Where do great health strategies and principles come from? The answer may surprise you. But even more importantly, every one of us has a role to play in encouraging new and powerful health practices in our daily lives. If you didn’t know that your attitudes about health can either encourage or discourage new thinking on health, this post is for you.
The role that we all have to play in this process is who we choose to listen to. And why.
It doesn’t take much of a stretch to accept that one of the most important factors in innovation of any kind is the ability to see beyond the accepted principles and practices. Yet who does all this thinking ‘outside the box’. Very rarely is it the experts. The more of a studied expert you are in any field, the more likely it is that you will have thoroughly assimilated existing practices and concepts—along with all their limitations—and will actively defend the known above the unknown.
This is also what education supports. Higher learning teaches tried and true, documented and analyzed, practiced and perfected, and will tacitly or overtly discourage acts of creation. After all, of what worth would an education be if you were just going to discard it and create something new? (that’s a real question, not rhetorical)
Bring this back to the subject of human health. I have had the distinct good fortune to be a witness to some remarkable strides in our understanding of that which causes the human body to thrive over the past 20 years. I can recall a day not so long ago, for example, when even the most highly educated health professional wouldn’t touch the subject of diet and its relationship to health. For one thing, it was assumed that everyone knew what a healthy diet was (even though no one was talking about it), and because it was considered a non-issue, no one really knew much about it.
What you see today is a lot of people talking, but the talk is mostly about diets—not nutrition. Those are very different things. All this talk has been created by the demands of a couple of camps of the modern population: 1) the elite athlete looking for a competitive edge, and 2) those who had become overweight and ill of health to the point of it seriously affecting their quality of life. Once these camps started asking questions, anyone who could convince them of some credibility on the subject would gladly chime in with their opinion, usually for a fee or the price of a book. Who did those camps listen to first? And who did they endow with credibility on the subject? Those who were the best at convincing you they knew the answer. Not those who actually did.
This is the role we all play in deciding whose voice gets listened to in the creation of health strategies. For the most part, we (as in, society) will choose the “professionals”, the “experts”, and the “scientists” to be the trusted source of health information. The evidence of this can easily be found in the fact that you will never see a new health product or concept appear on the market unless it is (rightly or not) supported by something claimed to “science”, “scientific data”, “scientific study”, etc. Rarely will a voice be given much prominence on the subject of health unless it’s wearing a lab coat and/or has 2 or 3 letters tacked onto the end of its name.
On the surface this probably sounds like a pretty good qualifier, but here’s the unintended consequence: all a marketer of a product or book has to do these days is convince you that they are coming to you as an “expert” or a “scientist”, or simply hire one to voice their message, and those of us on the receiving end of that message will tend to believe whatever they say, having been dazzled more by the credentials than the facts. That’s a game just about anyone can play. The message is often backed up with something that looks like scientific data to the untrained eye (or ear). Interestingly, none of this has anything to do with the actual efficacy of the plan.
It is also interesting that I find many people enthusiastically defending health strategies that innovation has long-since left in the dust, just because what they actually believed in was the so-called science of it, not the results. Science will almost always teach you what used to be true, or what is currently safe and minimally effective.
“Okay, fine,” you say, “I see the problem, but what’s the alternative?”
Most of you reading this know that I am a CrossFit gym owner. I was involved with CrossFit from the very early years of its development, and I can tell you firsthand that the genesis and the dissemination of the CrossFit approach to athletic capacity is a strong lesson in how this should work. CrossFit was created from someone who refused to accept what the “experts” and the “scientists” of the day (mid ’90s) were saying (and, in fact, what they continue to say today), and who was willing receive very little recognition or reward for all that innovation for several years into its development. What created CrossFit and allowed it to flourish was his unfailing reliance upon logic and results. But, because the founder had no dazzling and marketable credentials, it took far longer for the concept to find its way into the public consciousness than it should have. And, it could have easily died in the process, as has happened to so many other great innovations. If just the right people—those willing to look beyond the cheap and easy credentials—had not come along and embraced the logic and the results of it, you may never have heard of CrossFit or had access to its teachings. And the world would be a poorer place.
Yet, what those of you that benefit from CrossFit know it to be vastly more effective in the real goal of fitness (or whatever you want to call it) is still not being taught in academia. Instead you have people who are overly impressed by accepted science still doing 1-arm bicep curls at Golds. And it only exists because so many of us are still convinced that science can tell us what is best regarding our health. That’s what doesn’t work. And it only lives in the mind of each one of us.
Here’s my message: how many great innovations that might very well maximize quality of life and longevity are being suppressed right now because they have been created by people with no established pedigree. You, and only you, can make sure that doesn’t continue. Relying on scientific support for your health advice only discourages the best innovators from even trying, and it is a passive approach to your own health and physical development. Let your test be logic and results, not credentials. Never take health advice from anyone trying to sell you something. When it comes to health information, the better you know the source, and the harder it was to find, the more trustworthy it is.
Logic and results are the new test. It is the test that encourages individual innovators to lead the way; a way that science will eventually validate (but we will refuse to wait around for that). What science eventually validates, the smart people have already been doing for years.
The process requires you to get involved, pay attention, read everything. Identify the greatest results among humans you know first, then identify results for yourself personally. No matter what the source. The way that society is connected these days gives us the tools for this new approach. Don’t be afraid of it. You have more power than you think you do. You get to decide what works or not. Don’t give that power away. Don’t let marketers (the real voice behind the “science”) control your health another day. We’ll all benefit more and sooner.