There are so many ‘expert food coaches’ floating around online these days, it’s hard to keep up. They all use similar, problematic marketing tactics and generally have the same tag lines or themes.

Unfortunately, with the popularity of social media, it can be a messy task for the average person to untangle the content and be able to make informed decisions about their nutrition habits – especially when some of these coaches have so many followers. As I always say, the number of followers a person has doesn’t reveal their credibility. This coach’s feed is an absolute dumpster fire of misinformation and disordered eating and food beliefs.

This coach sets the tone for their content by clarifying that they are not a dietitian – “there are millions of them doing the same thing’ – she’s different, as if that’s a good thing!

She includes a backhanded insult that insinuates that 7 year olds know more than RDs when it comes to choosing ‘clean’ foods.

Ouch! So nasty.

She has been reading labels for SIX PLUS YEARS! WOW! Is that supposed to be impressive? I’ve been reading labels since I was 15, and part of that behaviour was because I had disordered eating. What does that say about her?

More on that in a second.

Now that we have established that this ‘expert food coach’ is not a regulated health professional, we can dive into why an influencer with a marketing degree is posing as an expert to market their services to you. It usually has to do with attention-seeking and money.

Let’s make one concession: this food coach sprinkles in some sound, true information mixed with the false in their messaging. For example:

  • Reading labels is a good practice. Of course we should be aware of what we are consuming, especially if we are diabetic or celiac. 
  • Making an effort to reduce the amount of processed foods we consume in favour of whole foods, is also good practice.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day… and this is where the positives end.

Her content is the perfect example of what you should be watching for – and avoiding – when you inevitably stumble across these types of people online.

1. Lack of formal credentials for what they claim to be an expert in

Does the rationale for why this is problematic need to be explained? This individual has a degree in marketing, with no formal training in nutrition or science. 

Those of us who are influenced by food experts online should be aware of the difference credentials can make. One of the most important aspects of a regulating body for any other regulated profession is to protect you, the consumer, from harm. These credentials take more than a weekend course, to obtain. Hundreds of hours of evidence-based study and practical training are required to even be eligible to write the regulatory exams to become a dietitian. 

Aside from this person’s marketing degree, their ‘credentials’ include helping a family member lose weight (on a physician recommended plan) before a surgery.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: helping someone lose weight, losing weight yourself, having a childhood dream of opening a weight loss clinic – those are the furthest things from actual qualifications. So are obviously made-up titles, like ‘expert food coach.’

If someone doesn’t understand physiology, anatomy, nutrition, psychology, and proper counselling techniques, they should NOT be selling nutrition information or counselling. Period.

2. Trying to normalize their disordered eating behaviour and relationship with food and sell it as ‘healthy.’

I am not diagnosing this person with an eating disorder. But as a dietitian of 23 years, I can tell you that the way she treats food and eating is concerning. Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder that’s characterized by an obsession with eating ‘clean’ foods. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), here are the main signs of orthorexia:

This coach has turned these signs and symptoms into their brand.

The fact that this person has built her entire brand on pretty much all of these signs and symptoms, is a huge red flag. And her anxiety around these things, will likely ripple out to her followers, which you can see happening by looking at the comment sections of her posts.

Her anxiety in these posts will no doubt transfer to her followers, causing them anxiety. This is not okay.

As I always say, all food is ‘real.’ Clean is for laundry, not for food. People who use those terms have a distinct lack of knowledge around nutrition, and an outsized amount of privilege.

Unfortunately, social media is full of people like her, spreading disordered thinking about food under the guise of ‘health.’ Please remember the list above, and use it to help you check anyone who you follow or whose advice you take.

And just an aside: it is disgusting and privileged when someone criticizes the quality of another person’s diet without knowing their backstory.

“Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating”: This is also a symptom of orthorexia.

3. Pushing their narrative and selling products by using fear instead of science.

This food coach has chosen to use food label fear as their primary marketing tactic. She tosses science-y terms and claims around, but has nothing to back them up. If you look further into her posts, they seem to be regurgitated nothingness. She isn’t really saying anything of note here, just ominous-sounding empty words.

Lectins are ‘no fun.’ Does she know what a lectin is?

Telling her audience that beans expand in water and are therefore bad for us, is completely absurd. This (among other things) is indicative of a person who DOES NOT SCIENCE. AT. ALL.

Someone teach our girl about ‘correlation vs causation’
Bless her heart.
Does she know what a lectin is?

When someone who calls themselves an expert food coach tells you that brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, soy, and hundreds of other perfectly safe foods are harmful and ‘not clean,’ it causes major anxiety around food. 

Note the conspiracy theory around ‘the food industry’ – RED FLAG

There is no evidence to suggest rice or soy cause any adverse health outcomes – in fact, whole grains and soy have plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Fear sells, and humans tend to fear what they don’t understand. Don’t make this mistake with food (or in life in general).

Fear is how this coach lands their audience and clients.

Her course will walk you through meals and ‘clean-approved products’ to achieve…well, I’m not sure what it will achieve, actually, besides a lighter wallet.

This service will cost you $1,997 USD. You’re not paying for credentials here – again, this is a person who has no formal training in anything but marketing.

No kidding – soy sauce is salty. It has nothing to do with ‘clean’ or not.

4. Pulling the ‘don’t eat unrecognizable ingredients’ trick.

If I travel to Italy, does my body suddenly stop digesting the foods with Italian labels? Not only is this illogical, it’s factually untrue. Thankfully, our bodies don’t recognize food labels, they recognize chemical structures and molecules of food. If you’ve ever taken a basic science class, you will have noticed that some scientific terms can be difficult to pronounce. This doesn’t automatically mean they’re harmful.

This claim often turns into cherry picking of ingredients to label as ‘not clean’ whenever they suit the narrative or objective of the person selling something, and rejecting affordable, safe foods with ingredients that are hard to pronounce.

For example, if I said I ate salad with acetic acid in it… that could sound dangerous right? But as we know, vinegar  (aka acetic acid)* is not an inherently a harmful thing to consume!

This food coach also promotes drinking ‘clean alcohol’ without sulfites and preservatives.  

Hello, alcohol is a TOXIN. But that doesn’t suit your narrative, does it?

Alcohol is a toxin. ‘Clean’ alcohol is just as toxic to our bodies. Tell me you know nothing about science, without telling me you know nothing about science.

5. Using Poor Sources to Back Up Their Claims (or Having No Sources at All).

Piggybacking off of media reports or other junk content is an easy way for a non-expert to sound like an expert.

Unfortunately, the media likes to take claims from badly designed studies with conflicting outcomes, and run with them. These stories gain popularity and momentum, thanks to people like this food coach (among countless others) who use them to make a business out of vilifying harmless foods.

(Do artificial sweeteners really mess up our gut? Read my take on the latest research here).

Let’s take a look at some of this person’s recent Stories:

The Daily Mail is a rag, and is not even close to being a reputable source for information (about anything). Our coach obviously didn’t read the actual study. If she did, she clearly didn’t understand it.

Listening to the media and other clueless influencers like Mr. Bulletproof Dave Asprey are the extent of this person’s skills in terms of research and ‘learning.’

A biohacking conference, aka one big circle-jerk echo chamber of misinformation.

Someone please tell our girl that she can have her own opinion, but she can’t have her own science.

Another way she feeds her narrative is to twist a simple Google search into suiting what she wants to sell:

A surprise ‘not clean’ group of foods from our food coach: complex carbohydrates. Assuming she also vilifies sugars (which, of course they do), this means she’s trying to discourage you from eating an entire macronutrient.

Our bodies’ preferred fuel source is glucose. Carbohydrates are turned into glucose in the body, which is normal physiology that has been happening since the beginning of the human species. If you don’t consume enough carbohydrate, your body will use gluconeogenesis to create its OWN glucose. Does she disapprove that, too?

Whole grains and other whole and minimally processed carbs give us fibre, antioxidants, and micronutrients. If anyone ever equates all carbohydrates with sugar, you can be sure they are completely lost. 

6. Celebrating their followers’ rapid weight loss.

This coach celebrates their followers’ quick weight loss and shares it as an advertisement to sign up for their ‘free guide’.

Unqualified people should not be counselling for weight loss, but somehow, this person is managing to slip through the cracks. Does that make you angry? It should. 

Weight loss is complex. It’s not just intake vs output; it also involves relationship with food, medical history, social determinants of health. Serious damage can be done by someone who tells people what to eat, but who has no idea how to manage the other aspects of someone’s health.

Also, unless you’re super overweight, losing 5lb in 4 days is unsafe, unsustainable, and unrealistic. It’s also probably all water weight.

Why is a food coach whose business is about label reading, encouraging weight loss in the first place?

7. Presenting a problem, but then withholding the solution until you go to their website to sign up for their course (aka marketing scheme).

Every few of her posts is a swipe-through presenting a “so not clean” food and all the diseases it apparently causes (meant to scare you), ending with a slide asking you to visit their website to get a free guide to discover foods that are hurting your health. 

This creates sense of urgency because without this guide, you must be missing out on information you need to avoid these horrible illnesses! Oh no!

Just another way she uses fear to hook people (and boost her mailing list).

8. Selling their own lists of approved foods (or supplements)

The concept of ‘approved’ foods is a huge red flag. ‘Approved’ for what? Why? By who? 

Encouraging you to spend an absurd amount of money on a product they approve of (and make a commission on when you purchase) rather than one you can safely and conveniently eat for a fraction of the price.

‘That your body doesn’t like.’ This is her typical way of communicating the ‘science’ behind her claims.

For example, in their typical and impossibly elitist fashion, this coach encourages their followers to track down and purchase a loaf of bread for $18 instead of perfectly safe whole grain bread from the grocery store for $4. If someone is suggesting spending almost twenty dollars for one loaf, please run away.

Hint: if your followers are complaining about the loaf of $18 bread you’re recommending, you’re an elitist a**hole.

How many products in this coach’s approved food list are easily accessible and affordable? 

I guess low-income families are just SOL here.

9. Claiming your all problems (headache, bloating, fatigue, painful periods, etc., ) are a direct result of your ‘unclean’ diet.

And that eating their approved foods will eliminate your symptoms in as few as 2 days. 

Wait, isn’t ‘root cause’ a buzzword?

Yup – you’ve got issues, and she has solutions…of course. This is how the entire wellness industry works.

She has absolutely no qualifications to make these sorts of determinations about you and your health issues.

Of course, food can contribute to how we feel each day, but so do thousands of other factors. Some are within our control (our habits), and some are not (our genetics, etc). A ‘food coach’ with a marketing degree is not the person I want interpreting complex physiology or medical literature on causal relationships between food and disease. 

Oh, wait, she doesn’t claim to have proof that one causes the other -this isn’t part of her pitch – you’ll have to trust them based on… trust?

Further, there could be a serious reason for these symptoms that may require actual medical attention.

Don’t allow someone on the internet to treat your health symptoms with their marketing degree. Online food coaches certainly can’t tell you what will cure your headaches in her instagram story!

10. Using buzzwords of the moment (lectins, inflammation, pseudo grain) as a way to get around having to understand any science (but also telling you not to listen to buzzwords)

The buzz words will change every few years, depending on the media attention (ah, the power of marketing). You will notice these words thrown around to scare you. Other popular ones include ‘gluten’ and ‘GMO’. 

Note: she’s wrong. Ezekiel bread is one of the best, healthiest breads ever.

This food coach inserts a buzz word in an attempt to sound informed, when they really just can’t answer the questions they get asked. Does she even know what inflammation is? I’m thinking no.

In short, please be careful of anyone without proper qualifications or training using fear to sell you things.

Co-written by Lise Wolyniuk.