“Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.” -Dr. Yuval Harari*
Over the last 50 years the search for the nutritional holy grail, the ultimate food truth, has left many of us confused.
Simple stories are sold so skillfully and relentlessly that we don’t even know what to eat anymore, and we are inundated with food fear from all directions.
Fat = Heart Attacks
Carbs = Diabetes
Protein = Kidney Failure
It certainly feels like there will come a point when we will have nothing left to eat, but maybe that’s not so bad because fasting obviously turns you into Wolverine.
Fortunately, none of those overly simple narratives have been proven to be true.
In fact, these are the type of untruths that we will dismantle on this site.
Instead of continuing on this quest of what to believe, perhaps it is better to ruthlessly carve out what NOT to believe.
Then after the dust has settled, we can objectively assess what is left standing and how much it individually matters to each of us.
That is the goal of Deconstruct Nutrition to find the untruths and dismantle some of the most pervasive simple stories about nutrition. This is how we free ourselves from fear and start focusing on what really matters.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, these untruths are called cognitive distortions. When it comes to nutrition, we can see them as rigid mental handcuffs that can lock us in a world where food creates only tension and division. Furthermore, religiously following these nutritional untruths is likely to isolate us and leave us worse off in the end.
We see it all the time. Families are arguing about what and when to eat instead of enjoying their time together. Friendly dinners are being occupied by needless debates over the best way to eat.
Keto vs. Vegan
Paleo vs. Ovo-lacto Vegetarian
Intermittent Fasting vs. Small Frequent Meals
Flexible Dieting vs. If It Fits Your Macros
“More and more, it seems, groups of people define their identity in terms of sharp opposition to other groups of people.” -Robert Wright
Meanwhile, at the kid's table, these youngsters may have never picked an apple from a tree, but they are worried about being an endomorph because of a thirty-second Youtube ad.
In order to break free from these distortions, we need to step back and analyze the inherent psychological glitches that make these simple stories so enticing.
Below are the three most common cognitive distortions in nutrition:
Emotional Reasoning: Allowing how you feel to captain your subjective reality.
Example: I just feel like protein is bad for me…Where are all my friends who agree with me?!...Oh, there you are! Let’s use Facebook to create a community around cherry-picked google articles that fit our narrative.
Dichotomous Thinking: Binary thinking or thinking of issues as either good or bad. Dichotomous thinking is usually combined with overgeneralizing.
Example: Carbs are bad, sugar is the devil, and insulin is its fat hoarding minion.
Catastrophizing: An “all-or-nothing” attitude that drives us toward fatalistic thinking and an external locus of control.
Example: I can’t lose weight because my hormones are off. It’s useless, why even try?
Caught in this vacuum of simple stories, cognitive distortions, and the ensuing diet wars we have gurus who swoop in and capitalize with appeals to authority. They use these strategies to rally people to buy what they’re selling, and because confirmation bias and groupthink feel so good, we can easily be swept up into their extreme ideologies around food.
We can even question the morality or value of other people based on what they eat.
“Most intergroup conflicts on our planet ultimately are cultural disagreements about whose “right” is righter.” -Dr. Robert Sapolsky
Deconstruct Nutrition is about taking some sacred cows out to pasture because they don’t matter as much as we once thought they did.
It’s about taking some sacred cows out to slaughter because holding on to the belief in these false idols is wholly unhelpful.
Although it can be uncomfortable, by going through this process we can potentially free ourselves from the cult factory of truths.
In our algorithm governed attention-based economy, I can guarantee you that these simple stories aren't going anywhere and the best weapon we have to fight them is our ability to critically think and question our own biases.
If you take just ONE tool or thought process away from Deconstruct Nutrition, it would be when you feel yourself falling hard for a nutritional simple story, rather than research how great it is, do your best to argue the other side.
Question our own Emotional Reasoning, Dichotomous Thinking, and Catastrophizing.
This process can create a more nuanced way of thinking about food that can aid us psychologically and physiologically as well as help us find common ground with others.
“When we want to believe something, we ask ourselves, ‘Can I believe it?’ Then, we search for supporting evidence, and if we find even a single piece of pseudo-evidence, we can stop thinking. We now have permission to believe. We have a justification, in case anyone asks.
In contrast, when we don’t want to believe something, we ask ourselves, ‘Must I believe it?’ Then we search for contrary evidence, and if we find a single reason to doubt the claim, we can dismiss it.
You only need one key to unlock the handcuffs of must.”
-Dr. Jonathan Haidt
Let’s get started.
*Ironically, one of the main critiques of Dr. Yuval Harari is that he has overreached and oversimplified.
Can Increasing Fruits and Vegetables Lead To Weight Loss or Weight Stability?
May 25, 2023
How Lean Is Too Lean?
May 11, 2023
Does Chewing More Reduce Energy Intake?
Apr 13, 2023