25/7/2020 0 Comments
In this day and age nutrition and health advice is readily available at the click, swipe or press of a button (Slightly ironic given the title of this page is blog and I work in health). There is very little regulation on the internet with what people can or cannot say and often some claims seem all too good to be true. But are they fact of fiction? Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when first coming across some health advice/ information or individual story online.
Not in chronological order:
1. Where is the advice/ information being displayed?
Always be mindful of the location. Unless it is a scientific journal, first appreciate this information must have come from somewhere. Whether it be social media, news, blog or entertainment sight always ask why the information is being displayed here. If a post about how to stay fit during winter is being shared on a personal trainer’s profile, that likely fits the bill and seems like something a PT would like to share. If this same information is being shared on Pinterest or retail blog sight why is it there? and who is it coming from?
2. What are the credentials/ experience of the author?
This brings me to number two. Who is the author or individuals sharing the information? On social media you pretty well know who it's coming from, it's part of their profile. So, what experience does this person have with the information they are providing? If an influencer is trying to provide health advice or promoting a particular product, I would most certainly be finding out what evidence they have for their claim and not be taking it as gospel. If the author is a health professional, I would still be expecting evidence and finding out what experience they have in the space. It is important to note articles shared on news/ blog sites, even if written by a professional, may not be identical to what the professional had written. It is possible the editors have changed some of the wording or phrasing throughout in an attempt to make the article more enticing and or dramatic. Now this is not to de-value the important resources and information that many health professionals are providing through these platforms. Just to remember that online, people can share anything, and if it is what we are looking for or it connects with us personally sometimes we may overlook some of the key facts.
3. What is the evidence for their claim?
This would have to be the simplest, yet most important point. What is the evidence? If someone is promoting a product or making a health claim do, they have evidence to back it up. If they do, is the evidence of high quality or was it an experiment done by grade 12 students riddled with bias or conflicting evidence. If in doubt I do recommend gaining a second opinion. Whether it be a health profession like your GP or allied health professional who works in the space, asking for another perspective is key to distinguishing the fact from phoney.
(if so inclined you can visit the NHMRC site or follow this link to see the different levels of evidence related to scientific articles and how they are graded https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/images/appendix-f-levels-of-evidence.pdf)
4. Why are they sharing this information/ advice?
This one is particularly important if they are promoting a product or item. They may have a personal tie or sponsorship aligned with them promoting it. This doesn't necessarily mean the product if bad, just be mindful that just because your 'health coach' recommends it, this does not directly mean it is right for you. It can be tricky, and may require further investigation, but just remember to ask; what is the evidence regarding their claims (or claims about a products potential) and is the person promoting the product/ information really the best person to be doing so.
Social media specific:
5. Are they sharing the whole story?
I think we can all agree social media can be a tad misleading. From the power of photoshop and filters to the ability for editing and displaying as little or as much as you like. I have come across this many a time when a pre and post photo is used to promote a weight loss program or product. We don't know the whole story. They don't tell us what this person ate between each photo, how much they exercised or simply whether the person actually enjoyed doing what they did to get to where they are. All you are shown is the photos. A major point here too is; we also don't know what has or will happened in 2, 5- or 10-years’ time. There are no follow up photos. We know that dieting is effective in the short term, without doubt, but we also know the majority of people are guaranteed to regain their weight once they stop dieting. We're not told how sustainable their current lifestyle is. I don't think anyone would want to live like they’re in an 8-week challenge for the rest of their life. My love for Japanese food most certainly would not allow it.
6. Should I be comparing myself to this incidence?
Finally, should we be comparing ourselves to those we see online. Most certainly not, but we do it any way. How can we not, all we see are the good things? Sometimes someone breaks the mould and posts something real and raw but most of the time social media is a place where only the good things are shared and that is just not real life. It is tough, the online environment is a constant bombardment of successful dieting, weight loss miracle supplements and body shape triumph, however you don't often see the other side unless you have experienced it for yourself. This does not mean great health and body satisfaction cannot be achieved, it certainly can, however an alternative perspective and approach may be needed to that you often see boasted online.