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Stop Following the Herd


Maybe because I’m an only child and didn’t have siblings to influence me, I’ve found myself generally averse to the herd mentality. You know, when you feel a need to do or not do something because of what others are doing. I’m quite happy with this facet of my personality, as it led me to stopping dieting in my late twenties when it was all the rage with friends while putting me on the path to “normal” eating.

For example, I’ve always been slow to take up the latest fashions and, when at last I do, they’re often long gone by. By the time I finally decided I did like bell bottom pants after all, they were out of style and tapered legs were in. By the time I got around to having my hair cut a la Sassoon, my friends were all growing their hair long again.

I’m struck with the importance of thinking for oneself when clients excitedly tell me about some new food or nutrition craze or plan that’s sweeping the nation. For example, when without any food sensitivity testing or even belly twinges after eating wheat, a client says she’s going gluten free. Where’s her evidence that it will improve her digestion or life? Where’s her thinking for herself and what’s best for her body? I had a similar reaction when a client who’s desperate to lose weight said she was considering bariatric surgery after talking with someone who’s part of a group of disciples who’d had it. She implied that because of this large cult-like following, such surgery must be beneficial. 

On the other hand, a client who’d had a bariatric balloon inserted was mulling over whether to have it removed or not after several months. She decided in favor of removal, having figured out that any weight she’d lost was due to the 1200-calorie per day, post-surgery diet she’d be put on rather than from the balloon itself, and admitted she’d not changed her food intake except that she was now eating smaller portions of non-nutritious foods.

Desperation can make us do unhealthy and sometimes downright dangerous things based on the need to be loved, successful, popular, wealthy, thin, or in a romantic relationship. But in the end, experience and science must be our only guides. No matter how many articles I read back in the day about diets, they only made food more of an obsession for me and drove me to regain all the weight I lost. 

Are you really better off doing what others do without seeing the long-term results or considering whether a behavior or practice is best for you? Here’s the way I see it: Would you want someone making life choices based on observing you and thinking you knew the “right” way for them? That’s what you do when you follow the herd.