“Click on that link in a popular article to go to the original study described. Scroll through it to check for conflicts of interest. Think about which side the money is on. Then decide for yourself what to believe.”
This quote nicely sums up a huge issue that plays out every day in the media. Flip on the news or scroll through your favorite news site, and you’re apt to be assaulted with headlines like:
And those are just a handful of conflicting articles, often posted within days of each other. It’s enough to make anyone throw up their hands in frustration. For a country that is so obsessed with health and wellness, we’re not making it particularly easy on ourselves to actually be healthy. And flooding the news with confusing articles is basically giving people an out in terms of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Everyone is all like…
…so instead of trying to figure out which of the studies to believe, it’s far easier to continue business as usual. And by business, I mean eating what you’ve always eaten, and doing (or not doing) what you’ve always done (or not done). Because the familiar is easier, more comfortable, and less confusing.
I think there are a few factors at play here, so let’s dive in.
- Digital media companies need clicks in order to make money. If there’s a hot new study released, every outlet jumps on the bandwagon, not wanting to miss out on people searching for and reading about the latest and greatest health news. This rush to publish can oftentimes mean that journalists don’t have time to do their due diligence, and rather jump into reporting what could very well have been a faulty study to begin with, or one funded by a special interest group.
- Researchers need money to keep their labs open. Since fruit and vegetable research isn’t particularly sexy or lucrative, oftentimes big agriculture (and their big wallets) will approach researchers and pay huge sums of money for them to conduct a study on their product. This could be the milk lobby, the meat lobby, the egg industry, high-fructose corn syrup producers, or the soda industry.
- The most sensible diet plan, AKA the Michael Pollan school of thought (Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.), doesn’t appeal to many people. People want a quick fix, a lifehack, or a hot new diet that will get them results, oftentimes without getting to the root of the problem. Anyone can lose 10 lbs in 2 weeks…seriously, it’s just a matter of reducing carbs and “losing” water weight. But losing actual fat while building muscle, and maintaining said weight loss and muscle gain? That takes good old fashioned hard work…something that isn’t glamorous or cool or trendy, but is damn effective.
I understand that this is merely skimming the surface of an incredibly pervasive issue in this country, but it’s a start. It’s important to never be a follower in life, and to always think critically. When presented with a miraculous new superfood, or an article that says you need to drink whole milk to be healthy, or a diet plan that claims you can lose 20 lbs while eating bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…just hit the pause button for a minute. Think about who funded the study. Think about who stands to gain the most financially from you purchasing the product that is being recommended. And think about your overall health.
Be your own advocate! Sure, I am a proponent for eating a vegan diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons, but I’d never dream of imposing this diet on someone else. Everyone should be entitled to do their own research, experiment with different ways of eating and moving that feel good for them, and make their own decisions. It’s my sincere hope that anyone struggling with diet, nutrition, and weight is able to make peace with themselves and with their eating habits. When in doubt, remember the KISS principle — Keep It Simple, Stupid! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Companies can create new products and the media can tout groundbreaking research until the cows come home, but the easiest way is always going to be the best way:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Oh, and move your body, of course! But weight loss truly is 80% diet, 20% exercise. If you’re solely exercising to lose weight, we need to have a chat. 🙂