Last week I was lucky enough to attend a Supplement Symposium in Canberra at the AIS, where the current situation of supplement use in Australian sport was discussed, and robustly debated. One of my key take homes from this fantastic two days was about the power of belief.
Dr David Martin, senior sports physiologist at the AIS started the two days with a talk titled ‘believing is seeing’. His key message? Believing in something can have a performance effect. A number of research papers were discussed, which you can find here, here, and here, which shows that belief in how well a substance works is more important than the true effect of it. In particular, McClung and Collins finding that ‘believing one had taken the substance resulted in times almost as fast as those associated with consuming the drug itself’, and that consumption without knowledge resulted in no significant performance improvement is a very significant finding, and highlights that belief and anticipation of what will happen changes the way the brain processes…thus belief can have a performance effect.
This resulted in an important ethical dilemma; to make the athlete believe, or to use evidence AND belief to guide them. As accredited practicing dietitians, doctors and exercise physiologists in the room, all of us are required to use evidence as our base when providing guidance, however this really highlighted to me the importance of the athlete or client in not only believing what I am saying is true, but they must believe in it working for them to get the maximum benefit.
Tara Diversi came up not long after, and discussed how we can use marketing to compete with diet fads. She has been researching the use of a marketing term called ‘laddering’, which is where you ask someone why they are doing something. In a nutshell, interviews were undertaken with followers of both a paleo style diet and a raw vegan diet. Both groups answers were the same; they reported feeling healthier, felt they were able to work better, had better connection with the community, thus a sense of belonging, along with a feeling of uniqueness from the rest of society. Again, belief that this was the best thing for them, (for whatever reason), was the reason for following it.
For me, this reinforced the importance of our clients having trust in us, and believing 100% what we say to be the best thing for them. Along with that, believing in yourself and your abilities is likely to get you much further, with whatever you want to achieve.
What do you believe in? Do you think this has influenced where you are today?
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you'd like our help in managing diet-related health issues.