Her hand on my pulse, my acupuncturist told me today that my energy was better than she’d ever seen. Did I feel more energetic? Well, now I felt a little zippier, because she’d told me I was. Was I on a new diet? No. Well, I might be eating less sugar than last month. Who isn’t eating less sugar in January than they did in holiday-riddled December? But I’m not eating no sugar. Give up chocolate? —Certainly not!
So, no, diet was not the cause. Not that I don’t intermittently (okay, often) feel tempted to try any number of the new diets that come out every week, promising to change my life. The latest is eating “pegan”—that’s a combo of the so-called “best of” of each of the paleo and vegan diets. How is that even possible, when one gorges on animal products and the other forbids them?
Maybe simply believing a diet will result in more energy, more focus, weight loss or whatever is promised, generates the desired outcome.
This is not a newfangled idea. La Fontaine’s fables proposed the same possibility in the 17thcentury.
Doctor Oh-Well went to see a patient. There was his colleague Doctor All-The-Better visiting too. This last maintained hope, while his comrade believed the man in his bed would be off to see his ancestors.
Each suggested a different remedy. The patient chose to believe Oh-Well’s advice and paid his last tribute to Nature.
Both doctors claimed victory over the illness.
Oh-Well said: He’s dead, just as I predicted.
If he’d believed me, All-The-Better said, he’d still be full of life.
We are suggestible and nutritionism is the snake oil we are being sold. Every new diet accuses the others of being a Doctor Oh-Well and claims to be Doctor All-The-Better. Setting aside the arrogance and self-interestedness of the various claims, science can’t distinguish what works because of the food and what works because we believe in it. Or, conversely, what doesn’t work, because although we try it, we don’t actually believe in it, which is definitely going to be an effort with a high likelihood of failure. Some are even saying that food restrictions cause weight gain, like this article in Wired; Watching Our Weight Could Be Killing Us.
In answer to my acupuncturist’s question, I’m not sure why I have more energy. Some possibilities—I’ve just passed day 50 of a meditation streak; I’m in the mountains cross-country skiing almost every day, one of my all-time favourite activities; I’m excited about my first ensemble play being produced; and I’m doubling down on my excitement with a book that’s coming out in June. There are other happy aspects of my life, but I start to get superstitious if I list too many!
I wrote that last paragraph on Monday. Today is Wednesday. Yesterday I went for a big cross-country ski with my partner and brother. From the very first glide of my ski, I knew I was in trouble. No energy at all. As if I’d jinxed myself with the paragraph before this one. The whole rest of the ski was a head game to keep myself moving forward even at my is-she-even-moving? pace.
I’m not saying that everything is in our minds. Sometimes we truly need to rest, we truly need to eat healthier foods, we truly need to consume less alcohol and drugs, or make some other life change. Yet, the largest portion of our wellness is in our heads. We choose what we believe and all else grows from that seed. What we forget in that scenario is that what we believe must make intuitive sense. Our intuition is sourced in our bodies. So, we have to listen to what our bodies tell us and keep checking our beliefs against our intuition, to see if they still make sense.
Was my energy crash-and-burn in my head or in my body? I’d rate the split at 75-25. Oh-Well was convinced I couldn’t finish the ski at all and told me I was a no-good weakling. All-The-Better pulled me through the three hours … barely, reassuring me I was healthy and strong; confirmed by my body, which felt the intuitive truth of All-The-Better’s message.
Doctors Oh-Well and All-The-Better are both right, depending on which one we choose to believe.
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