Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why it is important to challenge sources of misinformation

Serious talk here.

This is something that I can imagine is easy for people to misunderstand and misjudge people's motives on. There's so much vitriolic argument and debate over different approaches to health via training and nutrition.

Really, there are any number of healthy and positive approaches one could adopt or recommend for losing weight or otherwise getting into shape. We could debate that one is more suitable than another for achieving an elite level performance or condition goal, but then again... your goal might not be such an elite level, and therefore another approach might be more suitable to your needs and circumstances. Really, so long as it is healthy and positive and it suits you and makes you happy, there's not much to argue about.

Do what's right for you, and let others do what's right for them.

Misinformation is different though.

The reason to call people out for spreading misinformation isn't because you're likely to "win" the debate and have them change their opinion. It's not just because someone is "wrong on the internet" as annoying as that is, let's face it.

You're never going to get through to these people and change their mind. Some of them are using that misinformation to push some "health" product or program, and... well, sometimes it is pretty obvious, and other times we only speculate as to whether they actually know they're a scumbag and a scam artist, or if they've convinced themselves that the ends justifies the means and even if the information is not accurate, if it scares some people into a healthier lifestyle then the ends justifies the means. Either way, I'm convinced that in the vast majority of cases, if there is a product involved the "root sources" of misinformation are entirely aware that what they're saying is not true.

That's the top level of scumbags, the root source of deliberate misinformation or I should actually say disinformation related to health and nutrition. Your Dave Aspreys, your Food Babe Vani Haris and so on. Absolute charlatans making a fortune from lies.

Perhaps a level down from those are the people who've simply been duped. They've read an article or watched a video, found it interesting and plausible, and bought into it. Then they feel obliged to share this information. There's a bit of ego involved here but who knows, maybe you can reach these people. There's no shame in simply being mistaken, in believing some information that seems plausible but turns out to be incorrect under closer scrutiny. The same can't be said for indignantly insisting on a "fact" in defiance of all evidence to the contrary.

You do have your "self appointed expert" types as well. Basically you're talking about people who've maybe pondered a topic for two and a half minutes, speculated on an answer of how it all works, and then decided "yep, that's it. I've figured it out. Gosh I'm awfully smart". I'm sure I'll never understand how anyone could be quite so egotistical and arrogant to really believe that "me thinking about it for a few minutes" out ranks "the collective opinion of experienced professionals who've devoted their lives to researching and furthering our understanding of this field". There's no shortage of people who seem to think like that though, for some reason. You're never going to get through to them, either.

So why bother?

Speaking of dreadful advice that isn't healthy
and doesn't even work....
The reason it has to be done is to protect other people from practices that may be detrimental to their wellbeing. Since many sources of misinformation manage to reach a broad audience through fear mongering and sensationalism, there's the potential for widespread harm, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition.

Now whether the harm is that people simply are unable to make progress in losing weight due to following shit advice, or that advice is so irresponsible that it is tantamount to the active promotion of an eating disorder such as orthorexia nervosa, it is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

There's a lot of money being made by unscrupulous people via promotion of orthorexia.

Unfortunately. And make no mistake, that's what all of these diet programs are. The idea that there are certain foods you shouldn't eat, because they cause illness, weight gain, premature aging, or whatever... and that there's a list of foods that don't have those effects which you'll have to pay for... nonsense.