Select Page

Dieting and Master Narrative

Blog Forums Dieting Sucks! Dieting and Master Narrative

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #8771

    Who knows if anybody will read this? Still think it’s important, maybe the MOST IMPORTANT to remember about diets, or life in general.

    Anyway, I am a big fan of the French philosopher/theologian Henry Corbin. It doesn’t matter if you know anything about him. I am reading an American interpreter of Corbin, Tom Cheetham, who was also a biologist. Here’s what he writes:

    Long agoin Santa Fe, I was for a few summers and unofficial student of Stuart Kauffman, then one of the leading theoretical biologists in the world. He argued that because our world is complex in mathematically definable ways there is a limit on how much we can know-we can’t see very far ahead, and therefore we ought to take small steps.

    Now this is an important statement and it certainly applies to diet. What all diet gurus promise is a master narrative…a simple, complete truth that is supposed to explain everything, solve everything in terms of health. That’s just not possible. It’s like trying to pour the Atlantic Ocean into a coffee mug. Only even more difficult than that. We should take some small steps and adjust and certainly approach any general, final theory about diet or health with skepticism and hesitation. In a complex system even so-called small variations (like bio-individuality and environment) become HUGE. You know, the Butterfly Effect: “a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago”.

    Matt Stone

    Definitely. And dietary manipulation is extremely powerful. The power diet has over our physical function is hugely underestimated. Even tiny changes can yield devastating or miraculous results depending on who does what.


    I don’t know if I agree with that Matt Stone. I think most people here have in many cases OVER-ESTIMATED the power diet has over their physical function, made a fetish out of it and worshiped that fetish. My point in mentioning the Butterfly Effect is that there are any number of variables that can disrupt the system, and we have seen what happens when you try to introduce a radical diet into a system so complex…it usually leads to more disruption….and usually a bad disruption. Unfortunately most diet gurus haven’t studied ANY system theory and therefore don’t comprehend how simple-minded their elaborate theories are.

    The Real Amy

    You could make the same argument about many things other than diet. Pharmaceutical medicine, for example, and there doctors have studied the system of the body, but still don’t have respect for what a medication can do to imbalance the body (I had great respect for this after taking a basic anatomy and physiology course and learning about the systemic effects of just a few drugs, so not sure what happens between there and an MD). Or GMO foods, of which we have no comprehension of the effects. People like to believe they know the answer and are in control. With diet, it’s really easy to extrapolate based on some short-term effects.

    I totally agree on the butterfly effect, and totally agree small steps and proceeding with caution are best, but I think it is human nature to charge full speed ahead. If you can figure out how to change that, then you can be a guru!

    Henrys Mom

    I love this. I think there are just too many variables to which we maybe don’t know to pay attention. Perhaps those variables effect the type of diet we should be consuming. Some diet fetishists firmly believe one should only eat during daylight hours, others believe eating only at night is best. Circadian biology and all that jazz.

    I was thinking about this recently as I moved to a high altitude and, after forcing myself to listen to my bodily signals (who does that???!!), I realized that I was in desperate need of way more carbs ans way more water.

    I wonder if it is possible that there can be no perfect diet prescription, even eating for higher metabolism and whatnot. It seems pretty likely that our own individual contexts (no I am not a Peat practioner or anything) like stress, living climate, mental activity, how much we sit, exposure to nature, exposure to pollutants, whether we have a pet, how much we have sex and whether we enjoy that sex, how much we sleep, how often we laugh, etc. play a bigger role in dictating our health.

    Remeber the Blue Zones book? Other than being sort of a way to promote vegetarian diets, it seemed pretty clear that the healthiest and longest lived people had in common junk like community, humour, a sense of belonging, etc.

    But I am no expert in these matters.


    Henrys Mom, I think you are right about listening to your body signals. All of these theories (no matter whose) and studies need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Anecdotalis one of those terms that people use disparagingly, but I think it’s key…at least so far as any given individual choosing what to eat. As far as your claim about not being an expert, well, you are in terms of your own body.

    You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.


    Thomas, I agree with you. I do think a lot of people overestimate the power of diet, and I see it more now that I’m more recovered. I am so incredibly thankful for Matt’s work and this site, but I’ve realized its not the be all end all. Its amazing what small dietary changes can do for a baby with seizures or a person with migraines, but for a basically ‘healthy’ person like me, I just don’t find it necessary. It can actually make me more neurotic, and the more I stay away from the diet stuff the better I feel (damn you Matt for making these addicting forums! haha). Sometimes I think people just need to accept that they’re never going to feel wonderful and perfect. Sometimes we’re stuck with conditions that all the special diets, meditation, tapping, or whatever aren’t going to solve and you just have to live with the hand you’re dealt and make the best of it. That’s my problem with alternative medicine and woo, they bash modern medicine and promise results no matter your ailment, usually at a very high price.

    Sorry if this went totally off topic, your quote just led my thought process in that direction.


    @StephanieMichelle, your thoughts are entirely ON-TOPIC
    I agree with you entirely. There are some things that you have to accept. My sleep issues have been a permanent fixture of my adult life. It’s what got me on this Wild Goose Chase. It’s one of those invisible illnesses. I have tried EVERYTHING to fix it. Well, there are some things that help a little bit (all have to do with “sleep hygiene”, not diet or supplements). If I hear of any interesting supplement, I might try it, but I have more or less given up. I just accept it.

    A lot of alternative practitioners have made a lot of money bashing modern medicine, and they don’t have a good track-record in my experience.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.