Usually, when I attempt to explain why my family eats the way we do, I am met with blank stares, confusion or even disbelief. A rare few grasp that what I am talking about is a diet filled with fresh, delicious food, heavy on the fats and ferments, and groan with pleasure. Only when I am talking to those already in the know do they understand why. Why would I craft a diet that flies in the face of all we have been taught by doctors, nutritionists, media and government agencies? Why would I celebrate broth, sauerkraut and butter? Why is there no cereal in my home?
Today I read a fairly straightforward article that explains why. You could give it to your mom and she might begin to see what you have been getting at during all of those heated conversations. The author, Ari LeVaux, doesn't go into any depth, rather he gives a tour of various theories of how the microbes we live with affect our bodies, lives and minds. He gives a rough sketch of ways we have changed our relationship to those microbes since the industrialization of the food supply, and points to some research on ways to address our dwindling beneficial gut population.
The article even mentions GAPS! Which is fabulous for our efforts to help more people, no? Alternet is not totally mainstream, but, according to their "About us" page, they get 3 million monthly visitors. That's a lot of eyeballs potentially reading this article. So get ready, because the questions are going to fly...
Beyond articles that take a complex subject and break it down into simple nuggets that we can feed to the skeptics around us, what else can we do to help our friends and family find the health we are pushing toward? I wrestle with this a lot. I can't make anybody see "reason" the way I see it. I have come to this point through many health challenges, through much reading, conversation, and experimentation. It has been a years-long process. Why should I expect anyone else to care with the same passion about the odd information I am trying to pass along?
The Captain says it's a bit like proselytizing about religion. People either have none (and don't want any, thank you very much!) or they have one that suits them just fine. Why would they want the one that comes from some stranger? Or even from a friend? I mean, it's just too personal. You'd think I was telling people how to have sex sometimes, from the horror on people's faces when I suggest that the food they are about to put in their mouths is not really food at all. OK, I don't really do that (I don't want people to hate me--then they wouldn't listen at all). But talking about people's food is a lot like talking about how they relate to G-d or their partner.
Which means: tread very carefully. Be kind. Show a lot more than you tell.
The best way to help others, therefore, is to get healthy yourself. Take care of what you need, do the experimentation on your own self (and your family--they are fair game...) When you are radiant, or at least much healthier and happier than last year (or last week!) the skeptics may admit that it works. At least for you. Keep after it though, because there's nothing like a real live example to convince people that something has merit.
If you are far enough into your journey that you have energy, in addition to your enthusiasm, consider being part of a support group, online or in the flesh. Use your knowledge to help others who are looking for assistance. That's important! It's a really successful form of activism, because we can channel our zeal into a forum where it will be useful and productive. These people want to hear what you have to say, they are hungry for it. Many successful groups depend on mentors, anything from La Leche League to AA. If you feel strong--and grateful enough about the solution you have found-go be a mentor to someone in need.
You've got a friend or family member who is truly sick? How do you approach that? First, with respect (and a healthy dose of trepidation). Find out if they really want to change, if it's bad enough that they are willing to do some (temporarily) unpleasant things. It's no use forcing broth down Susie's throat if she won't do an enema if necessary.
I know that sounds harsh. How about we substitute a different scenario? In this one, we are helping an alcoholic friend whose life is devolving into a shambles. We help them arrange for time off, bring healthy meals and sit for long hours watching movies together. When we go home for the night, another friend brings a bottle to share. And this goes on... Even if we sleep over, somehow the alcohol shows up, is hidden or they drink the mouthwash.
Can you see what I mean? If it's my bright idea, there will be no follow through. It's like the old joke: "How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but he really has to want to change..." It's the same with diet. No one will change unless they want to. Really. Unless they are miserable, as when an alcoholic "hits bottom", they will not do what we suggest. And even then, they may do it half-heartedly, relapse, founder a bit, try again, and so on.
When I was in midwifery school, one of the things I learned was not to want an outcome more than the client wanted it. They might have said emphatically that they wanted a home-birth, but in the end, some women feel safer in the hospital. I might have been hired to help a woman breastfeed successfully, but if I pushed the issue, I might find to whole effort backfiring. I learned that the best midwives "sit on their hands". They watch, they wait, they support. They do not insinuate themselves into someone else's motives--yes, even though we are hired to help, we still must let the woman choose what she wants at each moment.
And so it is with diet. "Watchful waiting" is a great guideline. Observe, and support if the time is ripe. This is not to say that you can't share your personal successes. On the contrary, that may be the only thing that will help someone else--as I said above, personal example is the most compelling tool we have. Rather than trying to convince, just be you. Share your food: invite people over or bring your yummies to a potluck or the office.
I do want to add that if you are dealing with a sick small child, or possibly a family member who is so sick that drastic measures are about to be taken, well, then none of these guidelines apply. We must do what is necessary in extreme situations.
To summarize, help others taste the approach to food that has changed my/your life:
1. Do your own work: Take care of yourself, get healthy.
2. Share your success. (Tastefully) show it off a bit... Make a fabulous meal for friends.
3. Support the people who are clamoring for the help--become a mentor.
If, after following the above steps, you still want to tell the whole world, you could do what I am doing: start a blog, get a degree in nutrition, teach workshops.
But don't say I didn't warn you....
By the way (as she shares some success on Day 20), I am starting stage 4 of Intro, though I skipped the nut butter part of the pancakes, owing to a bit of intuition that told me to wait a bit on nuts. So far, so good--no major reactions, and the vertigo seems to have cleared up. I never got the family cold beyond some congestion and a sore throat. Funny enough, as my sore throat cleared I noticed that my tonsils--always enormous, fleshy and nodular in appearance--have shrunken to almost normal! This is huge for me, something I have always seen as odd, and now I can see that my immune system was really always on high alert. I will be thrilled if I end up with normal tonsils--and a normal immune system, that can rest when it's not facing an acute illness. Amazing!