“Don’t eat carbs.”
“Eat fruits and vegetables”
“Drink lemon and honey water with cayenne pepper.” (don’t actually)
In the age of too much information and snake oil salesman slinging their made-up credentials, how do you know what advice to take? The answer lies in thinking more critically.
It’s not enough to just accept things at face value or because some “expert” told you so. People can be misleading or sometimes believe things that aren’t true (again, this goes back to the question: How do you know that?). More importantly, what makes someone an expert in the first place? Anyone can call themselves an expert and find (or make up and trademark) some credentials to slap on the end of their name (this is the current state of things in the unregulated nutrition industry). This is truly unfortunate, both for people who are seeking to become more educated and get sucked into taking these courses under the premise that they are legitimate, and for the consumer who wants (and pays for) professional advice.
It also takes away from those who actually are experts because the public doesn’t always know the difference. In my experience as a personal trainer (another unregulated profession) clients did not always know the difference between a trainer with a CanfitPro certification (a weekend course created by Goodlife Fitness) and someone with a kinesiology degree certified by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (There is a difference). There is a reason why we have regulated professions such as nursing and medicine. Can you imagine if anyone could run around calling themselves a nurse? How would you know that your nurse is legit and actually knows what they are doing?
As my friends and colleagues know, I tend to look at things skeptically and ask lots of questions. One of the best parts of my doctoral studies is that we are encouraged (finally!) to question how knowledge is developed and engage in critical thinking and discussion. I think we need to encourage more of this.
When it comes to information about health, fitness, and nutrition it is essential to ask lots of questions. Marketing hasa huge influence on the choices we make and sadly, it is not always in our best interest, but rather for someone else’s gain at our expense.
Are there people who know what they’re doing? You betchya! Are there products that work? Absolutely! However, there’s also a lot of crap out there. How do you tell the difference?
This is where critical thinking skills come in. Ask questions. Make observations. Evaluate the information. Evaluate your thinking. Make your own decision. Learning to think critically is a skill and it takes practice. Here are some great resources for those looking to enhance your critical thinking skills (you can always improve them!):