Opposing Viewpoints

This is kind of a philosophical post, I guess. I’m going to try to keep it short-ish but you know how I am.

I’m an opinionated dude. I believe what I believe, and I’m passionate about those beliefs. Sometimes, that means I believe a wrong thing and then get corrected. Sometimes that means that I ignore people who disagree with me on a particular topic. I’m not especially proud of these traits, since I have in my head this ideal of being purely objective and rational. Unfortunately, I’ve got a great big fire in my belly that keeps me from maintaining that cool composure sometimes. But anyway, this isn’t really about me being a dick. This is more about why I read what I do and why I don’t read what I don’t.

I read things from people with whom I have some element of common ground. I don’t read things from people whose views are diametrically opposed to mine. That probably causes a bit of selection bias in my research, and I’ll admit that. But I have limited time and energy to read and absorb this stuff (it’s not my day job), so I have to prioritize. If I have 20 hours a week to read studies, articles, blogs, books, listen to podcasts, watch video lectures, etc. where is my time best spent? I could go watch a bunch of durianrider videos (I’m not going to link to him because he’s an asshole and doesn’t need any help from me spreading his assholeishness) to see what the current state of the raw vegan community is. I could go read Dean Ornish’s book to see about all the evils of fat, or T. Colin Campbell’s book to read about how protein is killing us. What would that get me? I know already that they’re not going to change my mind. That’s a bias, for sure, but I think anyone who claims they don’t have such a bias is fooling themselves. If your opinions were so malleable as to be able to rotate 180º every time you read an article, you’d be non-functional. As a rational, thinking adult, you have to weigh the evidence and the strength of the arguments against your existing knowledge and experience.

I’ve read enough about the low-carb/ancestral concepts, and the evidence, arguments and experience are strong enough on that side, that I really just don’t think I’ll be turning back. I feel amazing right now, and I love how I look. I’ve never had either of those, much less both. What is Ornish going to say that will counter the evidence of my own success? This is not to say that I don’t think there is value in opposing viewpoints, because I very much do. My last post was about how to integrate the ideas of the various personalities in the low-carb/paleo/primal/ancestral world. Obviously, those folks might disagree on a few things, but they have more alike than they do different. We’re talking generally about differences of degree, not differences in kind. There are some exceptions, but you see what I’m saying. Everyone’s still pretty much on the same page, they’re just arguing about fonts. They’re all also coming from an evolutionary understanding, which I think is extremely valuable.

So anyway, what’s the point of all this? Essentially what I’m saying is that I don’t spend my limited time reading things I know I’m going to disagree with entirely. I do enjoy reading someone like Denise Minger positively eviscerating a flawed study or book, because she does a great job of presenting the original material, and then presenting evidence and reasoning for why it doesn’t work. She’s also quite fair, and gives credit where it’s due. One of my favorite posts of hers was about Ancel Keys and how he has been treated a bit unfairly by the low-carb/ancestral movements. He was wrong, certainly, but he doesn’t seem to have been malicious or intentionally deceptive. And that’s an important distinction when talking about a man’s legacy. So it’s not like I don’t get access to the information, I just don’t take the time to read it myself and do all the legwork involved in finding counter-evidence and the like. Lazy? Yeah, probably. I prefer to think of it as energy conservation. I also think it’s important to mention (as I know I have before) that the paleo concept isn’t the first interest I’ve taken in nutrition/health/fitness. I took nutrition classes in college, read and tried a number of diets and workouts, worked with a trainer, etc. I am well-schooled in the standard theory of fat accumulation, health, disease, etc. I’m not formally trained in nutrition or medicine (I think my CPR card might have even lapsed) so I don’t have any significant depth of understanding, but I think I know as much or more than the average person, simply because I’ve taken an above-average interest in the topic. Also, I’m kind of a research whore, so when I take an interest in something I tend to learn as much about it as I can.

I guess I really wanted to write this as a sort of personal defense. I feel like some of the people whom I talk to (and like, and respect) who aren’t on board with this whole gig think that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Or, perhaps more accurately, they think I don’t know enough about the standard high-carb, low-fat thing to really understand it. I’m not sure. I don’t think I can blame them, though. When someone isn’t on the ancestral train, I always assume it’s because they just don’t know what I know, and I should probably tell them. So I can’t judge them for judging me, really, because I know I would do the same in their shoes. Maybe that’s the maturity part? Heck if I know. Maybe the difference is that I assume they don’t know about the paleo thing because it’s not the standard. When they assume I don’t know about “calories in/calories out” or how saturated fat collects on the interior of the arterial walls, it’s more like they’re accusing me of not knowing how gravity works or what the chemical structure of water is. These are things that educated people know, just by cultural osmosis if nothing else. But the paleo thing is sort of new, in a very old way. If someone doesn’t know about it, it’s probably because they haven’t been exposed to the concept. And that’s not a judgement on them, because they shouldn’t be expected to know unless someone has taught them. Until paleo becomes the standard in public schools across the country (fingers crossed, right?) then I don’t think there’s any shame in not knowing about it. But there’s some shame in not knowing the stuff that you were supposed to have learned in your basic science courses. Or maybe I’m just thinking there is, because I tend to be kinda hard on myself when it comes to ignorance?

Anyway, now I’m just rambling. If you made it this far, you deserve a treat. Rub some coconut oil on your feet before you put your socks on in the morning. You’re welcome.

Links? Links.

Gravity and insulin: The dynamic duo – This is a cool post from Dr. Attia about why some people seem to have a harder time with reality than others do. It’s a great explanation, I think, about why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight, and why others have to be incredibly strict.

Paleo Eating vs Low-Carb Eating – Another interesting take on the differences between the two perspectives.

Study: High Fructose Corn Syrup’s Role in Autism – This article came rather quickly on the heels of another study about pregnant women’s obesity and autism in their children. These are both purely observational, as near as I can tell, and so they’re just generating hypotheses, not conclusions. However, knowing what we know about how Alzheimer’s works on the brain, basically starving certain cells of nutrients due to insulin resistance, I’m wondering if these things may not follow a similar path. Maybe there’s some element of insulin resistance already setting up in the brains of these kids even when they’re in utero, and it’s keeping certain parts of the brain from developing properly? Maybe it can start there in certain genetically-predisposed populations, and in others it takes longer to develop? This is just speculation on my part now, and I could be wrong, but it makes a certain kind of sense to me, at least.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!


3 comments on “Opposing Viewpoints

  1. Carla says:

    I can totally relate to what you’re saying here and you explain it so well. I used to read all the different viewpoints and some were so convincing that I’d get confused and veer off course. Then of course my health would suffer and I’d go back to what I know works for me! So now I basically only read stuff that’s in line with how I live now.
    People at work think I’m a bit weird because of how I eat. They try to eat low fat and less meat yet I am the ONLY ONE that is not overweight out of all of them!!! They are all obese actually!!! Yet they somehow don’t see the benefit in what I’m doing.

    • Septimus says:

      Thanks so much! I was hoping it wasn’t just me making a lot of noise and not a lot of sense.

      I have a lot of friends and coworkers who have seen me drop the weight, who are curious about it, and have asked me for some details. Some of them have gone full-bore paleo and have had amazing results, others have just made a few minor changes and have seen some benefit, and the majority haven’t ended up doing much of anything. I guess that’s just the way it goes. Unfortunately, you can’t make someone learn something, and you can frustrate yourself to no end trying. I have done that a bunch, without any real success, so I’m trying to take a much more zen approach. That’s probably doomed to failure because I’m a much more “storm the castle walls” dude by nature, but I’ll do my best. The thing that I just don’t get is that they’re trying to lose weight, they know that I’ve done it (recently and dramatically), they know I’m willing to help, and they see me eating steak, eggs, bacon, veggies with lots of butter, etc. And yet they still try to get by on rice cakes and diet soda, like they’ve been doing unsuccessfully for the past 5 years or whatever. How long does a person have to fail miserably before they change their approach?

      Anyway, now I’m all riled again. See how I am?

      • Darcy Thomas says:

        In a lot of ways food is like religion for people. They believe that theirs is the one true right way and that anything not fitting into that is an aberration. People have been so indoctrinated into the fat is bad grains are good mentality that it is very hard to reach a lot of them, I tend to ask if people are eating an ethically based diet or a health based diet. If it’s ethical I just stop talking, if they are aiming for health I am a bit more open, but people come to me for health advice and care, with my friends and coworkers if they don’t ask I don’t talk. It is very much like trying to talk someone out of their religion… I keep using that metaphor I hope it makes some sense. Good luck with the Zen approach. Something about a horse to water comes to mind. Stupid horses 😉

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