As I have mentioned before I used to be a natural competitive bodybuilder and for 11 year I preached low fat, whole grains, high protein, and 5-7 small meals throughout the day. Due to my health I made a dramatic switch to Paleo. The problem now is that when I talk about Paleo they look at it as a fad diet and wonder why the sudden change. I talk about the health problems I had, but to them it seems that is an isolated incident to me and believe the whole grain/low fat diet I used to preach. It doesn't help that the whole grain/low fat philosophy is the current "healthy plan" portrayed by the media and so called "health experts."
I've tried sending links and giving them books, but because it is so new to the general public as well as new to me, it's not catching. Anyone else deal with this and have any thoughts?
asked byhemanvt (5773)
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on December 17, 2010
at 03:24 PM
Pretty much everybody has dealt with this, and you are in a disadvantaged position, having been a (probably) fervent evangelist for the conventional wisdom during your BB years. Why should they listen to you now?
"I talk about the health problems I had, but to them it seems that is an isolated incident to me and believe the whole grain/low fat diet I used to preach." -- yes, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are bitches, aren't they? You did the same thing for 11 years, and you were lucky enough to be one of those who actually asked tough questions and learned to think differently. Most people are not so lucky.
You are not going to convince anybody who doesn't want to be convinced. Stop sending them links and books. Or if you keep sending them stuff, resign yourself to getting a very low response rate. This is unfortunate, but normal. For every person who emails me to say that they experienced some significant benefits as a result of talking with me, there are ten or a hundred people who get all excited and then fail to make any real changes... and many more who simply tuned me out and nodded politely.
Another, friendlier way to phrase #2: one mistake that I often made at first was to talk about Paleo in a way that it actually made them less likely to listen to me. I was convinced that you could sway people with logic, facts, good arguments, pretty graphs, statistics, science, and copies of Good Calories, Bad Calories. Somehow, while I was transmitting these golden nuggets of pure, unadulterated knowledge, people got the impression that I was
a. judging their dietary/lifestyle choices (don't get me started on vegetarians)
b. attacking their intellectual capacities
c. attacking the foundations of their most cherished beliefs
and it really, really turned them off. People would back away politely or become downright hostile. This is a counterproductive way to go about talking to people.
So, what can you do?
Don't try to convince people with logic -- at first. Start with a narrative, a story, before/after pictures. Think about why people buy stuff (Coca-Cola, cars, whatever). The vast majority of purchases are based not on cold, hard logic. They are based on a narrative (this car will make you feel rich/thrifty, aggressive/conservative, whatever).
Following up to the above: A real eye-opening moment for me was this one time I had spent about an hour talking to a group of friends about Paleo stuff. (They were asking specific questions -- otherwise I would have changed the topic.) They all were mildly interested, intellectually ("wait, I thought whole grains were healthy!"). Nobody seemed actually interested in making any lifestyle changes, which is normal. But, at the end of the hour, I casually mentioned I'd lost about 15 lbs. and 4 inches off my waist in about 4-6 weeks. One of my friends immediately perked up and said, "Wait, so tell me again... no wheat, no sugar, and then what?"
Don't talk to them about specifics -- at first. Just tell them that you've cut out all or most processed foods. Pretty much everybody thinks this is healthy, even doctors and vegans (in theory) and the general public. Then, if they ask specific questions, you can give them more information that they actually want -- they asked for it.
If you really want to help people, you need to focus on successful lifestyle coaching just as much as facts IMO. There are very simple things that can make or break someone's transition to a healthier lifestyle. Recipes, shopping lists, food logs, public accountability -- these are WAY more important than teaching someone about why leptin is an important hormone in metabolic function/dysfunction.
As a corollary to the above point, recognize when someone mostly just wants a set of instructions (eat this, don't eat that) -- rather than a dissertation on metabolic dysfunction. Give them what they need. It's not about you and the knowledge that you just have to share with everybody because it's so earth-shatteringly life-changing. (Yeah, I made this mistake a lot.)
Be patient. You came around, and eventually, a few individuals will change their lives as a result of talking to you. Just don't sabotage them by turning them off before they even get started.
on December 17, 2010
at 11:59 PM
My mother and grandmother are very outspoken vegetarians, and low dairy. Some of the brightest memories of my childhood are going to P.E.T.A. offices with my mom.
My grandmother has given me countless nutrition books, Tim Robbins, Depak Chopra, I don't even know all the names. They've blended together into a LOWFATWHOLEGRAINVEGETABLES mush in my head that I never could stomach!
My mom just kind of smiled and nodded when I told her of my progress so far (8lbs in 3 weeks \o/) while my grandmother insists its JUST because I've stopped eating fast food and drinking soda. I've sent her a few websites, but she says her eyes just glaze over, and that there's no way in hell a little brown rice and corn would hurt you.
I just gotta leave it alone or we'll fight about it. She wants to use her canola oil and smart balance and tofu...I'm very happy with my roasting chicken!
If things keep going at this pace, I don't know if they'll ever accept that I'm doing something healthy, but I'll know, and they'll know I tried to talk to them about it, and I think that's the best I can do.