Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Stand up against social norms in defense of your health.
Psychologist, Soloman Asch, performed famous group experiments that consistently found 75% of participants conformed to the group's social norm.
Dietary social norms have a powerful impact on food choices
In subsequent studies, researchers led participants to believe that previous participants ate either a large amount or a small amount of a particular food item—ice cream, pizza, etc. The participants were then permitted to eat as much or as little of that particular food as they wanted. Researchers repeatedly found that participants consumed similar amounts to those before them, indicating that social norms influenced the participants’ choices.
What's the point?
The problem is, in our society, the mainstream foods we eat are largely unhealthy. We have work lunches and dinners at conventional restaurants that serve genetically modified foods laden with salt, sugar, and oil which hijack our taste buds and brains while compromising our health. These foods are often sprayed with mounds of pesticides, contain synthetic ingredients, and added hormones and antibiotics that wreak havoc on our bodies. In group gatherings, we tend to consume foods like donuts, cookies, and pizza that are highly processed and void of any nutritional value. And we repeatedly indulge in these foods, because that's the norm. In fact, nobody bats an eye, unless you DON'T partake.
I am admittedly the most awkward company to dine out with (poor Mr. Holistic Heckler). In fact, I avoid it at all costs. If it's a necessity, such as a work function, I do my homework before going to the restaurant and determine if they have quality foods that I can order. If they don't, I pack my own meal, which becomes a spectacle and topic of conversation EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If I feel like there's a potential to partake in the menu offerings, I'll ask the server 500 questions to vet the ingredients and if I'm not satisfied with the answers I may opt out of eating altogether, which really makes a scene and causes concern for my company. Does she have an eating disorder? My intentions aren't to be high-maintenance or difficult, but I refuse to sacrifice my health for conformity. The foods we eat today are often heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals (if they're not organic) and doused in addictive ingredients that cause inflammation and trigger disease.
Don't succumb to the norm. The norm encourages illness and disease.
I know who I am and what my values are, and I don't care about fitting in, but it is nice to be among a group of like-minded health go-ers. Unfortunately, even in the health community, the way one eats is also largely stereotyped and I am still an oddball.
Over the past 5 years, I've been eating a predominantly vegan diet, but I hesitate to make that claim because I don't like typecasting my diet. If I feel the need to consume meat or honey (which is highly medicinal), I'll partake. Furthermore, I'd rather eat grass-fed, pasture-raised beef over a chemical laden "plant-based" burger filled with synthetic ingredients that aren't truly plant-based or health-promoting. And boy does this stance cock some eyebrows! She's not a real vegan.
Above all else, my underlying goals are consistent: to consume organic, whole plant-based foods that are minimally (or not all) processed and void of added preservatives, salt, oil and sugar.
Don't let anyone should on you
Whether you’re vegan, ketogenic, paleo, vegetarian, or somewhere in between, don’t apologize for taking a stand for your health. Others may say, you should be doing this or shouldn't be doing that but they don’t know what you know about your body and your needs. While each of these diets can play an important role in nutritional therapy, it's important to understand that one diet isn't meant to be forced or forever, eating patterns are meant to be individual, intuitive, and cyclical.
Hippocrates' famous quote, Let thy food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food, means that what works today may not work tomorrow and it's important to discern when diet therapies are needed and not just jump on the latest diet trend because it's backed by a celebrity endorsement or your friend did it and it worked well for them. Be in tune with yourself to maintain a balanced state of health.
Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
Regardless of what your diet may be, quality is the most important aspect. There are shifts, imbalances, and seasons that we experience which may result in physiological changes and varying requirements in our bodies. Sometimes we need more heat (during winter) where a raw vegan diet is not optimal, and sometimes we need more cooling properties (during summer months), where a raw diet would be more beneficial. Just remember that humans have historically thrived on many different diets. The only diet we know for certain that consistently fails and leads to disease, is a processed diet.
Humans can thrive on any diet other than a processed one
Be a health deviant
Give yourself permission to take an individual stance and claim your health as your top priority and you will also inadvertently be giving other people permission to do the same. The power to change the norm just takes one person.
Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. We tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality, but when we respect each small step we take towards our individual progression we empower ourselves to make great strides.
Learn more about how you can adopt a healthy diet with quick, easy, health promoting meals
Templeton, E.M., Stanton, M.V., & Zaki, J. (2016). Social Norms Shift Preferences for Healthy and Unhealthy Foods. PLoS One(11)11, e0166286. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166286