I've only been on PaleoHacks for eight months, so maybe there have been other streaks like this, but it seems to me that the past couple of weeks have seen an unusually high level of know-it-all prescriptiveness in the questions -- questions, folks -- being "asked."
Look, I'm zero-carb/near zero-carb, and have been since September 2009. I've been VLC since February 2007. I've never experienced such amazing health as I have in the last several years, and as it says in my profile, the lower my carbs go -- yes, even to the last couple of decimals left in 99.9%-meat diet -- the better I look and feel. My labs back it up, too.
So you can bet I'm sorely tempted to tell people here who are having problems with Paleo that the one, right, true and only way to go is zero carb. Not losing that last ten pounds? Zero carb! Tired, grumpy, and plagued by lawn gophers? Ditch the veggies! Hate your fat or skinny ass, your fat or skinny spouse, your lazy or hyper dog? Get out of denial, drop that salad fork, and your troubles will be over.
But I don't do that. Not because I possess piles and piles of discipline that would otherwise go to waste (cough), but because I know that I have no earthly fricking clue if my very specific way of eating would work for someone else. I'm dying, for example, to counsel Evelyn/CarbSane to just give zero carb a try for one month, like I did, and see if it changes her mind. But I have no idea 1) if she's ever tried it -- maybe she has and it totally screwed her over, and 2) even if she hasn't tried it, maybe it really would screw her over, and then I'd feel like a jackass. (Boy, and then she'd really have some negative shit to say about low-carb, lol.)
I don't mind when people have confidence in their way of eating, especially when they have solid results to show for it. And I don't mind confidence in mere opinons, either; after all, if you didn't believe in your own opinions, you'd have different ones (citations do help in that case, though). And I generally enjoy PaleoHacks' atmosphere of cordial competitiveness and occasionally sharp repartee.
But I also think it ought to be acknowledged that none of us knows everything about physiology, and certainly none of us knows everything about some other person. Does it help us get closer to the truth about health and nutrition when we dismiss experience that contradicts our theories as mere "self-deception" or, more insidiously, as outright deception? As a thriving ZCer, should I say that Cliff, for example, is just lying about his OJ consumption? Aside from being rude and contemptible, wouldn't such a denial of his experience keep me from seeing reality, and from adjusting my theories accordingly? And isn't that the point of this site, to try to get at the truth, and not just confirm our pet theories?
People recommend only what they know, which is to say, in other words, what has worked for them or what they have seen work for other people, and perhaps that has only produced a very narrow range of results, so they think: "yes, this must be right." Because why would you witness something that didn't work and say "hey, this completely bombed but you should try it anyway."
Very rarely (or maybe not even at all) have I seen people who have tried high-carb for an extended length of time to know for sure what effect it has on their body, and then subsequently switch to low-carb and observed its effects. That would be a great n=1 if I ever heard of one, but sadly, I don't think it has been done. And even if it has, the subject size would be so small it would be simply unreliable. You said it perfectly: no one knows everything about human physiology.
I think the lesson of the story here folks, is don't ever let anyone else's experiences control what you do in your life. If you seek help, take into consideration other people's advice, but it would be foolish to assume it will work for you.
Some relevant posts by Chris Masterhacks
How many people have done a diet for 5 years, felt great for a few of them because they eliminated junk food and started to get more of some nutrients, but then ran into problems because of a deficiency in other nutrients? How many people have made a whole host of changes and have had good results, but in reality only ever needed to make a couple of changes and make the others in vain? Your personal experience isn't worth beans (and on paleohacks that ain't worth much!) Most people aren't the least bit objective about their personal experience and have selective memory. I know that's all many people have, but maybe they should look into changing that if they want to be persuasive. To be able to persuade others effectively, it requires a presentation of evidence that can be verified by both parties. A good question to ask is "Do I sound like a fruitarian here?" if the answer is yes, changes should probably be made.
Such perfect timing Rose! As always, wonderfully said.
Ironic that you posted this today as I was so utterly frustrated this morning when after my workout, conversation started about Paleo and potatoes, OH NO THE POTATO, were brought up. I said I ate them. One of the guys said bluntly and point blank "potatoes aren't Paleo." Oh sweet jam, seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?! Yet another shut down know it all opinion from someone who has been Paleo for less than 3 months. I tried to coax him into a productive open minded conversation with "oh.. who told you that?" And shut down yet again with "a book." Thank god I was able to whip out some info quickly and with a smile saying how about checking out some additional information re: safe starches and anytime would love to discuss.
I don't know everything and I like that. Tinkering with "my" Paleo is a great joy to me. Yes, I'm a nerd Anyway, it's why I frequent PH as I may learn something new re: books, diet, science, new methods of nipple massage. PH is, to me, a nice part of the Paleo oyster. But those questions and statements that fall into the "shut down/know it all" category just don't make it fruitful - just frustrating.
Everyone has an opinion and huzzah if they have confidence in what worked for them. But it's not difficult to keep an open mind because knowledge is knowledge - whether or not we agree with it. You never know, thought processes can change and expand with just a few words that register in the right way. Hopefully a positive way!
Amen Sister! What I have loved since I've found this paleo way of eating is how much I've been able to experiment, tweak, shift and flow with my own body's constantly changing needs. I think that self experimentation and a curiosity to seek answers beyond what we've heard in the mainstream our whole lives is at the heart of what it means to be healthy...We're all so different that the whole "this is the magic pill for all that ails you" thing just doesn't jive...it's just not ever going to be true that the exact same diet could possibly be optimal for ALL people! I'd love to see us as a community lose the judgement, and open our hearts and minds, that's the only way the answers can reveal themselves.
Great question Rose! My answer is that most of the time the community will decide with the voting mechanism when something crosses a line into arrogance, presumptuousness, etc. For example this recent question, which illustrates your point, is currently sitting at -7.
I agree with your implied point that questions should be different from answers. A loaded question is not really a question. I believe we should save our "sharp repartee" for answers and comments.
Yes, we should! The biochemical/physiological differences between people is amazing to me. I am constantly reminding myself that others' experiences could be vastly different than mine.
I think there's an issue of wanting Paleo to be all things to all people. There is a variety of experience, but there is also a paleo consensus on the best approach to many things. If you're aware that your experience is in the minority then I think it is responsible to acknowledge that if you share it, after all this isn't a general diet/health/lifestyle discussion forum - it's a place to ask questions specifically about paleo, and for the most part people want the 'official' or consensus answer.
I think we should be more willing to say that paleo doesn't necessarily work in all aspects for us rather than trying to claim our own approach as being just as paleo as anyone else's. The name's really shouldn't matter that much. And people could perhaps do better to present multiple points of view in their answers rather than trying to deny any controversy.
When someone makes a statement, as Evelyn did, that there is NO evidence that hominids were carnivores, I think they should have their eyelids propped open, like in Clockwork Orange, and be forced to read this:
Rose, I've tried going zero carb after seeing all these wonderful testimonials at Charles Washington's site. At the time I was very gung ho LC I might add, though a bit burnt out and not really relishing giving up my veggies. But it did not agree with me! Physically (digestive distress!), and certainly mentally. VLC for long stretches, yes. ZC? Nope. Personally, based on all I've read over the past almost three years now, it's just not a diet I would recommend for the long haul, unless someone is of Inuit ancestry, lives in an arctic climate and consumes native cold-water fish and mammals. But I try to avoid giving advice past the "you might want to try" and "this worked for me" and share the scientific information as I find it.
I think folks who thrive on ZC are outliers. Just as I believe the Durian Riders of the world are as well. I'm quite sure IF I could eat 30 bananas in a day I wouldn't be transformed into some female version of Harley and more than ZC would turn me into a female Charles Washington.
For the record, I have lots of nice things to say about low carbing. How could I not for something that was key to significant weight loss? It's low carb pseudoscience I oppose and even the notion that humans evolved to eat little or no starch and sugar is ludicrous. Less than the SAD, well DUH!! But none? Riiiiigghhht. I cannot for the life of me understand why advocates -- who are such sticklers for science and rant on about misinformed doctors and government officials -- don't just stick to advocating the good without making shit up to gin up book sales and sell supplements and such. Misinformation is misinformation. It is not acceptable to me. It's no more acceptable than the cholesterol hoax, and it should not be tolerated, especially by those seeking mainstream acceptance of the dietary lifestyle. Mainstream acceptance will not come from this approach, and it ultimately undermines it.
Sorry for the rant there. I thought of hitting the X button on the browser, but since I took the time to write this, there it is. Peace :-)