I read a book last week about osteoporosis and diet. Its main aim seemed to be to debunk the Calcium Myth – to prove that eating dairy had nothing whatsoever to do with bone health and that the true root to bone health is a low acid diet – little to no animal products and lots of fruit and veggies.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this very sensible advice. We’ve all known for a long time that a diet low in animal products and high in plant foods is one of the keys to good health (although personally I believe that there is no point in changing your diet at all if you are not prepared to move a lot, but that’s another post for another day). No, my problem with this book was its tone. It implied that if you had any kind of bone density issues it was your own fault for not eating the diet this book claimed you should be eating.
What if, like me, you’d been eating a good diet for years – almost exactly how the book sets it out, plus you’ve been doing all your weightbearing exercises – walking everywhere, Pilates, Yoga? What if even with that you have the early stages of osteoporosis? And what if you know when you were younger, much younger, you didn’t look after yourself as well as you might?
Here comes the self-blame
What happens is you start to feel guilty. You start to think «well if I’d just eaten better/not smoked/done more exercise/fill in appropriate blank when I was 22 then I might not be here now at 37″. You think of all the things you may have done wrong during your life, all the things you should have done differently.
For the record, I hate the word «should». I think it «should» be banned (ha ha). We do the best we can with the tools and knowledge that are available to us at the time. And for many people lots of dairy products is the go-to calcium resource. Even my doctor suggested lots of yoghurt when my bone density scan came back.
We all know we do our best. But somewhere along the line, at some point, every single one of us is made to feel that doing our best just isn’t good enough.
That’s human nature
I’m quite sure it wasn’t the intention of the author of the book I was reading to make me blame myself for any health issues I may have but I do think it’s important to remember that many of us beautifully flawed human beings do blame ourselves for our shortcomings and do constantly strive to be better than the best we can be. We’re not meant to be perfect, but just try telling a human being that!
Sadly this particular book isn’t the only example I’ve come across recently of putting the blame for pain, bad posture, digestive problems etc back onto the client, reader or student. And it’s completely the wrong way of going about helping anyone. Nobody ever did anything worthwhile out of a feeling of guilt.
What can we do about it?
Well I think the most important thing to remember as teachers, therapists, writers is that ultimately we must show compassion and kindness to our client base. People have come to us or are reading our books because they want to do something about their aches and pains or other ailments. Actually admitting there is something wrong is the first, and most difficult, step of the process. They have come to your office or clinic or have bought your book because they don’t know what to do to get better, or at least to not get worse. What’s happened in the past is done. It is our job as teachers and therapists to share the knowledge we have with our clients, to help them let go of suffering and take ownership of their health.
We need to remember how easily we blame ourselves for our failings and that our clients will be doing exactly the same. Which is why we need to provide a safe space for our clients to move forward without making them feel guilty for what has happened.
There are certain things which, as a yoga teacher and massage therapist are outside my scope of practice. Blame is outside of everyone’s scope of practice.