Living in the age of information comes with many positives and negatives. On the one hand, people have more information that is easily accessible to educate them than ever before. On the other hand, we have too many conflicting and opposing opinions that each claim to have the truth. The public is cautioned about fake news, yet the experts cannot agree on who is really telling the truth. It is no wonder then that people who are seeking healthy diets and lifestyles today are exhausted and overwhelmed by all the claims and information that seem to steer them in divergent directions. This leads many people to make wrong choices along the way that sabotage their health, instead of benefiting their health.
It would be so easy to just rely on “experts” for all of the answers and guidance about what you should do and how you should live. However, most people have no idea how little, for example, their medical doctor knows about nutrition. Sure, you can try to get your info from an expert but you must first go to the right source for the right information. Going to your medical doctor for help with nutrition is like going to your car mechanic for help with your computer. Maybe they trained themselves in this area, but most likely they haven’t, and their school definitely didn’t provide them with such training. Unless you have an integrative medical doctor or a doctor who has chosen to specialize in nutrition studies or teach themselves and stay on the leading edge of nutritional science, most are experts in drugs and disease, not diet and health.
However, all is not lost. As I teach and live, the more that we use timeless wisdom and rely on the laws of nature, instead of the laws of man, and the more that we stay away from trends and fads and use our discernment, the closer we get to the truth and the better off we are. And when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating, it is not a difficult task like it is made out to be at all. The foods that have always been the best for us - fruits and vegetables, still are even despite any of their modern shortcomings. Refined, industrially processed, engineered, and manufactured foods are novel substances for our bodies and have proven themselves over the past one hundred years to be harmful to our weight and health. Other foods that human societies have greatly relied on, like wheat, corn, and animal products, have proven themselves to be very controversial and problematic. Quality science has proven over the past few decades that whole plant foods are the safest and most beneficial foods we can eat. Our anatomy and physiology reflect this finding, as our human body is most ideally suited for such foods.
This is why today, we must use critical thinking skills that are in alignment with our modern challenges. The purpose of this article is to do just that so that you can become more empowered and gain more clarity for making genuinely healthy choices. We cannot continue to excuse destructive or primitive eating or living habits out of laziness and stubbornness. We cannot afford to be complacent or ignorant. Our health, our children’s health, the wellbeing of future generations, and the sustainability of this Earth depend on it. It is my intention to shed light and bring awareness to this topic for more of us to be consciously present and aware when we are presented with any information so that we are not being manipulated by it and suffering for it.
The Illusion of “Study Says”
For decades now, we have been bombarded by catchy nutrition headlines that attempt to sway our choices towards a certain outcome. Here is a classic example: “New Study Confirms Health Benefits of Red Wine.” The public is thrown these snippets that do nothing more than distract them away from the foundational truth and cause them to make poor choices. Alcohol, regardless of its kind, is a proven neurotoxin, carcinogen, and depressant. There is nothing that it can provide that we cannot get in a better and safer way elsewhere, so why does our society allow such irresponsible studies and reporting to continue? Unfortunately, this, and thousands of examples like it, reflect Dr. John McDougall’s famous words:
People love to hear good news about their bad habits.
This is where the importance of nutritional literacy comes in. We are living at a time where transparency, honesty, and authenticity have never been more critical. The time has come for each of us to see through the many illusions and deceptions and bring to light all that which has been hidden. There was a time when we were able to depend on scientific studies and trust what they were telling us. This is no longer possible. Bad, poor-quality science studies flood journals and media reports daily and are rife with conflicts of interest and designed to conclude the desired outcome. Unless a person has the time and ability to sift through these studies, to analyze and understand them, they are of no more value than a claim made by your friend or co-worker. This means, take it with a grain of salt and a lot of critical discernment.
The Effects of Misinformation or Incomplete Information
There are three main consequences of these types of misleading headlines and pieces of information.
The first is obvious. They confuse the general public about what health or healthy really is, and this is done both intentionally and unintentionally, depending on the source. Media companies, chemical, pharmaceutical, and food corporations know that the average person will only read the headlines and conclude a story in their head based on the headline alone. A small percentage will go on to read the entire story without analyzing the information critically to see if it actually is logical or makes sense. Of this small group, only a tiny percentage will research further to get the most accurate representation of the purported claims. It is a fortunate few who will see through most stories and studies as nothing more than misinformation that is intended to push a particular agenda or sell a certain product.
The second consequence is that incomplete information or false facts become the accepted truths, which steer and greatly influence people’s choices and shape our society. The saddest part here, perhaps, is how vehemently many people will then defend false claims as if they have a personal stake in the matter when these are nothing more than unconsciously adopted ideas. There is perhaps nothing more dangerous than making faulty ideas a part of our identity; people have died and killed because of them, and continue to do so to do this day.
The third consequence of such tactics is that, ultimately, we suffer. We suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally as our health choices are guided by incorrect information. We suffer financially as we are influenced to buy products that are not good for us and a waste of our money. We suffer collectively, as our society quarrels with each other over who is right and who is wrong. In the process, we are destroying our environment, collective wellbeing, and threatening our very own survival.
Steps to Nutritional Literacy
For these reasons, and many more, we must take back our own mind and reason. As Eldon Taylor, Ph.D. shares in his book Gotcha! The Subordination of Free Will, “A gotcha comes when you do what you think is best because they have taught you the way to think.” It is time for us to liberate ourselves from states of manipulation, embrace our wisdom, logic, and intuition, and reconnect with our inner guidance system.
To help you achieve this, here are five important steps to follow and questions to ask yourself whenever a study or media headline or any other health claim comes to your attention.
1. What is being tested?
Too many studies do not actually test what the concluding headlines claim. For example, in the above-mentioned headline about red wine, red wine was not actually tested; instead, a compound called resveratrol was. Yes, this compound is in red wine, but it is in much higher amounts in red grapes - their skins and seeds, as well as other foods. If our research and media organizations operated on principles of integrity and actually cared about our health, that title would have been vastly different and encouraged people to eat red grapes, not drink red wine. Unfortunately, integrity is not yet a strong suit in our society. So the onus rests on you - the consumer, to do your own thinking and take responsibility for your own choices.
2. How is it being tested?
Too many studies do not test substances under normal or common use conditions. This is most prevalent in the chemical and personal care industry. Whether it is food pesticides that we are talking about or any number of hazardous ingredients in our personal care products, companies routinely claim safety by testing chemicals in isolated and limited ways that do not reflect real-life usage. The consumer is then left with a falsely positive view of the substance without realizing the actual risks and hazards.
3. What/where is the source?
There is one simple rule to follow when it comes to being nutrition literate: do not believe anything claimed by the media. By now, we have more than enough proof that media companies strive to satisfy investors and advertisers above all else. This means that they will use all kinds of catchy headlines and click-baits to get your attention. Unfortunately, most stories are misworded and misrepresented, and this is continuously illustrated by comparing the headline with the actual story. If we are interested in using the information we read or hear, it is not enough to go beyond the headline and just read the media story either, which often omits facts and spins the news to achieve a specific desired effect. If we want to get the most valuable and correct information, we must follow the path to the root of the data - we must go to the source. Of course, this isn’t always easy or convenient. Still, it is our responsibility to use information from external sources wisely so that it works to our benefit, rather than cause us harm.
4. Who is providing the information, performing the experiment, or funding the testing?
Conflicts of interest are at alarmingly high levels today in both the scientific community, government, and media outlets. Corporate greed and corruption have primarily created this problem, where we live in a society that measures everything against the bottom line, rather than human, animal, or environmental wellbeing. All too often, tracks are covered well, and it is not easy to trace back or uncover the party behind the particular initiative. While some studies and injected trends have blatant and direct ties to corporate interests, others have much more subtle and indirect connections that are not easy for the average person to see and unravel. Therefore, the more we rely on inner wisdom and, as mentioned at the beginning, timeless facts and laws of nature, the less likely we are to make choices that destroy our health and environment, while they create wealth for destructive corporations.
5. How do I feel about it?
Ultimately, we need to regain our trust and confidence in our selves to know what the best thing is for us. As long as we continue to rely on external information and others telling us what we should eat or drink or wear or you name it, we are bound to be worse off. Unfortunately, today’s world is full of distractions, and the western way of life was designed to keep people busy working and consuming with no time for reflection, meditation, or critical thinking. Our world demands our focus and splits it into countless slivers, where we are left externally overwhelmed and internally hollow. Too many people today are mentally and emotionally exhausted, which leaves them in very vulnerable positions to take at face value what they are told or given. This is why, again, we each must take responsibility for ourselves and our life choices. When things go wrong, sure, we can blame others, but this does not help us one bit or prevent the pain and suffering that have become a standard part of everyday life for too many people today. This is why the most critical question to ask ourselves in the end about anything, and everything is How do I feel about it? Does this information or advice resonate with you? Is it in alignment with your values and priorities? Does it make you feel better or worse? All of these are essential questions to consider as part of this exercise in self-awareness and personal accountability.
In the end, analyzing how information comes to us and influences our choices and actions should empower and liberate us and not paralyze us with fear. The point of this article was not to make us more negative, fearful, or cynical, but to be more present, more conscious, and more critical of the information we are presented with each day. It is not about becoming a hard-headed skeptic, but about having an open, analytical, and discerning mind that can reason for itself and empower you to live your truth in alignment with the laws of nature and the greater good.
What you put into your body matters and directly creates the state of your health and the quality of your body. You deserve better than to just “get by” today, given how advanced our world has become and how much more we can accomplish today. You deserve to thrive, but this will not be possible by relying on external sources to guide you. You must become your own guide.
Nutritional literacy starts with making your self and your health a priority. It requires that you make time to read labels, to examine claims, to take personal accountability, and to be open to change. Other people, groups, and corporations will continue to say whatever it is that they want to say. We may not be able to stop the spreading of erroneous or harmful information anytime soon, but we each have a choice whether to listen and act on that information or not. So take advantage of your personal power. Aim to be awake and aware, intend to see beyond clever and deceptive marketing, and free yourself to make choices that positively influence your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health.