It’s pretty common knowledge that nothing on Instagram can be taken at face value (what??) but realistically, how do we know what to trust online at all? Fake news is running rampant right now and it isn’t just restricted to politics. There are countless sources of health misinformation out there offering solutions that don’t work to problems you don’t have. How do we sift through all that noise to find the stuff we actually need?
First of all, the best source of health information is a real life doctor. They go to school for eight years or more and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the sole purpose of learning all about what the human body needs. Trust them.
But you can’t call your doctor every time you see a post by a health blogger (because those things are seriously everywhere) so here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re out there on the world wide web without a medical professional at your side.
As a rule, never trust Instagram
If you’re getting your health advice from an Instagram celebrity, you’re probably not getting great advice. If someone gained fame through a social media platform, their brand is based on looking healthy, not being healthy. As a general rule, you should be skeptical if not down right dismissive of anything a “fitspo” account has to say about real health.
Look out for buzz words
If a “MIRACLE” product is a “PROVEN” “BREAKTHROUGH” that “YOUR DOCTOR DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT,” some alarm bells should be going off in your head. Sure, maybe the product or technique actually is a breakthrough or energy-boosting, but if the advertisement, article or post is using all the buzz words in the dictionary, you should be a little concerned that none of them are true.
— Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) April 4, 2018
Before and after shots are never what they seem
We know online photos can hardly be trusted, but there has to be some grain of truth to a before and after shot of the same person, right? Wrong. Between Photoshop and good old fashioned lighting and angle manipulation, you could take two photos of the same person on the same day and make your own convincing before and after post. To demonstrate the point, a health researcher/bodybuilder posted an edited before/after with photos taken two days apart. Suffice to say, trust nothing.
There are legit coaches out there showing legit before and after shots… however I have seen some that are just ridiculous. I took these pics within a few days of each other. How ridiculous. Just be skeptical! #fatlossprescription #weightlossjourney #weightlosstransformation #weightlossmotivation #weightloss #weightlosshelp #fatloss #fatlossjourney #fatlosshelp #fitfam #fitness #fitnessjourney
Do your own research
If you’re interested in something you came across online, don’t take the poster’s word for it, especially if it’s a celebrity. We know they have teams of people making them look that good and the product they’re claiming will help you look just like them definitely won’t do that. Look up the product yourself and while you’re at it, see if you can find research that proves you actually need it (in general, you don’t ever need a “detox”).
As a case study: take Fit Tea, which is a Kardashian-approved product. The girls post that the wraps keep them lean and toned while the tea boosts energy and helps with weight loss. Cool. But you don’t have to go far to see right through those claims. Just scroll to the bottom of Fit Tea’swebsite homepage where there are TWO disclaimers: one saying that “exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss” and another saying “this statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.” Busted.
Look at credible sources
If you actually want something that works, do some research and find online sources that are credible. Lots of legitimate trainers and health professionals have social media if you want to follow people a little better versed in health science than the Kardashian-Jenners. Professional organizations and universities also have an online presence and could be trustworthy sources as long as they’re not trying to sell you something.
Canadian health law professor Timothy Caulfield, along with some reputable organizations, has put together a list of credible online sources that give evidence-based health advice.
— Philippe Chouinard (@DrPChouinard) April 4, 2018
Remember: no one is free of bias
Even credible sources answer to a higher power: funding. Whether they are trying to generate clicks, push an agenda or encourage a certain lifestyle, even legitimate researchers and government organizations have their biases. Your family doctor is your most trusted source when it comes to any kind of medical treatment. Find one you can trust and then ask their advice when you have a question instead of relying on the internet and its library of misinformation.