When looking on social media you will find many
self-proclaimed nutrition experts touting the latest diet trend. Many of these
individuals are selling a product and are looking for your money. Others have
strong beliefs in their way of eating and want to convince you that their way
of eating is the best and ONLY way. And then there are bloggers and influencers who try to be inspirational but end up leaving followers feeling defeated,
self-conscious, and anxious about their decisions. All too often, headlines,
fake news, and food scares go viral, spreading faster than qualified health experts
can respond. When it comes to advice on diet, exercise, and lifestyle it is
important that information is accurate
but also leaves you feeling empowered and positive about the steps needed to lead
a healthier lifestyle.
Below are red flags to look for when sorting through social
media posts on nutrition and diet trends and when to know it is time to click "unfollow."
Red Flag #1: People
selling diets and supplements.
We all know those ‘friends’ that you haven’t heard from in
years and then all the sudden they are messaging you and sending information on
the new diet or supplement they are using. Oftentimes with these types of
products they are trained to use social media to pitch their products and
portray an image that the supplements or diet has perfected their life in every
way possible. They are trained in nutrition by the company whose product they
are selling so any information they have is biased and more of a sales pitch than
facts backed by science. As a Registered Dietitian I have seen misinformation
and harmful information being relayed to potential customers with these types
of companies. Best to talk to an expert!
Red Flag #2: Social media
accounts that promote “quick-fixes” and “miracle” products.
While the lure of an easy fix can be tempting, many of these
products or ideas are based on unsound nutrition advice, won’t live up to the
expectations, and may actually be dangerous. Taking large amounts of
supplements can be toxic, some products can interact with medications you are
currently taking or have bad side effects, and many are full of empty promises.
These accounts may also promote a way of eating rather than supplements, such
as in the recent celery juice frenzy. Claims that one item will ‘cure’ all of
your health ails should come with a healthy amount of skepticism. Take time to
be well informed before you invest in any product, treatment, or service. Remember
the old advice…when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Red Flag #3: Accounts that bully, shame, or demonize.
Everyone is unique and has different needs, struggles,
strengths, and lifestyle which means that one approach will not work for
everyone. Certain social media posts promote one way of eating and demonize all
others. Some of these accounts send messages that maintaining their
rules/restrictions should be prioritized over everything else while
cherry-picking nutrition data to support their claims. Making a diet or
exercise program a guide for your moral compass can lead to big problems with
disordered eating beliefs and low self-esteem. And if a social media account
promotes looks or weight over health…unfollow! Your body image will thank you!
Finding changes that you can make, maintain and feel good about should be
flexible and work for YOU! If an account is spewing out negative messages or
leaves you feeling down on yourself, it is not worth your time.
Red Flag #4: Jumping on the latest diet-craze bandwagon.
Diet trends come and go quicker than most of us can keep up
with. On social media it is common that these trends get a lot of attention
before there is adequate science to support their claims. Nutrition experts
know that many of these diet trends are fleeting but also will go back to the
research to see what claims hold up and which do not. Most of the time, the
science is lacking or very minimal with these diet trends. Some social media
accounts jump from trend to trend which may keep their page exciting but sound
nutrition advice takes time to develop and generally doesn’t change drastically
over time. There are no miracle foods when it comes to our health and if we
focus on the latest craze our body may be missing out on important nutrients.
Listening to your body’s cues, focusing on variety, adding lots of colors, and eating
more whole foods are a nutrition trend that won’t go out of style.
Keep these red flags in mind when looking at posts on social
media to determine if the nutrition advice is worth following or not. With so
many unqualified individuals making nutrition claims online, it’s important to
be a smart consumer and know when the account is more hype than help.