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Help With Nutrition and Diet, Who Do I Believe?

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Making sense of food and nutrition advice can be overwhelming. There is often conflicting advice and too many (self-proclaimed) “experts” who claim to have the magical answer to everything. We eat for a lot of different reasons. Modern humans are diverse and complex creatures. We’re no longer the basic hunter/gatherers we were in the Palaeolithic days. Our food choices are a very personal matter. We are social. We are emotional. The majority of us view food as more than just pure nutrients and numbers. Food is as much, if not more, about connection, tradition and enjoyment nowadays than it is pure sustenance. So, as far as help with nutrition and diet is concerned, who do I believe and where do I get the right information?

Who Are The Experts?

Because we all eat, it’s understandable we all have opinions on how and what we should eat. We all have friends and family frequently telling us what they did, or a “friend-of-a-friend” story, or even advice from someone who’s never had a health problem in the first place, let alone one like what we might be experiencing ourselves.

What about Doctors, PTs and Nutritionists? Seemingly reputable sources, right? What about social media influencers, bloggers and celebrities, all advocating for the latest craze in a vain attempt to get more followers? Is it any wonder why there are so many contradictory pieces of information out there?

Even as Dietitians, we have our own family members telling us they’ve read this article or that and because they saw it online it must be true! You know… that one super-convincing story you might find after a quick Google search? There are so many “sources of truth” out there that are so easily accessible nowadays that the disinformation about nutrition is at an all-time high.

Let’s delve a little deeper into why there is so much confusion…

Why Is Nutrition Advice So Confusing?

  1. There is no consistency.  Even the word diet can mean very different things to many different people.
  2. Nutrition science is a young science. The research is accelerating at a rapid pace and, like everything, it will continue to evolve.
  3. Antiquated learnings remain in circulation even though evidence to the contrary has changed.
  4. You’ll always find something to support what you believe. It’s difficult to determine what is quality and right vs what is made up or taken out of context.
  5. Marketing is a powerful thing! If it sounds too good to be true and there’s a celebrity endorsement attached to it – buyer beware.
  6. Looking online: How often do you think they’ll promote the failures, the times the diet didn’t work?  Typically this never happens.  Now think, how often do you see the success stories? It’s the primary form of advertising. Can you see how access to diet information can be skewed to promote something?

What’s The Difference Between A Dietitian And Everyone Else?

Dietitians have a University Degree in Science. Here we learn the fundamentals of how our bodies work (anatomy, biochemistry, pathophysiology) and how food/nutrients interact on an anatomical, hormonal and cellular level. Dietitians have been trained to review the evidence. We learn how to decipher good research from bad and apply this to meet the needs of our clients. We’re trained to motivate our clients toward adopting a way of eating that will make a long-term positive difference in their health. Our passions are our clients, their food choices and their health outcomes.

The word diet is not defined as losing weight, being restrictive or a gimmick. The word diet simply means a way of eating. Dietitians respect the psychology behind our relationships with food and how this might influence the way we eat.

Dietitians must be accredited and are carefully regulated. This is a huge differentiator between us and all the other information sources we have access to. This means we can be sued or lose our accreditation for providing fake, misleading advice or guidance that’s not supported by scientific evidence. There are no risks for self-proclaimed “experts”. For example, nutritional influencers on social media or personal trainers can’t be “struck off”. What would they be struck off from?

Still, even with this knowledge, it doesn’t make it any easier, so where to now?

So, Where To From Here?

Our recommendation is that you find a good dietitian and talk through your goals, medical history, social (living) situation and current lifestyle. Searching for answers on Google will invariably return results that are confusing. Listening to social media influencers, no matter how many times they mention the word nutrition, can be dangerous. Often they’re not qualified and (importantly) they also know nothing about you! Your lifestyle, your medical history, your blood results. Instead, look for experienced clinicians who value providing practical strategies based on scientific evidence. 

Recommended Reading

If you’re looking for helpful, evidence-based information about dietetic issues, follow SS Diets on social media (Facebook or Instagram) or subscribe to Nutrition News for a monthly dose delivered to your inbox. You can also check out Dietitians Australia for a heap of great info!