I don’t know about you, but I tire of the non-stop advice coming at me. There’s the emails about how I should be launching my books. The non-stop articles on nutrition, health, and what I should be doing to stay fit. With all the information available today, it can feel virtually impossible to keep up with it all.
Being a family nutrition expert means I have extensive knowledge in that area. But it doesn’t mean I’m an expert on you or even my own kids. The only real true expert of anyone I can be is the expert of myself.
But it’s not always easy to get in touch with our inner experts because of the sheer amount of information we receive. And then we miss it, we miss the best chance to guide ourselves to where we need to go.
Research gives us clues, not answers
I’m all for research, and always make sure to do my homework. But I also understand the limitations of research: it gives clues not concrete answers. Also, most research shows what’s good for people in general, but not for individuals. In the book Counterclockwise, Ellyn Langer puts it this way:
Diagnoses, prognoses, research methods, and statistics are all necessary for efficient, ethical, and meaningful medical care, but in light of the inherent uncertainty due to variability, medicine, like all domains of study, should be regarded not as a collection of answers but rather as a way of asking questions.
This reminds of the when Little D was first in kindergarten, and we considered holding him back. After digging into the research, I found that retention (generally) does not result in positive outcomes. It’s always better to give a child help then to hold them back.
But at the younger grades like kindergarten and first grade, it’s more about correcting mistakes if you started a child too early or late. After considering our late blooming child — and a slew of other things — we decided to keep him back. This by far has been the toughest parental decision my husband and I have had to make.
Although I went against the research, I reminded myself that the research did not study my specific child. Now Little D is in first grade and is doing great. He’s happy and loves school so much he even wants to go on sick days (hasn’t missed a day yet this year).
Do devices know better than we do?
Now we don’t just have experts but devices designed to tell us what to do. When my mom (who is the tech grandma) bought two of the new Apple Watch Nike+ watches, she gave one to me. I’ve never owned a Fitbit or step counter so this was new to me.
The watch measures movement, exercise, and standing (see colored rings below — the goal is it too look like that at the end of the day). I get reminders of my goals throughout the day. For example, if I’ve been sitting at my computer for a while the watch will beep and say “It’s time to stand.” And when you meet a goal, you get a congratulations. It also gives me reminders to breathe. You can turn these reminders off if you want.
I like having this information but initially it made me more anxious. I’d get noticeably upset if my watch wasn’t working right to record my run or if it wasn’t charged. The watch also calculates heart rate and I noticed that my heart rates were high during runs. This started to worry me because of the calculation of maximal heart rate (220-age) and I was just above it. Then, in Runner’s World, I read about how tuning into how we feel is best, something I did before the watch:
Decades of studies indicate that athletes are surprisingly good at distinguishing among training zones by tuning in to their bodies. Runners can consistently identify their tempo pace with a simple talk test–struggling to speak in full sentences means you’ve passed your threshold.
I realized pretty quickly that this watch is simply a tool that does not know better than me. Some days my body tells me it needs to rest — all day. Most days I get plenty of activity through walking and structured exercise, not because my watch tells me to do it, because it makes me feel good. (And I can go a week or two not wearing the watch now that the novelty has worn off).
Oatmeal is one of my favorite foods for breakfast. In fact, no other food fills me up and satisfies in the morning like oatmeal (with nuts, dried fruit and milk). But my husband, is hungry an hour after oatmeal. He prefers a high protein food like eggs for breakfast. Oatmeal works for me, but not for him.
What gives? A study in the journal Cell reveals how differently we all react to food. Subjects who ate the same food and combination of food (meals) showed very different glyemic responses. For example, some people’s blood sugar spiked high in response to eating bread while others’ stayed moderate.
Research tells us “in general” what is beneficial for people nutrition-wise but we still need to consider our individual responses, and honor those of our children. (Read this week’s Mindful Minute for more on this)
Stay mindful of your inner expert
We all need to stay mindful of our experiences because they matter just as much — if not more — than any bit of information or advice ever will. The idea is not to ignore research or follow it to the letter, but simply to consider it in the decision-making process while making sure your gut does the final calculation.
When have you tapped into your inner expert to find a solution?