What You and Your Clients Should Know So You Aren't Misled by False Health Claims
It’s far too easy to be seen these days. With new avenues for exposure, social media and the internet as a whole has increased visibility. From news to things you don’t need people knowing, it’s all out there and it’s easily accessible. Naturally, there are pros and cons with this. I want to discuss why this is relevant to you as a health & fitness professional.
Your clients are hungry for knowledge. They’ll more times than not research something they need to know instead of asking you. If you’re lucky they’ll come and ask you first before they dig any deeper or, likewise, they’ll be excited to share their newfound knowledge with you. For some, it’s like they’re getting the upper hand on their professional while others feel the need to inform you about something related to your field of expertise because it will help.
Here’s where the problem lies, everyone has access to the internet; that means the greats and the not so greats. Anyone can write, publish, and post articles, videos, and all manner of files on important subjects that should best be left to the experts. While it’s commendable that a client would do their homework it’s vital that we “check” that homework ever so often to ensure they’re correct in their understanding.
It’s easy to be misled these days. Remember, not everyone on the internet is out for their good; some people, actually quite a few these days, are trying to sell something. Many create bogus information to try to reel in their readers many of which, for lack of experience and understanding will believe them.
These so called “experts” generally have no real experience or training. Their experience is based on what they know from their own body, or maybe they’ve done it a few times and feel like they can express this to others. Actually, it makes sense. They say we are our best teachers, but the problem lies in the unreliability and sometimes inaccuracy of the information. While everyone is different and not everything works the same, some bits and pieces are so far off the mark that they’ll cause more harm than good.
What’s worse is when the real experts lie or mislead their audience for a quick buck or to push an agenda. I recently saw a few documentaries that made me, and I’m sure other professionals, scratch my head. I’m no physician and my expertise may be in a different area of health, but if you’ve engrossed and educated yourself to some degree you can smell the lie a mile away.
Many organizations, people, and followings will push their agenda. They want to sell their product or ideology; they’ll go as far as leaving out vital information in order to mislead their audience. People need answers; they need to know the truth and they need someone that can help them. It’s common for them to seek out the guru, especially because science sometimes takes a bit to catch on.
We’re not perfect; we stumble and we fall, sometimes the material doesn’t add up or the funding isn’t available for us to spend enough time studying a subject. It happens, but physicians and fitness & health professionals don’t study and spend time in their fields for nothing. They may not get it right all the time, but that can’t be the reason to trust them none of the time.
While we can’t weed out the bad from the good so easily, it’s important that we challenge information we’re being fed by doing our research. Read the research papers, dig into the sources, and ask experts about the information, don’t take it at face value especially if it sounds fishy. Here are a few questions you, your clients, and the so called gurus need to answer:
- Who conducted the study?
- When was it published?
- Was the study peer reviewed?
- Does the study lean toward an agenda? (e.g. an organization doing a study on its own product versus an objective source)
- What were the results of the study? (Don’t just read the title, read the actual study)
Keep this in mind: the powers that be are trying to prove a point. They’ll go to whatever ends necessary to do so. Sometimes, they’ll call an agency or organization and state that they didn’t receive a response when they weren’t even speaking to the right people. Other times, they’ll quote lines or pieces of studies without telling you much else. It may look smart and well researched, but it’s misleading and your clients, unbeknownst to them, will fall for it.
The simple solution is to be ready. Stay abreast with what’s going on in and around the industry and stay educated. Research theories, people, organizations, and more when necessary and encourage your clients to consult you or suggest the right direction they need to take instead. Don’t leave it up to them, check their knowledge, and ask questions. Lastly, be ready to answer questions and engage a possibly tough battle. Come ready with facts and well researched thought-out answers.
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