“Where do you stand on carrots?”
This is a legit question a client asked me once.
“They’re a great vegetable, why?”
The client responded with some concerns about their high glycemic index, their sugar content and how sugar is evil, sure to be the source of all her body woes.
Oy. My response has long been, “carrots are not the problem.” But given what I know now about food and our relationship with it – I’m going to clarify that even further.
Food is not the problem. Food is not a problem.
It is our fear about food, that most certainly is (for more on that read this blog). But I digress, today I want to talk about where these crazy ideas (like not eating carrots) came from and why on earth we believe them.
So, where on earth did this client get the idea that carrots aren’t healthy?
I asked. It was her former trainer.
And where did her former trainer get it? We won’t ever know, but I have a hunch…
We are in an Infodemic.
We are living in an age where information is everywhere. According to journalist and political scientist David Rothkopf who coined the phrase back in 2003 an infodemic is the result of “a few facts, mixed with fear, speculation and rumor, amplified and relayed swiftly worldwide by modern information technologies.”
And while during this Covid-19 Pandemic it’s been referenced in regards to information about the virus, this is a common theme when it comes to health in general.
And while I can get behind having a plethora of evidence-based information, strategies and ideas at my fingertips, here’s the thing. So much of the “information” available isn’t based in fact, science or even common sense.
How does this happen?
- Anyone with access to the internet can start a blog.
- Anyone with funding can produce a documentary or self-publish a book.*
- Anyone with social media channels and the right filters (and a lot of time) can become an “influencer.”
Which means a lot of the content out “there” is bogus at best. Then its impact is amplified simply because it lands in the “right” hands (or perhaps wrong hands).
*Side note: yes I did self-publish a book, yes it does contain my own biases, opinions and theories, but that’s kind of the point, anyone can do it. I’d like to think my book provides sound information grounded by evidence-based practices and a hefty dose of common sense. But it’s still inherently biased, all content is.
So how do you take the mass of information available and filter out the fads and faux news and only consider the facts and what will actually work for you?
Meet the Fad Filter:
- What does the science say? Was there research, what does it say? Who funded it? How many people were studied (hint: you want a large n number). For how long were they studied (note: if it’s diet research that is short term, how does that apply to you, long term)? Are the people studied a similar ‘population’ to you? Often times studies use their captive audience: college students. There’s nothing wrong with this, but how does that relate to you if you’re not also 19-25 years old?
- Who’s giving this advice? Who is recommending this approach? What are their credentials? What do those credentials mean? In the fitness industry there is no over-arching governing body. This means there are a multitude of licensing and certifying organizations, each of them with a wide range of requirements (this is my nice way of saying it’s really important that you do your research).
- What are the costs? What is the potential cost to implementing the approach/ advice being given? Is it safe? Are there risks? Are you comfortable with those risks? Is there enough long term data (research) to even know about the long term consequences? Are you comfortable with that risk?
- What would your professionals say? What would your trusted and respected doctor/ naturopath/ dietitian/ other medical professional say? Would they be in support of this approach?
- Is it (your) real life friendly? Does it work within the structures of your life? I.e. Will you ahve the time, finances, and energy to follow the practices recommended?
- Is it family friendly? Does it require you to eat/ move/ live in an entirely different way than your family/ partner? Are you ok with that?
- (Specifically food related) Can you eat out? Does it make eating out/ having dinner at a friends impossible? Are you ok with that?
- Is it extreme? How far away from the Canadian or US guidelines does it take you? Does that feel right for you?
- Is it sustainable? IS this approach sustainable long term? Could you eat/ move/ live this way for the rest of your life or at least long term?
- Does it feel right? Does it feel “right” for you? What does your gut instinct/ body wisdom/ intuition say?
Why use this filter?
Here’s an anecdote that might really hit this home.
One of my clients recently shared a big “aha” moment with our private RunCrew group. She explained that she’d been very moved by some of my recent posts, blogs and our in group conversations about Intuitive Eating about Diet Culture. This ignited her curiousity about her own food rules. As a result she began to recognize that she was restricting carbohydrates.
Over the course of a few weeks she began incorporating more carbohydrates, like “yummy artisan breads, new baby potatoes, fresh local corn on the cob, brown jasmine rice, and some summertime treats too.” (can we get an amen?!)
But this is what was SO cool about her share. Not only did she not feel the “bloat” she feared, most importantly she “felt stronger, fitter, faster and sooooo much freedom!” YES!!!
(note: she gave me permission to share this anecdote)
In sharing this revelation with the group, multiple other members of the group all admitted that they too had been restricting carbs, including bananas and were going to try doing this as well!
Bananas you say? Yup. Bananas. This is more common than you’d think. Why? Because when low carb was the craze (oh wait, it still is), bananas got demonized because the they have a higher glycemic index. What does that mean? The Glycemic Index is a rating system that classifies foods based on the rate at which the natural, healthy sugars they contain are converted in our body to blood sugar. Bananas have a relatively higher glycemic index than some other fruits, and thus, they’ve become “blacklisted” as bad carbohydrates.
Does this mean bananas are bad? Nope, far from it. They’re actually an awesome source of energy. The natural sugars they contain are not only helpful to our body, they’re delicious and a healthy source of fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and various antioxidants and phytonutrients. They’re especially helpful when you need a quick burst of energy. I often eat a banana as a pre-workout snack!
But this weird bit of mis-information has made it’s rounds (quite readily) to the point where really intelligent people have just assumed it’s truth and begun demonizing bananas for no reason at all. That’s what Diet Culture does.
Why do I share this?
Let’s go back to my initial conclusion: Food is not the problem. Food is not a problem.
There’s nothing wrong with bananas. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any food.
Why the fear around bananas and other foods? Diet Culture ideas and mis-information are being propagated because we are living in an infodemic.
Bottom line: Eat the banana. Stop fearing food. Stop glorifying fitness fads. There’s no one right way to eat, move or live. Simply the approach that works for you. Find it and live it, but just promise me this. If you find something that works for you (and your awesome body) please don’t become an evangelist about it. You are unique, as are all the other humans in your life. Just because it “works” for you, doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone (or anyone) else. Eyes in your own lane (even if you feel like you’re in the fast lane to utopia).
If you want to be part of a community where conversations like #eatthebanana are happening, join us in the Super You StudioCrew or RunCrew. The StudioCrew is a group coaching community for women looking to rock their health + fitness their way. The RunCrew is a community for runners looking to bring more joy to the journey (whether that’s getting started or smashing goals). Both communities are body-positive, HAES® informed and exclusively for women.