It seems as though there are more and more people out there with literally NO nutrition or medical training whatsoever, who call themselves ‘experts.’ And it’s scary that their junk science gets traction in the health and wellness sphere.
People selling cleanses, talking about hormones, telling everyone that we probably have parasites.
Suddenly, everyone is an expert in metabolism, biochemistry, and virology.
And don’t even get me started about people selling weight loss diets.
There’s a popular local weight loss ‘expert,’ whose only qualifications are that they’ve lost weight.
They claim that over 10,000 people sign up for each session of their weight loss program – this has never been proven, but it works to lure people in because we tend to associate high numbers with credibility.
They have no nutrition training, not even a lame certificate. And when asked about their credentials, they lash out (see the screenshots in the post above).
I know several people who have done this program (one undercover), and all tell me that it’s a very low calorie mix of IF and low carb.
I’ve seen the program videos, which contain astonishing nutrition myths like ‘raw vegetables have negative calories,’ ‘you know you’re in ‘detox’ when you feel horrible (couldn’t be the starvation, though, right?),’ ‘water flushes out our fat cells,’ and that ‘we should be pooping 2-3 times a day, after every meal.’
There’s a lot of talk about insulin – a favorite of these sorts of people – but a lot of it seems wrong. Because this person doesn’t science; they simply regurgitate what they believe to be true. But to the layperson, it sounds science-y, so it could easily be true. It’s not.
Still, their diet is popular, because people are desperate. Most of us would agree though that just having lost weight isn’t a qualification to tell everyone else how to eat and to talk about things like hormones and physiology. Still, we put ourselves at their mercy.
You wouldn’t go to the town idiot to defend you in court. So why would we trust them with our health?
It’s complicated. I asked my friend Tim Caulfield, whose business is literally studying misinformation. He told me this:
“Wellness gurus and nutrition influencers use a range of tactics to market bunk ideas, including deploying intuitively appealing language (natural, holistic, detoxifying!) and twisted science to make their products seem more credible. But one of the most prominent is the use of powerful anecdotes and testimonials. Studies have shown that an emotional narrative can overwhelm or ability to think scientifically – especially if the story comes from a person we can relate to and that speaks to our concerns and values.”
In other words, aside from everything else, there’s an emotional component to these diets’ marketing that appeals to our lived experience and clouds our better judgement.
It’s all very troubling, because a lot of these scams target middle-aged women whose bodies are changing and who feel insecure and unsure of what the hell is going on with them. Case in point – Metabolic Renewal. It’s led by ‘Doctor Jade,’ who calls himself an ‘integrative endocrinologist,’ but in fact isn’t a medical doctor at all and most would consider him completely unqualified to counsel people on hormones and eating.
Or Autumn Calabrese, from Beachbody (read my Beachbody review here). No qualifications. Just a repeat offender with crazy misinformation that targets women. And honestly, so many of her posts are triggering, that I couldn’t put them here.
When you don’t have a lot of anything else to offer, emotional appeals are just one of the ways you can convince people to buy what you’re selling.
Other marketing tactics that sway us away from the actual experts (who don’t tend to be as exciting) are:
Fear: “You probably have candida/worms/adrenal issues/guts leaking poison into your body! You’re neglecting your health if you don’t take action with my cleanse, 25% off with this code!” The Medical Medium, who is a total scammer, loves this strategy. So do MLMs, like Black Oxygen Organics:
Following: “I have 10,000 people signing up for my starvation weight loss diet EACH session…you’ll LOSE WEIGHT!!” Goop has millions of followers, but is one of the biggest purveyors of junk science.
Anecdotes: “Thousands of people have fixed their hormones with my hormone reset diet! Here’s some before-and-after photos!” Anecdotes or opinions aren’t science.
There’s a method to it too, and it usually goes like this:
- They have a negative experience with conventional medicine.
- They take matters into their own hands and just happen to ‘cure’ themselves with keto/juice cleanses/bone broth/f*cking ‘root cause’ hocus pocus.
- They suddenly develop an interest in nutrition, because now that they’ve solved their own problem, they’re an EXPERT!
- They take a short online course (or they don’t) from a crappy institution to gain a nonsensical certificate – some of these include ‘nutrition therapist,’ ‘health coach,’ ‘diagnostic nutrition therapist,’ ‘functional nutritionist,’ ‘live cell therapist,’ ‘hormone expert,’ ’certified nutritionist,’ and many more. Note that if someone uses the term ‘dietitian’ and they aren’t one, they can be sued. Dietitian is a protected term, so we rarely see anyone misappropriating it.
- They start selling their own nutrition program with their emotional ‘transformation’ story as the hook, and are now responsible for spreading unbelievable bullsh*t f*ckery to unsuspecting people who are vulnerable and desperate for answers.
I have a lot of followers who comment about how stupid they feel for falling for these peoples’ game. They shouldn’t be, and I tell them that.
Regardless of someone’s education level, when they’re disenchanted with the conventional medical system, or sick of trying to lose weight, or they’re legitimately ill with an incurable condition or disease, or they’re told that they have something terrible wrong with them (that they probably don’t), they become prey for nutrition and wellness predators.
Desperation and vulnerability makes us low-hanging fruit.
The problem? Besides the fact that these non-experts are being paid, getting our nutrition information from the wrong people is making us sicker.
Physically, because we’re being sold on diets that are restrictive and punishing. And we get stuck there, too, because when we go off them (and we will, because they’re often unsustainable with their 1000 rules and stages), the weight comes back on. It ends up being a yo-yo diet situation that’s completely unhealthy.
Emotionally, because of the fear mongering we’re being exposed to about the food we eat – for example, that it all needs to be ‘clean,’ or that GMOs are harmful. Clean eating is a nebulous, elitist phrase that means nothing. GMOs aren’t harmful to humans.
We’re also being told that we can’t trust our bodies. The entire ‘cleanse’ industry works because it convinces us that our bodies can’t do that work for themselves. The fear that we have some sort of illness that we didn’t know we had is also really stressful.
Financially, because there’s usually also an upsell – handfuls of supplements ‘for the best outcome,’ or a food list that includes expensive, unnecessary things like all organic foods, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish.
Socially, because we’re often told that food is merely fuel, and that using food socially is shameful, not acceptable. That we shouldn’t be eating for pleasure, but for purpose – to lose weight and ‘purify’ our bodies.
All of this is complete nonsense, and it dramatically impacts a person’s ability to live their best life.
How to spot a nutrition fraud.
Be careful where you get your information. Even if it seems true, double check. Ask for qualifications. Recognize red flags like these:
Selling a program and supplements on their site.
Selling an MLM program/products.
Telling you that you have an illness that you didn’t know you had, and then selling you the solution.
Saying that they can cure the incurable, or that they know more than doctors do.
Qualifications in nutrition that begin with the word ‘certified.’
The words ‘root cause,’ ‘detox,’ ‘cleanse,’ ‘expert,’ hormones,’ ‘reset,’ ‘kickstart,’ discipline,’ ‘willpower,’ ‘chemicals,’ ‘hormone balance.’
An emotional sales pitch involving a story of how this ‘expert’ overcame their own issues, and now wants to help you overcome yours in the same way.
Self-proclaimed ‘expert’ status. Real experts don’t feel the need to call themselves ‘experts.’
Being a celebrity or ‘celebrity nutritionist/trainer.’
Saying things about food and eating that don’t sound right (like ‘fat gets flushed out of your fat cells with water’ or, ‘quit sugar, but do my juice cleanse’)
Their diet eliminates gluten, sugar, wheat, dairy, and carbs for everyone, and includes things like ‘sole water,’ apple cider vinegar drinks, and lemon water.
Saying that you won’t be successful unless you follow their plan to the letter/buy supplements they’re selling.
Their plan has ‘stages,’ the first of which is usually starvation or ‘elimination.’ But I’ve found that any plan with stages is usually a gimmick.
Don’t trust your health to people who have no idea what they’re doing. Trust the real experts.