Saturday, 25 October 2014

Food fighting

So when did food become so complicated?

Lately I have had a few interesting things coming up on my newsfeeds that have got me asking this question. As a former health educator I have an interest in food and it's contribution to our wellbeing. I am also interested in research around health and wellbeing.

Here's the thing though, there are proponents of particular diets (being more about food choices people make rather than options to lose weight) and ways of eating battling it out on social media using research and it almost seems like a battle of 'my research is bigger than your research'.

What concerns me is that some people are using research to share their opinions as absolutes. Research rarely offers that much certainty. When using research to support a position I think it is wise to consider some of the following: (I am sure there are other questions to consider as well but this is a starter)
  • Who has sponsored or requested the research? 
  • What questions were asked?
  • What questions are not asked? 
  • Is the sample size large enough to make generalisations? 
  • What is the range for the sample?
  • Is it a diverse population or a specific population? 
  • How has the research been conducted? Are you comfortable that the process is fair? 
  • What are the findings?
  • Who stands to gain from the results of the research? 
  • What questions do you have after reading the research? 
  • If you are really committed you may want to explore the references to see how widely the researchers have explored the topic. 
Then you can state your position referencing the research in a manner that acknowledges the limitations i.e. some research states ... "there is evidence that for people in xxx situation this works".  I just don't think we can be so sure especially when we are talking about food. 

Our knowledge is changing all the time. It wasn't so long ago that eggs were the bad guys but now they are OK, then it was potatoes at some stage too if I recall correctly. See the image here, eating tapeworms (sanitised of course because that is healthier?!?) as a method to manage weight? Not sure how well researched that method was at the time, or is now, but let's say I am thinking with my limited biological knowledge that whilst losing weight is likely I would have a whole lot of questions about other potential side effects.

It seems to me that there's a huge amount of advice and research out there about food and diets, much of it conflicting. I am all for embracing new knowledge but I do wonder if we become too hung up on what we are eating, do we lose the satisfaction we can feel from enjoying our food? The other day I had some slices of fresh orange and the taste was amazing, sweet, juicy, cool, tasty... YUM! It was a moment of mindful eating and absolute delicious joy.

From my perspective if what you choose to eat helps your body work better and feel better then that's great but let's not assume that it is the answer for everyone's body. We live in different places with different climates and food sources, we have different levels and types of activity, we may react to different foods differently... our circumstances are kind of unique despite the similarities in our anatomy. When we run around labeling food as good or bad, then we risk judging ourselves as being good or bad depending on what, when, where and/or how much we eat, and that can lead to negative emotional responses including guilt... who needs more guilt!?

Perhaps what we need to do is get back to basics by learning to listen to our own bodies again rather than being told by the media, marketers and manufacturers what we should or shouldn't eat this week? We are born knowing what our bodies need and perhaps we have allowed ourselves to become ignorant and easily influenced. I know I am not an expert but would like to think that if we could find some way to reconnect with our own needs, and remove the guilt from food and eating, then perhaps we would all be happier and healthier. 

No comments:

Post a Comment