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.