“Belief is a beautiful armor, that makes for the heaviest sword.”
-John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change
Since humans developed spoken language, we have had beliefs. Beliefs on why the sun and the moon rise and set the way they do, beliefs on where we came from, why we exist, and who is responsible for it.
We still have lots of beliefs in our modern day, many of which are around our health and well-being. If you’ve ever asked an avid runner how to get in shape, you may receive a passionate testimony on the many glorious benefits of long distance running. You’ll probably get similarly one-sided, yet passionate responses if you speak with a body builder, cross fitter, or spin class devotee.
It’s not just exercise either, have you ever had a conversation with a vegan? Or someone who is hard-core paleo? Again, you may recognize the righteous, good and evil, black and white way they speak about their viewpoint.
I’m not knocking any of these groups, at one time or another I belonged to each of them with varying degrees of commitment. This post is not about who is right, it’s about finding what works for you. Since you are a unique snowflake of awesomeness, what works for your friend or coworker, may not work for you.
So what should you believe? Nothing.
Stick with me. I want you to walk away from this post with a new way to discover what works for you. A new paradigm if you will.
First, lets look at why the old paradigm falls flat.
Belief: trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something
Belief requires faith. Faith does not require evidence. In order to believe in something, one must give up their analytical thinking. Sure you may have done your homework before consciously or subconsciously believing something, but once that belief is committed to, it becomes entrenched.
Why do beliefs become entrenched? Because we humans tend to attach our sense of self to our beliefs. In other words, our ego gets all wrapped up in our points of view. We relate to these points of view as an extension of ourselves.
Here’s a quick test to see if your beliefs are wrapped up in your ego. Think for a moment, about your own personal take on fitness and nutrition. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Ok, now imagine that I somehow am able to systematically disprove all of the logic and reasons for why you ascribe to those approaches. Can you imagine your ego taking a hit? Think you might feel foolish or embarrassed? You bet you would.
The real downside of belief, is that at some point the believer stops thinking rationally and starts following blindly. Also, as the belief becomes more firmly entrenched, it becomes harder and harder to shift gears to any other approach. This can have some real negative affects when it comes to your health.
So if you shouldn’t believe things, what should you do?
Try creating what I like to call “Working Theories”.
Rather than exploring a certain school of thought, or approach, and then ascribing to it wholeheartedly and turning off the rational part of our brain, try coming up with a theory, and then work it!
For example, if you have an inkling that you don’t tolerate dairy very well. You now have a starting place, which is your theory.
Now, work your theory by eliminating dairy from your diet for a few weeks and make note of your energy levels, sleep, digestion, etc. This is your experimentation.
Based on your results, you may see actions to take regarding your level and type of dairy intake.
The trick is to never stop working the theory. You are not the same person you were a week, month or year ago. Something that worked for you awhile ago, may not anymore.
I personally noticed this a few years ago when I had trouble tolerating beef in my diet. I had recently ended two years of vegan/vegetarian eating, but was still eating a moderate amount of grains and found that when I ate certain types of beef, I would have digestive discomfort.
So I utilized my working theory to flush out which types of beef and under which conditions I experienced the uncomfortable symptoms. At that point in time, I had a pretty good working theory of when and what types of beef I could handle well.
Over time, as I continued working my theory, I was also removing a lot of inflammatory foods that weren’t doing my gut any favors. Foods like dairy, grains, and sugars.
Before long, I found that beef didn’t affect me negatively anymore, no matter what type or where it came from. I had to adjust my working theory to embrace this new evidence.
One pitfall to watch out for with working theories, is that they can slip into beliefs if we are not mindful. The trick is to revisit your theories regularly and keep experimenting. This is an opportunity where a little cheating can actually be a good thing because it gives you helpful feedback on the current validity of your working theory!
So to review the 3 steps:
- Posit a theory based on anecdotal evidence, or recommendations from friends, experts, etc.
- Test your theory by repeated and varied experimentation
- Revisit your theory from time to time to re-test its validity
Now get out there and work those theories to help you transform your body and life!