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Beware Diet Cults

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I recently read an interesting book called Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us
. diet cultsThe premise is that while science has established pretty definitively that humans can thrive on a variety of diets, people are still drawn to “diet cults” which require conformity to certain way of eating. This draw is emotional, as people want a sense of identity and feeling of belonging. This desire can help supply motivation to oppose impulse and stay “on track” with dietary choices.

Overall, this isn’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. It’s human nature to want to belong and to identify with people with similar beliefs. However, there are two potential problems:

  • When the “cult” becomes too cult-like. It’s one thing to be drawn to other people who also eat a lot of meat or who choose to abstain from meat altogether. That’s a commonality that can bond people just like choice in music or TV shows can. It’s another thing to arbitrarily pick a cult because you feel lost and in need of that sense of belonging. In the context of diet, you should never follow some set of rules or guidelines just because someone tells you it is so. When you are restricting or eliminating or avoiding and don’t even know why, or are unhappy or unsuccessful in your pursuits, it’s time to re-evaluate.
  • When the “cult” is no longer serving you. This is where the problem with wrapping your dietary preferences in with your identity becomes an issue. If you’ve lectured everyone you know about the evils of legumes, it becomes a lot harder to start bringing peanuts to parties again (Any
    hale bopp guy

    Don’t take dietary advice from this guy.

    one? Just me? Ok). Even removing other people from the equation, it can still be disconcerting to change your mind on something that at one time defined you. Luckily with diet cults, there’s a way out besides to drink the phenobarbital and vodka and wait for Hale Bopp; It’s ok to change your mind and your preferences.

 

 

These issues can be combatted in a few ways:

  • Do your research. A thirst for knowledge is a great thing! Pursue the answers to any questions you might have and form your own evidence-based opinions. Maybe you find yourself pulling a little bit of stuff from a bunch of places – great!
    beaker shot

    Be willing to self-experiment, but not like this.

  • Be willing to self-experiment. Plenty of people have completely valid reasons for eating/not eating certain things. This does not mean their reasons have to be your reasons. What’s the best way to figure out what works for you? Pick something, try it, stick with it for long enough get an idea of whether or not it’s working, and proceed from there.
  • Allow yourself to change your viewpoint. Sometimes things just no longer serve you. Something might have worked for you a year ago during certain circumstances or for certain goals but is no longer doing so. It’s ok to have taken what you can get from something, learn, and move on.

Our experiences are what make us who we are, so really everything you’ve done & tried up until this point has gotten you to where you are now. Take what you can learn from that past & apply it to improve the future. If that leaves you in Cult-less in Seattle, so be it.

 

Discussion: What do you think? Have you ever been taken in by a diet cult? What did you learn from the experience? How have you changed your tendencies as a result?

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