“There’s a lack of understanding as to how to analyse fad diets and nutritional trends – and it’s a big issue outside the fitness sphere,” says Adam Williams, Head of Products and Services at YMCA Awards. “People read something online and don’t then look into any of the evidence behind it – or if they did, how to interpret it.
“I think social media helps speed up the flow of information. It helps validate an existing world view. If someone clicks on a link about a paleo diet then likes it, they end up reading more because other links appear about the same thing.”
Adam has a background in science which he says explains his ability to look into the facts and analyse the information. But not everyone has the knowledge or skills to do this.
“One big thing at the moment is the whole gluten-intolerance issue,” he says, as an example. “Some say that if you’re not celiac then you’re not likely to have a ’mild intolerance’; it just doesn’t exist. You’re either celiac or not. But there’s a massive division over that.
“Another one concerns calories and metabolism. Evidence-based practitioners argue over whether ‘calories in, calories out’ is the most important thing. In other words, if you are consuming more calories than you are expending, you lose weight. But there is another camp that holds onto a different belief concerning metabolism being either ‘fast’ or ‘slow’. That can be true, but it’s complicated. There’s a lot of nuance around that which people don’t truly understand. For example how can you calculate yourself just how many calories you’re burning by talking and gesticulating? How many calories do you burn when you go to gym, but then go home and have a lie down afterwards? It’s impossible to do that.”