competition · fitness · Guest Post · motivation

Fitness Is Not a Competition (Guest Post)

Fitness is not a competition.

By Shana Johnstone

The comparison trap is a difficult mindset to be stuck in. I hear it all the time in my gym community—folks not satisfied with their progress because it doesn’t match someone else’s. I also hear it in my own head. I hear my inner dialogue as it compares the barbell I lift to the amount my friend can pull, and I feel my self-worth increase or decrease with how much—or how fast, far, long, or many—I can do. And I’m sick of it.

Rationally, I know that seeing my fitness as a competition with others is a reliance on outside factors and external validation to feel good about myself, and I’m slowly talking myself out of this mindset. I’m paying more attention to my inner voice and deliberately disrupting the dialogue with a new set of messages.

I’ve learned that how I talk to myself matters, and so I have started a practice of drafting pep talks. I like this practice because it encourages me to dig into some of the finer points of comparison and competition, and by writing to “you” (who is you that is reading this but also is me in the mirror) I can develop and order my thoughts in a considered, deliberate way. How we speak to others can be so much more compassionate—and, also, more objective—than how we speak to ourselves, and I’ve found this approach helpful to busting out of—or at least putting some serious holes into—the need to compare and compete. 

What Is Competition?

Before we get into reconstructing our mindset around fitness, let’s consider the characteristics of competition.

A competition is a contest in which there are winners and losers. At its core, competition is a comparative exercise. Someone comes out on top. Sport is competition; fitness is not.

In sport, we determine a winner or a ranking of the top few. Someone is identified, as objectively as possible, as the fastest, the strongest, or the most skilled. Validation comes from others; it is external to the self. The point is to win.

The pursuit of sport and the pursuit of fitness are fundamentally different. In fitness, there is no finish line, no award ceremony, and no gold star. Validation is found internally, from meeting your own needs. The point of fitness is to be able to participate.

This doesn’t mean that fitness is easy. In fact, it’s often harder than sport. Without the clear parameters of winning, how do we know when we achieve it? Without agreed-upon rules of engagement, how do we know we’re doing it right? And perhaps most confusing, without competition, what drives us?

By shifting how we think about fitness away from competition and toward participation we open ourselves up to so many more benefits beyond just the physical.

Fit for What?

Can you identify the exact criteria for fitness? Few can agree on what to measure, never mind the thresholds required, so don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to pin down. Part of the issue is identifying the fitness objective—what is it being used for?

My fitness objectives are likely different from yours, and yours are likely different from your neighbour’s. For example, I’m currently fit to care for myself, do basic maintenance around my home, carry my groceries, walk around town or hike through the forest, go ocean paddleboarding, and learn new gymnastic skills. In other words, my fitness matches my objectives. I have other objectives that I’m also working towards, and my fitness is moving in that direction. Should my objectives change, I would likely work to alter my fitness accordingly.

But I’m a competitive athlete, you say. Well, do you want to run hurdles, or long-distance cycle, or execute a tumbling routine, or fence, or play rugby? Great! Are the fitness requirements the same for each sport? Are you working on fitness specific to your objectives?

There’s no bar for fitness, nor should there be. Fitness is not an absolute. There is only the ability to do the thing you want to do, at the level you want to do it at.


When you picture yourself as a fit person, what activities are you doing? If you’re already doing those activities, mission accomplished. If you’re on the path to making it happen, mission accomplished also. Everything—everything—is a progression.

It’s All About You

Your situation is unique. Really, it is. Hear me out.

Your physical fitness and the mindset you bring to it are specific to you and your personal history. What you can do with your body, right now, is a manifestation of that lived experience.

The variables are infinite. Blow out your knee ten years ago? Recovering from a major illness? Not sleeping well or working eighteen-hour days? Your mental and emotional stressors are just as significant and combine with the physical to create the you of this moment.

This is the you that is capable of what you can do right now.

Does it make sense to compare your work-, family-, or injury-related stress to someone else’s? No? Then why would you compare your one-rep max of anything?

How about this: if you and I were to compare our fitness in a contest of shoe-tying, would it matter who wins? If it doesn’t then tell me why it matters that you lift more than me or I run faster than you. Each of us can do what we can do and it’s irrelevant to compare.

But there is a place where our unique situations are indeed relevant to others. We all experience challenges, sometimes small and niggling, sometimes devastating. And we all experience successes, be they fast and fleeting or sticky and triumphant. Though incomparable, our experiences are what allow us to relate to each other. Comparison is pointless, but empathy is gold.

Abundance

Sport is competitive, as are many other things—a game of chess, a spelling bee, a job opening, an audition, the last seat on your bus-ride commute. What do all of these have in common? There is a winner and there are those who . . . didn’t win. The reward is limited to one, sometimes to a few. The system is based on scarcity.

For many of us, the competitive mindset is in our blood. We feel driven to lift heavier and move faster than those around us. We want that personal best. We want to “catch up” to our friends who can do more than we can. We want to regain a skill, a speed, a body we once had because we think we used to be a better version of ourselves.

We’re comparing a past or an imagined future to where we are now and judging our current selves lacking, less worthy than before or not yet enough.

Your fitness doesn’t exist in a system of scarcity. It is available to you now, or later, whenever you decide to strive for it and regardless of who else is working on theirs. There’s no podium and no limitation on who can have it, how much you can have, when you can have it, or how long you can have it for. There is no competition—it just doesn’t exist.

Moreover, you don’t live in the past or the future. You live in the now. So how are you not enough? You are, literally, everything.

In the land of fitness there is infinite room, space for all, enough for everyone.

That Feeling

It’s okay if you see something that someone else has and want it for you, too.

Maybe you see a stranger climb a local pitch, or your friend completes a Gran Fondo with style, or someone at your gym has a two-pull rope climb.

You might feel . . . jealousy. It might be hard to admit, but there it is. It’s no surprise, really. We’re taught to compare ourselves to others. We expect to compete for limited resources. We learn that there are winners at the expense of losers and that the rewards go those at the top. But with fitness there is no competition. You can have it too.

Here’s the important bit: your response to others’ achievements paves the way for your own. If you celebrate the success of others, you’re saying yes to that success for yourself, too, whether it be now or in the future. None of us exists in a vacuum. Your support of others matters—to them, to a future you, and to everyone else who wants to succeed. It creates an environment where we all can strive and where more is possible.

Likewise, if you put down the success of others, you’re saying that you’re not interested in that achievement for yourself. You are, in effect, saying that the achievement has no value—not for you or anyone else. This creates an environment of apathy.

If, by watching your peers increase their fitness, you discover a sharp desire to handstand, increase your bench, or row a lightning-fast 2k, channel that motivation into your training. Now you have a goal and the drive to make it happen. Go get it! Your achievement won’t supplant someone else’s. But do this first: cheer on the person who is inspiring you.

BIO: Shana Johnstone is an editor and writer who lifts, learns, and loves in Vancouver, BC.

accessibility · fitness · trackers

Why Sam isn’t getting a fitness watch

I recently posted the following request to Facebook, “I’m often in meetings where I need to know the time but I don’t want to look at my phone. I know the answer, a wristwatch. I want something very mimimalist, no second hand, analog not digital, and it can’t be small. Suitable for wearing to work. Not gold. Also, I have large wrists. Watch wearing friends, what do you recommend? It’s been years.”

Like this! Image description: A black timex watch with white numbers and silver band around the face.

Like that but without the second hand and the military time. I wanted something minimalist but still readable. Not a digital watch and definitely not sporty. I wanted it for work so it needs to look good with suits and dresses. I got a ton of recommendations. Thanks friends.

Lots of you had brilliant suggestions. Some beautiful and out of my practical price range. I’m not sure if I’ll happily go back to the watch habit. And I take off watches and lose them so there’s that too. Others liked quirky trendy watches and predictably fights broke out among the purists. I love my friends.

But there was one answer that made me realize how much my life has changed. Lots of you were shocked I wasn’t already wearing a fitness tracker. You made suggestions about the best kind. The thing is I used to love having one and wearing it. But not anymore. The problem is that they mostly track steps and my steps are very limited these days. When I wear one I’m conscious of how little I’m walking and sometimes I walk when I shouldn’t. My knees are happiest on days with fewer than 5000 steps. I get that just walking around campus and taking the dog around the block.

I try to put step counts away but it’s so hard. See You are so much more than your step count.

GoogleFit has been better for me because it tracks active minutes and they’re the main thing rather than steps. So my reasons aren’t Tracy’s reasons. I’m a fan of tracking. But it makes sense to track things in your control, that you have reasons to care about, and for which tracking brings about a change in behavior in the right direction. Tracking steps isn’t that for me anymore.

Anyway, back to meetings. The meetings for which I want a watch aren’t working meetings. For those I have my laptop or phone out for access to documents. Tasks and machines go together. But some meetings are all about listening. I take handwritten notes. I don’t want to be distracted from what the person is saying or have them think I’m checking my phone for messages. Checking your phone sends a signal that glancing at your watch doesn’t. I’m still watch shopping. I’ll report back when I’ve made a decision.

Update: My new watch!

Sam’s new watch, a Skagen.
advice · fitness

SOAP note on active women: outlook is promising

This week I learned a new acronym and phrase: SOAP note. Any readers who work in healthcare already know this term. It’s a method that health care providers use to write notes on a patient’s medical record. SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. Roughly it involves getting a description from the patient about their current condition, noting the results of observation, testing and physical examination of the patient, offering some suggestions about diagnosis and possible causes of current problem, and finally a plan for treatment. Sounds like a reasonable system to me.

A friend of mine, who was headed out this weekend for a sea kayaking instructional workshop, was asked to write something about their “paddling philosophy”. Presumably the workshop leaders had something more in mind than “keep the cockpit mostly water-free and don’t lose the paddle”. My friend was temporarily flummoxed by this assignment, but then they remembered the SOAP note: why not do a self-assessment on their paddling?

I herewith present you: a paddling SOAP note, courtesy of my friend.

Subjective

  • 38 y/o F presents today for evaluation of paddling philosophy
  • She states she has been paddling for 4 years and would like to have the skills to go “anywhere reasonable” safely in a sea kayak and to paddle class 3 whitewater
  • Self-identified strengths include comfort in rough water, endurance, organization
  • Self-identified weaknesses include reading waves/timing, rolling, navigating complex group dynamics

Objective

  • Head – useful for decision making
  • Eyes – used for enjoying the scenery, situational awareness, and looking where the boat should go
  • Ears – listening to others for input and attention to their needs
  • Lungs – for talking LOUD on the water so others can hear
  • Heart – endurance to paddle all day
  • MSK – can paddle steadily at 3 knots and handle boat in moderate water conditions
  • Neuro – coordination for a pond roll 90%, combat roll 30%
  • Psych – gets anxious when in leadership/decision making roles or feeling judged

Assessment

  • Sea kayaker, intermediate, NOS
  • White water kayaker, novice, initial encounter

Plan

  • Continue to push self in organization / leadership / planning skills
  • Be intentional about paddling choices – group, route, conditions 
  • Fix lazy back deck roll
  • Seek out more whitewater specific instruction/coaching
  • Be safe
  • Have fun

I love how this lays out a profile of someone’s perceived strengths and weaknesses and offers ways to optimize on them, in this case by being safe and having fun.

Inspired by my friend’s SOAP note, I decided to do one on myself for cycling.

Subjective

  • 57 y/o F presents today for evaluation of cycling philosophy
  • She states she has been cycling for 15 years (most recently) and would like to have the fitness and fortitude and nerve to go places near and far comfortably on a bike, for errands, day rides and longer extended bike touring
  • Self-identified strengths include strong social support, way more gear than one human could possibly use, a life with time and resources, and overall good health
  • Self-identified weaknesses include fear and anxiety about stamina and perceived fitness deficits; a host of injuries in distant and recent past; inconsistent cycling habits as a result of some of those fears and anxieties; feelings of shame about fitness level

Objective

  • Head – useful for developing and responding to reasons in favor of cycling on many occasions; is of standard size/shape for bike helmet to fit
  • Eyes – used to scan environment, most notably for other cool bikes on the road, plus interesting plants, flowers, farm stands on country rides
  • Ears – listens to hum of tires on pavement; mostly hears wind whistling through helmet instead of voices of other riders
  • Lungs – for talking LOUD at any time, any place; superior capabilities, in top decile
  • Heart – needs strengthening to endure long rides, long training periods, and long plateaus; has capacity for swelling with pride and love of the activity of cycling
  • MSK – can pedal steadily with minimal wobble; legs strong; core needs work to support neck and shoulders, which are relatively securely attached
  • Neuro – coordination for rapid moves in traffic, stopping on a dime at country farm stand for cider doughnuts
  • Psych – gets anxious when feeling judged, which is always by self, never by others

Assessment

  • Cyclist: intermediate, veteran, road warrior
  • Human: advanced, experienced; needs update of habits and refueling of self-esteem

Plan

  • Continue to throw leg over top tube and pedal as often as possible
  • Be intentional about finding cycling opportunities, big and small
  • Fix bikes when needed; self needs no fixing– is fine as is
  • Seek out more social opportunities to ride with friends anywhere
  • Be safe on the road and remind self that emotions are normal
  • Have fun
  • Find hills to ride down fast– this is why we ride our bikes!

So readers– what would your SOAP note say about you? Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

fitness

Better when I’m dancing

“Cate’s over there having a dance party,” Leslie laughed.

We were in the first rest minute of four rounds of five back squats at my feminist fitness studio, and I was dancing around my bar, treating it like a gracious partner. When the minute clicked over and I turned back to my weights, I quickly moved up to the heaviest weight I’ve lifted in this position.

I never go OUT dancing. But at the gym and when I’m running? I dance almost every day.

I’ve been gushing for months about the feminist #getstrong cross-fit style classes I’ve been doing since March. There are about 25 reasons I love this studio, ranging from its woman-focused, body-positive perspective, to discovering I can deadlift 145 lbs (and counting!), to the profound sense of community and encouragement I feel there. (Hi Nicole!) I think I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the only workout thing I’ve ever done I’m willing to do at 7 am.

The one thing I haven’t written about, though, is the impact of the music in the classes on me.

I’ve always been the kind of person who listens to music while I work out or run, but my music choices can get kind of repetitive. Sometimes I’m running and I think, “oh, this song reminds me of running in White Rock!” — and then I remember that I lived in White Rock more than 10 years ago. If my soundtrack is stale, is it possible that my workouts are stale too?

Judging by how re-activated I’ve become since I started working out at Move, I think the answer is a resounding yes. And yes, it’s the structure and the coaches and the community and the strength-discovery — but it’s also the music. Often, in the rest periods between sets, I dance around. Even — like in the back squat day — when I arrive at class feeling exhausted, the kind of moment where if I hadn’t signed up in advance, I would never go. (Late cancels aren’t refundable. It’s a good policy).

When the music hits the right note, I get energized — and then I’m dancing around the rig, or over to get a heavier weight. It particularly happens in Alex’ classes — she picks playlists that speak to me — and she always notices and cracks up. And in that moment, I am HAPPY from the inside out.

Last weekend I danced at the Shawn Mendes concert with my sister and nieces, which was fun — I especially enjoyed all of these girls and young women being completed unfettered.

(Well, I did get a little bored toward the end — my niece took a photo of me doing a crossword puzzle on my phone). But at this point in my life, I can’t imagine actually going OUT dancing. It STARTS after I’m already in BED! But when I’m moving my body in exercise, sometimes I’m approximating dancing — and sometimes — at Move or at lights when I’m running, I’m actually dancing.

In writing this post, I thought I’d end with sharing my current playlist. And then I realized I really just want an excuse to gush about Lizzo.

From my vantage point, 2019 was the summer of Lizzo. (If you haven’t watched her Tiny Desk concert, do yourself a favour and spend the next 10 minutes doing that now. It’s pure delight).

At the beginning of the summer, a colleague shared with me that the night before, she’d been at her best friend’s 40th birthday party — and her gift to her friend was a burlesque number she’d put together to Lizzo’s Because I Love You. “Because I love her,” she said simply. (I got to see some of the video — it was awesome). That embodied what I love about Lizzo — full-bodied, sexy, unapologetic, full-voiced, love yourself and your friends who get and accept you.

And then there’s this:

When I’m working out or running, I channel Lizzo. I’m my own soulmate — “look in the mirror like damn she the one.” Here’s my current playlist, so you can channel her yourself. It starts with Lizzo’s Juice and then wanders through an array of (mostly) women who’ve inspired me, raunchy, sexy, delicate, vulnerable and honest, all summer. (You can find it on Spotify under my cateinTO i.d).

Do you dance when you’re working out? What’s your soundtrack?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and dances in Toronto.

fitness · weight loss

New research shows: weight gain as we get older… happens. But scientists don’t like it.

CW: discussion of body weight, weight gain, and claims of personal responsibility for weight changes.

Yes, you heard it here first, folks: when we get older, we tend to gain weight. But you don’t have to take my word for it; I’ve got tables and things from science to back this up:

table showing average body weight (in pounds) increasing for women as they age.
table showing average body weight (in pounds) increasing for women as they age.

Of course all women know this, and we’re constantly reminded to fight weight gain through restricted eating and increased exercise. Now, I’m all for spending time enjoying a variety of physical activities, and plan on doing so for the foreseeable future. Just like Notorious RBG.

But can I expect to lose or maintain my weight over time by physical activity and restrictive eating? No, say some Swedish researchers. Here’s what this news article has to say about their results:

Lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during aging and makes it easier to gain weight, even if we don’t eat more or exercise less than before… “The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors,” says Peter Arner, professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study’s main authors.

I’m no human metabolism science expert, but I think the upshot here is this: the rate of lipid turnover (part of human metabolic activity that affects weight maintenance and change over time) varies in the population. Experts thought that we could improve our rates of lipid turnover through exercise. Turns out, not so much.

In a way, this is good news– it’s offering another scientific puzzle piece to provide a picture of what we already know: in general, people gain weight as they age, independently of their eating and activity behaviors. This opens the door to shifting talk away from addressing how older bodies look and toward how older bodies feel and function for those who have them.

But this shift is not something that will come easily, and even metabolic researchers are struggling against this model, hanging on for dear life to the view that we do or should work to wrench some control over our bodily processes– even our own lipid turnover rates. They seem not to be able to help themselves despite their best efforts, a lot of calculus and cool figures like this one:

This is supposed to show that lipid uptake is the main driver of weight loss following bariatric surgery. Okay, then.

In the article, they say this about effects of lipid turnover on long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery:

…these results indicate that the success of long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery is predicted by lipid removal rate status and that individuals with a lower baseline removal rate may have more ‘room’ to attain energy balance.

Okay, this is interesting. We are getting a potential explanation for variations in long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery. Good to know. And also good to know that it’s not something that we can currently control (until they develop, say, some drug to alter lipid turnover rates).

But wait. The article simply can’t leave it at that. They have to fall back on the idea that some “lifestyle strategy” might work to address changes in human metabolism over time.

These results encourage the development of therapeutic and lifestyle strategies to counteract age-related decreases in lipid turnover rates and recognize the importance to adapt adipose lipid turnover for the maintenance of normal weight or weight loss.

You know what they mean by “lifestyle strategy”. They’re not talking about developing a new hobby or adding a deck onto the back of your house, along with new patio furniture.

They’re talking about dieting and increased exercise– that’s what they mean by “lifestyle strategy”. But the whole point of the article was that those things don’t prevent weight gain as we age– lipid turnover rate does.

a pin that says "heavy sigh".
I need a pin like this, saying “heavy sigh”.

I am all for lifestyle strategies to improve my quality of life now and in the future. By the way, the archery looks kind of fun. Anyone do archery? Tell us about it.

What I’m not all for is this: maintaining the same tired view that it’s up to me to try to lose weight throughout my life course, regardless of my other health metrics and life situation, and regardless of new-new research suggesting that some important factors influencing weight change over time are totally out of our hands. That tired view needs to be put to rest.

Or maybe blown up.

an explosion in a field.
boom.

Readers, what do you think? Is your community still focused on weight loss throughout life? What views are you hearing about aging and weight? And don’t forget any archery tips you might have as well.

fitness · Guest Post · motivation

Where do you find inspiration for fitness? (Guest post)

By Nicole Plotkin

As the days are starting to get shorter and the nights are getting chillier, it’s a good time to remind myself what motivates me to exercise on a regular basis.  

Motivation is a strange thing.  What works for one person, may not work for another.  The number one motivator for me is: feeling good. Period.  Vanity, health markers, increased confidence, all have their place.  But ultimately, feeling good is why I keep coming back again and again.

What overcomes a lifetime of a love/hate relationship with food and your own body and being brought up in a diet era?  Feeling good while slamming balls against a wall – and despite silly messages in your head. 

How do you wipe from your head: a love of 80s glamour magazines, dieting from around 11, and thinking all day about what you should or should not eat?  Reaching a max weight in your strength training class – and feeling friggin’ awesome with a perma-grin.

How do you silence the girl who was out of breath running across the street to her best friend’s house to share a smoke, from your head?  Experience the feeling of closing in on the finish line at a marathon.

What is an antidote to being afraid of heights and not letting yourself do a pull up on the rig?  Try to do that thing a different way – or do something else just as hard and badass – and feel good.  There is not only one way to feel good.

What if your muscles are tight?  Your lower back is achy? Determine what you CAN do, whether a certain type of stretch or a modified version of an exercise. Do that thing – and feel great.

What if you are so tired at the end of the day and can’t imagine going to a HIIT class?  Remember that 5 minutes into the class, you will feel good and you will feel great by the end of the class.  Not to mention the friends you get to see during class. 

What if it’s a gloomy February evening after work, and you’d rather fill the perma dent in your couch with your butt, and eat vats of hummus while watching Netflix?  Get your butt to the nearest spin class and feel great.

What if every human you have encountered that day has questioned how you have tolerated humanity for this long?  Definitely go for a run and restore your faith in humanity.

What if you are your body’s biggest critic that day?  Your body is telling you to quit bitching and to exercise.  Be especially grateful if you have the ability and the option to do it.  Not everyone does. Go exercise and feel great!

What if there was a clever meme going around an hour ago that told you that you are not getting out of here alive, nor in tip top shape, so you might as well give up any effort at being healthy?  Remember that there is no guarantee for anything and that, the only thing you can control is how you feel today. Go to a kickboxing class and feel good!

Did you come across an annoying fitspo Instagrammer, who made you question your achievements because you don’t have “abs of steel”?  Go find challenging flow yoga class and remember how good your body feels in tree pose and that is all the fitspo you need to feel great.

Were the people you lunch with comparing every diet they are currently on, in a way that made you want to scream, and find the nearest gelato stand?  Go for a long walk with your partner and feel good (gelato optional)!

How about if you’ve had an awesome day and you feel like celebrating – by not going to the gym – go to the gym anyway and feel even better about your fabulous day!

Each and every time I have felt resistance to just go and exercise, each and every time I have defied the thoughts in my head, and gone for a run, a conditioning class, to spin my legs, or to lift some iron, each and every time, I feel better afterwards.  What are your motivators to keep at it?  

Image description: You Go Girl in white spray paint on yellow brick followed by two hearts, one green and one blue.


Nicole Plotkin: law clerk, loves to exercise, eat good food, snuggle with her dogs, and her wonderful husband. 

fitness

Celebrity and its impact and influence on diet culture

NOTE: discussion of diet culture, social expectations re: weight, and celebrity

By MarthaFitat55

Recently I had an exchange on a social network in which a commenter promoted the validity of a certain diet. I still haven’t figured out why this was a topic in the group as it is not connected to the groups mandate, but I have learned that if someone wants to promote their diet, they will find a way.

Image shows a variety of foods including a fruit plate, cereal, a hot drink of some kind and avocado garnished with pink tulips (I wouldn’t eat those!). Source Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

This is not an unusual exchange for me. At least once a year, someone somewhere wants to talk about the value they find in trying the currently trendy diet.

It doesn’t matter which one. They all claim to have had spectacular results once they started this diet. Or they cite sources which support their claims. Or they cite individual experts and refer doubters to YouTube or Facebook or their personal websites to get the true facts medical authorities in the thrall of big pharma have suppressed.

I started looking at the role celebrity play in diet culture quite a while ago. It’s not so much that celebrities shill diets (they do!) but that those who promote a particular dietary approach, be it Whole30, or Paleo, or Atkins seek to garner fame on the coattails of what they consider to be the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) diet.

Curiously, the recent commentator highlighted how their diet’s proponents were experts with medical degrees and specialties and they were motivated by goodness and not filthy lucre. I did a search on the names and was less than impressed with the credentials of the experts cited. One person’s expertise, for example, was gained by the serendipitous discovery of the true food path when conventional medicine failed them.

Now I am all for being skeptical, asking questions and looking for the truth in evidence. And I think looking outside the box of your own professional background is a good thing to avoid any internal biases.

But I worry when I encounter evangelism as the means of persuasion no matter what the subject. The argument “it worked for me, so it must be great” bothers me a great deal. As the saying goes, one swallow does not make a summer, or in more scientific terms, correlation does not mean causation.

We see this belief process not just in nutrition but also fitness, preventative medical initiatives like vaccines, and so on. I had a conversation once with a counsellor who noted their concerns with the rise of vegetarianism/veganism and/or gluten-free eating among young women. Such diets can often mask eating disordered behaviours. This isn’t to suggest that a vegan eating plan is a recipe for poor health; just that exclusion of one kind of food without replacing their nutrients with different sources of foods can be an unhealthy approach and lead to negative consequences for long term health.

When evaluating any kind of approach recommended for health, look at multiple sources. Establish guidelines for your belief in the quality of the information. Check their credentials. I was once referred to a doctor online as an expert; they had even been published in a prestigious medical journal. A closer look at the publication revealed it was a letter expressing an opinion, not a research study report.

Assess the voice of the promoter. Are they dismissive of those who disagree with them? Look at who references and supports their work. Are they log rolling — that is, promoting each other over and over in an endless circle? The language they use, especially any arguments that suggest they are being persecuted or discredited for bucking a trend, should be another clue to question the validity of the diet bandwagon they are driving.

Does every post on their website sell something? It may not be an actual product, but a dream, a vision, a hope or an expectation.

I had responded to the original request for information with a variety of sources I have used in the past and found to be reliable and sound. One of them cited a research report which demonstrated credible evidence that the particular diet asked about could benefit certain individuals with very specific health issues. Curiously, that study wasn’t even cited by the poster and others holding the contrary opinion to mine.

What do you think readers? How do you evaluate information so you can an informed decision about your health, nutrition and fitness?