During a conversation at lunch with a pregnant colleague, she stated “now that I’m pregnant I’m eating for two”.
Everyone in the room agreed with her. Probably because it makes sense, right?
Except that couldn’t be further from the truth. I checked this out for myself and after some research, it was clear that this is not the case at all. In fact, this widely held belief is putting babies at risk.
“You know what you said about eating for two the other day is a myth?” I said to my colleague a few days later.
She stared back with a disbelieving blank expression. She didn’t believe it.
Have you ever been so sure of something, so unbelievably certain that something is factual or just the way it’s supposed to be, only to find out it isn’t?
The eat for two pregnancy myth is much like the phenomenon known as Mandela effect. Named after Nelson Mandela, who many people wrongly remember dying in prison during the 1980’s. In reality, Mandela was actually freed in 1990 and passed away in 2013 – despite some people’s claims they remember his funeral on TV.
The Mandela effect is essentially something in which a large segment of the population forms a belief about something that isn’t actually true.
What has the Mandela effect got to do with your health?
There are a staggeringly high number of Mandela effect examples in relation to health, fitness and nutrition.
As a practitioner who believes in evidence-based principles, it amazes me how many times I hear beliefs being spoken about with such unwavering confidence as to be believed as gospel truth.
I think a few key reasons for this is the internet, social conditioning, the rise of political correctness and the subsequent doubt that arises through misinformation.
The internet has given us all access to a wealth of information. This is great on the one hand.
However, on the other hand the internet is not designed to give people the information they need. It gives people the information they want.
And unfortunately, there’s a big difference.
As humans we want a sense of belonging and an identity that represents who we are. Therefore, whenever we come across information that goes against what are unconscious mind believes to be true, we often choose to ignore it and rationalise it because it is an attack on our identify.
Instead, we seek out information that reaffirms our beliefs to keep our identity in check. Social media algorithms then spoon feed us information that only aligns with our worldview.
The problem with this is that we become more programmed then informed. What we believe to be true can be based more on ideology and social conditioning then science and rational reasoning.
Also, we now live in a world of political correctness, where expressing honest feelings, or saying anything where anyone may become even the slightest bit offended, is frowned upon. Hence, what’s considered normal in society isn’t questioned as much as it should be.
Moreover, science’s limits are in asking questions. The questions science asks are heavily dependent on government and private industry who are paying for the research. As proven in Merchants of Doubt, the reality is that some scientists with close links to industry and politics will manipulate science and say anything if they are paid enough to do so.
“Science without ethics is blind; ethics without science is empty”
And when they are allowed to give this opinion on mainstream media it causes doubt. When there’s doubt and uncertainty people choose to follow the status quo and continue not to question things.
For example, if I read an article today saying that eggs are unhealthy, there will be another article telling me tomorrow that they’re fine, and then another article telling me why all of the previous articles were wrong. By now, I’m so confused I don’t care anymore. I don’t trust any of them. The abundance of contradicting information scrambles my brain.
And not only do I check out mentally, but I become cynical as well. Screw nutrition articles and so called experts. What do they know anyway?
This has become our response to seemingly everything. And this means that the really important issues and the ones that are pretty obvious we need to deal with never really get addressed. However, if we are to evolve we must address them.
Below are just 8 beliefs I’ve guaranteed you’ve heard so many times you believe to be true.
8 traditional beliefs and why they need to evolve
1) Breakfast is your most important meal of the day.
The popular belief is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we need to eat every few hours to keep your metabolism operating at its maximum capacity all day long.
It seems like an entirely logical premise, but it’s not really true.
As this peer reviewed study concludes, breakfast is just another meal and has no more importance than any other meal. On the contrary, there is much evidence supporting that skipping breakfast and intermittent fasting is actually more beneficial for you in multiple ways from increased fat loss to allowing your body to repair itself.
It also seems logical that we need to eat 6 meals a day to keep the metabolism high otherwise our body will go into starvation mode and store fat. However, our ancestors often went days without food and there is much evidence disproving this.
For example, a controlled experiment took 11 healthy volunteers to live on nothing but water for 84 hours. The researchers found that the volunteers basal metabolic rate went up while they were fasting. By day 3 it had risen, on average, by 14%. If they would have continued, the metabolic rates of the volunteers would have likely fallen. However, certainly in the short term, there is no evidence that starvation mode is a real thing.
Ultimately, the choice to eat breakfast is a personal one.
Some really can’t go without eating it, while others like skipping it, but the idea that it’s more important than any other meal you consume during the day is the Mandela Effect in all its glory.
Personally, I believe the has stuck in our heads due to clever marketing and advertising from food companies and breakfast cereal brands who’s sole motivation is to get you to buy and eat more of their products.
2) To lose weight you need to go on a diet.
Statistically speaking, 95% of all dieters fail. Yet many people still believe that going on a diet is good for them and is the best way to lose weight.
Moreover, there are many types of diet out there all claiming to be the best. Atkins. Paleo. Keto. Gluten-free. There are more diets than types of food!
If we seek out the latest best-selling diet author, we will be told that dieters fail because they aren’t following whatever their latest “secret” nutritional philosophy is. Then we’ll be encouraged to buy this author’s book, which promises to help us achieve weight loss once and for all!
There have been multiple diets and thousands of diet books written in the last 50 years. So why is our rate of dieting success more dismal now than ever? Why are we getting fatter and more sick? Obviously, we are not in need of another type of diet or secret philosophy.
So what if the answer wasn’t going on a diet at all?
Personally, I believe there is no one single best diet for humanity. The only diet that matters is the one which works for you.
If you can’t sustain it then it won’t bring about the desired long term results. For example, if you like eating carbs to be satisfied, don’t force yourself on the Keto diet which significantly limits carbohydrates. Similarly, if you love chocolate, find healthier alternatives such as cacao powder or start by slowly reducing the amount you eat rather then totally abstaining.
Also, there needs to be a transition period. You can’t go from eating burgers and cakes all time to eating fruits and vegetables overnight. Start by eating more of the fruits and vegetables you do like.
One approach that may be achievable and sustainable is by following the 80/20 rule where about 80% of the time you eat only healthy foods and about 20% of the time you can eat whatever you want. This is more of a practical lifestyle rather than a diet and allows some flexibility so it doesn’t leave you feeling restricted.
Ultimately, the mainstream idea that there is such a thing as a best type of diet to follow and that going on a diet is the best way to lose weight is a classic example of the Mandela effect. Maybe a more practical solution is to find healthier foods that you actually enjoy, make them a staple of your diet, reduce the amount of unhealthy foods but still allow yourself a treat.
3) Eating meat, dairy and eggs is normal, natural and necessary.
We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy produces. Well, we could tell people to become vegetarians… If we were truly basing this on science we would. But it is a bit extreme. (Eric Rimm from the Department of Nutrition, Harvard).
However, it’s astonishing that many people automatically assume a plant based diet is extreme and will leave you deficient in important nutrients. There is such a big fuss that a plant based diet is restrictive and requires more careful planning to get your nutrients.
The reality is that most of us are already deficient in many nutrients on a predominantly normal animal based diet. The latest UK National Diet and Nutrition survey found that many nutrient deficiencies are commonplace among all ages.
Therefore, what’s the case for sticking with the status quo on an animal based diet?
Nutrition needs to be planned with any diet, not just a plant based diet. And as the British Dietetics Association implies, if you’re eating a variety of nutrient dense whole plant foods you’re likely to be getting most of the nutrients you need anyway.
The reality is many members of our society are addicted to animal products. When someone is an addict, they will typically make excuses in an attempt to rationalise their behaviour. Of course, by doing so, they are living in denial.
Denial to the fact that our demand to eat animal foods is killing over a billion animals a year just in the UK, is the leading cause of environmental damage and has been classified as a carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation. All the while, changing to a whole foods plant based diet has been proven to lower BMI, cholesterol and other risk factors for disease more than any other health intervention.
Yet we still carry on eating excessive amounts of animal products as though it’s normal.
That’s what’s extreme. Not changing to a plant based diet.
4) Low fat foods are good for you.
Many people associate the term low fat with healthy eating.
Some foods such as fruits and vegetables, are naturally low in fat and also nutritious.
However, the problem is with processed low-fat foods that often contain a lot of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. A recent study concluded that even though low fat products are lower calorie, the fact that they have a higher sugar content could have important health consequences.
For example, most low fat yoghurt has been stripped of what little nutrition it has and replaced with sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you can’t even pronounce.
Without fat yoghurt tastes like cardboard. Food manufacturers know this and so add ingredients to make it taste better. This is processed food as it’s stripping away what’s naturally present and replacing it with artificial ingredients.
Your body actually needs some fat to function and be able to absorb vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. However, the best way to get the fat you need is from natural whole foods such as avocados and nuts because they are unprocessed. Avoid anything that claims to be low fat on the packaging.
Ultimately, the idea that low-fat foods are healthy is an incorrect belief as they are often loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.
The best solution is to consume unprocessed, whole foods.
5) Jogging is healthy.
I’m not totally bashing jogging. Getting out in the fresh air and just getting moving is better than sitting on your ass. But this site and my purpose is all about evolving your health.
And there is a dark side to jogging: soft tissue injuries to the joints of the lower body and injuries to the feet, knees and hips are all too common amongst distance runners. There is a very limited range of motion, which leads to chronic tightness and loss of mobility. Think about when your jogging, your not really lifting your arms and legs that high.
To counter the above, a jogger would have to spend a great deal of time doing mobility and flexibility work.
But what about jogging for fat loss? Fat loss is why most people go jogging.
Studies consistently show sprinting and HIIT are far superior for fat loss and overall health when compared with low intensity exercise like jogging. A Study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, split twenty-seven women into three groups: one group did low-intensity running five days per week, the next did high-intensity sprints for just three days per week, and the third control group was instructed to skip exercise altogether.
After sixteen weeks the results were undeniable: The sprinters lost significant amounts of abdominal and thigh fat, and while the low-intensity group did improve their aerobic fitness, their body fat levels didn’t budge any more than the group who sat on their ass.
The optimal form of cardio for health is something that pushes your heart rate up and requires full body movement to challenge your body to increase mobility. Sprinting does this. See my guide on how to incorporate sprints into your workout.
Yet every time I go to the park I’m the only one sprinting and doing squat jumps for 20 minutes whilst everyone else is jogging for hours.
The idea that jogging for long periods is healthy is another classic example of the Mandela effect. If you do love jogging for the fun of it, try to stick to small distances (5-10k max), include some hill jogging and flexibility exercises to lessen the impact on the joints. This is key if you want to look after your long term overall health.
6) Focus on your goal. No pain, no gain.
In our society, health and fitness emphasises achievement over enjoyment. Were told you should focus on the goal, not the process. And if you aren’t feeling pain, you’re not working hard enough.
Goal setting is important to give you direction. However, if you don’t have some enjoyment in doing what it takes to achieve your goal I doubt you will be able to sustain it. Therefore, your goal is likely to be unattainable and most definitely unsustainable.
What makes me say that?
That’s some pretty terrifying statistics right there.
Yet it’s no wonder when the health and fitness industry bombards people with a no pain, no gain approach as the key to success.
People are intimidated by this. It sets unrealistic expectations for most people so they don’t even try to begin with.
Exercise needs to be about being more fun as well as getting a sweat on. It shouldn’t have to solely be a chore that people feel they should have to do.
Let’s be clear here: having goals and putting in some effort is important when exercising. In the beginning, goals can often be the catalyst for change and all exercise requires movement which takes effort.
However, the fixation on focusing solely on a goal and going through whatever pain is necessary to achieve it as the ONLY way to get fitter or healthier is another belief that needs to be questioned.
This is because the people who do well at something do it because they are consistent with the process and enjoy it. They don’t need to get themselves motivated because they already enjoy the process. For them, motivation is a result of action, not the other way around.
Ultimately, in the long-term, it’s an effective process that keeps you moving forward. And having some enjoyment in that process will result in you sustaining something in the long run.
So find some form of physical activity that you enjoy.
7) Air pollution is outdoors.
The quality of the air we breathe has a significant impact on our mental and physical health and wellbeing. When we think of air pollution we think of smog and toxic car fumes which are enough to make you want to stay indoors where you think you are safe. Yet, whilst outside air pollution is getting some attention, do you ever think about the quality of the air you breathe at work or at home?
Our ancestors spent most of their time outside. Today, of course, this is not the case. The average person spends at least 90% of their time inside buildings, as our needs have evolved from hunting for food to following social media updates.
Indoor air pollution is often overlooked. However, recent research indicates that indoor air pollution is worse than outside air pollution. It is one of the most serious environmental threats to your health, yet no agency in the UK can regulate it.
What makes this such a hidden health issue is that it’s not obvious to the senses, it’s invisible and odourless.
The main sources of indoor air pollution are chemicals from building materials, mould and bacteria, cleaning supplies, VOCs (which stands for volatile organic compounds) from cleaning materials, your dry cleaning, air fresheners, and even from furniture and paint. The majority of these products which are, ironically, designed to ‘freshen the air in our homes’ are actually polluting the air with harmful industrial chemicals.
Moreover, recent research indicates that recent building standards driving increased air tightness is exacerbating poor indoor air quality and has contributed to instances such as increased rates of asthma and allergies, highlighted in a study by the University of Exeter.
A recent study titled ‘Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution’ by the Royal College of Physicians, highlighted that while we know much about outdoor air pollution, we know little about indoor air pollution. What’s even more worrying is the lack of knowledge on impact on children who are more sensitive to increasing levels of chemicals.
So what can you do?
Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do do mitigate the impact of poor indoor air quality.
- Buy products that are fragrance-free and without many chemicals. Choose all-natural cleaning supplies or use vinegar and lemon. The products you use to clean your home end up in the air and on your furniture, ultimately making their way into your lungs.
- Ventilate your home simply by opening windows in the wet rooms and the kitchen. You should also leave the windows open while cleaning, regardless of what cleaners you use.
- Buy some houseplants. Houseplants do a great job of detoxifying the air in our homes, breathing in carbon monoxide and breathing out oxygen to purify the air. See this guide for some of the best plants.
Ultimately, believing that air pollution is all outside is another Mandela effect. However, having houseplants, natural housekeeping products and ventilating your home are simple things you can do to mitigate the risks of indoor air pollution.
8) Multitasking and working longer is more productive.
The traditional belief is that the more tasks you complete and the longer you work and the more you do, the better.
Many people have a big long list of things to do and jump around going from one to another and back and forth whilst constantly getting distracted. They also work insanely long hours thinking that the more time they spend doing something, the more they will achieve. Four hours of work produces twice as much output as two hours, etc.
This might be the case for very simple, repetitive work like packing boxes.
But for most brain-intensive work I don’t think we humans work in such a linear way. In fact, the idea of more, more, more is causing us to become more stressed and impact our mental health.
Moreover, if you actually focus on one thing and focus on it without getting distracted you’ll be more productive.
Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest elected US president and published nearly 50 books. Yet he only worked a few hours a day and napped regularly.
What mattered was the focused way he worked during those few hours: He put everything else aside and invested himself entirely in the task at hand.
And the latest science concurs with this approach to productivity.
It’s about quality over quantity.
It’s not being lazy as many people would have you believe. It’s being effective and focused with your time.
Instead of trying to do several things at once – and often none of them that well – to work in an effective way, you need to focus on one task and not get distracted.
Ultimately, the idea that more time working gets more done is another common example of the Mandela effect and it is negatively affecting our mental health. The most important thing you have to do is what you need to do next, and doing it to the best of your ability by focusing solely on that task.
What to take from this?
So what can you take from this?
The purpose of this post and in part this website isn’t about stating what’s right or wrong. It’s about applying some critical and rational thinking, reflecting and being open to at least question commonly held beliefs and social norms that impact our health.
Realise that right now, you’re likely walking around with some beliefs that your unconscious brain has convinced you are entirely true.
So strive to be a critical thinker. Be open minded and ask questions.
Don’t rely on google searches or social media for all of your information.
Ask who is the source? Who are they funded by? What is their motive?
Be OK with not being politically correct and following social norms.
Don’t look at one piece of the puzzle. Strive to see how it relates to other things. It’s about perspective.
I believe this to be essential if we are to create awareness and evolve our health.