Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Think for Yourself...

Today's blog post is not entirely health and fitness related, but in a way it is, as it involves how we all approach diet and lifestyle in our everyday lives.

Due to the immense wealth of knowledge that is available to us in today's society, we are constantly inundated with information. One would be lead to believe that the worldwide sharing of information through mediums such as the internet, television, printed media, etc. can help enlighten us all, unfortunately, this information can become very confusing to most individuals.

Another downside to this constant stream of 'news' is that many people often feel very overwhelmed with all of the information presented to them on a day-to-day basis. I believe this has lead to many of us trying to cover as many topics at once, rather than fully learning and immersing oneself into a single topic of interest to fully understand and grasp the entire picture.

Mass media can be partly to blame for this, as every news site tries to concoct the 'catchiest' headline possible to grab your attention. Social media is no different, however, as oftentimes individuals need to try and get their point or story across in a limited number of characters. This causes many of us to formulate and present a personal opinion on a subject, usually after reading just the headline of an article or news story!

Once a story hits social media sites, it can spread like wildfire (trending or viral), and in many cases, people begin to formulate opinions based on who and how many "likes" a story has received rather than, you know, reading the story for themselves. I think this is a problem we face in society as a whole and this spread of quick-read, opinion-forming has to stop!

Here is an example of how this relates to diet and lifestyle. A recent headline, "Regular Chocolate Eaters are Thinner" would lead you to believe that if you aren't already eating chocolate on a consistent basis, then you better start because chocolate is the *new* wonder food!

Truth of the matter is, in this study, 975 men and women aged 20-85 were taking part in a food frequency questionnaire for a study on statin drugs. One of the questions on the questionnaire asked how often they consumed chocolate. The answers to these questions were then compared to the participants' BMI and low-and-behold, they jumped to the conclusion that the individuals who consumed chocolate on a regular basis, generally had lower BMIs.

Now any individual with a brain in their head and the ability to think for themselves (and actually read the study) would be able to come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, there are other factors at play here besides the amount of chocolate these folks consumed. Maybe most of the participants in this study are much better at moderating their sweets intake. Maybe a bunch of participants lied on the study. Maybe there are other factors involved here such as the rest of their diet and/or exercise program.

Nutritional epidemiology is the study of the impact of food on chronic disease, but the best we’re ever going to read are observational studies that, in turn, try to tease out what it is in our diets that are conferring risks or benefits. The only way to ever truly study particular foods would be to randomly assign tens of thousands of people to identical diets with the exception of the food in question and then follow them for years. That just isn’t going to happen.

Let me say this as well. Even if you read a research study, for example, that advocates "drinking a cup of coffee a day for a better heart" or something similar, don't stop there! In order for research to be done, researchers need to be paid. (Yes, I know, they are crazy for not working for free!) Unfortunately, sometimes a study may be funded by a certain individual, corporation, or organization that has their product/idea/platform in its best interest and will not publish their findings until they can find something that supports their cause.

In cases like that, you are better off reading and researching as much as you can. If you read a study that says "alcohol is good for you", great, keep going. Try searching for more studies just like it to see if their findings truly are legit.

At the end of the day, one of the most important things you have for yourself is your opinion. I ask you to not allow your opinion to be swayed by other individuals unless you can spend some time to research something and do your own investigation into the matter. This goes for everything in life including religion, faith, political opinion, health advice, exercise advice, etc. Wouldn't you rather base an opinion off of what you want to believe rather than what some jerk on Facebook suggested to you?

Yes, I know, I fall into this category. I am a person who uses social networking to spread my opinion about health and fitness. Having said that, I don't wish for any of you to stop here at what I have to say and think it is the only way to go. Instead, read and listen to what I have to say, then you can form your opinion with whether you agree with it or disagree with it, and look for more evidence to think for yourself. After all, tools such as the internet should be a wonderful place for all of us to educate ourselves, rather then selling ourselves short by swallowing the dogma that is shoveled at us!

Photo - http://stayoutofschool.com/2010/06/critical-thinking-what-is-it-anyway/