You want to know the truth about what to do, eat, drink, believe. At least I suspect you do. I certainly do. But where should that truth come from? Maybe from a book, an authority, an ‘expert’, deep meditation? That’s your choice, and when it comes to the really big questions it’s tough for some of us.
When it comes to what to eat, how to exercise and other important health-related topics, I say find your own truth.
Now I love science. I’m a scientist. My blog posts are sometimes more heavily referenced than articles published in scientific journals. But it’s because of that experience and rigour that I know the limits of published research.
The focus in research is often on the average. That means you loose out on seeing that some people responded one way and some another to the same treatment, diet, exercise programme, etc.
Read more on that in: What science really tells us about how to be healthy
We are all cut form slightly different cloths, we have different genetics (nature), and we have different experiences and live in different environments (nurture). Our nature and our nurture can interact in exceedingly complex ways. Change one thing in our environment and it can be like a drop in a glass or a drop in an ocean, or something in-between.
Read more on how this relates specifically to nutrition in: Nutrition isn’t rocket science, it’s much more complicated! Part 1
I believe you should use science though. Not rely on the discoveries of science, not entirely anyway, but employ the scientific method. In it’s simplest form this means observe, test, change, and retest.
People are desperate to explain things to you. They come up with elaborate explanations, diagrams, infographics etc. to connect the dots between input x and outcome y.
Testing if x does cause y is often easy. How or why often isn't. Does a hammer blow to your thumb (x) cause pain (y)? Probably, unless you have some kind of nerve damage. So x causes y, but how?
I love learning the how, but know there’s always a good chance the explanation is somewhat, or even very, wrong and just waiting to be disproved. Also, unless you are employed in research, you’ll never be able to test any explanation thoroughly anyway.
You might assume that if someone tells you that if you do x, then z happens, and that causes y, and you then do x and get y, z is correct. Maybe it is and the explanation is true, but the explanation doesn't have to be true. Something working doesn't prove that the explanation for how it works is correct.
Save yourself time and energy by avoiding people who insistent that they know the absolute truth of things like diet and exercise. Anyone not willing to admit that people vary and have different needs, is missing a key part of their education.
Spend your energy on testing if x causes y for you. Does this exercise help you to do what you want it to? Does this dietary approach work for you, in the long-run?
Importantly, are you doing the exercise, diet, technique the way you are supposed to? That one you might need outside help with.
In other words, become a scientist and observe, test, change, and re-test. Repeat until you get the results you can be content with.
Others can help you, professionals can provide you a foundation from which to explore and access to tests you wouldn’t otherwise get. Professionals can help keep you safe too. But no one will ever take as much interest in what works for you as you, at least not unless you have the kind of money that lets you outsource such a huge chunk of your life.
So if you get outside help, get it from someone who recognises that you are a collaborator, a fellow scientists trying to find what works for you.
Just don’t become like so many modern day prophets who have the answer. Finding your truth is not having an opinion and then loudly proclaiming your right to it – opinions are like noses, we all have one, but some are crooked. That’s not the real saying, but this is a polite blog. Find your truth, but question it like any scientific theory should be questioned, and make changes when necessary.
So, once again observe, test, change, and re-test.