Telling People They Don’t Exist – still

Motivational Poster - Support

Motivational Poster – Support (Photo credit: Raymond Brettschneider)

Inconvenient people challenge our mind-set and push our comfort zone.

This is not about shaming. It is about something subtly different – which is discounting other people’s experiences when they don’t match your own – even to the point of shunning.

Re-posted – Originally posted May 20, 2012.

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.  I don’t think there was any attempt here to shame – just that her existence was inconvenient.

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.

Addendum Oct 30/12 – Part of what was on my mind leading up to this post was Jimmy Moore’s blog post April 30th about the criticism he received. Now, that is a bit different situation, because it involved much more than discounting. But, it is a perfect illustration of the point I make toward the bottom of this post about all progress being due to the “unreasonable man” and that the people who have the most difficult time are the people who can show us another part of the path forward. This turned out to be oh-so-true in Jimmy Moore’s case – as we have watched unfold over the past 6 months. This post (May 20th) was several weeks before Jimmy’s famous first post about his nutritional ketosis experience – which was posted June 14th. So, at the time this was originally posted, Jimmy had not announced his new successful strategy  – so it seemed that he was still in a situation where his body was “unreasonably” not responding to the best strategies he knew of at the time – strategies that worked fabulously for many other people.

12 thoughts on “Telling People They Don’t Exist – still

  1. I wish more people would embrace the idea that just because it worked for someone that doesn’t guarantee that it will work for another. I too have been quizzed and ignored because I wasn’t able to report spectacular success through my diet. Some things have worked great for me but weight loss is not one of them! 🙂

    I have found that when I openly talk about my failures, people come out of the woodwork to comment that they are having troubles too. I think there are more people who have faithfully tried a low-carb or even ketogenic diet and didn’t lose weight than you would imagine based on what you read on blogs…

    • Hi Daytona, I agree and agree. I hope to collect some more of those stories for my blog My Keto Haven, which does not exist to promote, but to try to provide realistic info. Your story is linked to on that blog – I hope that is OK?

      • Your new site is a great idea and I am proud to have my story linked! It is heartening to read not only people’s successes but to learn that there are more people out there (like the great Jenny Ruhl) who still have to go a little bit hungry and cut calories to make it work.

        It would be great if we can eventually find workarounds for these types of problems but in the meantime, knowing that everyone has to tinker to find what works for them is very helpful.

      • Thanks, Daytona. We are still taking the first baby steps to understanding this whole nutritional ketosis thing. In the end, it is just one tool and we need to keep on communicating with each other to find other strategies that are helpful. Thanks for visitng.

  2. It’s funny…sometimes I feel like I don’t exist, and I’m not even using low carb as a weight loss tool:

    I am a recovering anorexic, and part of my path to health has been discovering low-carb/high fat Paleo. At the same time, I’ve been reading a lot of literature on anorexia and recovery, and I am astonished by how many of the books and articles I’ve read use Atkins and low-carb as the primary example of ridiculous, restrictive, and disordered diets. In fact, I recently read a book that used Atkins/low carb as its umbrella term every time it referenced a fad diet. It’s almost as bad as being dismissed and ignored. And I hate that I’m actually afraid to tell people that going low carb/high fat has allowed me to start rebalancing my neurotransmitters without depression meds, cure my secondary amenorrhea without hormone replacement therapy, and maintain normal levels of body fat without the weight gain that often occurs in recovering anorexics due to leptin resistance etc.

    I feel better than I ever have in my life, and I want to be able to share that with people…but it feels like I’m fighting an uphill battle to explain that I’m not restricting because I’m controlling my carb intake. (Seriously, if you could see the amount of coconut butter alone I eat in a day, you’d know I wasn’t afraid of eating…) Half the time I end up apologizing for my lifestyle if I even end up saying anything at all…

    Anyway, thank you for this post. I know how important it can be to share our stories, and this is just the encouragement I needed to stop worrying about the criticism–or worse, the silence. Because there are people out there who need to hear this so that they can maybe find the path to health as we have.

    • Hi, miss skinny genes. Your comment contains a lot and I really appreciate your contribution to the discussion. The lumping together of carb restriction in with calorie restriction has really gotten the whole field of eating disorders in its grip. I haven’t figured out a terminology that presents the distinctions well. However, it has become very inflammatory – well meaning people in the eating disorders community can react to the idea of anyone suggesting carb resriction as if that is not just a fad idea, but actually bordering on criminally irresponsible.
      On the weight reduction side of things, I see the hand of industry behind the “balanced diet” idea that only total calorie intake matters (hunger is your penalty for being overweight) and it is true if there was no such thing as hunger. (This is also why hunger is insanely absent from discussion of calorie restricted diets and why the nasty euphamism “calorie counting” is used and is even adopted without question by those who “must” endure it.) Given the existance of hunger, what matters in overweight is what is driving high appetite and fat storage – in that, as you and I know well, there is all the difference in the world between fat-dominant and carb-dominant fuel balance.
      Given how much of a strangle hold that idea has on the discussion of weight management, I think a part of what is going on is that it would be too much of a break in that mind set to then have anything other than a-calorie-is-a-calorie in the field of eating disorders. If the industry-friendly “a calorie is a calorie” is to be the accepted dogma, that must be upheld in all areas.
      I have been thinking that people with anorexia would have much better health with a low carb, high fat diet. It made sense (duh) to me, but I haven’t been able to find much about this online. I’m surprised about that in a way, but the stigma about suggesting any type of restrictive eating is just so strong, perhaps if any professionals or treatment centers are doing this they are just too afraid to let it be known. Dr. Vera Tarman is an exeption in this. Are there web sites, books, clinicians that you have found helpful who discuss LCHF (or some approximation) in the context of anorexia? I would love to add them to my list of resources.
      I’m glad you’re sticking to your truth. In a couple of weeks I am going to a major conference and will be at break periods and lecture-lunches surrounded by other doctors and expect many would view me with derision if they percieve what I am up to. I’ll sigh and carry on.

      • Outside of Vera Tarman (who I first found out about through Sean Croxton and later Jimmy Moore), I haven’t been able to find anyone who is willing to advocate for a low carb/high fat approach to eating disorder recovery. One of my career goals is to become that person–I believe that the failings of the current method of treatment (which is pretty much force-feeding until normal body weight is achieved and then sending the poor kid back into the world with no idea how to feed him or herself) are the reasons for the ridiculously high rates of recidivism.

        I promise that I’ll keep you updated as I (hopefully) come across other resources…hopefully they’ll be forthcoming. And worst cast scenario, people like you and me will just have to lead the way when it comes to creating them!

        I hope your conference goes well!

        (And thank you SO much for adding me to the blogroll! I love your blog, and I’m so flattered that you have been reading my work!)

      • Please do keep me updated. I have tried to search on these topics, but come up with nothing – it is possible that interesting stuff is being done and the clincicians involved are afraid of the backlash. And, Yes, be that person – sounds good. Conference is mostly “required reading” sort of stuff – yes it will be interesting, but it is so frustrating when medicine would be over-hauled if LCHF, carb load below personal tolerance and blood sugar control were given their rightful place. Sigh – again. Stay in touch. Dea

  3. I was one who thought the world should be eating low carb because it worked so well for me. I proselytized for a couple of years. Then, life got in the way and I left low carb. When I finally picked it up again, I had a very hard time of it, possibly because I was experiencing menopause. I still haven’t lost more than half of what I regained. I still have many health benefits, just not my figure back. Believe me, I am much more understanding of the troubles other people have now! I look back and am embarrassed that I actually felt more superior than empathetic at the time.

    • I used to have a little saying posted on the wall in my office – “The trouble with experience is that it teaches you things you didn’t want to know.” We all have our blind spots – there’s plenty of them to go around. It is hard to understand that a hidden internal regulatory system is not working in some-one else when you yourself have never experienced a break-down of that system. It’s kind of like trying to understand what it feels like to have had a few drinks when you’ve never had alcohol. The phenomenon you report of having to put in more effort for less results is something I’ve heard women at or after menopause mention a lot. Perhaps over time, if we put our heads and experiences together, we can find some useful insights. One thing is that many women peri- and post-menopause have a marked decline in their sleep quantity and quality, which I think is an important part of resistance to weight loss. Thanks for your input.

      • Good quote! I have to say that I’m more likely to give a person a break because so many people patiently tolerated me in my youth. I’ll bet that’s how the phrase “Older but wiser” came about. 🙂

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