Monday, January 28, 2013

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

I subscribe to several health and wellness pages on Facebook, all of which advocate eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Oftentimes what’s more interesting to me than a topic a page author may cover are the comments that follow.

I’m always amazed by the resistance of many -- regardless of the scientific data presented -- to even consider the possibility that their current dietary lifestyle (i.e., the Western diet) may be the root cause of death and disease. One woman actually wrote, “I don’t care what the research says. I’d rather take my chances and go through chemotherapy than adopt a vegan diet.” (I’m willing to bet she’d reconsider if life actually handed her a cancer diagnosis.)

I also had a woman write me in response to my post Our Flexitarian Kids to say the conversation between our children was “disturbing” to her and that it struck her as odd that it made me feel good. Further, she described me as being “over the top.”

I found her last comment especially amusing considering Matt and I have only reduced our children’s intake of meat, dairy and processed food. Imagine what she’d think if they were full-on vegan -- our ultimate goal.

But I get it -- change is hard. For some, it’s downright scary. I also recognize that it’s very difficult for people to put aside everything they know and have been taught in favor of something new that may also seem radically different. To quote Gloria Steinam for the hundredth time, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.”

As early as the 1960s, cigarettes were marketed on television and in print ads as cool, hip and refreshing. People bought into that, disregarding the mountains of scientific evidence that proved otherwise. Look how far we’ve come 50+ years later. Today you’d find it difficult to locate a smoking section in an outdoor amusement park!

People also like to hang on to those little anecdotes -- someone or something that validates their lifestyle.

Case in point -- recently, I had been reading comments on Food Inc. (great page to like on Facebook, by the way).The subject was sugar toxicity. The article shared research linking added sugar to obesity, Type II Diabetes, cancer, etc.

Many who commented suggested the research was wrong, citing as evidence a great-grandparent or grandparent who had lived to be in their 80s or 90s, having consumed pounds of butter, eggs, bacon and sugar.

This always grabs my attention because I hear it so often -- people defending something with an anecdote.

My grandmother lived to be 96. She smoked cigarettes until she was well into her late-50s. Based on that can we throw out the science linking Marlboros to lung cancer? Imagine the ridicule I'd face if I seriously suggested that in any sort of forum.

You can’t debunk decades of scientific evidence with one-off cases -- period. If we gave anecdotes any sort of credibility, we couldn’t rely on science for anything because every finding could be easily diminished by an exception.

Unfortunately, many of the people who comment in this way are generally not open to any sort of meaningful dialogue. I suspect, as I wrote up top, that fear of change is a driver, along with an unwillingness to reduce or eliminate the foods we have grown to love.

I comment regardless and my response is almost always the same, "Educate yourself. Start reading ingredients. Eliminate processed food. Adopt a whole-food approach to living. Start incorporating plant-based dishes into your weekly menu. Try it all for a month. What's a month! Your body will thank you and the results will be well worth what may seem today as a sacrifice."

1953 Arthur Godfrey Chesterfield Cigarette Milder Ad

NOW…Scientific Evidence on Effects of Smoking! A MEDICAL SPECIALIST is making regular monthly examinations of a group of people from various walks of life. Forty-five percent of this group has smoked Chesterfield for an average of over 10 years. After 10 months, the medical specialist reports that he observed… No adverse effects on the nose, throat and sinuses of the group from smoking Chesterfield.

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