our lives and give us the upper hand in most scenarios. It’s why we go to school, take courses, and aim to educate ourselves through books and internet articles.
With such a desire, our knowledge grows, and we improve our lives with experience. However, while we may have a breadth of understanding, we are still limited by our own views, past experiences, and our perceptions.
To make it all more the merrier, our perception of reality, and what we believe to be factual is influenced by what we’ve learned through our personal lens.
So the same two people can have a very similar, or even near exact experience, and come up with two different meanings or interpretations.
This is why I state that the idea of clean eating is based on personal beliefs and can be misconstrued to mean whatever you want.
I don’t care at this point to define what this label actually means, but from a nutritional standpoint, the last thing we need is more fad diets and strict guidelines.
And we sure can’t know everything about nutritional science. Even the best minds continually debate on what the best source of fat is, or whether or not we need to limit our intake of certain sugars, and even proteins.
I openly admit I don’t know everything about nutrition, but it’s something I study regularly, and I confidently help others gain a better understanding through my writing.
I’m quite comfortable in the fact that I’ll never know it all, but my baseline understanding is enough to continually improve my life, and the lives of others.
And this leads me to the next idea…
2. We Have An Obsession With Optimal
Go to any Paleo, Vegan, Primal, or [insert whatever diet here] blog/forum, and you’ll find a bunch of people arguing about what’s deemed optimal from a macro/micronutrient and meal timing standpoint.
People have been arguing for years on these topics, and guess what? No one has any real answers and until we start to figure out some of the big questions (obesity, anyone?), I can’t see myself losing too much sleep over it.
Trying to label a specific diet as optimal, especially in the context of individual needs is virtually impossible.
Sure, we have universal physiological needs, but going above and beyond that to try and determine what is optimal for everyone is futile.
Our focus should be on improving our quality of life through whatever means necessary. If that means walking on your lunch break because it’s your only chance for fresh air and vitamin D, then do it.
If it means making a giant shake in the morning because you have no time for a real breakfast and can’t get a solid meal until mid-afternoon, then by all means, fill your blender.
A major problem with people obsessing over their diets is the stress that comes along with it all. I actually made a point in this podcast (we talk a beliefs, and clean eating in this one) about how the stress from worrying excessively over a cheat meal, or occasional indulgence is probably harming you more than the less-than-stellar ingredients.
So what can you do?
Be Critical But Open To Possibility
These days, even the ideas I question most, I still consider their plausibility.
Because no one knows it all, and even the most complex truths are being tested and rethought every day in labs all over the world.
What we once believed to be impossible becomes possible.
Do you think people 100 years ago would understand or even consider the possibility of stem cells that we know today?
Hardly not. Some (back then) might even scoff at the idea, considering their current understanding of the cell.
But then some would probably say “well, perhaps this is possible, even if we have no way of understanding it currently.”
So with all that, I encourage you to…
Ask The Right Questions
For me, these always revolve around my current circumstances, understanding, and the goal of maintaining a rational viewpoint.
I ask the following:
- Is this belief rational?
- Does it serve me?
For instance, and this is very simple for the sake of the example, but you may read a headline on an article that claims “All Sugar is Toxic.”
First of all, I’d ask myself “is this a rational thought/belief?”
Then my response, after a lot (or not) of mulling over it would be ‘no’ because I know that sugar is not toxic. If it were, we’d all be dead. Plus, our brains need it to function, and I love thinking, and writing, and everything else that requires brain power.
Then I’d ask “does this belief serve me?”
My internal response is ‘no’ again, again because, well, I can’t imagine abstaining from sugar because of a phony belief that it’s toxic.
Also, since I love intense exercise such as pressing, sprinting, and squatting, having a reserve of glycogen (stored carbs in the muscle cells) is much better for performance than running off ketones produced from a low carb diet.
Until next time, remember to ask the right questions, and make sure your beliefs and ideas are truly serving you.
And if they ain’t, scrap them for some that do.
Even internal biases from questions on how to lose fat can run super deep. It all needs to be in perspective and context.
For more info on thinking and internal biases, check out this article, Fitness and Internetz: Battling Objectivity, Rationality and Our Own Psychology.