Not So Great Expectations: The Nocebo Effect

Not so great expectations

We hear a lot about what we should or shouldn’t be eating.

About how healthy something is. Or how we should absolutely avoid ‘evil’ foods of the moment like gluten or dairy or sugar.

But what if these expectations actually cause more harm than good?

Research illustrates how a group of people who were given meals without gluten but were told that it contained gluten complained of digestive issues after eating this meal – even though they had felt fine eating the exact same food when they knew the food was gluten-free.

We hear a lot about the placebo effect and what this research shows is just as powerful: The nocebo effect: The expectation that something will harm us becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And we all do this.

We eat that ice-cream…and a serving of guilt.

We eat something with gluten…and also our fear of the harm it will do us.

Because we don’t only eat physical food – we also eat the ideas we have about those foods.

So does this mean we can just eat junk food while chanting mantras about how healthy it is? That there’s no point in even trying to eat healthy?

Of course not. And I am not denying that gluten intolerance is a real problem either.

I simply want to suggest that healthy eating and living starts with your mindset.

Instead of eating ideas of doom and gloom about food or guilt, try this.

Replace judgement about food with open-minded curiosity. Turn “I’m sure I will feel like crap after eating this because it contains ________” into “I wonder how my body will feel after eating this? ”

Food is neither good nor evil and it very much depends on when you are eating, the quality of what you are eating and even how much of it you are eating. It depends on the season and even what stage of your life you are in – so the same food’s effect on us is constantly shifting. No external expert or diet will ever tell you what works best for your unique bio-individuality. Only starting a dialogue with your body to find what works for YOU will.

Most importantly, fully enjoy EVERYTHING you eat, regardless of how ‘unhealthy’ it is. There is no point in eating something healthy you really don’t enjoy or in eating something unhealthy without truly enjoying it. The pleasure we get from food has even been shown to affect the amount of nutrients we get from food.

Finally, don’t bother trying to be a perfect eater. Aim to eat ‘healthy’ food about 80% of the time. Remember that 80% is perfection.

The ultimate mindset for healthy eating? Eating with a serving of curiosity, mindfulness and intuition instead of fear, obligation and guilt.

Sources: Here and here

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