As Ryan and I were talking about all the interesting topics we want to cover with you during the Nutrition class (and sadly, which we have to leave out-so little time!), we talked about the concept of the “grey area”. When we think about food, or when we read books that “experts” write to tell us how to eat, it seems quite black and white. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Avoid this list. Chew your food 32 times before you swallow it. Never eat after 6pm. We were laughing about how much easier it is to provide the black and white type of nutrition advice than the type of nutrition information that we believe is powerful. There is a world of difference between “advice” and “information”. In all health matters, I believe it is important to gather information, so that you can make wise, personal decisions. Advice is best left to columns on the comic strip page in the newspaper. There is a type of information that is sometimes hard to distinguish from advice, but can actually be quite powerful, and that is the “anecdotal information” or personal story. Often times people tell their personal stories in a way that makes it seem like information. That is disempowering, especially if they disguise their advice as information. This is rampant in the world of personal trainers. When I taught personal training students I often stood in a room full of young, fit men and women who had never struggled with their weight or with a significant health issue. However, they firmly believed that what kept them, at age 22, looking the way they did would work for all the clients they would serve. In their own minds they couldn’t distinguish between “information” and “advice”. Of course it was going to be impossible for their future clients to realize these young people were dispensing “advice” not “information”. Their advice was, for the most part, useless.
Sometimes though advice can be life-changing. When you are the parent of a new baby and that baby cries day and night it is a relief to meet another adult who says “My baby did the same thing. I tried warm baths, singing, rocking nothing worked. Finally, I tried wrapping them tightly in a little blanket and they calmed right down.” That is a case where a personal story contains information that is applicable to you and may be the key to a problem for you.
Ryan and I believe in the power of information and research, and also in the power of the personal story. Our nutrition class will include both.