“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”
TTP reader Brandon McNamara asked the following question recently to the Theory to Practice Facebook group (I’ve taken the liberty of some re-phrasing and paraphrasing – any instance of atrocious grammar and/or mangled sentence structure is therefore squarely on me):
Hey All –
I was wondering if anyone was interested in exploring the possibility of submitting a proposal for a competition for designing better health. The idea is to create “nudges” (see description below if you aren’t familiar with the term) in order to help people make better decisions regarding their own health and the health of others.
I think we may have some good habits that could be applied to others in order to help them make better decisions when it comes to eating and exercise.
Here’s the competition description:
What is a “nudge”?
A “nudge” is a subtle “carrot” (or, it could just as well be a stick) that serves to steer one toward a “middle way”, encouraging better decision making without taking away one’s freedom to choose. What is sought is a centrist path between the one side that believes freedom comes from having as many choices as possible, and the other side, that believes freedom comes from the simplicity of being able to accept or reject one good choice.
Here’s an example of a Nudge in action:
Take TB Meds, Get Mobile Minutes.
I look forward to the discussion!
While I can’t say that I’ve read the book, Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein, (by the way, the provided link includes a couple of good interview video clips & a written interview/summary of the book), I have read extensively (magazine, Internet) over the last week or so about the concept. In addition, the Nudge blog offers some good reading and insight to compliment that information contained in the Amazon, Nudge book link, cited above.
And after mulling over the concept, I’ve come away with a few ways to implement a “personal nudge” that I think would work (for me, personally at least); however, the “carrot and/or stick” concept falls to pieces when the attempt is made to morph this idea into a group dynamic. I’ve also found that it’s easier to come up with positive, or “do” nudges than it is to create a corollary, negative, “don’t” version. And dietary changes – at least in the initial stages – are usually more about “don’ts” and substitutions. This is especially true if we’re talking about eliminating certain foodstuffs – grains, refined carbohydrates, say — altogether, while retaining the good choices. Another major obstacle, of course, is that whatever defined “governing entity” – that “organization” which would ostensibly oversee the “nudging process”, would have to agree at the onset as to what, exactly, to nudge toward. Appropriately, a nudge in the broad direction of “better health” won’t work well, precisely because “good health” is too obtuse, too vague, and not easily defined. A good nudge needs to be readily (and narrowly) defined — and a little more concrete — to be effective in eliciting positive change.
I would suggest that, for a beginning point, common ground could be found in, say, identifying foods and actions that can be proven to promote favorable blood profiles – cholesterol levels, triglycerides, C-reactive protein and insulin levels, as an example – but as Richard (of Free the Animal) has so deftly pointed out in his LDL series, here (part 1, and part 2), do we really want to use the mainstream’s definition of a “favorable” blood profile to be used as a benchmark? The obvious answer is no, and herein lay the crux of the “group dynamic” problem vis-a-vis the nudge concept.
Now, it might very well be that “nudging” toward improved health may actually be a subsequent step (I’m speaking from, say, a national prospective) to first re-defining what a favorable blood profile really consists of in the first place. Readers of TTP are, of course, familiar with what constitutes a healthy blood profile, however, the mainstream is still largely aloof – not to mention clueless as to how a western diet serves to negatively affect these critical blood parameters. It seems to me then, that first pushing for a re-definition of measured “health” – maybe via a venue like Change.Gov, for example – is a sensible first step. I think that it’s critical to first correctly define the goal, in no uncertain terms. Then, let the war begin as to how best achieve those parameters.
But I am just one person, time restricted, and attempting to cobble together far-flung ideas. What do you think? What are some personal nudges you’ve implemented to help guide you along your Paleo path? And could these same nudges (or tweaked versions of the nudges) work under the unique demands of a group dynamic? Where – and how – should the deck-plate level initiate on “overall health” be established? Assuming that for a wholesale change in the general population’s attitude to occur, first the mainstream scientific community’s mindset must be altered (knowledge trickle-down effect) – how best would an interest go about this?
Let me know your thoughts. Because, the truth of the matter is, like it or not, a more universal-style of health management is likely on the horizon. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to at least think that I publicly, and intelligently, voiced an opinion on the matter.