Part of the creation of this new website involved re-evaluating my ‘branding’ and ‘message’, for which I looked around at the burgeoning community of health professionals. What were others saying, doing and promoting? How were others in the healthcare space discussing their practices, businesses and services? What, beneath the usual latest scientific information, was the dominant dialogue or undercurrent of conversation amongst my ‘colleagues’?
What I found was a a lot of one emotion:
Let me explain.
We have had many ‘bandwagons’ in the diet and health industry and we are now at the point of fatigue with dietary trends. After the Low Fat 80s-90s, the Low Carb/High Fat 2000s, rampant Paleo-ism circa 2009 and ketogenic diets spiralling into almost mainstream from around 2016, we’re all a bit weary of the changing zeitgeist. And let’s not forget ‘Clean Eating’ (a phrase which literally means nothing) a couple of years ago, which has been the victim of a vituperative backlash, as have the crazes of ‘vanity’ gluten and dairy free diets (i.e. those not medically necessary). Latest in the firing line, particularly from practitioners dealing with people who have troubled food and body-image relationships, is the ‘anti-sugar’ campaign, with a lot of my fellow nutrition professionals not being on board with ‘sugar addiction’ being a ‘real thing’.
I even found myself nodding along to a debate about how the term ‘balance’ is one we have to be careful with, for fear of setting yet another impossibly high standard for us all to comform (or fail to conform) to.
Let me get one thing straight… I’m not disagreeing with the opinions of any of these professionals. Because they all have a great point.
I am objecting to the energy and emotion that seemed to fuel the blogs, articles, media interviews and podcasts vehemently stating their objection to other professionals’ stance.
So many people seemed to be taking to the internet to rant about something, stating how they were ‘anti-‘ something… whether that be a dietary style, another’s approach to nutrition, the qualifications of those talking or blogging about nutrition, the scientific backing (or not) for an opinion, the myopia of someone’s approach – in fact, name one thing and there is another professional somewhere else criticising it.
No matter where I looked, my colleagues, bloggers, scientists, nutritionists and everyone in between were having lots of angry explosions about other people in our very same field. It looked very much like internet-enabled in-fighting.
The Fury Over Functional Medicine
Then there’s the article I read yesterday which really made me quite shocked at all of this. It was one of a long line of similar-themed writings, so I’m not going to link to it, but essentially it proclaimed that the world of Functional Medicine has become so complicated by those working within it that it is now over-scientific, stressful to clients, overcomplicating health and not serving the public effectively.
Apparently, and I’m paraphrasing but this is the gist, ‘Functional Medicine has a preference for complexity theories of human physiology rather than focusing on the simpler, more ‘basic’ areas of gut, liver support and adrenals’ (notably, this particular author’s ‘key’ areas of interest, with programs sold by them specifically covering these physical systems).
This writer at least had the humility to admit that she did not fully understand all of the biochemical pathways being discussed, and that she had felt at one time that she may need to go and get herself qualified in them. However, she then went on to reject the notion that she needed that extra qualification in preference for keeping it ‘simple’.
Whether she was professionally threatened by the burgeoning fields of microbiome manipulation, genetics, MTHFR etc. and nutrigenomics, or whether she genuinely feels like this area of study doesn’t have relevance, I cannot presume to say. But there it was again – another professional ranting about her close colleagues, lambasting the whole field of Functional Medicine for ‘overcomplicating’ things and in so doing denigrating the title, the practice and the approach of anyone within this field.
I’m not saying she’s wrong that healthcare should be simple and cover the basics before delving into the more complex (if you read my blog post to launch this site you will know that I’m pretty sure how I feel about the over-test, over-treat, over-charge phenomenon).
What I AM saying is that I don’t think she is right to claim that she, above everyone else, is the only one behaving this way. Because that’s just simply not true.
The Rise of the “Anti-“…
It certainly seems to me that everywhere I turn someone is accusing others (often swathes of people) of missing (or misrepresenting) facts, lacking education and qualifications or obviously, with no PhD, stating that they are completely unable to properly read research papers. Or accusations are being flung of selective study reading, cherry-picking data, not looking at the bigger picture, chasing the detail when we haven’t covered the basics.
What strikes me about all of this is that it is just too easy to be ‘anti-‘, isn’t it?
Being against someone, something, some organisation, some ideology – it’s such a secure position. Defensiveness as a place of strength.
Except that it shouting somebody down isn’t anything to do with strength. It is all to do with fear.
Progression through One-Upmanship
My work with autoimmunity and immune dysregulation revolves entirely around this very defensiveness we engage in to protect ourselves against threats, whether real or imagined. I work with clients to address and remove their need to use attack as a first line of defence.
And yet here in my professional world I can see how many practitioners are protecting their training and qualifications, or their approach, methods and/or treatments with angry, defensive rants on blogs or podcasts – up-levelling themselves by putting everyone else down.
Our primal behaviours to separate ‘us’ from ‘other’ seem to have become about bashing the other, engaging in one-upmanship, looking for the fault and the errors in someone else, prepared to take them down (often quite viciously) for whatever they think, believe or say – and whether we believe they have the authority to say it.
Whilst there is always a place for eliminating mistruths and inaccuracies from a debate, from what I have read in my field we are all, a lot of the time, on the same page, with similar approaches and priorities.
I read so often that people believe in balance, they are dietarily agnostic (i.e. preferring the diet which best suits the client rather than promoting one diet as superior), they focus on the basics before diving into the nuance. I hear people promoting not over-testing, I am always witnessing how people ‘reject dietary dogma’ and I’m constantly observing what I can see are very measured and sensible attitudes to healthcare. I could list all of the Podcasts I regularly tune into with this same theme, this identical, sensible approach…
Yet if SO MANY people are saying that they are balanced, patient-specific, focusing on the basics first and making sure they use ‘science-backed’ approaches… surely this balanced, patient-specific, covering basics first approach is actually THE NORM?
SO WHAT ARE WE ALL SO SHOUTY AND ANGRY ABOUT?
Against the “Anti-“
We might all say things a slightly different way, but we are not all presenting opposite versions of reality. Truthfully, I believe that what I can give my clients is a unique perspective and a personal experience of transforming crippling autoimmunity/immune dysregulation along with a host of other conditions including life-altering digestive distress into a flourishing and productive life and business.
I can’t give my clients a PhD in Nutritional Science.
But I can give them everything I know about nutrition through my diplomas, certifications, studies within Functional Medicine and an in-depth study of the complex biochemical pathways of the body. I can also give them my distillation and prioritisation of this vast array of information. And regularly I begin with the basics, though I have the complexity in reserve for when it’s necessary.
Most of my colleagues, if not all, do exactly the same.
I know how to read a science paper, because I bothered to learn. I know how to evaluate the breadth of research, because again, I bothered to learn. I know how to refer to greater authorities and ask the right questions when I don’t know or am unsure.
And I get things wrong. Not because I’m don’t have a PhD, but because I’m human.
I believe that we are wasting so much time and energy on railing against others within our field and publicly denouncing either their ideology or their qualifications. I will only attract the clients who need my specific expertise, and all of my fellow practitioners will do the same. I know from experience that the MAJORITY of my Functional Medicine colleagues know that the gut, hormones and liver support are primary. But I trust that when a client needs nuance, my colleagues will provide that expertly too.
And a subtle point to make is that EVEN THE DOCTORS LEADING THE FIELD OF NUTRIGENOMICS (one of the most niche and complex facets of Functional Medicine) SAY THAT THE BASICS COME FIRST: EAT A VARIETY OF COLOURFUL AND GREEN VEG, GET SOME SLEEP AND SOME SUNLIGHT.
We’re simply NOT saying different things, and all of this angry ‘they’re not doing it right’ is completely the wrong frequency of emotion with which to approach our profession. I am not in competition with my colleagues and we do not have to fight each other.
The more we fight one another, the more we confuse the patient population. The more we insist there is ‘debate’ the more we fuel the sense of doubt and mistrust. And, to be honest, it’s energy intensive to invest so much in anger and opposition.
Everything I do in my deeper work with clients is to transmute the frequencies of bitterness, anger, resentment and self-deprecating fear. Unwinding all of this intense emotionality, fear and conflicting territorial behaviours is how I help my clients to tone down multiple sensitivity syndromes and immune systems that react and to everything. I genuinely believe that our energetic approach to life directly affects our wellbeing…
Therefore I cannot imagine why health professionals are investing so much energy in this anger at other professionals.
Why are we using our certificates as sticks to beat one another over the head? Especially when we’re all on the same side.
Yes, we will all have unique language, experiences, emotion and energy to bring to the table – but we are all eating at the same table. And for the large, overwhelming, majority of us – we are choosing to eat the same food…