Ever had this happen to you? Someone asks you what you ate for dinner and if you respond with something delicious and nutrient dense like grass fed beef, coconut oil, bacon or bone broth - that the conversation takes a puzzling turn of events? Have you noticed how sooo many people talk with absolute authority on health, nutrition, weight loss or disease? And how they aggressively dismiss an opinion if it's unpopular? Has anyone ever lured you into a conversation, just so they can prove or defend their stance? Ever attempt to have a conversation with a doctor, or your parents, about cholesterol? Do you see how cultish dieters or cardio-addicts act? Notice how people freak out when you mention raw milk, yet they are silent when Cargill's 35 million pounds of antibiotic resistant salmonella-infested meat kills someone and sends 75 others to the hospital? Ever hear the sanctimonious preaching of NYC parents on the best hospital to have a baby, how long (or 'short' I should say) to breastfeed or the insanity surrounding which school their kid should get into? I work with pregnant women & new mothers (in NYC & CT) who are awesome in every way...But they tell me stories about other parents who are fear-mongering and downright nasty when giving parenting or diet advice, (often unsolicited). I'm sure you hear people swear that they found the right way to lose weight, the best exercise for fat loss or the only diet you'll ever need. Do you know the consequence to children's health & well being when ideas (good or bad) are promoted with these persuasive attitudes?
Ever wonder why good people believe bad ideas? Or why they act like jerks when preaching their beliefs?
Dogma: an opinion or belief that is not to be disputed.
Nutrition has become a religion for many dieters and professionals – its dogmas and attitudes are a problem that presents many serious, obstacles to human health & well being.
And it’s not just the dogma itself, but all the baggage that comes with it: fanaticism, taboos, superstition, factual inaccuracies, media hype/sensationalist journalism, fear/scare tactics, misconceptions, divisive & dismissive attitudes towards people with unpopular ideas, subordination to authority, guru worship, blind nationalism, indoctrination, prejudice, bigotry, oppression and violence.
I am going to do individual posts challenging popular dogmatic ideas in health, and share real experts who may have slightly different teachings, but are not dogmatic in their approach. But for now, here is a brief overview of what we all encounter…
In Society – it’s found in the dominant attitudes; it controls our conversations and stunts personal (emotional, cognitive) and social growth. It inhibits critical thinking, especially in children.
Weight Loss & Health – for those new to weight loss, it can and often does derail your efforts as dogmas are appealing to beginners. Beginners can easily be persuaded and go down a path of extreme exercise and unhealthy dieting/calorie restriction…in fact, it happens all the time. Weight loss beginners, most of whom will eventually fail, endure excess mental stress along their journey & metabolic damage as a result of following some diet dogma.
Typically, they will abandon their diet when it doesn’t work out, then beat themselves up because it’s widely believed that ‘not being able to stick to a program’ is a character flaw (not enough ‘discipline’ or ‘willpower’) and live with poor health as a result.
Some of these people will dive deeper into understanding true health and abandon dogmas while they work to learn more about nutrition & real food, restore their health & repair metabolism. Yet some of those people will hire someone like me (or my friends who do similar work in the industry) and eventually drop out because some dogma still has a tight grip on their mind causing fear.
For example, when we work with people who have damaged their metabolism (from following popular diet/exercise beliefs promoted dogmatically), we typically recommend NO CARDIO and in some cases, NO EXERCISE, other than some simple restorative work and eating LOTS of nutrient dense food and REHABILITATIVE SLEEP.
Despite the fact that this strategy works, and everything they know & tried already failed them, they still believe that eating less and exercising more will make them better. This is the power of dogma, especially as it relates to our National Eating Disorder.
Old School Dieters – who are still a bit neurotic, unhealthy, chubby and cultish are people (mostly women) who have been on and off diets for years, yet still dogmatic. When they have children, they indoctrinate their kids into their bad ideas & dieting habits.
Overweight & Obese – the two most common dogmas are that these people are ‘gluttons’ and ‘sloths’ – this is widely endorsed in the fitness industry & society. How do these dogmas support health & well being?
Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Eating Disorders – similarly these people have gnarly metabolic diseases, yet most people know nothing about it yet are dogmatic & ostracize them as having personality defects
Fitness & Nutrition Industry – it’s ubiquitous and divisive; it keeps real experts bickering over minutiae, proving and defending their stance (or program/product) while ignoring the larger, more serious issues.
Instead of acknowledging differences and engaging in rational discussion to converge on common grounds and promoting viable solutions for more people, fitness and especially nutrition professionals fight dogmatically about being right.
Some of the most popular fitness & nutrition programs today are being led by dogmatic evangelicals.
Some of the most popular group fitness classes and celebrity fitness programs are taught by eating disordered cardio-addicts who spout meaningless catch phrases from mainstream nutrition like it’s the absolute truth. You can often hear the dogma or feel the neurotic energy in the students waiting in line for these classes. Or go to Tracy Anderson’s Facebook page and you will be amazed at the delusions of her unfortunate disciples.
Mainstream Nutrition – a great example of the power that dogma has on this culture. The dogma preserving the corporate doctrine (calories in = calories out; eat less, exercise more; moderation; balance, reductionist nutritionism, etc) is regurgitated ad nauseam and is not to be challenged.
The mostly eating-disordered Dietician industry’s dogma reflects the doctrine of their corporate slave masters: Coke, Pepsi, Hershey, General Mills, Kellog, SoyJoy (owned by Otsuka Pharmaceutical & Supplements), etc. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals and claims to be “your source for trustworthy, science-based food and nutrition information” – yeah, right.
Medicine – fear-based dogma exists throughout the medical community and affects many people’s decisions about how to manage/treat disease. It prevents many people from learning about, reversing, reducing or eliminating serious health problems.
Children & Teens – I have worked with kids who were put on SSRI’s and neither their parents nor doctor considered their garbage diet to be involved. And when I taught the kids how to manage their health and they started getting better, their doctors did not support their taking responsibility, but were some of the most closed minded, dogmatic pricks imaginable.
Interesting tidbit for ya’ — these kids either have a religious upbringing (fears, guilt, shame, dogmas) or a mother who had a history of dieting.
Parenting – there is a taboo (related to dogmas) that I am not supposed to talk about parenting or children because I don’t have any myself. Yeah, whatever…I have been working with amazing parents & brilliant kids for years and have worked with teens/young adults who were put on diets as young as 4 years old – in fact, that’s not uncommon:
- Children as young as 5 suffer from eating disorders
- 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat
- 51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders
Pregnancy – if you thought scheduling C sections early so you look skinny after delivery was bad enough … wait till you try the new trend of starving yourself while pregnant so you look skinny, so you don’t actually look pregnant (dubbed Mommyrexia).
It is probably the most disgusting, narcissistic dysfunctional trend ever – and it spreads through strongly held dogmas about fitness, dieting & beauty. It is endorsed by nutritionists (who sell cereal) and pseudo-celebrities who are too self absorbed to research the epigenetic consequences that maternal stress & poor diet have on their baby’s health.
Bethany Frankel who champions the self-destructive ‘skinny meme’ and suggests pregnant women ‘Taste everything. Eat nothing.’ She has a legion of loyal, dogmatic disciples.
Of course I will cover the dominant dogmas & taboos surrounding pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding from the medical establishment that indoctrinates women, aggressively uses fear/scare tactics and treats pregnancy & childbirth like a disease or punishment.
Veganism – the dogma that won’t die. Yes, it is a religious cult. No, you are not ‘righteous’, ‘more ‘spiritual’ or ethical. It is based on an immortality ideology, ignorance of natural science, Eastern spiritual concepts, and false environmental ideas promoted as truth. There is dogmatism, guilt slinging and an evangelicalism with most every vegan. The trendy ones who deny this are simply clueless. I will explain this in greater detail soon. It is a cult, they are fundamentalists and no I am not being dogmatic here, I am being truthful.
Dogmas and their taboos control our culture’s conversations & persuade peoples’ decisions and obscure the truth, especially on this topic.
Pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding can be – and should be – a positive, wonderful, healthy bonding experience; not a painful, fear-based medical procedure characterized by dogma & superstition.
Of course, dogmatism is found all throughout society…
Dogma is found in politics, religion, academia, social institutions (parenting, marriage, schooling), gender, race issues and the way we encounter it most is through widespread attitudes about these topics, it negatively impacts all of us.
I am going to focus on human health & well being, but if you want to explore the hows & whys of dogma in greater detail, you may want to check out these resources:
‘Flight From Death‘ is a fantastic documentary about Ernest Becker’s work.
We are all being influenced by people around us. And we all have the power to influence people around us (our families, maybe not so much)… And I encourage you to be more influential about human health & well being…in the right way.
So how do you know when to discuss and when not to waste your energy?
I personally enjoy a balanced dialogue or debate. Truth be told, I enjoy heated ones as well ;-). But with dogmatists, there is no balance. There is no dialogue. It is often a person who likes to hear themselves speak, or argue, as the case may be. Yes, I know you get annoyed by jerky people – we all do. But try to chill when dealing with this. Don’t get sensitive, manage your emotions and stay focused on the topic. When dogmatists stray form the topic, which they do, simply remind them to stay on topic.
Remember, people can have some dogmas but be otherwise normal people. Then there are those who are full on dogmatic. You will encounter these people, so here are a few tips I have found work well for not being dogmatic and for squashing dogma when it’s thrown in your face, or for helping to free people’s minds from the influence of dogma.
- If you love someone, make them accountable.
Friends don’t let friends talk crap. Let them know when they are incorrect about a health topic politely.
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I went down to Florida and told her clearly what she should and should not do (diet & lifestyle). Almost NO ONE will do this when someone is diagnosed with cancer; most people get scared and quiet which allows the dogmas to control the conversations surrounding diseases & treatments. The dogmas surrounding most disease processes is probably worse than the disease itself.
My mother, who I love dearly, is healthy and cancer free today.
When having a discussion and dogma comes up, a simple, yet powerful question I ask often is:
- How do you know that?
This will often stump dogmatists or conversely, bring out their craziness. Just sit back and watch. Sometimes, it is wise to not engage in discussion with dogmatists. So a simple question is all it takes to end the discussion. Even if they continue on with their blah blah blah, ask them this question and be satisfied when they demonstrate their ignorance. You are not trying to win, or prove anything; you are trying to help them reconsider or shut them up politely. Intelligent, rational people will see who is dogmatic and know when the discussion is over.
‘How do you know that?’ is an easy way to counter the dogma and follow up with a polite FACT on the topic and a sweet suggestion to read a specific book.
‘Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.’ Thomas Jefferson
Spend some time on Facebook and you’ll see fitness/nutrition professionals argue about who’s right and who’s wrong. Or if you’ve been following me on FB, you’ve no doubt seen me challenge these attitudes or beliefs and get heated, defensive reactions from dogmatic ‘experts’ who almost always miss the point.
Dogmatists do not know how to separate the idea from the person and miss the point of discussion. They will try to sway the discussion to prove their point, so remember to stay on topic and:
- Focus on Facts
I will often challenge the belief or the attitude and I leav
e it at that for others to pick up on the lesson…hopefully. I know this works because I get emails from people who appreciate the way I handled the discussion/debate and it taught them something they hadn’t thought about. It seems rare to have a rational debate, mainly because dogmatists are emotional/overly sensitive.
- Learn to separate ideas form the person.
When someone says something obnoxious, don’t call them obnoxious. Question their idea, don’t attack them or all hell will break loose.
- Challenge the idea, not the person
The more you learn to think independently, the more you see how mindless many people are. I often challenge the attitude or the idea and almost always, the person will get offended. This is simply due to emotional immaturity. Learn, in your own life, to separate the idea from the person and if you get sick of hearing people spew nonsense arrogantly, challenge their idea or attitude, but not the person. Which brings up my next important point…
- There is no talking to some people.
You have to know that many times, it is best to say nothing.
I am sure some people reading this right now are calling me a hypocrite and dogmatic because I have a strong stance & a low tolerance for crap ideas that we know are not healthy. So let me be clear on a few important points…
- There is a difference between being ignorant and obnoxious (dogmatists) & being informed and tired of repetitive bullsh*t.
Although many people will tell you otherwise, it is fine to take a strong stance on a topic especially when the dominant conversations are full of uninformed personal bias or bigotry and the consequence is poor health, physical degeneration or worse. In fact, if you care about humanity, especially children, and this planet we are all stewards of, then I encourage you to speak up and be bold.
‘Objectivity must be operationally defined as fair treatment of data, not absence of preference.’ Stephen Jay Gould
The majority of people are afraid to take a stand on important topics. There are taboos on talking negative or criticizing others. Many people will try to shut you up when you challenge their dogma. These pseudo-spiritual, mostly new age & religious dogmas preserve the social dysfunction by teaching people to not address harmful ideas.
This is often done using seemingly ‘spiritual’ language & concepts like ‘don’t throw stones in glass houses’ or ‘your judgements are only reflections of your self’ – although there may be some truth in those statements in specific circumstances, the way they are used most often is as a euphemism for ‘please shut up I can’t deal with reality‘ or ‘I’m not listening to you because you might make me think about a belief I haven’t really thought about’.
And for the mind-numbing ‘criticism is negative…think positive thoughts only … you’re sending negative energy into the universe’ – this stuff is vile. It teaches people to shut up and be satisfied with social dysfunction and stay passive on topics that demand new and empowering dialogue.
Just as obnoxious is the idea that everyone’s opinion is valid.
- You are not obligated to respect someone’s opinion just because they have one.
One thing I appreciate about New York City is the diversity of people. I really couldn’t live in a small town in middle America or down South. Although the people may be very friendly there, I prefer diversity, especially with FOOD!
I have close friends that are from different religions or have radically different opinions, beliefs & lifestyles and I am OK with that. But when it comes to important issues on human health & well being, I am vocal when it is appropriate (which is often).
I also work with clients who come to me at various levels of health & readiness, so I meet them at their level. I am not dogmatic about health, nutrition and fitness recommendations. I teach people how to eat to meet their needs and never have promoted the ‘one size fits all’ diet dogma. I teach them the truth about what is best for them, but give them some leeway (80/20 Rule). If I tell someone cereal is garbage, which it is, I don’t get upset if they eat it. Typically, I don’t work with people for long who don’t follow instructions when they hire me to get results and they don’t comply, but I don’t get insulted. Nor do I insult them.
When someone asks me my opinion on circumcision or breastfeeding, I give them the facts. I don’t expect they will always follow my lead, they can do what they want, but I certainly let them know my stance, which is based on facts.
Finally, it may be necessary at times to tell obnoxious dogmatists to STFU. A cute way to express this is to use the phrase ‘Shut the Front Door’ or ‘maybe you should shut up more often’ or possibly ‘do you read much?’ I know people will think that’s rude, but it does appropriately conclude useless discussions with crazy people.
As far as your health & nutrition is concerned, listen to your own dialogue. Notice when you say things in absolute terms. See where those beliefs come from. Challenge yourself and question your beliefs.
If you find something that works for you, that’s great, but if you share it with others, try not to express it in ‘the best’ or ‘the only’ way or ‘must’ do it this way. Instead, try this: ‘This worked for me and this is the reason why…here is a book you may enjoy’ or something to that effect. Also, keep in mind, that the majority of Americans are simply not interested in health, because it means they have to confront their own irresponsibility and they are seeking a quick fix and are addicted to foods that have been scientifically engineered to encourage this.
Because I am a former theist, vegan/vegetarian and straight edge (anti-drugs/alcohol), I have some experience with the topic of dogma. I was probably dogmatic at times, which created schism between me , friends and family.
But because I was raised in a secular environment with a wide variety of cultural diversity (Miami), which was AWESOME – (thanks mom!) and I eventually matured to some degree, I questioned my beliefs and then freed myself from most beliefs. I am not only happier, more balanced but am also pretty tolerant of different belief systems as long as they are NOT being imposed on others.
The reason I take a strong stance on some of these topics is precisely because these dogmas are being imposed on others to the detriment of health & well being. I find it’s rather important and a social responsibility to speak up…and I encourage you do the same.
Remember, that we all started this journey at some point and we didn’t know as much as we do now. But some people are straight up dogmatic and when it negatively affects people, I say take a stand.
‘Until you are brave enough to challenge your own spiritual philosophies by looking at all of them, you’re living a dogma. A dogma is a closed loop system and always produces the same results that you’ve always gotten.’ Paul Chek
Keep an eye out for my upcoming and hopefully much shorter blogs on specific dogmas that suck.
Please share your opinions with me on this one… Do you agree or disagree? Do you think I am onto to something here? or am I just being dogmatic? Is there a specific topic that is spread dogmatically you think I should cover????