I’m almost always reading books on nutrition and dieting, with one or two on the go at a time, lying around the house with pages dog-eared and scribbled on. Sometimes I tackle books that have a take on these subjects that’s completely different to mine, so I can keep an open mind about things and maybe learn something new, but often these turn out to be the books that are the most challenging for me to read.
Recently I’ve been reading a book that takes the view that overeating is caused completely by physical, nutritional and biochemical deficiencies in the body. At no point in this book is there any mention that people’s thoughts, beliefs or attitudes could have any impact at all.
Just as one example, there are a few stories in this book where one of their clients is given a particular supplement and almost immediately finds they are no longer overeating, or even wanting to. This is interesting, but I find it extraordinary that no mention is made that this reaction could be – at least in part and perhaps completely – a placebo effect. In other words, the client expected a certain result and it’s this expectation that produced the result. To put this into more familiar dieting terms, it’s the state of compliance I write about in EATING LESS. It’s not even that I’m saying it certainly is a placebo response; I’m objecting to the fact that this isn’t even put forward as a possibility.
The mind has an effect on the body and the body has an effect on the mind. This two-way communication is continuous, often below our awareness, and has a huge impact on every facet of our lives.
So imagine my joy at coming across some impressive new research on the impact of belief on eating behaviour. A number of papers have been published along this line of research, but one in particular stood out to me because they tested their theory in a variety of different ways, and in the United States, France, Hong Kong and South Korea – showing that these beliefs have similar impact across various cultural environments. (1)