Health Zombie (n):
“Someone who mindlessly follows everything one, or a small few people say about how to be healthy without taking the time to think it over”.
I first heard the term ‘health zombie’ or ‘health robot’ on +Sean Croxton‘s blog years and years ago, but it is something that I have come across a lot recently… it’s like there has been an outbreak!
I’m sure it is something we are all guilty of to some extent – you stumble upon someone who agrees with your ideas, and seems to make sense, so you make the assumption that everything they say is right, and doesn’t need questioning. You then get very defensive and dismissive against ideas and research which opposes your ideas. People don’t like being wrong, myself included, and I think this is quite a natural reaction. However, if everyone did this, science would not progress. It is ok to change your mind based on new information.
I am guilty of this, but I am getting better. I realized I had become a zombie when I was younger. When I first showed an interest in health I was given the Optimum Nutrition Bible, and it was my only reference for nutrition at the time. The basics of what it preached were in keeping with what I already knew (such as vitamin C being an antioxidant, so foods high in vitamin C are good), so it seemed logical to assume that the whole book was right. It led to quite a rude awakening when I found out that the author (Patrick Halford) was little more than a joke in the nutrition world, and was advocating ancient pseudo-science as fact…
Still, it was a very valuable lesson for me.
Is there a cure to Health Zombies?
Of course there is, or at least, I have found something which helps to prevent my mindless following of specific schools of thought, and that is keeping an open mind (which is a lot harder than it sounds).
When I find I am making my mind up on a topic I always try and prove myself wrong. If I cannot prove myself wrong with all the current evidence, no matter how hard I try, then I can be pretty sure I am right. Play devils advocate to yourself, it really is amazing how things look from the other side of the argument.
But you do need to be selective with sources, for example, I wouldn’t consider the mindless drivel that you see on this page as a valuable source, if anything, the blatant lies and abundance of inaccuracies in the text make for a laughable yet frustrating read. However, I would consider a review from the Cochrane group as a valuable source, they have the reputation and morals for accurate scientific reviews. If the Cochrane group published a summary which was contradictory to my understanding of a subject, I would have to seriously re-consider my position.
All this research takes time, and you need to know where and how to research. It took me two years of being at university to really understand how to research – there really is a certain way to it! I am fortunate in some respects in that it is now largely my job to do this, and I also quite like it – I feel like I am myth busting.
But not everyone has this, so it is easy for most people to become a zombie. You don’t have to think, you just live how your chosen zombie leader tells you. To this there is no cure, but, if you just give everything you have heard a good think, or try and look at it from a different angle, you might be able to ward off some of the more serious symptoms.
Image courtesy of zufallsfaktor