You Can't Change Just One Thing (or I Can't)
why controlled trials are worth less than people think
It's hitting 110 degrees today. So yesterday I finally bought shadecloth to cover my sunken beds. "Bought shadecloth" is a deceptive to-do list item, as it involved figuring out which store sells the cloth, where in said store it's located (store, of course, being a very big box), and what sort of shadecloth to get.
This means there was some inertia toward that whole project, despite the fact that I'd wanted to do it for some time. Also in inertia limbo: fixing the fence, and cutting back dead weeds in order to reach the fence, for which I had to purchase the appropriate tool, a matter of $10 but still a matter of inertia.
Putting "buy shadecloth" and "put up shadecloth" on the to-do list was deceptive and unrealistic. It also magnifies my resistance to change. I stood there this morning with the roll of shadecloth, 7 o'clock and already 80 degrees, trying to figure out how to put it up without sky hooks. Standing, looking, hypothesizing, I recognized impatience in myself: I just wanted to "put up shadecloth," check it off the list, and go to my prayers and meditations.
I didn't want to get "behind with my routine" through conscious choice to attend to a task, but I mess up my schedule more often than I'd like through unconscious behavior--procrastinating, staying up too late, gawking at Google. I think I'd tarred "behind schedule" with the brush of "procrastinating." But hey, dummy! It's not getting behind schedule that's unconscious; it's the behavior itself.
Well, and perfectionism. How terrible to stand there and scratch my head and ponder and find a way to put up the shadecloth and then have it fall down as soon as the wind blows, as it tends to in the high heat, or to have it casting shade someplace other than on the plants. Well, that might happen. I did my best, and I accept I may have to redo.
But the point is, once I stood there, silent, looking at the situation, making space and respecting time for creation, the inertia shifted. Shadecloth up, I also hacked out the dead weeds and strewed them to provide extra shade, and I fixed the fence--small matter of three zip ties once I'd cleared the weeds--and as a side effect of that, I finally got to meet and talk with the neighbor on that side, who's a really neat lady.
And yes, when I got home at midday the cloth had blown down at one end. But I'd done a better job on the other end and was able to reverse engineer the fallen-down end to be more similar in its fastening. A good example of the "fail fast, fail better" adage. Better, as I did at 7 this morning, just to do something highly imperfect to get the thing up, and then when that didn't work out, inevitably I was able to figure out a different and better way far more readily.
The suggestion to eat the elephant one bite at a time, to chunk tasks, to take baby steps, and there are probably a dozen other cliches for the concept, is great advice to which I try to pay attention. But I also know that once one thing starts to shift, many other things may too. I go to press out one tincture; very likely I'll press out several, start another one, tidy up my herb cupboard. Go to dust my desk, I'll probably end up dusting the bookshelves and windowsills too.
And why should this be any different with scientifically controlled studies? Even in randomized/placebo controlled/double blind etc. etc. gold standard studies, there are things that change simultaneously that are not accounted for. Not to mention the fact that, as I alluded to in the previous post, the very change itself of entering into the trial will create transitional changes of its own that will impact perceived results.
The perfect macronutrient ratios and meal timing for my body system might not yield perfect results during my transition onto it. If I'm also doing less well because of preexisting mineral deficiencies, that's truly no detraction from the suitability of the ratios and timings, but it might be seen as such by researchers.
Thankfully, I know that if I listen quietly enough, I will know what is working and what isn't. If I do "a-b testing" to try to figure out which of two foods is causing an issue, I can factor in for the inevitable moving goalposts and get some clarity. The truth of the matter is, this is the best I could hope for from far more sophisticated tests also. At best they'll give me a snapshot of effects being created. But the cause of those effects is always going to be more complex than "you need to eat less saturated fat because your cholesterol is high" (which is a thoroughly dead horse outside of much of the medical profession now, a hilarious thing).
Still, though, changing too many variables at once can mess with your head, especially when trying to figure out ideal macronutrients and meal timing/frequency. Looking on the bright side, when I bring awareness to the fact that changing one thing gives me momentum to change several things, I can use this to help baffle subconscious biases I might have as to what the right answer "should" be.
Because, after all, nothing is perfect.