Telling People They Don’t Exist

One of my pet peeves is when people are, in effect, told that they don’t exist.

An example?  I get a migraine and flu-like symptoms if I eat even a tiny amount of gluten.  I don’t have celiac disease, I have gluten sensitivity. This has a major impact on the day-to-day living of my life and is something I can never afford to forget, ignore or down-play any time I am around food. Yet, to the vast majority of my own medical colleagues I don’t exist. They recognize the existence of a person occupying the space my body is in. However, what they see there is a person who isn’t me as I know myself to be. They see some deluded or self-deluded not very competent person who holds a questionable and likely false belief that places them in the ranks of the crackpots who think they are harmed by wheat, in the absence of laboratory proof. The recent recognition of gluten sensitivity as a medical condition (see this post) has not received wide-spread attention and is likely to be slow to be incorporated into routine medical practice.

People who have gained substantial health benefits from following a low-carb lifestyle are often treated in the same way. Many people report how frustrated they have felt when their doctors, their friends or work colleagues, or family members have discounted their stories and/or, even worse, discounted them as individuals for the decisions they have made and the “obviously false” conclusions they have come to.

But consider, does it ever happen the other way?

A few months ago I had an experience that has stayed in the back of my mind since.  On one of the blogs about low carb nutrition, I was reading an older post and the looong list of 50 or more comments under it. There was a lot of back-and-forth commenting among the contributors and with the author.  There was a good spirit of comradery evident. Everybody who raised a question, interesting idea or dilemma was responded to  — that is, everyone except one soul. One person posted a comment asking for insight or helpful comment on her situation – asking, that is, for help.  This soul was ignored as if she had leprosy. Her comment fell into a black pit.  The others resumed their conversations as if she didn’t exist.

Her social crime for which she received shunning – she dared to report that she was having little progress with weight loss despite a persistent and apparently well-applied very low carb/ketogenic diet. The post was old and the comments section had been closed, so I couldn’t respond to her myself.

It is easy to love the idea that going low-carb is a sure-fire ticket to weight loss heaven.  This idea makes people smile and feel confident and enthusiastic.

The up-side  — the enthusiasm helps the knowledge spread.

The down-side  — since there is and never will be a sure-fire ticket to weight loss heaven, some individuals can feel unrecognized and discounted. Also, people who are broadly knowledgable about weight control issues recognize this as a false concept and this contributes to lack of respect for the message that low-carb nutrition is a valuable medical intervention (thus limiting the spread of the knowledge).

Low-carb nutrition and nutritional ketosis are very powerful and broadly beneficial tools that can help with weight loss in many ways. There are people who need other tools in addition or instead. Also, the benefits of low-carb nutrition can be swamped or over-ridden by other factors  – for example, certain medications or high stress states.

Many people do spectacularly well when adopting low-carb nutrition as a means to weight loss. Many others do very well or at least do well.  Messaging that focuses on dramatic weight loss, though, can mean that people miss the knowledge of how low-carb nutrition may benefit their health even in the absence of substantial weight loss.  It can mean that people get discouraged and miss out on the many other potential benefits.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  – George Bernard Shaw

If you have benefited from low-carb nutrition, or someone you love has, you might owe a debt to someone somewhere in the past who was not able to achieve success with weight loss with the use of the knowledge and advice they then had access to. The knowledge and understanding of low-carb nutrition is only available to us today because of the determined efforts of one individual after another, acting in response to this lack of success.

If you have a story of fabulous, easy success to tell  – please share it, share it!  Be proud, strut, jump up and down.

I would like to encourage the practice of avoiding suggesting that because it was easy  – or even just that it was possible – for you, that this means it would be or should be the same for all others.

That “unreasonable person” whose response isn’t the same as others’ is a person we can all learn from.  Their situation may be just about to spur some new understanding that will benefit us all some day.

Addendum:  I realize that I might have left that sounding as if there was only one incident that concerned me. Unfortunately, I have more than once read posted comments that flat out stated that since that person had achieved a great outcome with controlled carb intake, that this meant all was solved for everyone else if they would only just get with the program – again meaning that anyone still visibly overweight could be judged on the spot as someone who just wasn’t trying hard enough. I guess being addicted to feeling superior is something that doesn’t show at the waist band.

2 thoughts on “Telling People They Don’t Exist

  1. Just subscribed to this blog RSS. Found you via my friend Jimmy Moore. This particular post struck a chord with me.

    I have had my own challenges with low-carb, having lost a little over 100 lbs pretty quickly, and then stalled for years at about 50 lbs over my goal weight (which my skinny runt “doctor” at the VA medical center insists is still 40 lbs too high). I recently found a breakthrough (er, maybe more accurately a “wearthrough”) that has enabled me to continue down the weight loss path. Not 100% sure of it just yet, but I will be discussing the “wearthrough” on my blog. I have some hope that I will be able to get down to a reasonable weight without surgery, drastic drugs, chronic exercise, or hunger (being hungry all the time just doesn’t work for me, “doctor” Ornish).

    • Howard, sounds interesting. I’ll be interested to know how that works out for you. I’m big on the don’t-mess-with-your-appetite-system by going chronically hungry. My rantings on this (“Hunger Therapy”) are under the “Satiety-Focused Weight Health” button at the top of the blog.

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