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Monday, 9 April 2007

Read the Book!

I read a lot of low carb and body builder forums and I am amazed at the things people write on them. I have blogged previously about the advice that is handed out on these sites but today I am thinking about people's general behaviour.

One of the things I notice is an almost bullying type attitude. There are the people who make multiple posts and are therefore seen as the "experts". Then there are the "newbies" -- these are the people I feel for because they are the ones being bullied at worst, or unceremoniously dismissed at best.

A typical first post will be from someone who has just decided to lose weight following a particular plan or approach to eating. For quick reference, I will call this the "A" diet.

The question will be along the lines of
I am on Day 3 of "A" and I am not sure I am doing it right. I have [or haven't] lost weight and I am enjoying my food but I feel like crap. I am tired and sore and don't have the energy to do my normal 20 minute daily walk. My husband [mother, child, best friend] says the
"A" diet is unhealthy [fatal, non-sustainable, stupid] and I have read on the internet that it causes kidney failure [heart attack, stroke, cellulite, green horns growing out of my head] so now I am not so sure that I am doing the right thing. Can you eat potatoes [diet coke, "A" bars, protein powder, chocolate] on this diet?

The answer will be normally be this
Read the book -- it explains everything. If you don't do exactly what the book says it won't work and you will have green horns growing out of your head. Carbs are poison, sugar is crack, bread and pasta must never be consumed and diet soda will stall you. A 20 minute walk is not enough exercise and you need to be doing weight lifting instead. Oh and the next time you ask the same question every other newbie has asked, do yourself a favour and use the search function first!!

I find this type of response disrespectful, impolite and ill-informed. It completely contradicts the purpose of online forums which, in my opinion, are designed to be a virtual support network.

Please allow me to enlighten you as to what is going on here.

The newbies question is really about someone taking the first tentative steps into a new lifestyle. They may have finally decided to take the plunge and are looking for validation from people who supposedly know what works and have the results to prove it. These new converts are "doing it" not just thinking about it and don't know if what they are experiencing is what should be happening to them. It is a scary time, especially when there is so much conflicting information out there.

Reading the book might be the first step, but it doesn't give you any support, it doesn't tell you what "A" flu feels like, or if this massive change will be worth it in the long run. What people want is other real people sharing their own experiences with them, encouraging them and applauding them for their efforts. Newbies need a cheer squad and look to forums to find it.

Don't tell people that carbs are poison [they're not -- some people can eat them happily without ever having insulin spikes] or that sugar is crack [it's not -- it costs a lot less and you can buy it at the corner shop] or that you can't eat X or Y for the rest of your life [you can eat anything you want to including slugs and dirt if that is what you want to do]. Don't second guess what their problems might be [an "A" bar is better than a Mars Bar if you just have to have something and if you only lose 1kg instead of 1.5kg that week who really cares], don't dismiss their exercise efforts and don't complain about having to answer the same question more than once -- who cares? don't answer at all if it pisses you off.

If your old Auntie Alice asked you how to work the DVD recorder would you respond with
For God's sake Auntie -- read the manual!!
And if she asked a second time because the manual was confusing or she didn't do exactly as it said would you say
I've already told you Auntie -- everything you need to know is in the manual. Just read it!! And remember that if you don't do exactly what the manual says, the DVD recorder will implode and fatally wound you, and the whole family -- and it will be entirely your fault. You know Auntie, if you can't figure all this out on your own, you are probably one of those relatives who don't really belong here. Sorry but you should probably just forget about trying something new -- you're too old...

Give the newbies some support and encouragement -- it takes courage and bravery to take the first faltering steps in changing your life and they need all the help they can get.

Wow Auntie Alice, good on you for wanting to figure out how the DVD recorder works. What show do you want to record? Can I show you what I do when I want to record my favourite show? I know the manual is confusing and it's not easy, but if I help you we should be able to make it work. I'm so impressed that you are giving this a go and I'll be here to give you a hand whenever you need it.

Now that's respect ...

If you want to join a low-carb Australian forum that has none of the aforementioned bad behaviour be sure to visit A Pinch of Health.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Katie :)

    Just saw your post and what a nice suprise!

    Thank you :)