Twenty-seven years old. Finishing medical school to enter a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Peter Attia (just Peter at the time) was on top of the world!
Until the back pain started. What began as one day calling in sick turned into two, then a week, and before long he needed assistance just to get up and go to the doctor.
Long-story short, Dr. Attia’s back pain turned out to be a debilitating injury, he went through a slew of surgical procedures (some successful, others not so much) and had to learn how to move all over again. As a result, fifteen years later he actually has a stronger back now than he did before. Why? Because he’s had to learn how to move without putting strain on his back, which is the way we’re supposed to move anyway. When he bends over to pick something up, he uses his legs, not his back. When he leans over a sink, he supports himself with his arm. Small (but crucial) adaptations like this have made him healthier and stronger than before.
So, what does this have to do with nutrition?
Like Dr. Attia and how he incorrectly used his back the first 27 years of his life, many people eat in an ‘unconsciously incorrect’ manner. They don’t actually know they are eating the wrong way. Then there are those on the other side of the spectrum, who eat right without even thinking about it. As you might imagine, getting from one side to the other takes multiple stages:
- Unconsciously incorrect – Eating based only on what’s around you without an understanding of how different foods affect the body. Eating ‘on autopilot.’
- Consciously incorrect – Most people are aware that certain foods just aren’t good for them, but they continue eating them anyway. Eventually, however, they might make the switch to . . .
- Consciously correct – This is the hardest to maintain. It can be discouraging and easy to regress to consciously incorrect.
- Unconsciously correct – It takes a lot of time and effort to finally graduate to this stage (it took Dr. Attia two years). Once here, though, eating right will come naturally. You won’t even have to think about it.
If you want to read more about Dr. Attia’s road to recovery from his back injury and how it has affected his outlook on life and nutrition, check it out here.