The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Not Being an Idiot: Researching Nutrition and Diet

There is an astounding amount of poorly researched, poorly written, and just plain wrong information about nutrition. There is also an entire industry that makes a lot of money off of confusing you about your diet. Here are some techniques to sift through the garbage:

  1. Think about it. If nutritional advice doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not right. Watch for articles that contradict themselves, make claims that seem unreasonable, or that directly contradict things you know to be true. Also watch out for illogical arguments (such as animals don’t do this, so why should humans? This is faulty because humans do a lot of things other animals don’t.)
  2. Consider your source. Does the article link to other articles? Does the author write other articles that are solidly written and researched? Do you trust the author? Are there logical fallacies in what he or she is saying? Can the author spell words correctly? Does the author have a basic grasp of grammar?
  3. What do you want out of the research? Event nutrition and general nutrition are not always the same, and this can be confusing. Weight loss  nutrition is different than competitive nutrition. Pole nutrition is different from marathon nutrition. Make sure that you are researching the right thing.
  4. Consider the actual research. How many people were included in the study? Was their demographic similar to yours? Were they athletes or dancers? How relevant is this tip to you? Was the method of the study good? Has it been repeated?
  5. Don’t be a victim of chemophobia.There are chemicals in everything you touch, breathe and eat. Get used to it. “All natural” doesn’t mean anything, and “natural” solutions aren’t always better.
  6. Give your body some credit. Anything that talks a lot about cleanses or resetting your body is likely to be bullshit. Cleansing sounds nice, but your body does that on its own. And if you are jumping on the “all organic all the time” bandwagon, you should keep in mind that  people are living longer, healthier, more active lives all the time. Clearly, some of this hysteria is unnecessary. Stop panicking over whatever the new trendy things to avoid are.
  7. Experiment. Try out the advice for a few weeks and see how you feel. If it seems to be working, keep it. This is particularly important since everyone has a different body, level of activity, genetics, and goals.
  8. In general, if the advice demands that you buy a certain product, it is not great advice. Consider who is paying for you to get that information.
  9. If the article uses shame or fear tactics to convince you that you need to adapt their way of eating, it is most likely not a reliable source.
  10. Anything that promises you some sort of results (particularly weight loss results) in a certain time is certainly bullshit.
  11. Herbal supplements get their own warning: If you use herbal supplements, make sure to thoroughly research the brand and the type of supplement first. Even reputable brands do not have any quality control for dosages. Often, if there is any research that supports the herbal remedy at all, the dosages required would be much higher than what you would ever actually take. In addition, many companies don’t even put the ingredients that they advertise in the supplements. Finally, there are a lot of false “research” reports about supplements on the internet that are actually hosted by supplement companies. Tread very, very carefully here.
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  1. RO

     /  March 13, 2014

    Agreed! I have worked in the fitness industry for more than 4 years and I was sometimes baffled by what people believe or are willing to take for granted. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right, true or good for you. Good entry!

    • Thanks! I just hear so much of this, and there is so much misinformation out there to confuse people more. I thought maybe it could help some people.

      • RO

         /  March 13, 2014

        Yeah you’re right! And so much information that contradicts each other.. it can be very confusing indeed.

  2. Nice call on the chemophobia!!! I think eating simply is usually a good idea, but this everything organic obsession is a little cray. I generally follow the “eat mostly from the outside wall of the grocery store” rule because the food that can expire generally has more life force than the crackers that don’t mold for 2 years. milk, eggs, meat, vegetables, etc. those herbal supplements freak me out too. hooray for moderation, common sense, and trusting your body!


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