December 6, 2018 | Katherine Adams
Every day, people decide they would like to make a change in their diet and try to lose weight. And many of them fail because they don’t understand how to take the scientific evidence about good nutrition and actually change their lifestyle and eating habits, says Keith Norris, chief development officer, founder and owner of Paleo f(x).
Norris offered his perspective on this problem based on 30 years as a health coach, and suggested some solutions as a speaker at University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Low Carb Houston conference, which took place Oct. 25-17. “It’s not easy to deliver scientific knowledge to a lay public and make them use it to change their habits,” Norris said.
The Low Carb Houston conference, presented by UH-Clear Lake’s Exercise and Nutritional Health Institute, addressed the influence of poor nutrition on chronic disease while focusing on research evidence and clinical experience supporting the success of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat lifestyle to improve health. Over 20 health, medical and nutrition professionals from all over the world spoke to more than 220 attendees.
“People don’t resonate with scientific information. The lay public is not likely to take action because they don’t understand it, so they fail,” Norris said. “The question is, how can we package the information so that people can act on it?”
He said that smokers have known for decades that cigarettes are bad for their health. “Yet people still smoke. Why? It’s not because of a lack of access to information. The people who assembled at the Low Carb Houston conference were probably all the kind who will act on the evidence they receive about something that affects their health,” he said. “But there’s a wide swath of the population that will not accept the evidence and act. And that’s what my presentation was about: how to actually get people to change their habits.”
There’s no shortage of scientific labor, Norris added. “The problem lies in the delivery. If we look at the landscape of American health care, it will trainwreck under the weight of the very chronic diseases we were discussing at the conference. Piling on the evidence is good, but it’s not enough. The missing element is between scientific work and health coaching, where we coach people to take the action and change their habits.”
There’s only a very small segment of the population who can “just do it”—and Norris said that group was highly overrepresented at the Low Carb Houston conference. “The majority of the people will look at the evidence, nod, and make no changes,” he said. “That means the current coaching models only work for a small portion of the population. As co-founder of Paleo f(x), I break the science down so that a lay person can understand it. One of our goals is to educate coaches on how to transfer this information. That’s where there’s movement, and that’s the missing piece. We have plenty of evidence, but not enough actual change of habits.”
Norris said that he was targeting insurance companies, lobbyists, government agencies and any others in a position to influence large segments of the population. “Politicians are just people in the lay public who have a lot of influence,” he said. “The psychology of habit change is important to understand. Right now, we just present scientific evidence to people and that’s all. That’s why we’re failing. We need to address the disconnect between the public and credible science.”
He added that he envisioned a new position in the health care spectrum. “It needs to be filled with people with scientific knowledge and the ability to coach habit change. This isn’t identified or emphasized at all, and it has to change, or the financial healthcare train wreck that is happening will continue,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not supported by the current health care system, and not viewed as important by the population. The missing element is to get both sides to recognize this.”
For more information about UHCL’S Exercise and Nutritional Health Institute, visit www.uhcl.edu/exercise-nutritional-health-institute.