I care about the lowcarb 'field' online, because it's mine, because meeting and communicating with others about it is important to me. I care about the lowcarb 'image' in media, because I deal with the social result of miseducation in others every day. I care about lowcarb eating 'accuracy' in practice, because I've come to understand how unhealthy eating can mess up lives, and because I've seen the grief and physical problems it has caused in people I care about. I just care about lowcarb, period, because I know how helpful lowcarb can be when done well.
Like any major "guiding force" in my life, I feel that I have certain physical, ethical, psychological, and behavioral obligations to meet concerning That Thing I Hold So True. When you love something, it is an honor to serve it. When you truly care about something, you care about more than the here/now of it. It becomes a larger topic; it becomes a way of life, a "path you walk", a life-philosophy.
Recently I've been thinking about what this means to me, in the context of my communications online. The internet is the primary media doorway for legitimate lowcarb information. There are good books, but they are nearly buried in the quantity of bad books and misinformation. There is typical "media", but it is so dominantly skewed in favor of money/corporatism rather than health, it's more harm than help. What is left are people. One by one, and tens of thousands at a time, in giant 'discussion forums' and on blogs big and small, like this one.
After thinking about this for nearly two weeks, and thinking about what I would like to say and how I would like to say it, I think the best way is simply to present what I consider my own beliefs and 'personal standards' for "operating in the lowcarb world." I am just one person, and perhaps others have different standards; well actually, they do, that much is obvious. But these are mine, for whatever it is worth to share them with my friends and potential-friends here on my blog.
Maybe if this kind of thing were considered by more folks on this road, there would be less controversy, contention and frustration in lowcarb's internet homes.
Walking the Path: 10 Tenets of Online Lowcarbing
1. I will be honest about my practice of lowcarb.
- If I follow a given eating plan "except" some factors, I will say both clearly.
- If I implement other strategies, such as carb cycling or higher fat or lowered calories, I will say that clearly.
- If I don't really follow a given eating plan, no matter how popular, I will not claim that I do.
I can easily put this in any forum 'profile notes', on a free blog page, or mention it in passing. If I fail to do this, I misrepresent both what I am doing, and what I am not doing. Lowcarb has enough misinformation, media-spawned confusion, and variants, that it doesn't need me further murking-up the pool of clarity with an inability to just be plain and honest.
It's me putting the food in my mouth--how hard can just being clear about it be?
2. I will be understanding about others' practice of low or controlled carb.
- If someone is on the Burn the Fat eating plan rather than Protein Power, or South Beach rather than Atkins, I will not be so rude as to interfere with what works for them.
- Sometimes what works for us requires time and experimentation, so even if what they are doing is NOT working for them, that is for them to realize and do something about, not me. I can only 'advise' gently.
- I will share what works for me, but I will phrase this as 'sharing' or 'ideas' when talking with others on different eating plans, not as preaching.
This is necessary to any degree of intelligent communication with other humans online, whether in forums, blogs or other. From diabetes to thyroid issues, everybody's body is a little bit unique. What works for me isn't what works for everybody.
Within what I consider "reason" (of something being at least potentially healthy for at least some people), I will respect that this is an individual path for all of us, and I will not mock, scold or scorn someone for choices they have the right to make for themselves.
3. Notwithstanding the above, I will not be a party to advice or environments that encourage people toward unhealthy and even seriously dangerous practices.
- Everybody has a different level of exposure to information, and a different level of understanding regarding nutrition. I will make an effort to share what I feel is valid information, for those new and enthusiastic souls who are still on a learning curve.
- I will not allow my own bad habits, such as eating unhealthy food on occasion, to become 'justification' for others new to lowcarb doing so. If I want to ingest nitrates or frankenfoods that's my decision, and I can share good recipes, but counseling people new to lowcarb on why eating this crap is A-OK is not helping lowcarb or them either. Kicking the habit of eating crappy food is half the battle. If I'm selling them on why they don't need to, that isn't helping them, get real, that's just selfish rationalization.
- Enthusiasm often substitutes for legitimacy in online environments and leads people down dark roads. If I see someone telling others to do something I think is unhealthy for everyone or anyone, such as eating 500 calories a day or starving entirely for example, I will share my contrary views. Politely but clearly, so people have no reason to have a bad association with the info I provide.
Nobody is an expert instantly. I will not willingly allow people new to lowcarb, or who are clearly not familiar with basic tenets of health, to be misled into unhealthy behaviors without at least providing my own input as an alternative.
The decision may be theirs, but for that to have any meaning, they must have some alternatives from which to choose.
4. I will put health and honesty before personal ego or profit.
- When two people use an eating plan and one does not get the same results, it means they are not the same human, is all. If one acts like the other is lying or cheating, it means they are more vested in their plan being "right" than in anybody's health. I will avoid such behavior, and point it out when I see it in others.
- Should I have the opportunity to acquire something of value to me based on my communications about lowcarb, from a job to advertising monies to editorial rights to internet 'staff' authority, I will use it for good, not evil. I will consider the first three "points of the path" to be even more important in direct correlation with how big an influence I may have on others.
- I will strenuously avoid anything even close to a conflict of interest, and I will openly disclose, such as in a constant signature, any formal affiliations I have with any group, company or organization which might potentially bias my communications.
- If I cannot avoid some major conflict of interest, such as blogging about something that pays me for example, I will make a blog just for that, I will point out clearly near the top what my association / affiliation is, and I will not attempt to run what might amount to "blogverts" (blog posts) or forum posts under the heading of allegedly balanced reporting on a personal blog. If I'm making a serious profit off it or my ego or reputation is tied to it, then it cannot be considered truly unbiased by any stretch.
There is enough misinformation and conflicts of interest in the mainstream media and mainstream medicine. Do I really need to add to that with my own brand of lowcarb greed or disingenuity?
I want to help the lowcarb online world online toward clarity in all areas--not muddy it for my own potentially selfish purposes.
5. I will not abuse any 'power' that my lowcarb communications give me.
- If I keep a blog, and I allow anonymous (which can also just mean "doesn't have a blogger account") comments, I will not then verbally abuse people for using that option.
- If I keep a blog, and I allow comments, I will not refuse to post comments with critique (or only post comments with critique that say, 'you probably won't post this', to make it look like I'm honest, but then withhold others). There is a difference between spam/trolls and honest if snarky or angry feedback. For me to "secretly editorialize" by only letting certain comments through would be to essentially lie to all my blog readers by misrepresenting the actual interaction on my blog. This completely contradicts the whole nature of honest blogging and I will not be a party to that.
- If I blog something, and someone comments negatively on it, and I choose to change that blog content, I will make a note in the blog post itself, such as striking out the old text and then saying, "Edited to:" and then putting the new text. I will not change my text without notice once someone has commented on that part of the text. I will especially not then pretend a commenter was deluded or wrong for having commented on "what I didn't say" if in fact, I had definitely said it when they made the comment. That is not just violating 'honest blogger ethics', it's a form of blog-fraud. I won't do it.
- If I should be given staff power in any website, whether one of my own or one I work with owned by someone else, I will not modify the content of anybody else's online materials, such as for example taking a negative comment toward me, and rewriting it into a positive comment toward me. This is not mere 'lack of honesty', this is actual fraud. I won't do it.
Communication is all that exists on the internet. If communication cannot be trusted to be honest according to its own alleged policies, that internet outlet is more harm than help to lowcarb as a whole. This kind of thing is sometimes buried in a lot of hype and volume and popularity, but eventually, net-karma comes around.
Staff, editors and bloggers who behave that way will get less support and respect in the very community where that ought to matter most, and to the very people, such as leaders of the field, to whom their reputation as low-carb media online ought to matter most.
6. If I must complain, I will attempt to do so based on issues, not personalities.
- If person A is a numbskull for suggesting the Cinnamon Toothpick Diet as a healthy alternative to weight loss, I will not attack person A for being a numbskull. Rather, I will attack the Cinnamon Toothpick Diet for being moronically unhealthy. There is a difference, no matter that these things might be related.
- If Person B has a history and presentation that suggests somewhere there is probably fraud, based on things like their student-success-stories seeming like doctored photos, their own timeline of claims being inconsistent, their own bizarre refusal for years to share evidence of their much-vaunted success, or their own before and after photos appearing to be different people and/or reverse age-dates, then I will pick on all those issues as I wish, but I'll pick on the issues, not the person.
- It is not my job to stalk Person A or B because I 'suspect' he or she is a cheat, liar, fraud, idiot, etc. It is however perfectly within my rights to question and discuss those "issues" in the lowcarb community at large. Should it turn out those issues find proof, I would then be within my rights to report the person to authorities or expose them in my media, but it still would not be because of the person, it would be because of the issues. Stalking is personal. Issues are not.
- If someone disagrees with me on a forum, I will take this to mean they disagree with me. I will not take this to mean they woke up this morning determined to ruin my day because they are evil. Debates, no matter how spirited, do not need to be personal. If they are about 'perspective' (opinion) and not 'facts' (information), then yes, they might get a *little* personal, but I will try to refrain from calling people numbskulls. In public, anyway.
- If I choose to post something on my blog about an issue making me mad and centered on an individual place or person, I will address the issue at large. If I call someone or something a name, it will be something that I simply feel communicates, with humor, my opinion. Such as "Kimorexia" for the insane-lowcal plan variants (and constant advice toward that and fasting) in the Kimkins diet, or "the Fatzi Regime" for the overwhelming cultural bias against fat people. I will not however address individual people or places as Nazis or SOBs because, well, that would be juvenile and ridiculous. One is a statement on a thing; the other is a statement on people.
Conversation with ten other people is difficult enough, never mind with 10,000 other people on a forum. Lowcarb is a great thing, and most self-education people get about it besides a few books, is via online forums and blogs, so keeping those forums and blogs to the point of education instead of nasty flames or abuse, is important.
People do not learn from information packaged in a post that offends them.
7. I will work to walk the fine line of supporting people who need it, yet not supporting dysfunctional or addictive behavior.
- I am happy to encourage someone to keep on, to start anew, to recognize what they do well. I will not however let my time get sucked into someone repeatedly whining about how they just can't get their act together for their health. I am sorry about that, and I'll work to be a good model and supporter, but I'll not become an internet codependent for their issues. It doesn't help either of us.
- I will be honest about what I think, within the bounds of diplomacy a given environment requires. If I think someone really should read the damn book before asking everyone to sum up 300 pages in a forum sound-byte, I will say so. I do lowcarb and its people no service by catering to those who refuse to bother with self-education. That mentality is doomed from the start anyway.
- If I think person A is being unfair to person B, I will make a point to say so if I have time. Both people and all onlookers only know the views of those who share. Too often, people think the world is against them just because one person disagreed in a poor way and nobody else said anything. I will work to be sensitive to how people feel about this kind of thing and to support people who need it when I can.
- I will work to understand and support that people have unique metabolism and biochemistry issues, lose weight at different rates, and even need or don't need to "fall off the wagon" at different rates. A young person who is busy and lives alone can often do lowcarb far more easily than an older sedentary person who has a house filled with junk for their spouse and others and constant church/social/family eating environments. That is just the way it is. I admire anybody who "keeps on keeping on" with their dietary plan; perfection with it is admirable, but since lifestyles are as different as bodies, it is not fair to bias against those who aren't perfect.
- I will take full responsibility for my own decisions. If I blow it and eat crappy food, it's because I chose to. Usually the reason has more to do with eating properly in the 48 hours prior to that decision, than it has to do with the 'event' of the decision itself, and anybody lowcarbing for very long ought to realize that. But the decision was mine. I will own my decisions and not try to project responsibility for them onto family members, birthday parties, etc.
Strength of character is part of result of accomplishment in lowcarb as well as anything else. We get nowhere by playing the victim. If we eat well and weight loss is slow or worse, that is fair to whine about. If we choose to eat pizza every 10 days and weight loss is slow or worse, that's our own doing.
Responsibility is the key to power.
8. I will attempt to promote lowcarb in a way that matches the environments I choose.
- Online forums and blogs all have their own 'mood'. No forum is required to give free reign to people who don't communicate in a way that meets their standards. They own it, that's policy. It's no different than going into the house of someone of a different culture, or religion: while in Rome, do as the Romans do, as the saying goes. I will not use the F-word in comments on family-natured blogs, and I will not be harshly snarky in kinder-gentler forums, although I might do either in areas where that is more appropriate.
- If I am in the no-carb forum I will not wax on about the glory of Broccoli and avocados. They do not care and they don't really want to hear it. If I'm in the low-carb forum I will not wax on about why vegetables are pointless and unnecessary. They are low-carb using veggies for what they get, not no-carb. If I'm in the journal of someone doing the South Beach diet, I will not wax on about why even brown rice sucks for blood sugar. This is just not the time or place. Being 'supportive' in an inappropriate place usually equates to being argumentative or even a troll. All things in balance.
Even inside the low-, no- and controlled- carb "field" on the internet, there are substantially different approaches. It is possible to support them all, or at least ignore the ones of no interest, without offending others. A lot of people desperately depend on the ideas, education and support they get online. Online-warfare drives a lot of people off, and this can literally affect their likelihood of staying on plan.
Communication is supposed to be for at least two people. If it's only for me, it's just self-absorption.
9. I will not willingly or openly support individuals, companies, groups or products which I feel either do harm to lowcarb, or violate the most basic tenets of online decency that the lowcarb field has a right to expect and well deserves.
- If I consider a forum's staff abusive, I will not link to them or participate on their boards.
- If I consider a blogger's behavior unethical, I will not link to them or participate in their comments.
- If I consider a company or product to be unhealthy or unethically promoted, I will not link to them or let pass their promotion without comment.
There is a saying that goes something like, "The only thing that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing." As big a pain in the butt as it sometimes is, and as politically incorrect as it sometimes is, I feel morally obliged to do something. Maybe not loudly, maybe not abusively, maybe not while naming names, because I wish to focus on issues, behavior and facts more than personalities.
I will not be a passive party to wrongdoing or things I feel are a detriment to lowcarb's media, online field or communications.
10. I will constantly work to see the positive in the eating plan that is healthy for me, and I will attempt to use any influence I have to display the positive and the healthy.
- I will not whine about the fact that I cannot have rice, or apple pie. I will rejoice in the fact that cauliflower can make a mock 'chicken fried rice' that rocks, that zucchini can make a mock 'apple cobbler' tht rocks, and do my best to share recipes and enthusiasm both online and offline.
- I will not whine about the fact that eating Gluten causes me allergic response and gluten-free flours are high-carb. (Ok... not much. :-)) I will instead work on finding and coming up with great lowcarb recipes that are also gluten free and share them with others.
- I will not whine about the fact that at least mild exercise is eventually needed for decent ongoing weight loss, muscle retention, and general health. I will instead work to find whatever level and type of it I am capable of doing, and share my enthusiasm with others about it. Even if I have to manufacture enthusiasm nightly to get myself to pick up that dumbbell.
- I will not whine about how lowcarb is just so hard because the world surrounds me with sugar/carb-laden foods and food-based holidays. Everybody is in that situation. The Amish and Vegetarians and Kosher folks manage to eat what they should despite other things calling their names, so why should it be so much more unfair for lowcarbers? If I want sweet crepes and ice cream I will do my best to find or create a lowcarb version of this that allows me to feel pampered and decadent, while not screwing up my health or that of others I'm feeding it to.
Lowcarb isn't a food prison, it's an amazing opportunity to truly explore a lot of awesome food choices here on "God's Green Earth" that most of us completely missed in our Mac&Cheese/McDonalds upbringings. But for most people new to it, or those who have operated mostly alone rather than in big online forums, it can be a sort of sad food experience. This is their lack of education about what is possible, is all, and I can help improve that. That doesn't mean I'll never have a recipe with a processed food ingredient in it. It just means I'll work very hard to have recipes, instead of references to packaged lowcarb junkfoods.
I want to provide encouragement and enthusiasm to others about eating real, healthy foods that not only taste good but do good for their bodies.
There's probably some things I left out. But these are the ten primary tenets that I consider most important to online interaction concerning lowcarb.
If you like them, link to them, to "remind" others. Or make your own.
I think it's a worthy effort. The more we care about the 'online lowcarb field', the healthier IT is likely to be.