Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confirmation Bias


Confirmation bias is part of the human condition.  Wiki defines/describes it as: "a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses."


A friend who’s working to create her paleo lifestyle described an encounter with a person of excessive body fat who chastised her for eating the sausage and skipping the low fat mayo, the buns, and other junk carbs.  He – the entire and somewhat belligerent 300 pounds of him – implied that she would be worse off as a lean low carb/high fat eater than was he as a low fat obese man.  Suffice to say that encounter confirmed my friend’s bias about high carb diets.

A few days later, I noted a co-worker with a foot and back injury, who had surgery for same, who was complaining that he couldn’t take most common pain killers due to the blood thinners he was prescribed.  Within a few days, I observed his lunch to be macaroni, and a lot of it, and he often had coca cola on his desk.  In short, my confirmation bias saw a guy who was eating himself into metabolic derangement and a systemic case of high inflammation.  He probably needs the blood thinners to deal with an arterial problem of some sort, and is likely being prescribed statins too.  His physical ailments and overall degeneration will continue or accelerate.  He is a very, very bright human and a great worker and team mate.  He had an over 20 year career in the US Navy and was supremely successful.  I can’t help but think the government’s misinformation over the years – refusing to point out the problems with sugar and directing people toward a high carb, high grain, low quality diet – are killing this fine human being and before he dies his life is diminished and burdened by pain and discomfort and the other manifestations of ill health on the spirit.

A few days ago, I was in the grocery store and a woman was maneuvering herself around in one of the those battery powered carts grocery stores now provide for use by the immobile.  This lady was kindly apologizing for the necessary inconvenience to others that these carts impose.  She didn’t look “old”, but she did look infirm.  As I passed, her comment to a companion was “I love cereal but I have quite a lot of it at home.”  My confirmation bias was pretty sure the cereal and other carbs were the culprit in the theft of her life energy, or at least a major co-conspirator. 

To be clear, I’m one of those dis-passionate few who is mostly unconcerned – aspires to be unconcerned – with the choices others make for themselves.  I hope that others will respect my autonomy and my choice to live in accord with my own values, and believe I should return to others the same respect.  I am more successful in this endeavor as I age. 

I will admit to having a great deal of emotional baggage as I watch people unknowingly kill themselves based on the nonsense non-science of diet and health that has been sold to the public by “authorities” – the USDA and the AMA and AHA and ADA – over the last 30+ years.  It was painful to watch my grandparents suffer this fate, and it is just as painful to see others, for whom life would be hard enough without the slow death by sugar/grain/omega 6 fatty acid overdose, succumb to the un-necessary diminution of their lives.  These people are in need of education that they might choose differently.

For the rest of us struggling to implement what we know, striving to master our choices and align them with what we believe is best, I salute you.  I hope every day you can continue to find inspiration and support for your desire to enjoy more, love more, lead more, and help others more, and therefore continue to experiment until you find a way of eating and living that serves those ends fully. It’s been said so often it is clich√©, nonetheless what I see watching others and trying help others succeed in restoring the health lost to the SAD is that only those who can suffer failure and keep getting back in the game will ultimately triumph.  Persistence is the most necessary ingredient. 

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