April 28, 2015

Wellness Guru Faked Cancer: Why it Matters to be an Informed Consumer.

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A troubled (and troubling) young woman in Australia is making headlines this week.

It turns out that Belle Gibson’s empire is built on a lie of a healthy approach to food curing her of cancer. In fact she did not have cancer.

Meanwhile, the Gawker and others have been quick to jump on the Food Babe’s claim that her “way” is the best approach to becoming healthy. But, we are also seeing companies all over the country remove chemicals from their foods—from beer companies to mac and cheese.

Amidst a lot of controversy, the debate rages on about all things food related:

>>> Are GMOs a problem?
>>> Is organic best?
>>> Should chemicals banned in the European Union be allowed here?
>>> Is sugar the root of all evil?
>>> How much salt is appropriate?
>>> What’s the best way to lose weight or is losing weight the right goal?
>>> What about soy and other phyto-estrogens, what is their connection to breast cancer?
>>> What is a healthy fat, what fats are bad for you?
>>> Does treating animals inhumanely make them unhealthy to consume (not to mention the issue of why do we treat animals like that?
>>> What water is actually safe to drink?
>>> What fish are safe to eat?

When I was searching for answers about a healthy lifestyle after finishing cancer treatment, I was told everything from never touch anything with soy in it, to eat goat, to try not to eat too much SPAM.

I found that I had to do my own research and make my own informed decisions. One of the reasons I chose to become a holistic health coach and HeartMath Mentor™ is that I wanted to be able to work with others to be sure they could make informed decisions consistent with their life goals and wishes.

Belle Gibson’s story concerns me on many levels.

I am sad for this troubled young woman and worried that it takes away some of the legitimacy of those of us who advocate for healthy food choices.

As a cancer survivor (or maybe just as a human being), I am particularly concerned about people who may have risked their lives to follow her advice. At the same time, I think her popularity points to our yearning for simple answers to complex questions. And, we can quite simply eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water.

At the same time, the truth is that food science is complex and learning what is best for ourselves and our bodies is, for many of us, a lifelong quest. There is an appropriate role, ample need, and plenty of room for both conventional Western medicine and what is commonly called complementary alternative medicine in our world. Finding synergies by combining these is of tremendous value so I am troubled when this discussion is torn apart by sensationalism as well as by lies or misinformation on any side of the debate.

I am distressed by the vitriol in the arguments on this topic. I am dismayed by the lack of objectivity. And, I am horrified by some of the marketing and advertising ploys that take advantage of this.

I am astonished by the lack of response to the WHO finding that glyphosate (primarily found in Round Up which is sprayed on herbicide resistant crops) is probably a human carcinogen. I am appalled at the number of children in this country that go to sleep at night not knowing if they will have enough food the next day. I am concerned at the increasing and so far inexplicable rates of asthma and autism in our children. It is troubling that evidence of toxins is found in umbilical cord blood and that our waterways are polluted with plastic and microbeads that are destroying marine life.

Here’s my call to action: listen to the debate.

And by that, I don’t mean marshal your arguments for or against while someone else is speaking or only read articles that agree with your perspective. Take a deep breath and listen closely and genuinely. Consider the different perspectives, evaluate how it impacts you and choose wisely. Being an informed consumer, in and of itself does not require any behavior change. But, rather, it allows you to be informed.

For me:

>>> Learning that candies are often specifically designed to leave me craving more, made me mad and led me to generally opt to avoid them. I don’t like allowing someone in a lab to have the level of control over my desires.

>>> Considering that sugar has no recommended daily allowance because our bodies don’t need it made it easier for me to minimize my sugar use.

>>> Knowing that genetically modified seeds were not actually tested for safety before being released and that glyphosate’s impact on food itself was not studied (only its impact on soil) makes it easy for me to be concerned about GMOs and to believe that, at a minimum, labeling should be required.

>>> Believing that stress is one of the biggest toxins that we can control, I take steps to minimize stress in my life and the life of my loved ones. Sometimes, this may mean a sub-optimal food choice or making a choice without all of the possible information, but I do the best I can.

These are my choices—consider the information that is available to you and make choices that work for you.

I think the Belle Gibson lesson is to not rely only on one person’s experience, but we also can’t trust only one company’s research. We should vote with our pocketbooks, with our voices, and in elections. We can participate in informed debate, but let’s not destroy each other and stoop to petty meanness as we go forward.

Listen to this discussion as if your life depends on it, because in fact it may.

There is no debate that what we eat impacts us and our health. We only have this one body so, I believe, we need to be mindful of how we fuel it.


Relephant Read: 

The Seductive Allure of the Cult of Fitness & the Case of Belle Gibson.


Author: Wendy Kuhn

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Daniel Lee/Flickr

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