We put a lot of trust in health care professionals. To do the best for us and always have our best interests at heart.
But guess what?
They aren't immune from diet culture.
They may not have experience in dealing with disordered eating.
They may not actually be health care professionals... remember a big following on social media does not equal qualifications or clinical experience.
So let's chat red flags. What are the signs to be looking out for so you can make sure your health care professional is staying away from wellness wankery.
P.s. Let’s stay connected on Instagram! No wellness wankery, I promise. Just bs-free and practical health advice, so that you can feel strong and confident in your already wonderful body.
Hello, this is the No Wellness Wankery podcast. My name is Jenna D’Apice and we talk all things wellness, wankery, deciphering it and the brains behind the operation, Lyndi.
I don't know if I feel comfy with that intro. But hi, I'm Lyndi, dietitian nutritionist, and we're going to dive into all the wellness wankery and there's a lot of it, so let's get into it.
I love my little intros where I say how smart you are because you're like, stop. I do it because I love it. Yes, so someone messaged you on Instagram. You get so many good questions that raise flags to us to investigate further. Being like, is oat milk bad for me because an Instagram account told me that it was.
Yes, and then this person, thank you for sharing, I'm not gonna tell you your name, but you shared the Instagram account and I then went on to the Instagram account because I was like, all right, this raises a whole topic of healthcare professional red flags, you know, because a lot of wellness wankery comes from a quote-unquote health care professional who's giving us advice and we suddenly think it goes against everything we've been taught before and now it clouds our judgment. So the question is, who do we believe? And how can actually assessing the person giving the information help us understand if it's wellness wankery? Because I think it's actually a really key part of it all. So this person messaged me, is oat milk terrible for me, is it going to kill me? Basically, because this person has posted about it, I then went on to this person's Instagram account. Now their Instagram account has the word raw and fitness in it and I was like, okay, kind of raw is a bit of a red flag for me already. Then I go into their account, they've got over 100,000 followers, which by the way is not at all an endorsement as to someone's credibility or whether or not they know what they're talking about. In fact, a lot of the fear mongers, they get lots and lots of followers because they say really outlandish and crazy things. One of the interesting things that happens when you study nutrition or any complicated degree is that the more you study, the longer you study, you realize how little you know because you suddenly are opened up to this entire world, all the things you should be understanding. And so as a result is you actually become more quiet. You're more scared about all the things that you don't know already. Whereas someone who's just done a little course in nutrition, they think they understand a whole lot more than they do and they speak the loudest and they say the most outrageous claims. And so as a result, one of the things that perpetuates this whole wellness wankery culture is you have the people who know the least speak the loudest and those who know the most stay quiet because they want to protect you. But it doesn't end up protecting anyone because all we hear are these loud voices.
Do you think the people that know the most stay quiet because they realize how complex
it all is? Absolutely. They're like this is it.
And how little we know as humans?
Yeah, and how making an offhanded comment can have really big impacts in someone's life and you know they don't want to say anything wrong so it's easier not to say anything sometimes then it's kind of open that the can of worms because there's nuance in everything. And you were saying that so anyone can jump online do a quick course and call themselves a nutritionist. Yes. So then I look into this person a little bit further and I'm like okay what are their credentials? They're claiming that they're a nutritionist and so they have this kind of like weird nutrition course that they say that they did. And I was like, I've never heard of this course before. It's not nutrition, it's not dietetics, things I know about. And I look into it a little bit more and I can see it's a one-year course, one year is nice and all, but honestly, you barely touch the surface after one year. There's a reason why nutrition degrees are like four or five years plus then you have to do like, you know, I've been working in the field for 10 years already and I still feel like I don't nearly know enough. And you have someone who's done a one-year course who's like, I am now, she's able to call herself a nutritionist because while being a dietitian is regulated by governing boards, being a nutritionist is not. So I could do a 20-hour course and call myself a nutritionist. And so I think just seeing that one claim alone isn't enough. When you go on someone's website and if you do ever see a piece of information you're like, hmm, that doesn't seem right. Go onto their website and try and find what qualifications they have. If they're reputable, they're going to say what university they went to. Generally maybe you can work out how long they studied for and then you're going to understand what are the additional qualifications they've had. Things to kind of go, hmm, this person's trustworthy, check their LinkedIn. Do they have a LinkedIn? If they don't have a LinkedIn, probably not a good sign. And just because someone's written a book, that's not an endorsement for the fact that they know things. People can write crazy books. Crazy books would probably sell more copies. Crazy books sell lots of copies. So even if they've sold a million copies, that is not an endorsement to the fact that they know what they're talking about. So there are so many red flags that we should be looking at. Another red flag I spotted on this person's account was using really kind of crazy words. Like she's like, this food is poisonous. I was like, okay, everything's poisonous in the amount you have it, like water. You can die from drinking too much water. Everything is poisonous depending on the dose that you have. So this is a silly word, it's silly. So when you see someone using that kind of term, be like, no. Anyone who's demonizing, who's using very black and white terminology to define, who's saying things definitively, that's a red flag. So if you're gonna see someone who knows what they're talking about in nutrition, they're gonna use words like, it may cause something like this. It could have the potential to, because anyone who knows what they're talking about realizes that in some cases it will have this effect, in some cases it won't, and to say this is going to make you constipated, it's like, that's just, it's silly. The other thing I noticed on this person's account was a whole bunch of before and after photos. Now, this is such a red flag, because I think anyone who's using before and after photos is gonna get very offended by the fact that I'm saying this, but they're trying to profit off your temporary weight loss. I know there are a lot of people who are like, I love taking before and after photos because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. We're not gonna go down that rabbit hole. If you wanna take it and you wanna keep it in your personal stash, do what you need to do. But when you then send it on to a healthcare professional,
to use it as part of their marketing,
you are then fueling their marketing. And what we often don't see is what happens after that challenge. So I have no doubt that a 12-week weight loss challenge, for many people, might result... See, I always use the word may result in weight loss. Because it might not. Because it may, it might not. But it may result in weight loss for some people. It's a vague language. It's a good sign. And I think what happens after that 12-week challenge is what I really want to be seeing, which is what you're not seeing in the before and after photos that you're going to get posted. Plus there's the lighting, there's the makeup, there's the very sad depressed person in the first photo and then the really gloriously happy person who's gotten a spray tan and bought new clothes and has makeup and their hair done and they're posing and they're like you know they've got things and I'm sure there has been some kind of you know mental physical transformation but these before and after photos are simply a snapshot in time. It is misleading and there is a reason why actual healthcare professionals, why our governing body doesn't allow us to use these photos because it is misleading. So Instagram has recently instated some new changes that companies like supplement companies can't use before and after photos as kind of like a proof of the efficacy of something because it's anecdotal. It's simply one person's story pulled out of like a whole sample. It's not saying, hey, here's 200 people, 75% of people had a positive result, the others didn't. It's saying, here's 200 people with cherry-picked one who had a really startling response and you're gonna see that one person. And so it is misleading. And I think generally, I am yet to come across an account with a healthcare professional who's before and after photos who I think, you're trustworthy.
Okay. Controversial, maybe, but I suppose at the end of the day, if there's a healthcare professional using before and after photos, it's coming down to the fact that weight loss is the only goal, weight loss is what we're doing all this for, weight loss, toning up, changing the way you look, when there is a million other reasons to look after your health.
Yes, but do you know what they often do is they'll kind of like, they recognize that just promoting weight loss as itself is not popular anymore. So then in the caption, they'll probably write something like, but this isn't about weight loss. This is about so much more. It's a physical and emotional transformation. She is happier, more energetic. But the fact that you are using the before and after photo, you could say one thing, but you are representing a completely different thing right here. And I think actions speak very loudly in these kinds of circumstances. Do not underestimate the power of before and after photos when it comes to marketing and this is why these people use it. But it's a major red flag.
Every single weight loss product or program or anything that's promoted on television, it's just all before and after photos. The whole thing, the whole 30-second TV ad is someone's story about how they changed their life in their old pants.
It tricks us. It tricks us. It tricks us. It gets us to buy into the program that we've lost weight with before, thinking it'll somehow work this time again and keep the weight off, but it actually doesn't.
Okay. So that's a red flag to look out for.
Yeah. Another red flag to look out for is any healthcare professional who is obsessed with BMI, who's kind of like using it as a metric for your success and as a measurement for how healthy you are. So when you look at the research around disordered eating, this is a bit of a startling result, but the results say that 70 – and this is like the study that was done, it was a huge population study, and they found 75% of people had disordered eating, of women, of women had disordered eating. 75%. So three-quarters of people have some degree of disordered eating, and this is why I say I very rarely meet someone who I'm like, you have a completely normal, healthy relationship with food because you've somehow escaped it all. Majority of people have disordered eating, which what you can guess from that is your healthcare professionals, your doctors, your personal trainers, your physios, your dietitians, your nutritionists, they are not immune from diet culture bullshit. They are not immune from disordered eating. and many, you know, 10% of the 75% of people have a diagnosable eating disorder, but there are, you know, what, disordered eating disorders are a spectrum, so they can have any kind of degree of this, and so I think we just need to recognize that sometimes when we're seeing a healthcare professional and they have this, they just keep coming back to weight, they keep going on about BMI, you're kind of going, this goes beyond clinical research and understanding because when we look at the science, we can kind of go...
We know it's not right.
We know it's not right. We know BMI is in no way just like height and weight, like gonna equal health. We know this. There are so many ways that we can look at health and BMI might play a tiny little piece of that picture. But when someone's going, listen, your BMI tells me you're unhealthy. I'm like, you're, this is silly.
Okay, that's a red flag. Another big red flag, healthcare professionals, personal trainers, they're a big part of that. Gym culture, a big part of that. I've been looking for a new gym and when you're more aware of all these diet culture tricks, a few options. Sometimes I feel it can be a bit off-putting to a gym, but then also it can be a bit empowering to be like, I'm just not going to absorb that, I'm going to do my thing. Sometimes if you do a Friday morning gym class, a lot of the talk is about go extra hard so you can earn your weekend or crazy things like that. Same on a Monday, work off the weekend and all these type of things like winter bodies, summer bodies made in winter that they spruik with their winter challenge and all of these things.
It's an issue, it's problematic. And I so agree with you. It used to be the case that it was quite hard to find a personal trainer who wasn't going to assume that you were there to lose weight. You kind of like do that induction and they'd be like, all right, so you're here to lose weight. How much weight would you like to lose? You're like, no, I just want to feel stronger and feel energized. And they're like, no, but like, you know, you could. Or hop on the scale or why don't you do this challenge? I hear these stories of people who do these challenges who are like, no, well, my workplace was doing this weight loss challenge so I thought why not get involved and the end result is I became obsessed with food. I ended up gaining weight, everyone else was losing weight and I just felt so much worse about my body than before I had done this kind of thing and I think that's problematic.
My boyfriend actually was doing this challenge at the gym and I've been saying this because they wear some heart rate monitor and it's about collecting their points or whatever which is nothing wrong, you do you. But then he comes back to like we're going for a walk and he put the heart rate monitor on and it made so much little points towards his other stuff that then he was like, oh, I'd rather just do that. And it's like, then it takes away good things because it doesn't have those same outcomes that the personal trainers are telling you you need to get.
Yes, because you can't use one metric to assess how healthy a certain thing is for you. It's like this idea of when you do a stretching session, you're like, well, what's the point in stretching my body if it doesn't burn calories? Or what's the point of doing a yoga class if it doesn't burn enough calories? Well, this is how I used to think. And it's like, there are so many therapeutic benefits to you doing something like a yoga class. You might sleep better, and as a result, you have so much more energy. And then like how that has all these beautiful on-flow effects. But when we're simply looking at things like heart rate or calories burned, I think we are completely missing the picture of health and I think these are more red flags. And just from the whole personal trainer thing, just one more thing that really gets to me. I mean, I really hate it. I really hate it. When I'm in personal training, not personal training, I might be in a Pilates class or a group training session and the trainer will say, everyone has to hold a plank and if someone drops the plank, then we all have to start again from scratch. And I'm thinking, okay, firstly, what we really want is people to be able to trust and know that if my body doesn't feel good, if this is hurting, this feels uncomfortable, I'm allowed to get out of the plank. In fact, we should be encouraging that. Beyond that, we shouldn't be punishing the group with exercise. Exercise should never be used as punishment. And then also, like, you're adding shame and guilt to the person who dropped out of the plank. I think it's promoting injuries. I think it's creating a very unhealthy relationship with exercise, and I think there are so many comments that sometimes you hear people say, like, that is old school toxic diet culture BS.
So that kind of brings me back to what I wanted to ask. So as you say, like probably there's certain studies, 75% of women have disordered eating, all of these health professionals, all of these personal trainers, all of these physios, how do you find the ones that are good or do you just need to put a different helmet on and trudge through and just ignore what people are saying?
Okay, such a good question and it just reminds me that a really key point here is that we often go into a profession that we have a special affinity with. There's kind of this theory about why do psychologists study psychology? Well, not that they're crazy but their brain fires in a specific way. By the way, psychologists also know immune to diet culture. And I think I'm very transparent about the fact that I got into dietetics for all the wrong reasons, that I had an eating disorder and I believed having a profession that required me to stay a certain weight, to control what I ate, to know everything about food was a very good choice. And so when you look at statistics, we see that people who go into nutrition in these kinds of fields have a higher rate of disordered eating. It's not just that they're at the equal rate, they are more likely to have a degree of disordered eating and probably be a little bit more extreme on that. And because their profession requires them to maybe look a certain way, it's like walking advertisement, I think that they probably get away with very disordered eating and it somehow gets accepted as this is normal, this is healthy, this is okay and it's not. And I've very, because I've openly talked about being a dietician who got into it having an eating disorder, I get a lot of nutrition people reaching out to me saying, hey, this sounds very similar to where I'm at. I'm currently practicing, but I know I have an eating disorder that's undiagnosed and I need to treat it. And I think it's great they're coming forward and doing that, but just don't underestimate how many people there are. I used to be, pre-pandemic, I used to go to influencer events, which I don't enjoy influencer events. I'm a really bad influencer, worst influencer ever. I go to these events and they give you a set menu and I could see the wellness influencers around me changing what they were given to be in accordance with whatever whack plan they were following. So like, you know, they'd ask for like, I want the pork belly, but no carbohydrates with that. Or I'd like, you know, they'd be like avocado and toast and they'd scrape off all the avocado and like leave the toast or they'd only eat the toast. I don't know, weird things. And I could just see the disorder around me. And I was like, these are the people who are influencing wellness. These are the people we're looking up to as the standard of what's good. But they have, from what I can tell as an eating disorder dietitian, they have undiagnosed disordered eating, maybe eating disorders that are happening, and I think it's problematic and it's a bit scary.
Another red flag. There are more, there are a lot. Counting macros, counting points, that kind of thing. Anyone who's kind of going on that idea of earning food, of, I think it's outdated, I think it's damaging. And then I was speaking to someone and she's like, yeah, but my trainer only tells me to count protein. It's the only thing I need to count. I'm like, most people get, you know, you're getting enough protein. You're getting enough protein. Like when, okay, firstly, protein malnutrition, I know that's like on the other side of the spectrum, but we just don't see that in westernized countries really. That's like not really a thing unless you've got some serious IBS, IBD, or fussy eating kind of stuff going on, disordered eating, which cause that as well, but it's just generally not something we're seeing. And there is this over-obsession with trying to get protein, and I think that is problematic in and of itself, and I think that's just not a healthy relationship with food.
No, because I know when I've been trying to do those things and you've got to have like, I normally just like the small, normal-sized can of tuna, and then you've got to have like the big can of tuna, and I'm like, I can't eat this much tuna, but I've got to eat all of this tuna, and it's like the whole meal
is ruined because there's so much tuna in it. You know what I mean? Yeah, you're ruining things. You're ruining it. You're like, I don't want to eat a piece of chicken and Olympium at night but I've got to get there. You think, what is this crazy world I've been indoctrinated to? You're probably getting enough protein my friends. You probably are. Another thing that I feel really frustrated with food. So you know for example when I was pregnant I have a history of an eating disorder. I'm sure I'm probably well over that hurdle but and that was definitely taken as part of my notes to say I have a history of eating disorder and this is the eating disorder I had, I had binge eating disorder and it was complicated and struggled with it for 10 years. And even still, at some point, there was a whole lot of conversation around how much weight was appropriate for me to be gaining and you need to pull back on how much you're eating and all these kinds of things. And I was like, I have a history of disordered eating and I've been very transparent about it. And I'm in a really good place about it, but I could imagine there are so many people who would tell their doctor flat out, I have a history of eating disorder or don't. And then they are gonna receive that kind of advice that they need to lose weight and you're like you're completely disregarding the potential risk here because you want me to, you want to flog weight loss toward me and you don't mind if you give me more disordered eating in the process, you just want me to weigh less and I think that is unethical and I think that is bad form and I think that is a red
flag. So in terms of like are there certain doctors that kind of are more non-diet, you kind of got to just find them yourself.
Yeah, there are more non-dietary doctors and it's increasingly becoming more common. I think any, if you have disordered eating, I think you do get specialist doctors who either are mental health focused, they might be women's health focused, they might be women's health focused if you're a man. And I just think you might be looking for someone who might align a little bit more with that way. I know the problem is, I know in Sydney, there's just not that many and the waitlist can get quite high for those kinds of specialist doctors. But I think if you've got a doctor who, assume doctors are going to be still quite weight biased, they're a little bit old school like that, finding someone who's less or who's more understanding of the fact, and you can be quite clear about it. Any other red flags? Oh, there are just so many.
There are so many.
I also just think one more thing is if someone's on social media and they're allowing nonsense in the comments, the comment section has become like, I don't know, an apocalyptic world, I wouldn't trust them. So for me, if I get a comment on my Instagram and someone is promoting bullshit, they're making comments that I'm like, no, that's scientifically invalidated. I'm not going to allow you to have breathing room and space for that nonsense to exist on somewhere near my site. And so, that kind of stuff gets deleted. Full transparency, absolutely does. Someone's like, this causes cancer. I was like, you're gone, you're cut, you're cut, you're cut. So I was just checking those comments. There are so many ways that you can be looking at your healthcare professional, and I just want you to think about this. We want to find the right healthcare professionals for you right now in your experience and I think use that gut instinct that's like, oh this doesn't feel fully right or is this really bad for me? It probably isn't. Your gut instinct is probably right when we're demonizing foods that are totally fine. When you're using conflict, you know, really clear language like this is bad, this is poisonous, this is good for you, this is brilliant, this is going to cure you. Red flags and let's opt out. Let's unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Get the hell out of there. This has been No Wellness Wankery.
If you have any questions, noon underscore nutritionist, send them through.
Do you feel like you know what you should be eating but like you feel completely out of control with food?
You're either eating perfectly or you're face planting into the fridge. Well, if you've got binge eating or you're struggling with emotional eating, I can help. Check out my program, Keep It Real. I've got lots I can teach you and hey, you don't have to be a binge eater for the rest of your life. You can get 20% off Keep It Real when you use the code podcast when you check out via the website. And because I don't want this to be just another failed attempt for you, I'm offering a 30-day money-back guarantee because you know what? You just got to give these things a go, no risk. You just got to give these things a go, no risk. Give it a try.