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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Be Smart About Being Educated

Our health and well-being is one area where we are usually look for and research information, and there is no shortage of sources to educate ourselves. It is admirable when someone has a condition, that they do their best to educate themselves in the best course of action, whether it be treatments, lifestyle changes, etc. However, with this education being so readily available, there is often one place where we fall short - taking what we see at face value without any additional research.

Last holiday season, I had a family member who was pregnant come to a holiday meal. One of the things at the meal was a salad with bottled Caesar dressing. This family member demanded a different salad dressing because 'she was pregnant and pregnant women can't eat Caesar dressing'. I found her different dressing, but quietly explained to her that the reason Caesar dressing was off-limits was because some Caesar dressings are made with raw eggs, and it is really the raw eggs that they advise women stay away from. With bottled dressing, the eggs would not remain raw due to the bottling process, so bottled dressing should have been fine. She was surprised because she had no idea that raw eggs was the reason she couldn't eat the dressing - not the type of dressing itself. Later that season, the same relative came to dinner again, and it was announced that the meal would be lasagna. Again, I was informed that this family member was pregnant (because I had apparently forgotten), and 'she can't eat lasagna because it contains ricotta cheese, and ricotta cheese is a soft cheese, and pregnant women can't eat soft cheeses'. At this point, I was very irritated. Not only do I work with pregnant women, I have two children, so I have experienced being pregnant and what is and isn't safe to eat during that time. I once again explained that the cheese would be cooked when the lasagna was cooked, so therefore the cheese would be safe - the concern with soft cheeses was bacteria that could grow in those cheeses, however cooking would handle any issues. All was resolved, but it really got me thinking. I was especially intrigued because this relative is considered to be way more educated than me - she has a higher degree and a job in a medical field, so how could she be so easily sucked in by partial and incomplete information?

I credit her for doing her due diligence. She was expecting, so she did her homework and learned that there were foods that she should and shouldn't eat, and did her best to stick to that information. However she never bothered to learn why. Yes, she shouldn't eat certain foods, but why shouldn't she have eaten those foods? She had no clue why she was jumping through the hoops she needed to jump through. This is something we see a lot. People read the headline, but not the article. The headline is there to catch your attention, scare you, make you want to read the more detailed information within the article, but so many people don't do that. They read the headline and take that as the fact and spread the headline with no additional explanation or details. This can lead to a spread of mis-information, false confidence, or unnecessary fear.

Sometimes people, organizations, and even advertisers can use this short-sightedness to take advantage of people or push products, services, or agendas. I see it with specialized services in spas, or even exercise clubs and classes. They will advertise a service or class, and people blindly sign up for the service or class without really looking into what it entails, or looking deeper into who is offering the service. If you are getting a specialized service, it is important to know the credentials of the person performing the service. Are they considered an expert in that service, or do they only have a base knowledge and they just worked there long enough to be able to pick up how to do it? If you are taking an exercise class, is the instructor going to know how to best help you to reach the goals of the class, or are they just regurgitating information that they learned while they were a student there? I have treated many clients who 'tried out a new ___ class' because they researched the type of class and felt that it would be good for their needs, but they ended up injured because the instructor just gave the exercises and didn't bother looking at each student to correct their form, or noticing if they needed a modification. Usually with more research after the fact, it was discovered that the instructor didn't really specialize or hold advanced training in that particular class, they just worked at the club and the club wanted to offer something new. Once again - the headline of the class looks good, but if you don't research the instructor's credibility, you could end up hurt. We are seeing it about to erupt in full-force with politics ramping up towards election times. Lots of headlines - but it is up to us to read beyond the headlines to get the details.

During the meal which I had to reassure my relative about the lasagna, her husband started asking questions about a multitude of other foods and pregnancy-related changes that they had made, and when I revealed the details behind several other foods she had been avoiding, he exclaimed, "You mean we could have been eating X,Y, and Z this whole time?!" So yes, it pays to read beyond the headlines to get the full details.

Just remember a few things when you are looking to gather information: 1. What is the source? 2. What are the details behind it? 3. Is this genuine information, or just what I want to see/find? 4. Why is this? It is absolutely important to educate yourself on anything and everything, but be sure to be smart and also take the time to learn the why behind the information you are learning.

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