It may surprise some of you that most of the journey to becoming and staying fit and healthy is a ton of psychology. Our habits are greatly determined by our life experiences and those life experiences greatly determine how we think. Hence, to better understand our diets it helps to ask the question: am I biased with my diet?
You’re probably thinking, “What the heck to do you mean I’m ‘biased’ with my diet?” Glad you asked. Many of us have the perception that our diet isn’t “that bad” or we have something wrong with our genetics and that’s our fitness journey feels like we’re running in place going no where (figuratively and literally in some cases). So, let’s see which one of the “diet biases” you suffer from below:
This means we believe the first bit of information we hear. When most of us begin our fitness journey we look for different diets to follow. Would it surprise you to hear most people start with the very first diet they look up? It’s true. Not much research is done with this bias since you are going to go with the first option. It would be like going to the grocery store and looking for shampoo and you pick out the first one you see without reading the label to determine if it’s the right one for you.
Available Heuristic Bias
This means you overestimate the importance of the information you have at hand. For example, if you hear everyone talking about Ketogenic diet being the best way to lose weight then you’ll assume that a Ketogenic diet is the best way to lose weight even if other, more evidence-based information says otherwise.
Following the rest without thinking. This is similar to “Available Heuristic Bias” in a sense that you will believe and follow what everyone else around you is doing. If most of your friends decide to grab dessert after dinner then you are more likely to follow suit. This works in a positive manner as well. If you surround yourself with friends who love to cook healthy meals and workout then you are more likely to succumb to the “Bandwagon Effect.”
We’ll believe whatever information already confirms our existing beliefs. For example, if you believe a Paleo diet is the healthiest diet then you will only compound this belief by information that supports it and ignore information that counters it. This is probably the hardest bias to notice and avoid.
Now, this is where you choose to ignore negative information regarding your diet. Let’s say your doctor tells you to decrease the amount of sodium in your diet because you have high blood pressure and it’s only going to get worse. However, you feel perfectly fine. Well, if you don’t listen to your doctor and reduce the salt in your diet then you will suffer from “Ostrich Bias.”
Not too many clients suffer from this but personal trainers sure as hell do (heck, I was one…some might say I still am). What this means is that, as a trainer, we’ve been “right” so many times in the past that we assume every decision we make is the “right” decision even if other evidence shows us we’re wrong. No one likes to admit when they’ve made mistakes, especially someone you’ve been paying a lot of money to help you get healthy and fit.
Having a healthy skepticism of the information we receive is extremely difficult. This problem is only compounded with an overload of information we read on the internet, hear from our friends, or notice on the latest “fit” magazine in the checkout line at the grocery store. The good news is if your goal is to improve your health and/or body composition you’re already doing the right thing but looking for the right diet for you. The right workout for you. Eventually, you’ll settle on what you like and what you think works. While it may not be the right answer it is significantly better than what most Westerners are doing with their time (and bodies). Just remember to keep a nice bag of salt ready to help you discern the good information from the bad.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!