I love Mike Perry’s post in response to the latest “meat will kill you” scare-mongering article. Put up a big scary headline, add a scientific looking image, and BOOM! 90% of people will walk off believing it. Even if it makes zero sense after 2 minutes of serious contemplation or actually analyzing the data in question. But headlines that say “No Conclusive Evidence to Show Any Link Between Meat and Longevity” won’t exactly… make headlines. So we need to go BIG with the “facts”. Embellish them if we have to.

But just as there are studies that come out spouting nonsense such as the above one, there are then counter studies that prove the opposite.

For the lay person siphoning off these headlines like some sort of hoover as they maneuver their way through Facebook or their Twitter feeds, I can imagine how unbelievable confusing it all must be. One day we are told we shouldn’t eat XYZ – that it is the plague and will instantly kill us. The next day we’re told that XYZ is actually a superfood we should be shoving down our throats with gusto.

So, just for 10 minutes, let us just forget all of that. As legitimate as some research and many studies actually are, there are so many CRAZY, off-base studies funded by dodgy sources that, unless you are adept at discerning between legitimate scientific data and studies where someone has just put together a hypothesis based on some vague correlation and a host of ulterior motives, it can be very hard to distinguish the BS from the genuine science.

So how do we make discerning decisions regarding nutrition without all these experts? How the heck are we going to find out vital information, like the fact that Pitaya fruit is the new Acai berry if noone is there to tell us?!!

Maybe here’s the point where we need to start trusting in our own judgment and common sense a little and stop waiting for someone else to tell us what to think. Now I am not saying not to read – I read a TON and am constantly researching and learning. But I do not blindly believe anything I read without first doing my due diligence in terms of thorough research and, second, weighing up all the facts with some very basic common sense and innate wisdom (which I believe most of us have). Once I have done these 2 things I will then experiment on myself and see if it actually works. Do I feel better or worse eating this way? How is my body composition? How are my energy levels. How well am I performing in my WODs? What about my food cravings? Sleep? Skin?
Then I will look into what results other people have had in their n=1 experiments. Was I an anomaly or are these results typical for most people when eating this way?

Then, and only then, will I ever offer any advice to anyone else regarding nutrition or otherwise.

So what about this common sense thing?

A lot of us will think we were using common sense in terms of our health when we politely turned down that steak in favor of the tofu-burger, or when we asked for the low-fat dressing on our salad instead of the olive oil. We’ve almost been fooled into believing that those choices should be obvious, because for 40 years those “facts” have been drummed into our heads to the point where most of us have been totally brain-washed to some extent – at least at one time in our lives. I still hear people talking about “avoiding saturated fat” for example, as if that is as obvious as avoiding crack cocaine in a dark alley. And don’t get me started on the nonsense spewed out all over the place about cholesterol or red meat.

But there is a huge difference between common sense and subtle brain-washing.

Let us back up a little. Way back before there even were “studies” and “data” and we just ate FOOD. Before anyone told us what to eat and what not to eat. So what did humans eat? Were we at a loss as to how to nourish ourselves because Time magazine wasn’t there to plaster crazy headlines on its cover? No! We just ate real food. And before that, we ate even more real food. Food that was unprocessed and unpackaged – except for the perfect, whole “package” in which nature presented it to us. We didn’t try to separate egg-yolks from the rest of the egg, we didn’t skim off the fat from dairy and replace it with refined sugar. We didn’t refine sugar, period! And we chose foods that were rich in nutrients over less nutrient-dense options. In the healthiest populations of the world, we ate a diet closer to what hunter-gatherer societies ate, and as western and neolithic “foods” infiltrated our diets, our health began to slowly decline. But nowhere near as rapidly as the decline in the last 70 years when modern, processed foods began to replace traditional foods, and when human beings began to mess around with the genetic structure of agricultural crops, which were never very healthful to begin with.

To me, common sense would mean taking all of THIS into account. Cold, hard facts that actually make sense, as opposed to trying to over-complicate matters and put our trust in the advice of multi-billion dollar corporations and Dr Oz – all of whom stand to gain from us buying the processed products they endorse.

So, instead of being confused about whether we should pick butter over margarine (I really hope you know the answer by now), or whether we should cut back on red meat and eat soy-based crap meat-substitutes instead, use your common sense. Would ancient societies (who had never even heard of heart disease, diabetes or obesity) have eaten something called “I can’t believe it’s not Butter”? And would the Inuits pick fat-free tofurkey burgers over nutrient-rich, fatty fish and meat? I really hope you don’t need me to spell out the answers to you at this point. Suffice it to say – NO!

So, when it comes to yourself, when in doubt ask yourself if the food in which you are about to indulge is in its whole form (hint: if it’s a grain, it is not – even the “whole” grain variety). Has it been genetically modified or tampered with in any way (pretty much all grains – especially wheat & corn, most modern dairy, most forms of sugar and many legumes, like soy)? Has part of it been removed (everything low/reduced/non-fat)? Was is made in a factory?

Once you learn to automatically ask these questions, picking food should be relatively simple and you will no longer feel like you have to ask whether you can eat it or not. You will also not be freaked out or swayed by every “study” that graces your Facebook wall.

The answers will be pretty obvious.